Rigging, Standing, Removal and Replacement, Part 2

The mast, cleaned, waxed, and ready to receive the new standing rigging
Having removed the old 5/32 inch standing rigging, and having paid a rigger to replace it with new wire, 3/16 inch in diameter, it was now time for me to install it. There were, however, several obstacles to my carrying out of this project, one of which concerned the stainless steel tangs for the new rigging. In this posting, the second part of a two-part article on the subject of the standing rigging for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, I address not only these obstacles, but also my cleaning and waxing of the mast and my installation of the this new rigging.
The first obstacle that I faced concerned the old spreaders and spreader brackets. Since these were weak and in poor condition, I had to replace them with new ones. For more on this project, see my article, "Spars, Spreaders, Removal and Replacement."
The second obstacle concerned the mast step. The Ericson 25 that I purchased in the fall of 2009 lacked a mast tabernacle, such as you see on the Ericson 25 pictured below. Many original owners of these boats opted for the mast-stepping package at the time of purchase. The tabernacle was a key component of this package. It allowed owners to step and unstep the mast by themselves.
Some original owners of the Ericson 25 did not opt for the mast-stepping package, apparently because they had no intention of ever trailering or trailer-launching their boats. Instead, they likely planned to keep their boats at a dock and planned to have their boats hauled out by a boat yard crane on a seasonal or yearly basis.
Since my boat did not have a mast tabernacle, and since I planned to trailer and trailer-launch my boat on a regular basis, I had to come up with some solution for stepping and unstepping the mast by myself. I tried to find an original Ericson 25 tabernacle, but I had no luck in this regard. Finally, I decided to construct a new mast step, upon which I would mount a mast hinge. For more on this project, see my article, "Spars, Mast Hinge."
At the time that I had paid the rigger to create new standing rigging for Oystercatcher, I was not fully aware of everything that had been included in the original, Ericson 25 mast-stepping package. I was so focused on trying to find a used Ericson 25 mast tabernacle that I did not realize I needed a special mast-stepping bridle to accompany it. I put part of the blame for this on myself. I should have researched this topic more fully. I put another part of the blame, however, on the original instructions provided by Ericson Yachts for the stepping of the mast on the Ericson 25. The lack of clarity in these instructions had resulted in lots of confusion by lots of owners on the Ericson Yacht Owners forum. At any rate, the bridle, as I discovered after more thorough research, is essential. The bridle consists of two separate stainless steel wires, one wire for the port side, the other for the starboard. The purpose of this bridle is to hold the mast true during the stepping process. Without the bridle, the mast is in danger of swinging from side to side. Since it's difficult to picture exactly what I'm talking about, let's flash forward a bit to see this bridle in action on my boat. In the picture below, you see the two wires of the bridle on either side of the boom.
As I said, the original mast-stepping instructions provided by Ericson, like so many other instructions from so many other manufacturers of different products, were neither clear nor comprehensive. Let's focus for a moment on that crucial part that concerns the bridle. The instructions say, "Attach the boom guys [i.e., the wires of the bridle], one port one starboard, to the tangs on the aft end of the boom." Okay, I can follow this, especially since the picture that accompanies these instructions illustrates this rather well.
Then the instructions say, "Attach the link plates on the upper shrouds." Okay, so what does this mean? What the hell are "link plates," and what does it mean to "attach [them] on the upper shrouds?" The picture, with all of its shadows, is no help whatsoever.
After some more digging around and some conversations on the phone with a helpful Ericson 25 owner out West, I finally pieced it together. The link plates are tangs within the upper shrouds. These tangs have holes in their centers. It's to these holes that you join the ends of the bridle. In the picture below, we see a link plate. The owner demonstrates that the center hole in the link plate is approximately 21 inches off the deck. On the phone, the helpful owner out West told me that his was 20.5 inches off the deck.
Now that I fully understood the importance of the bridle in the mast-stepping process, and now that I fully understood what a link plate was, I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to have my local rigger fashion me a bridle. Therefore, I paid another visit to Randy Draftz, owner and operator of Charleston Yachting.
I had kept my old, 5/32 inch rigging, just in case I needed to use it for some unexpected purpose.
The helpful Ericson 25 owner out West had told me that the two halves of his mast-stepping bridle were each 112 inches, eye to eye, in other words, pin hole to pin hole. I knew that my lower shrouds were at least this length, so I grabbed this coil from my stack of coils before I drove out to Randy's shop.
There, Randy cut off the turnbuckles from the bottom of the shrouds so that he could install aircraft forks in their place. He only needed to install aircraft forks on one end of the shrouds, because the other end already had aircraft forks in place.
To swage the new aircraft forks on the wire, Randy used his Kearney brand roller swager.
I discussed this type of swager more thoroughly in Part 1 of this article.
When I use the term "aircraft fork," I'm referring to a type of fitting that is designed to fit over a tang and be joined to that tang with a clevis pin. Below, we see one half of the finished mast-stepping bridle. I have slid the aircraft fork onto the tang on the boom. Into the hole I will soon install a clevis pin, but . . . I'm getting ahead of myself.
While I was at Charleston Yachting having Randy Draftz create the mast-stepping bridle for me, I discussed with him the other components of the Ericson 25 mast-stepping system, specifically the link plates in the upper shrouds. He said that he had never encountered a similar system elsewhere. He said, nevertheless, that he could retrofit some tangs into my new 3/16 inch shrouds for this purpose. He and I looked through his inventory and couldn't find tangs of the appropriate size. We had some luck online, but the tangs we found were prohibitively expensive. I told Randy that I was about to have a friend fashion some new chainplates for me out of 3/16 inch stainless steel. I said that at the same time this friend could probably fashion me some tangs from the same piece of steel. With that, we said goodbye for the time being, and I got back in touch with my friend.
For the new chainplates I had ordered a piece of 3/16 inch 316 stainless steel from Onlinemetals.com. Specifically, I ordered a piece that was 4 inches in width and between 10 inches and 12 inches in length. I saved a little money by ordering this random length piece rather than one that was exactly 12 inches. Here we see my friend beginning to make the cuts for the chainplates.
Below we see him cutting off the excess.
It was from this excess piece that he cut the tangs that would become the link plates. As I said, the purpose of this visit to my friend's house on this day was to make the new chainplates. Therefore, after he had made the cuts that produced the tangs, he and I focused on the chainplates.
On another day I visited another metal-working friend. He took the rough-cut tangs and drilled the holes into them.
I needed a hole in each end. These holes would be for the clevis pins in the aircraft eyes of the shrouds.
My friend used a punch to mark the precise spots where he intended to drill the two different holes.
Then he put each tang in the drill press.

After he had drilled the two end holes, he removed the tang and marked the spot where he intended to drill the center hole. The center hole, of course, would be where the mast-stepping bridle would be pinned.
When he had completed the drilling of all three holes in both of the tangs, he took the tangs to the bench grinder. There, he took down the rough edges on the grinding wheel.
Back at my house, I did further work to soften the edges of these still rough tangs.
On my own modest grinder I ground down the edges so they would be less sharp and more rounded.

Then I started the polishing process.
I started with a medium-grade pad on my angle grinder.

I made a lot of headway with this pad and some buffing compound.
A fine grade buffing pad brought the surface of the link plates up to a near mirror finish.
With the link plates in hand, I returned to Charleston Yachting.
There, Randy Draftz cut into my my new, 3/16 inch upper shrouds and installed aircraft eyes in them for the two link plates.
Here are what the upper shrouds looked like after he was finished.
The turnbuckles, with their toggles at their ends, would be joined to the chainplates.
Within the shrouds there were the aircraft eyes for the link plates. Below, we see one of the link plates. On either end are the aircraft eyes. Cotter rings secure the clevis pins in place.
The other link plate.
Aside from addressing these link plate issues for the mast-stepping bridle with regard to the shrouds, I also had to address the tang issues with regard to the boom. You'll recall that the bridle is led aft from the link plates in the shrouds to the end of the boom. At the end of the boom there are tangs to which the bridle is pinned. Since my Ericson 25 did not come with the mast-stepping package, I had to retrofit the boom with these tangs.
When I upgraded from 5/32 inch rigging to 3/16 inch rigging I also had to upgrade or modify some of the tangs that supported this rigging on the mast. I address this more fully at the bottom of this article. At present I will simply say that I replaced the tangs for the lower shrouds when I replaced the spreaders and spreader brackets. For more on this, see my article, "Spars, Spreaders, Removal and Replacement." I did not discard these old tangs when I had removed them. My mild hoarder inclinations proved to be beneficial shortly thereafter when I realized that I could repurpose these old tangs as the boom tangs for the bridle in my retrofitted mast-stepping system. For more on my installation of these tangs on the boom, see my article, "Spars, Boom, Hardware, Removal and Reinstallation."
Also at this time I purchased quick-release clevis pins. The friendly Ericson 25 owner out West said that he used these for the bridle in his original mast-stepping system. He he said they saved a lot of time and made things much easier than using cotter rings. He was right.
Aside from the spreaders, and the mast hinge, and the mast-stepping system being obstacles to my installation of the new 3/16 inch standing rigging, there was another obstacle - the problem with the anti-compression sleeve for the tangs at the top of the mast for the upper shrouds.
The aluminum anti-compression sleeve was so thoroughly corroded on the 3/8 inch stainless steel bolt that it was impossible for me to remove it from the bolt with any tool in my possession. I had no idea what the condition of the bolt might be, so I somehow needed to remove it from this sleeve. More importantly, I needed to free the tang from the bolt. This piece of hardware I needed to reuse.
The purpose of the sleeve, as the name implies, is an idiot-proof way of ensuring that you do not over tighten the nut and thus dimple or compress the mast.
At a loss, I took the whole thing to my metal-working friend and asked him to do what he could do with it. The 4 pound hammer didn't do the trick, despite repeated, forceful blows.
This called for more serious action. Using the electrical current from his arc welder, he heated the bolt and then applied oil to the sleeve immediately afterwards.
It took only a few blows with the 4 pound hammer to set the bolt free.
Once my friend had freed the bolt from the sleeve and the tang, I had another favor to ask of him - to drill out the existing clevis pin holes for the old 5/32 inch rigging to accommodate the new clevis pin for the new 3/16 inch rigging.
At the same time that he did this, he also drilled the extra holes that were necessary for mounting the old, lower shroud tangs to the end of the boom. I discussed this above with regard to the mast-stepping system.
He assured me that due to the 3/16 inch thickness of these tangs, the drilling out of the pin holes slightly was not problematic.
After he had finished, I went back to my house and placed these upper shroud tangs, which he had just drilled out, next to a brand new tang from Dwyer Aluminum Mast Company. Notice how much thicker the old tangs are compared to the new tang. I had ordered this new tang (along with three others) back when I had ordered the new spreader brackets and spreaders. I knew at that time that I would either have to drill out the existing pin holes in the old tangs or install new tangs with the proper size pin hole. When I installed the spreader brackets, I installed two of these new tangs for the lower shrouds. A considerable amount of time had passed between that project and this one. In the interim I had misplaced one of the tangs in my work room/shop. Eventually I would find this tang in a small stack of scrap Douglas fir. At this time I was in no mood to reorder a single tang from Dwyer. That's why I asked my friend to drill out the old ones.
At any rate . . . back to the story. In terms of the anti-compression sleeve that my friend had extracted from the bolt, I decided to replace it. If you've read my article on the replacement of the spreader brackets, then you'll know that I had to install a new anti-compression sleeve for the lower shroud tangs when I installed the new brackets. The previous owner, or some slack-jaw he had hired, had lost the original anti-compression sleeve, probably when he was installing the spreader lights. Since aluminum tubing of the proper size was not available locally, I had to order a 12 inch piece of it from Onlinemetals.com. Since a 12 inch length was the minimal order, and since 12 inches was more than enough for one anti-compression sleeve, I decided to use the left-over piece to make a new sleeve for the upper shroud tangs. Just for the record, I should say that I ordered 6061-T6 aluminum tube with an outside dimension of 5/8 inch and an inside dimension of 1/2 inch. The 5/8 inch OD was just right for the existing hole, and the 1/2 ID was just right for the 3/8 inch stainless steel bolt that had to pass through the center of the tube.
After the cutting the tube to a length that was close to the proper length, I used a bench grinder to fine-tune the length.
The length had to be just right. Otherwise, it would be impossible to snug down the nut and bolt that held the tangs in place
Even though the sleeve looks just right in the picture below, it is not.
I had to make another trip to the bench grinder.
It should go without saying that if the sleeve is just a little too short, then you run the risk of dimpling the mast when you snug down the hardware.
This time, it was just right.
Here's what the sleeve looked like inside of the mast during my dry-fit of the hardware.
In the picture below you'll notice the masthead sitting to the left. My reinstallation of the masthead was held up by this anti-compression sleeve project. At the beginning of this article I mentioned the obstacles that prevented me from immediately installing the new 3/16 inch rigging after I had gotten it made. In the refitting of a sailboat there are many projects that block other projects, which themselves block other projects. At times it feels like a finely woven net, one that ensnares the unsuspecting owner and becomes more and more tangled the more and more he struggles, leading him over and over to think that escape might be little more than a fantasy.
Before I reinstalled the new 3/8 inch stainless hex bolt and the new anti-compression sleeve, I coated all relevant surfaces with Tef-Gel, a product designed to prohibit the electrolytic corrosion that occurs when dissimilar metals such as stainless and aluminum are in contact with each other in a salt water environment.
I also coated the area around the holes in the mast. This would shield the mast from direct contact with the tangs.
The hardware looked good, and it felt firm and secure after I had finished.
Now I could reinstall the masthead.
I used Tef-Gel in this reinstallation. The masthead was aluminum and the screws were stainless steel. For more on this, project, see my article, "Rigging, Running, Wire-Rope Halyard to All-Rope Halyard Conversion."
Now that I had reinstalled the masthead, I could now permanently install the new forestay
The forestay was encapsulated by the flexible PVC foil of the roller furler. For more on this project, see my article, "Rigging, Standing, Roller Furler, Schaefer Snapfurl CF-700."
The existing stainless steel toggle for the forestay was much more robust than any replacement toggle on the market. I had previously inspected it with a loupe and found it to be in good condition. Therefore, it stayed. There was no need to drill out the holes to accommodate the clevis pin for the new 3/16 inch stay, because the original stay was itself 3/16 inch. I suppose that this was an upgrade that Ericson had made after the time that they had printed the owner's manual, because the manual states clearly that the rigging is 5/32 inch.
Before I installed any more of the rigging I decided that it would be good to clean and wax the mast. It would be much easier to do this job now rather than later. I began by removing all remaining hardware that I could.
The aluminum cleats were rough with corrosion. I decided to polish these with the buffing wheel on my bench grinder.
Sure, this removed the protective coating that is the corrosion. I was concerned, however, about the chafing that the rough spots might cause on the brand new halyards.

The buffing wheel made the cleats nice and smooth. The shine would not last, but that's not what I was after.
Long before this time, when I had stripped the mast of its old rigging and most of its hardware, I had removed the boom downhaul cleat.
I had to use PB Blaster to remove the screws from the cleat.
This cleat had seen a lot of abuse in its lifetime, and it took a lot of buffing to rid it of most of its scars and scratches.

Now it was time to clean the mast. I began by rubbing it down with kerosene. Concurrent with this rigging project I was cleaning and rebuilding the three winches from the boat and the one winch from the mast. I had purchased a container of kerosene from the local hardware store to soak the winches and thus remove the old grease and grime from their bearings. I had a lot of kerosene left over, and I figured it would be much more affordable to use this as a solvent for the initial cleaning than acetone or mineral spirits in a quart-sized container.
The mast was absolutely filthy, and the kerosene did a good job at removing the dirt and dust.
I made many passes with many rags before the mast starting looking significantly cleaner.
Then I made a pass or two with the acetone, just in case the kerosene did not break down something that only the acetone could break down.
Satisfied with the condition of the mast, I first installed the stainless steel hardware that had previously held the mast steps/stairs in place.
I wanted to reduce the amount of water that could enter the mast during rain storms. I would later remove the screws at the urging of the sailmaker who visited my house to measure the boat and rig for new sails. He said that the heads of the screws might damage the sailcloth.
Then I reinstalled the first cleat that I had buffed and cleaned. The other cleat on this side of the mast had resisted all my efforts to remove it. Therefore, I left it alone. The base of the winch had also resisted my efforts to remove it. The last thing I wanted to do was to break off the screws while trying to loosen them.
In the picture below you can see how some of the original shine had returned to the surface of the mast due to my thorough cleaning of it. This was before I had applied the wax.
There were still some spots and stains on the mast. To remove these, I used a mild dish soap and synthetic steel wool pads.

I took my time and made a point of not scrubbing too aggressively. I did not want to damage the anodized surface of the aluminum.
After I was finished, I wiped down the mast one last time with acetone.
Then I broke out the carnauba wax. I had purchased this from the local hardware store back when I constructed a new centerboard for the boat. No need to purchase expensive "mold release wax" from the chandlery. That's what local boatyard workers told me.
If you look carefully in the pictures above and below (especially the one above) you can see how the wax changed the appearance of the mast. The unwaxed part is in the foreground, the waxed in the background.
I applied three coats of wax to each side. It seemed that the aluminum absorbed almost all of the first coat.
I got a lot of mileage out of this one tin of wax. Not only did I use it to coat the centerboard mold, but also I used it to wax the boom of the rig. After this mast job, over half of the wax still remained.
Now, at last, it was time to install the rest of the rigging. I began with the upper shrouds.
I used new clevis pins and cotter rings from West Marine. Normally, I would order such items from Defender Industries in Connecticut, because the prices would be better, even with the shipping charges included. In this instance it did not make a difference, and it was a lot faster just to buy it off the shelf.
I joined these upper shrouds to the tangs at the top of the mast with clevis pins and cotter rings.
It had rained in the night, and I was pleased to see the surface of the mast covered with lots of tiny beads of water. The wax was doing just what it was supposed to do.
In leading the upper shrouds from the top of the mast to the bottom, I passed them over the ends of the spreaders. There, I moused the wire to the tip of the spreaders with stainless steel mousing wire. For more on this, see my article on the spreaders.
Now I could move on to the installation of the lower shrouds.
Just like the upper shrouds, these had aircraft forks at the top and turnbuckles and toggles at the bottom. The aircraft forks would go to the tangs, just underneath the spreaders. The toggles would go to the chainplates that projected upward through the deck.
Below we see the spreader and the tang.
Just as was the case with the upper shrouds, I used clevis pins and cotter rings to join the aircraft forks to the tangs.
Now it was time to install the backstay. This piece of the rigging had an aircraft eye at the top and a turnbuckle and aircraft eye at the bottom.
The turnbuckle and aircraft eye for the bottom.
Just as was the case with the forestay, I kept the original toggle in place on the masthead for the backstay. It was not necessary for me to drill out the holes in the toggle for the clevis pin for the new 3/16 inch backstay. Although the original backstay was 5/32 inch, the aircraft eye that had been installed on it was larger than it needed to be to accommodate the clevis pin that fit the holes on the toggle.
I retained the original, heavy-duty clevis pin, but installed a new cotter pin to hold everything in place.
Now I had wires running all over the place, but I still had more to go.
For one thing there was the triangle plate. Below we see the original triangle plate. To it are joined the two halves of the split backstay and the pigtail. The hole at the top of the triangle is where the backstay joins the triangle.
I had a new split backstay, a new pigtail, and a new triangle plate.
This was a Schaefer brand triangle plate. I had purchased it from Charleston Yachting at the time that Rand Draftz had redone my rigging.
As the label on the back indicates, this triangle plate was designed for a 3/16 inch backstay and a 5/32 inch split backstay. This was exactly the way that Randy had rerigged the boat.
This triangle plate actually consisted of two different plates. Clevis pins would hold the aircraft eyes between the two plates.
One thing that I had forgotten about was the need for an additional hole to accommodate the pigtail. Notice the black dot on the plate. I marked the spot where the hole needed to be with a center hole punch. Then I highlighted it with a black Sharpie marker.
Over at my friend's house, I watched as he bore a hole through the plates with his drill press.
The new hole worked just right for the pigtail hardware.
Now I could finally join all of these pieces together.

Just a few more things remained. Now I needed to reinstall the boom downhaul cleat. Notice in the picture below that by this point I had reinstalled the winch on the mast. For a detailed look at my work on this winch and the other three winches on this boat, see my article, "Winches, Barlow 16, Disassembly, Cleaning, and Reassembly."

Also I needed to reinstall the boom topping lift. Since this topping lift would never bear a heavy load, I did not bother to replace it. The sole purpose of the topping lift on the Ericson 25 is to hold the end of the boom up whenever the mainsail is not up. Without the topping lift, the end of the boom would fall down into the cockpit.
The roller furler and the forestay within it had sat outside on the sawhorses for quite some time while I carried out all the other projects that led up to this point. Over time the PVC foil had gotten dirty. Now it was time to wash it gently with soap and water.

The cleaning of this PVC foil marked the end of this long project, or I should say, series of projects. All I needed to do now was to install the new halyards. Then I would be ready to step the mast.
This ends this article on my removal and replacement of the standing rigging on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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