Category Archives: Boat Details

Martingale installed

Aging Gracefull? The Rigging Part II

Our Catana 471 has running rigging and standing rigging.  The standing rigging supports the mast and allows the boat to “sail.”  Kinda important.  When there is a problem with the standing rigging it is beyond worrisome and prevents us from doing anything that might possibly make it worse.

In the last blog we showed the damage of the martingale (or seagull striker).  We thought we had it all worked out with a local vendor in Tahiti, but it all went to hell in a hand basket.  I thought it was going a little too smoothly and fast for island life.  Read Part I of this series

After the disappointing failure of Mat Rigging, we quickly searched for a Plan B and a Plan C.

Our Catana 471 has running rigging and standing rigging.  The standing rigging supports the mast and allows the boat to “sail.”  Kinda important.  When there is a problem with the standing rigging it is beyond worrisome and prevents us from doing anything that might possibly make it worse.

In the last blog we showed the damage of the martingale (or seagull striker).  We thought we had it all worked out with a local vendor in Tahiti, but it all went to hell in a hand basket.  I thought it was going a little too smoothly and fast for island life.  Read Part I of this series

After the disappointing failure of Mat Rigging, we quickly searched for a Plan B and a Plan C.

Plan B

Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services (NHYS) has a rigging company in Massachusetts, Rigging Only, that he has worked with on a number of occasions and they are familiar with shipping to French Polynesia.  However, there are lots of fees involved.  The costs of the parts and manufacturing (of course), shipping to FP $400, customs $200, NHYS $135.  Yikes.

Plan C

We find a company in the States and ship it to a fellow cruiser who is on holiday in San Francisco and they bring it back as excess luggage.  This is the cheapest method, but it would involve putting a rush on the parts and manufacturing and asking someone we do not know well to carry a 4’x4’x1’ 50lb package as excess baggage half way across the world.

We ended up create a Plan D.  We worked with Kevin and his vendor, but we ordered and paid for the parts directly.  Great for two reasons.  (1) we got miles using our credit card and (2) we did not have to pay Kevin 10% to do this for us.  We will pay Kevin to be our shipping agent and to help us get the package through customs, but that fee is only $45.    Funny though, the fees (shipping, customs, and NHYS) will cost almost as much as the parts and manufacturing.

Rigging Only

Wow, I have forgotten how easy it is to work with American companies.  Please do not take the customer service you receive on a day to day basis for granted!  We emailed all of the specs, reconfirmed all of the part numbers, and called them to make the payment.  They received all parts the next day, manufactured our martingale and got it in Fedex by end of that same day!

Now, it is just a waiting game.  We have set up notifications to get alerts on the status of the package.  All said and good, but to be honest, once it arrives in Tahiti it could sit in customs for weeks.

Shipping

We scheduled automatic updates with FedEx which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.  Luckily, we were in a wifi zone and could constantly check the website for updates.  It left the shop in MA on Thursday and arrived in San Francisco on Friday.  On Saturday it was in Hawaii.  Then it traveled to Australia on Sunday (which is technically their Monday).  From Australia it went to New Zealand here it sat for 2 days.  Then it arrived in Tahiti on Wednesday.  It was cleared out of customs by Thursday night (yep, can you believe it?).  And finally, in our hot little hands by Friday afternoon!

Our package arrives

Our package arrives

Must admit that it looked too short once we opened the box.  I was hyperventilating.  

Martingale all wrapped up

Martingale all wrapped up

It looked way to short, but thankfully it wasn’t.  I think I am manufacturing issues in my head.

Measuring out the new martingale

Measuring out the new martingale

Matt had to secure the mast to ensure it would move or do anything stupid like fall over. He then carefully removed his safety line across the bow sprit that was used as a secondary martingale.  Then he created a tension line from bow to bow to see how the tension changed on the bow as we released the martingale.

Tension Line

Tension Line

Removing the Damaged Martingale

It is a process removing the old martingale.  After we secured the main, Matt began the process of removing the old martingale.  First, he removed the two screws from the center.

Removal of screws

Removal of screws

Next, he loosened the turnbuckle (port) using two large wrenches.  He did not remove it, just loosened it so that he could remove the pin on the opposite side.

Loosening the turnbuckle

Loosening the turnbuckle

Next, he removed the cotter pin, which held in the pin inside the toggle.  We had to be very, very careful not to drop the pin over board as it is the only one that fits our hole.  You see, when we replaced the martingale in St. Maartin, they realized that the new pin was too large for our existing hole.  So, they just re-used the old pin.  Not a big deal.  It looks a little small inside the hole on the toggle, but fits perfectly inside the hole on the boat. 

Removal of the cotter pin

Removal of the cotter pin

Once the toggle and pin were removed, he went back to the turnbuckle and removed it.  It is a left-hand thread on the left side and a right-hand thread to the martingale.  Which is why we could not use the one that Mat Rigging suggested which was a left-hand thread.  It would have been two left-hand threads into the turnbuckle which would not work.

Installing the New Martingale

Wow, Matt made this look so easy.  He squirted some tef gel into the hole where the pin goes.  It is made of aluminum and the pin is stainless.  The tef gel prevents corrosion.  The pin slid in nicely and in goes the cotter pin.  One side done.

Inserting the new cotter pin and main pin

Inserting the new cotter pin and main pin

Next Matt humored me by allowing me to rotate the turn buckle to tighten the martingale.  It was all easy peazy with the tef gel on but once we passed that mark it got really hard.  So, Matt took over with the two large wrenches.  Tighten until the tension line returns to its previous state, test the martingale, tighten, rinse and repeat until we get the tension just right.  Matt then screwed in the turnbuckle so it would not move or rotate while the rig is under pressure.

Tightening the Turnbuckle

Tightening the Turnbuckle

Put the screws back on the top to secure the center.

Screws go back in place

Screws go back in place

And final step, close off the cotter pin to ensure the pin does not go anywhere. The ends are curled up preventing it from escaping through the hole.  If the cotter pin comes out then the main pin holding the starboard toggle can come out.  So, a secure cotter pin is best.  The white gook is the tef gel.

Cotter pin secured

Cotter pin secured

New martingale installed

Martingale installed

Martingale installed

Old vs new near the swage mark at the turnbuckle

Old vs new cable

Old vs new cable

 

Martingale issue

Aging Gracefully? Me and the Rig

Our beautiful home / boat is fast approaching her 20th birthday.  In human years that is at the start of your prime, but in boat years that is getting “up there.”  As you might recall, we replaced our rig (well our standing rigging) in St Maarten back in 2016.  Our rig was close to 15 years old but showed no signs of wear and tear.  We went to FKG Rigging which is known to for their top-quality products and craftsmanship.  We were very happy with work.

Fast forward 11,000 sailing miles and 3.5 years later….we have a problem.  Our martingale which is at the bow of the boat is made of 14mm stainless steel.  There are 19 strands woven together and then swagged in to a toggle on one side and a pin on the other.  This rod reaches from the port bow to the starboard bow and is the main support for the fore-stay which holds up the front of the mast.  So, basically, kinda important to have the martingale strong and healthy.

Saving Grace

On the port side we attached a shiv to direct the jib furling line.  It is a common thing to do as it helps furl the line without chafing into the furler.  Good thing we did too as the shiv was held on with dynema (really strong rope for my land lubbing readers).  The shiv is about 1-2” above the toggle on the martingale.

Matt noticed a problem during Shawn and Sharon’s visit. He just happened to look up as he was sitting near the bow.  Three of the 19 strands were broken off between the toggle and the shiv.  YIKES!  That is really bad.  Our mast could have fallen down, had we been under sail and put too much pressure on the martingale.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

First things first, we put some preventative measures in place.  We tied our spin halyard which almost reaches to the top of the mast to the starboard bow cleat.

Spin Halyward bow to top of mast

Spin Halyward bow to top of mast

Then we tied a 3/8 or 1/2” dynema line from bow to bow to help support the martingale.  We later learned that the breaking strength of the dynema line is as strong as the 14mm stainless strand.  Wowza.  These two safety measures are just preventative.  We would not go under a big passage with these measures.

Shiv on top and damaged wires below

Shiv on top and damaged wires below

When we got back to the internet we contacted two companies in Tahiti.  There are no companies to work on our rig in the Marquesas. 

We use the information from our FKG invoice and measure, measure, measure prior to ordering.

Measuring the martingale

Measuring the martingale

Resources

We have a network of resources here which is fabulous considering the internet is not reliable or available.  There is a document called the compendium which is created by one boat, but information is gathered and shared by all cruisers who visit.  It is a crowd source document. 

There is also the SSB cruiser net which happens twice daily.  This is an information sharing channel used for vessels underway and at anchor to share information across French Polynesia.

Utilizing both of the above resources we discovered that there are two companies in Papeete that could possibly do the work for our rig.  Mat Rigging and Sailtech.  Mat Rigging was recently sold to a new person whom we know nothing about.  The original owner had a great reputation and was highly recommended but is no longer available.  All we can do is contact them both.

Sailtech

The initial email went unanswered.  After a few days, we called them, left a message and asked them to respond to the email.  The next day they responded that they were not sure if they had the toggle in stock.  After no response when I followed up, I emailed them again few days later.  The third email went unanswered.  They are technically a sail repair company and maybe not so great as a rig repair company. 

Mat Rigging

John, the new owner of Mat Rigging, responded the next morning that he could do the work in a week and provided an estimate.  We provided additional measurements and photos and had a few more emails back and forth.  Then he stated he needed full payment prior to starting work.  Not surprising, but frustrating.

Making Payments in Foreign Countries

It would be so easy if we could use paypal, vinmo, or even a credit card over the phone.  But alas that is not possible.  We went to the local bank in Nuku Hiva Banco Socredo with a French speaker.  He translated for me and asked if we could pay them cash to make a wire transfer to Banco Tahiti in Papeete.  The bank refused and suggested we try the post office.  We trudged over to the post office and they too refused.  Nuku Hiva Yacht services would do a transfer for us but they charged 10% which would be $112 and take two days.  Seriously, no way!

In my pondering state (some call it “bitching”) I mentioned my dilemma to some friends.  They knew a guy on another boat who was traveling to Papeete the next day and offered to introduce us.  Long story, short, we met, had dinner, shared some wine and gave him cash and John’s (Mat Rigging) contact information.  With any luck, he will arrive in Papeete the next day, meet with John and pay him for his services.  All went well and we received a receipt 36 hours later!

Shipping the Part

Typically, you can transport things by ship, plane or service.  The services (Fedex, DHL) can be unreliable here and there is no guarantee when or if your part will arrive.  The ship is not due to come in to Nuku Hiva for another 2 weeks (they shut down for the holidays).  So, it looks like air travel is the only way. Lucky for us, shipping was only $100 which seems cheap considering that this is a 4-meter (12’) piece of stainless steel pipping that can only be rolled so much – it will be a big, flat package.  Strange that you can ship part of your rig from one remote island to another. 

And It All Came Crashing Down

I was thinking “wow this has been relatively easy” John is easy to work with, speaks English, and this is happening.  But, alas, that is not the case.

On the day that the parts were supposed to be put on the plane, I got a call that he doesn’t have a right hand toggle.  WTF!  We sent the 3 part numbers in email (multiple times), text, and photographs.  He did not realize he did not have the part until after he received our money and went to assemble everything.  You’ve got to be kidding!

Check back with us for the conclusion of this saga.

Fakarava

O’ Fakarava what a gem

Fakarava is the 2nd largest atoll in the Tuamotus, 2nd to Rangiroa.  Fakarava means “beautiful” or “making things superb.”  Dozens of cruisers told us of the beauty of this atoll.  It was an imperative stop to participate in the exquisite scenery above and below the water.

The land and underwater wildlife are remarkable as indicated by its UNESCO biosphere reserve classification.  The purpose of the reserve is to combine conservation of natural resources and human development in a harmonious way.  Including research, surveillance, training and education of locals.  The atoll features such an untouched environment that includes rare, endemic protected species. 

It’s easy not to miss the small, lovely islets that form a ring around the lagoon of Fakarava. After all, it’s the lagoon that draws your attention, its beauty pulling at you like a magnet. There is a purity in the lagoon, and in the quiet elegance of the marine life that live out their lives in the shallows near shore.

The famous French painter Henri Matisse claimed that colors were for setting oneself free. The artist spent three months in Tahiti in 1930 exploring as far as Fakarava, where he was enthralled by the infinite variety and shades of blue of the lagoon. This discovery was such that it triggered a new creative artistic move for Matisse. Think of Fakarava as visual therapy for the soul.

A little About Fakarava

The population is said to be around 850 residents.  Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen was the first recorded European to arrive in Fakarava in 1820.  The inhabitants were “evangelized in 1849 and the first local church was dedicated in 1850.  In 1995, the domestic airfield was inaugurated.

We left Apataki SE corner at 0945, took 10nm to get to the north pass, exited at slack tide 1100.

The first 3 hours we had one reef, full jib and averaged a remarkable 7.9kt with 15kt wind beam reach – truly awesome. If we maintained this speed we could have made it to the Fakarava pass by dusk.  However, we lost the wind half way there.  We had no choice but to slow theboat down, drop the main and make a slow passage.  Why you ask?  We could not make it before dark and had to wait for dawn – so we had 9-10 hours to kill.  We arrived at the pass at 2000, went right by it and motored 17nm out of our way at 3-4 kts.  Then turned around and returned back to the pass just before dawn.

Passage to Fakarava

Passage to Fakarava

At 0545 we arrived at the pass which was almost 2 hours after “slack tide”.  The sun was rising and we had 3-4 kts of incoming tide.  We picked up a mooring (private) to wait for sun.  We could not see where the  bommies were to avoid when anchoring.

Sunrise at Fakarava

Sunrise at Fakarava

Passage Details

  • Distance as the Crow Flies:  53nm
  • Actual Miles Traveled: 96.7nm
  • Max Speed: 10kt
  • Average Speed: 4.9kt (avg. 7.9kt for first 3 hours, then slowed boat down.  Ultimately spent 9 hours circling at 4.3kt)
  • Moving Time: 19.40

We met some new friends on “Chasing Waterfalls” and enjoyed sun downers on their beautiful 52’ Itsara (Steve, Johana, Mia, Layla and Eva).  The next day Matt and I got busy with lots of boat projects.

Boat Projects

  • Cleaned and repair port fresh water tank (Matt)
  • Pressure Washed exterior boat (bimini, solar panels, deck, etc…)
  • Oiled and stained all exterior teak
  • Washed down all hatches/windows
  • Cleaned Mater bath
  • Scoured the waterline
  • Scrubbed the stove and oven
  • Set up guest suite (for Josh and Sara)
  • Ospho all stainless

We try to clean our stainless every 3 months or when needed.  The salt water does a horrible number on it.  Before and after photos below.

Ospho the Stainless Steel

Ospho the Stainless Steel