Rigging, Running, Traveler Bridge, Removal and Reinstallation

The traveler bridge on the cabin top of Oystercatcher during her refitting
Ericson Yachts, in Southern California in the 1970s, rigged the Ericson 25 to have mid-boom sheeting. In other words, they rigged the blocks for the mainsail sheet to be at the middle of the boom rather than at the end. Since Ericson rigged the Ericson 25 in this fashion, they understandably set the traveler on the cabin top rather than somewhere farther aft, such as in the cockpit. As is often the case, this cabin top traveler required a bridge - something that would allow the companionway hatch to slide freely back and forth under it. Since this bridge bears all sorts of loads from the mainsail sheet and thus the mainsail itself, it must be well secured to the cabin top. Since the hardware for this bridge penetrates the balsa core of the cabin top, it must be well sealed against water intrusion. Unfortunately, when I purchased my Ericson 25, Oystercatcher, in the fall of 2009, her bridge was neither well secured nor well sealed. In this article I discuss my removal and reinstallation of this important component in the running rigging of this boat.
The traveler and traveler bridge as they appeared during my first visit to see the boat in the fall of 2009
I made three separate trips to the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina in the process of purchasing Oystercatcher. The purpose of my first visit was not to see this boat, but a completely different one that I was interested in at the time. I only visited this one at the urging of a broker. I tell this story in full in my article, "Why I Bought the Ericson 25." At any rate, this first visit was hastily arranged, and for this reason I was able to glimpse this boat in a condition closer to where she had long been before the owner had decided to put her on the market. Shortly before the broker and I arrived, the owner had been spraying down the deck. This attempt to clean up the exterior of the boat in a jiffy, actually did more harm than good, for it revealed various leaks in the cabin top and deck and thus revealed the true condition of certain parts of the boat.
The boat as she appeared during my second visit, when she'd been more thoroughly cleaned
A friend and I spent two nights aboard the boat in our transit from the owner's personal dock to a boatyard in Oriental, North Carolina for haulout.
We then trailered the boat back to my home in Charleston, South Carolina.
One of the first things I did after getting back home was to build four sawhorses to support the mast and standing rigging.
I also removed almost all of the deck hardware in order to address the water intrusion issues that I had witnessed during my first visit to see the boat. For more on this, see my article, "Deck Hardware Removal."
The first thing I noticed when I removed the acorn nuts from the overhead of the main salon was that the upward forces on the traveler bridge had caused the hardware to dimple the fiberglass hull/cabin liner.

The same dimples were present in the cabin top. The bedding compound had long before this time become dry and brittle.
The owner, before my second visit, had tried to make the companionway hatch look better by slapping a coat of varnish on it. This did nothing to address the real problem. It leaked like other things, and no amount of varnish could disguise the problem. For more on this, see my article, "Companionway Hatch Construction."
The companionway hatch as it appeared during my removal of the deck hardware, fall 2009
Since the traveler bridge supports the traveler, which itself supports the mainsail sheet and the mainsail, I consider it a part of the rigging. There were many steps I took to address issues with the spars and rigging before I ever got around to reinstalling the traveler bridge. For one thing, I replaced the wire-rope halyards with all-rope halyards. For more on this, see my article on this subject.
I also replaced the old and twisted standing rigging.
Similarly, I replaced the antiquated roller furler, which supported an antiquated wire-luff sail.
This led me to begin a conversation with a sailmaker to replace my headsail.
I also replaced the spreader brackets and spreaders.
Likewise, I repaired the mast compression post.
Oh, and let's not forget the new mast step and mast hinge.
I've written articles about all these projects, so let's now focus on the subject of the present one - the removal and reinstallation of the traveler bridge.
Before I put it back on the boat, I wanted to clean it up.
It was covered with chipped paint.
For some reason they had painted the arch of the bridge, but they had left the legs unpainted.
I knew that some Ericson 25 owners had replaced the original, awkward traveler with an updated one, complete with blocks for adjusting the car of the traveler while under sail. I planned to update the traveler at some point, but not now.
I used a fine grade sandpaper to remove the chipped paint.
I then removed any scratches that I found with an even finer grade sandpaper.
I considered painting the aluminum with Pitthane, a two-part polyurethane, but I figured that I would do this at the same time that I replaced the traveler.
My replacement of the traveler bridge on the cabin top was part of my larger deck-hardware reinstallation project. Rather than write one big article on my reinstallation of the deck hardware, I have decided to write several smaller ones specific to certain subjects.
Prior to putting any of the deck hardware back in place, I filled each and every hole with epoxy, in order to seal the balsa core and thus protect it against water intrusion. The technique I used is the one promoted by Maine Sail on his Compass Marine website. There is a link to this website on the homepage of this blog.
I used a 5/16 inch drill bit to widen each of the 1/4 inch holes. I did not drill all the way through the cabin top, I only drilled through the top layer of the fiberglass-core sandwich.
Then I pulled out a 115 cutter for my Dremel. This cutter is 5/16 inch in diameter. This is why I had to drill the top of each hole to this diameter.
This cutter is 3/8 inch thick, which is the same thickness as the balsa core. In other words, it's the perfect size for excavating the balsa core.
The right-angle attachment on my Dremel made it much easier to dig out each hole. 
Afterwards, I chamfered each hole with a countersink bit. This chamfer would later be useful when I re-drilled each epoxy filled hole.
As I said, I did lots of other holes in the deck and cabin top at this time.
After I had hit every hole with the Shop-Vac and then wiped each hole with acetone, I taped every hole with blue painter's tape. I also taped the underside of  each hole with Gorilla brand duct tape. This duct tape on the bottom would help prevent the epoxy from dripping down into the boat. I say here that it would help to prevent the dripping, but it would not totally prevent it in all places.

To fill the holes, I used RAKA 127 Low Viscosity Resin and 350 Non-Blush Hardener, just as I did for almost all the epoxy work I did on this boat.
I used a syringe to inject the holes with neat (unthickened) epoxy. I did not try to do all the holes at once. I used small batches, so as to prevent the epoxy from overheating and kicking on me in the middle of this work. I would usually mix up the epoxy either in 3 ounce or 6 ounce increments. I would fill one hole after another until I had used up all the epoxy. Then I would go back to the first hole and try to draw as much of the neat epoxy out of the hole as possible. All I was trying to do was to saturate the balsa, so that it would accept the thickened epoxy that I would soon inject into the space. Usually, there would not be much of the neat epoxy for me to withdraw from the holes. Sometimes this was because there was a leak into the interior of the boat. Usually, however, this was because the balsa core was absorbing it. That was a good thing.
As I said, normally I would not be able to extract much of the neat epoxy from the holes. Therefore, I would have to mix up another pot of epoxy to proceed to the next step - the filling of the holes. To do this, I would thicken the epoxy to a ketchup-like consistency. Then I would use the syringe to inject each hole. In the picture below, we see the holes for one of the stanchion bases filled with thickened epoxy. I would usually come back and stir the epoxy in each hole in order to get out any air bubbles that might be in there. Almost always I would need to top off each hole with some additional epoxy due to the settling that would occur.
Here's the way the holes for the traveler bridge and the handrails looked while I was in the middle of this process.
Here's a picture of the interior with the white duct tape here and there. Throughout this process I continually monitored for drips and quickly cleaned up any excess that might escape.
While all of this was going on I received in the mail from Jamestown Distributors in Rhode Island a package containing some 12 inch x 12 inch pieces of 1/4 inch G-10. This G-10 is an industrial grade epoxy-cloth material. Essentially, it's solid fiberglass, and many sailboat owners now use it to create backing plates for their deck hardware.
G-10 is dense, but you can cut it with a jig saw and good blades.
I used Bosch brand T118B blades, which are made for cutting metal.
The first pieces of G-10 that I cut were not backing plates; they were foundations for the legs of the traveler bridge. Recall that the cabin top was dimpled in the area around the legs. My plan was to epoxy these G-10 foundations to the deck.
I sanded all surfaces of the G-10 to make the surfaces more acceptable to the epoxy and paint that I would apply to them. I also rounded the corners on the G-10 to give them a more pleasing appearance.

At the same time, I cut some smaller pieces of G-10 for a related project.

In the picture below you can see the G-10 foundation for the traveler bridge on the right, and the smaller piece of G-10 on the side deck on the left.
I had earlier created counter extensions in the galley. Some persons have created counter extensions that are hinged. I did not go this route for two reasons. First, hinged counter extensions limit unreasonably the size of the counter, because there must be enough room for them to swing downward for stowage purposes. Secondly, hinged counter extensions create cramped conditions for the averaged sized person sleeping on the settee berth. My way around this problem was to create removable counter extensions. On the galley side, two pins hold the counter extension in place. On the main salon side, two high-tech, low-stretch lines hold the counter in place. The two counter extensions (one for each side of the galley) stow neatly under the companionway ladder. It takes less than one minute to set them up or take them down. Now when you look at the picture below, your first thought probably is that it would be easy for a person to break this counter-extension, if he were to put his hand down on it, or worse, fall on it. I had the same thought. My way around this potential problem was to through-bolt the hardware from the overhead of the main salon to the deck. The G-10 foundation for the traveler bridge would support the hardware for the inboard counter-extension line. The small G-10  piece on the side deck would support the hardware for the outboard counter extension line.
Here's what I'm talking about. On the inside of the boat there would be stainless steel loops. Here we see one of the ones for the outboard line on the counter extension.
Each one of these loops required two machine screws. In the picture below I am determining the position for the inboard loop on the starboard side of the galley. Note that I have already sanded away the gel coat from the hull/cabin liner. In these spots I would epoxy G-10 backing plates for the traveler bridge. Earlier I had installed mahogany trim on the overhead of the main salon. If you've read my article on this, you'll know what I'm talking about. At that time, I had wrongly thought that the mahogany alone would be sufficient for a backing plate. By this point, I had rethought things, and decided that G-10 would be much better. Note the two holes adjacent to the stainless steel loop. These were the screw holes for the stainless steel loop back when I thought that the mahogany would be sufficient. From the time I had installed this mahogany, I worried that anyone could accidentally tear out the screws from the overhead, if he put his weight on the counter extension. Now that I would be through-bolting the stainless steel loop, I had to shift it so that it would be lined up with the hardware for the traveler bridge. Note the traveler bridge bolt holes full of cured epoxy.
I also had to remove the mahogany trim and stainless steel loop that I had installed for the outboard line for the counter extension. Up until this point, this loop, like the inboard one, was only secured with a wood screw in the fiberglass hull/cabin liner.
Once I was satisfied with the alignment of the loop's position, I drilled the holes for it all the way through the cabin top. As I did this, I did my best to keep the drill bit perpendicular to the overhead.
If I had not kept the drill bit perpendicular, then the screws/bolts would bind when the time came for me to install the hardware.
I did the same thing for the loops on the outboard sides of the counter extensions. Below I'm using one of the loops to see if I drilled the holes in a perpendicular fashion.
 After I had drilled these holes, I used the 5/16 inch drill bit to widen the holes on the top side.
 Then I excavated the balsa core with the Dremel.
 Satisfied, I could now epoxy the G-10 backing plates in place.
 I could also, on the cabin top, fill the holes with epoxy.
Since I had to take these counter extensions into consideration, the installation of the G-10 foundations for the traveler bridge on cabin top took a good bit of forethought.
In the picture below, you see that I have already drilled and epoxy-filled the holes for the inboard counter extension hardware. These are the two holes that are adjacent to each other, yet widely spaced. The hole on the bottom right is for the handrail.
Before I could figure out exactly where to mount the G-10 foundations, I needed to drill 1/4 inch holes through the cured epoxy. Before I could do this, however, I needed to hit each hole with the countersink bit. This would help me to line up the 1/4 inch drill bit in the center of the hole.
After I had drilled the 1/4 inch holes, I put the traveler bridge in place to make sure that everything lined up.
In my positioning of the G-10 foundations, I had to take into account not only the holes for the counter extension hardware, but also the dimensions of the companionway hatch.
If I epoxied the G-10 foundations too closely to the stainless steel companionway tracks, then I would not be able to slide the companionway back and forth. This of course would render it useless.
After I had marked the area where I planned to epoxy the G-10 foundation, I sanded it with 220 grit paper.
This would allow the epoxy to grip the fiberglass more tenaciously.
After I had vacuumed the area and wiped it down with acetone, I mixed up some epoxy and wet out the cabin top areas (and side deck areas) and also the backs of the G-10 pieces. Then I thickened the epoxy with colloidal silica to the consistency of peanut butter. I spread this mixture as evenly as possible over the appropriate areas of the cabin top and side decks.
I let this sit for a bit while I tore off pieces of duct tape for securing the G-10 in place.
Then I pressed the G-10 into place and applied the tape. These were not level surfaces. The tape would keep the G-10 from sliding until the epoxy started to kick shortly afterwards.

On the overhead of the galley and main salon I had earlier, as I explained, epoxied the backing plates into their proper positions.
As I said, I had at first thought that the mahogany trim would be sufficient for backing plates.
One issue that I had to deal with in the installation of this trim was the fact that the hardware for the traveler bridge was situated in two different areas. The overhead of the main salon contained a rolled edge trim piece integral to the hull/cabin liner. It was around this rolled edge that I had installed the mahogany trim. The hardware for the traveler bridge was both within the rolled edge and aft of the rolled edge. For this reason, I created a mahogany trim piece aft of the rolled edge to support the hardware in this area.
Here's what I'm talking about.

My plan now was to reinstall this mahogany trim on top of the G-10 backing plates after I had glued them into position.
That way I could preserve the trim work and provide firm backing plates for the traveler bridge at the same time. This modification, therefore, satisfied the two criteria that I used throughout the refitting - the utilitarian and the aesthetic.
Now that the epoxy had cured on the G-10 backing plates and on the G-10 foundation that I had laid down on the cabin top, I assembled the tools necessary to work on the G-10.
I began by using the small sanding drum on the Dremel to remove the excess dried epoxy that had seeped through some of the holes.
Then I used the quarter-sheet sander to smooth out the irregularities that remained on the surface of the G-10.
Earlier (before I had installed the G-10 foundations on the cabin top) I had drilled through the existing holes in the cabin top to create these holes in the G-10 backing plates. This step was necessary so that I would have reference holes by which I could drill holes in the G-10 foundations. Now I could stand in the main salon and drill upward through these reference holes to create perfectly aligned holes in the G-10 that was on the deck.
See what I'm talking about?
I also used the sanding drum on the Dremel to remove some excess epoxy that had crept under the duct tape.
Then I drilled upward through the deck and through the G-10 that I had previously epoxied to the deck.

Now it was time to see if all of these holes lined up.
Despite my best efforts, I still needed to drill out a few of the holes just a tad.
When it looked like everything was well aligned, I assembled the hardware and prepared for a dry-fit.
Fortunately, it was a good fit.
Now it was time to prepare the G-10 on the exterior of the boat for painting. You can't leave this stuff unpainted. Otherwise it will deteriorate over time due to exposure to UV light.
After I had removed the gloss from the surface of the G-10, I did the same to the edges. This required some delicate work by hand so as to avoid scratching the gel coat.
After I had cleaned up the area with acetone, I taped it off with blue painter's tape.
Then I chamfered each hole with the countersink. This would help the butyl tape create a good, watertight seal around the hardware when I installed it.
Just prior to painting the G-10, I wiped it down with the proprietary solvent for Pitthane, the two-part polyurethane that I was going to use.
I've discussed Pitthane in many other articles, so if you're interested in reading more, just check out the link for Pitthane in the Labels section on the homepage.

A day or two later I came back with 220 grit paper and roughed up the surface slightly to give it some tooth for the second coat.

After wiping away the residue with the proprietary solvent, I hit the G-10 once again with the Pitthane.

A day or two later I came back and removed the blue tape. I used a chisel to gently remove any excess paint or epoxy that had crept under the paint and onto the deck.
The finished products were looking good, despite the filthy condition of the deck.
After I compounded the deck with the buffer, this would all look good.
Now I could get to work installing the hardware. Below we see a roll of butyl tape. I ordered this from Maine Sail on his Compass Marine website. I ended up using almost six rolls of this stuff in my reinstallation of the deck hardware and other items such as the portlights.

To install the traveler bridge I marked the painted G-10 and then laid down strips of butyl tape in the appropriate areas.

The butyl tape is rubbery and sticky. Now the hardware fit so snugly in the holes that I had to use a dead-blow hammer to get some of the bolts to fit all the way through to the other side.
The dead-blow hammer helped to squeeze the butyl tape outward. This was a good thing. It meant that I was creating a gasket of sorts around the fittings.
The bolts forced the butyl tape with them all the way down through the holes in the backing plates.

One by one I slowly applied the nuts and tightened them.
I did it sort of the same way you tighten lug nuts on the wheel of a car. This also helped to distribute the butyl tape.
As per the advice of Maine Sail, I came back every so often, over an extended period of time, and tighten the nuts little by little.
This further helped to distribute the butyl tape.
Now that I had finished this installation, I could reinstall the mahogany trim.
To do this, I had to use a hole saw to drill out a portion of the trim.
This would allow room for the nuts on the G-10
I was somewhat worried that this would not look good, but once I got it in place, I thought it looked just fine.
Aside from this, I had to drill pilot holes in the G-10 so that I could secure the mahogany trim pieces. I used a spare piece of G-10 to determine how deep to drill into it. Then I taped the drill bit to create a reference line.
The diameter of the holes that I drilled into the G-10 was larger than the diameter of the wood screws that I would use to secure the mahogany. G-10 is incredibly resistant to wood screws. My plan was to allow the wood screws simply to pass through the G-10. They would then anchor themselves in the fiberglass hull/cabin liner, just like they had before I ever installed the G-10.
This approach worked well. It was easy to secure the mahogany in this fashion, and the mahogany did a good job of concealing the G-10. Beauty and practicality all in the same package.
Now at last I could install the hardware for the stainless steel loops that would support the inboard lines for the counter extensions in the galley.

This reinstallation of the traveler bridge was time consuming. Nevertheless, I could rest assured that the bridge was both well secured and well sealed against the weather. I could say the same thing for the hardware that I had installed at the same time for the counter extensions in the galley.
This ends this posting on how I removed and reinstalled the traveler bridge on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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