Rigging, Standing, Removal and Replacement, Part 1

New standing rigging for Oystercatcher at Charleston Yachting
The standing rigging on a sailboat is just as important as the mast. Without it, the mast won't stand up. When speaking of the standing rigging we continually use two terms - shrouds and stays. The shrouds are those stainless steel wires on the port and starboard sides of the mast. The stays, on the other hand, are forward and aft of the mast. The shrouds and the stays, like all other things produced by the human hand, do not last forever. Like their makers, these pieces of rigging eventually grow old and perish. When I purchased Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, in the fall of 2009, the standing rigging had not yet perished, but it certainly had grown old. I knew that in the not-to-distant future I would need to replace it, so that I myself would not perish together with it. In the first part of this two-part article I describe my removal of the standing rigging and the help I received from a rigger in the replacement of it.
When I purchased Oystercatcher in the fall of 2009 from a person in the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina, I knew that there were quite a few things on her in her 35 years of life that had grown old and weary.
The standing rigging appeared to be tolerable, but it was difficult to inspect it thoroughly with the mast up. Sure the mast had steps leading up to the top, but neither I nor the surveyor I hired wanted to trust them.
A friend and I spent two nights aboard the boat, moving her from the owner's private dock to Oriental, North Carolina for haulout. For more on this, see my article, "Haulout and Trailering, Initial."
One of the first things I did after I trailered the boat back home was to construct sawhorses to support the mast and rigging.
This allowed me to inspect everything much more thoroughly.
I knew right away that the spreader brackets and spreaders needed to be replaced. For more on this, see my article, "Spars, Spreaders, Removal and Replacement."
I also knew that both the standing rigging and running rigging needed to be replaced. I started with the running rigging, specifically the wire-rope halyards. There were fish-hook burrs all along the surface of the wire.
For more on this project, see my article, "Rigging, Running, Wire-Rope Halyard to All-Rope Halyard Conversion."
Eventually, I was able to focus on the standing rigging. The turnbuckles and toggles for this rigging were in bad condition. Below we see the lower shrouds.
Years of wear and tear had distorted their shape.
Here's what the port side upper shroud turnbuckle and toggle looked like.
No matter the angle, it looked bad.
The starboard one was not much better.
It's no wonder that the chainplates that anchored these shrouds were bent. For more on this, see my article, "Rigging, Standing, Chainplates, Amidships, Removal and Replacement."
At the same time that I removed the standing rigging from the mast, I removed almost everything else. The steaming light was worthless. Not only was the wiring corroded, but the protective lens was so sun-bleached that it was difficult to see through it.

The VHF antenna and coaxial cable were also corroded and worthless.
Aside from this, the coaxial cable was far too small for the length of the run that it made from the galley to the top of the mast. I pulled all of this stuff and threw it away.
I also removed the mast steps/stairs at this time. These things were more of an obstruction than anything else. The halyards would easily wrap themselves around them in a serpentine manner. This made the hauling on the halyards difficult to say the least.
After I had removed all of the standing rigging I coiled it up and taped it with duct tape. Then I started looking for a local rigger.
My search led me to Charleston Yachting, a business owned and operated by Randy Draftz, a life-long sailor and the organizer of the annual Charleston Race Week.
This business was located on property once a part of the Charleston Navy Base.
The Ericson 25 owner's manual specified that the standing rigging for the boat was 5/32 inch in diameter. I had decided that in this re-rigging I would move up to 3/16 inch. I knew an Ericson 25 owner in the Midwest who sailed his boat hard on the Great Lakes. He had made the same upgrade when he replaced his standing rigging. Concerned about the added weight aloft, I did some calculations that revealed there would not be that big of a difference in the weight added by this upgrade. After it was all over, I weighed both the old and the new, and found out that my projections were fairly accurate. The weight of the original, 5/32 inch rigging was 16 pounds. This included the old wire-rope halyards, but it did not include the 7/16 inch wire that was sewn into the wire-luff headsail. I estimated that this gigantic wire, along with its pendant and fittings was at least 1 pound. The new, 3/16 inch standing rigging was 17 pounds. Therefore, on account of my discarding of the wire-rope halyards and the wire in the wire-luff headsail, the upgrade to 3/16 inch rigging did not result in a net gain of weight aloft. I should also point out that I removed the mast steps/stairs that the previous owner had installed. These alone, not including the stainless steel hardware used to mount them to the mast, weighed 4.5 pounds. I never weighed the bulky, halogen spreader lights that I removed, but I would estimate that together they weighed at least 1 pound. Therefore, after all this work, the weight aloft, despite this upgrade to 3/16 inch rigging, was reduced by about 5-1/2 pounds.
I had done a lot of research before approaching Randy Draftz at Charleston Yachting. I was convinced that it would be better for me to use swageless fittings rather than traditional, swaged fittings for this rigging. Swageless fittings would allow me to remove the fittings and inspect the ends of the wires within them from time to time. I was familiar with this technology to some degree because the Ravenel Bridge over Charleston Harbor is a cable-stayed bridge. The fittings on the ends of the cables that hold up the bridge are swageless fittings.
Randy Draftz said that I could certainly go the swageless route, if I so desired. He encouraged me, however, to reconsider traditional, swaged fittings, especially in light of the fact that he owned a Fenn rotary swager. He said that he was one of a handful of sailboat riggers in the United States who used one of these types of swagers.
He explained to me the benefits of a rotary swager as opposed to the more common roller swager. The rotary swager uses dies, which completely surround the fitting, and which strike it many times in rapid succession. This process creates a swage that is more uniform and complete than that produced by a roller swager, which can sometimes create fittings with banana-like shapes in them from being forced through two rollers.

What sold me on the rotary swager was the sample that Randy had on display. He had swaged an eye onto a piece of wire and then cut through the assembly with a saw, so that you could inspect the interior.
From what I had read, one of the problems with swaged fittings was that water could creep down into the swage and there cause corrosion that was impossible to see. Upon close examination of the cross-section of the swaged fitting I could not see any voids. Having purchased a loupe for the examination of my rigging, I used this loup to examine this cross-section. Even with the loupe I could not detect a void. It was almost impossible, for that matter, to distinguish between the fitting and the wire within. It was as if they were one single piece of stainless steel.
I used a Peak brand loupe with 10X magnification.
Once I had settled on the rotary swager approach, I scheduled a time to meet him at his shop on a Saturday morning. I had asked Randy if I could be present and take pictures of him and his work for this blog. Randy is a serious, yet laid-back guy, who's very approachable. He said he didn't mind one bit if I wanted to be there and take pictures.
Randy had a long, wooden table that he had built specifically for rigging work.
Along the face of this table was a board. Atop it was a tape-measure that he had permanently affixed to it. To this board he would clamp the stainless steel wire in order to mark the wire at the proper lengths.
In preparation for swaging the fittings on my 3/16 inch wires, Randy checked the dies on the Fenn rotary swager.
He had a small stack dies nearby. He, of course, had to use the ones that were compatible with a fitting for wire of this size.
In the picture below you see one of the appropriate dies, partially installed.

When everything was set, he fed the 3/16 inch wire through the machine. The other end of the wire exited the machine on the opposite side.
On his table, Randy had double-checked to make sure the lengths were just right. He used the old 5/32 inch rigging as a guide.
Then he turned on the machine, slipped the fitting on the end of the wire, and began to push the wire slowly towards the dies.
He continued until the fitting on the end of the wire reached the dies.
Despite its monstrous size and despite its roar, this machine was a gentle beast. Randy was able to hold this food on the edge of the animal's mouth with no resistance or complaint.
After a few moments, he pulled the fitting free to reveal a perfectly formed swage.
Randy continued in this pattern, swaging one fitting after another.
Here we see him working on the split backstay. The original split backstay had plastic coverings on it, presumably because it was in the cockpit area of the boat. In the picture below, you can see one of the plastic coverings peeled back from the wire.
For the main part of the backstay, Randy used 3/16 inch wire. For the split backstay, however, he used 5/32, just like the original. He indicated that this would work just fine, since the load was split between the two halves of the split-backstay. The original, aft chainplates possessed holes that were compatible for clevis pins for 5/32 inch rigging. If I had insisted that the new split backstays be 3/16 inch, then I would have had to fabricate new aft chainplates with holes compatible for clevis pins for 3/16 inch rigging.
The wire that Randy used for this project was manufactured by Alps Wire Rope, a Chicago-based company.
This was 1 x 19 wire rope, the standard type used on sailboats.

Randy had many spools of wire rope and synthetic rope all over his shop.
Randy's shop, whenever I have been there, is almost like a barber's shop. Men stop by for this or that service, and in the process, they tell a story, about this or that race, or this or that passage that they've made out in the harbor or in the deep blue sea.
While Randy did his work, I took a few pictures of some of his other machines. Below, on the left, we see a crimper; on the right, a Kearney brand roller swager.
This was an original, Kearney swager, a rugged and uncompromising piece of equipment. I didn't know it now, but two pieces of hardware on my upper shrouds would need be joined to the 3/16 inch wire with this machine. I discuss this in the second part of this article.
Randy also owned a pneumatic roller swager. This he used for larger wires. It should go without saying that Randy's charge for work on the Fenn rotary swager was higher than his charge for work on the roller swagers. For this reason, some persons would opt for the roller swagers. I should note, however's that Randy's charge for the Fenn was much more affordable than his charge for swageless fittings such as I discussed above.
Randy completed most of his work on my rigging on this Saturday morning. I did have to return, however, several times for some other things. For example, one afternoon I returned with a bronze snap hook that I had purchased from a local hardware store. With this, Randy fashioned a new pigtail. The pigtail is the small piece of rigging that holds the boom in place when the boat is docked, or is at anchor, or is simply motoring along. The bronze snap hook on the original pigtail was almost completely worn through. For this small job, Randy used his crimper to affix a Nico-press fitting on the wire.
All-in-all my experience with Randy Draftz at Charleston Yachting was a very positive one.
Randy does lots of work by mail, so if you're in a need of a good rigger, he's just a phone call away.
This ends the first part of a two-part article on my removal and replacement of the standing rigging on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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