Rigging, Running, Main Sheet Blocks and Main Sheet Replacement

The new main sheet blocks and main sheet
On a sailboat, the main sheet is the line that controls the mainsail. It is roven through a series of blocks between the traveler and the bales of the boom. On the Ericson 25, the main sheet serves this normal purpose, but also serves another one - it is the primary means by which one steps the mast. In this instance, it is led forward to the mast winch, where an individual uses the mechanical advantage of the main sheet blocks and the winch itself to raise the mast from a horizontal to a vertical position. For both of these reasons, the main sheet and the main sheet blocks on the Ericson 25 must be in good condition and working order. In this article I discuss my replacement of the main sheet and the main sheet blocks. This project was part of my greater project of refurbishing the spars and rigging of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
If you've read my article, "Spars, Boom, Hardware, Removal and Reinstallation," then you'll know that I removed, inspected, and reinstalled all the hardware on the boom of Oystercatcher.
During the inspection of the bales, I noticed that the plastic main sheet blocks, after some 40 years, were showing their age.
The forward block possessed at least one crack. This didn't look good.
The center block was in better condition. The main sheet itself, however, looked horrible.
The center block from a different angle.
The cheeks of the fiddle block were brittle. The side of one of the cheeks was chipped. When I pressed on the other side of the cheek with my fingers, the plastic cheek snapped.
The aft block possessed a crack not unlike the forward block. All of this made me worried, especially since I planned to step the mast with this main sheet and these main sheet blocks.
After some thought, I decided that all of this had to go. Therefore, I grabbed my wire cutters and snipped off the cotter rings that held the blocks to the bales.
These cotter rings were rusty and brittle. If I had decided to keep these blocks, then I would have, at a minimum, replaced the rings and clevis pins.
Having researched the subject of lines and rigging quite a bit, I decided to purchase Samson brand rope from Defender Industries in Connecticut. For the main sheet, I opted for Samson Trophy Braid. This is a good, high-tech, low-stretch line, yet one that won't break the bank. I also liked the fact that the Trophy Braid has, as Defender says, a "soft fuzzy cover that's easy to hold in wet or dry conditions." Trophy Braid comes in a variety of colors. I selected red. This would make the main sheet highly visible, and it would provide a nice accent to the color theme of the boat - white, black, and brown. Like the bird after whom this boat, Oystercatcher, was named, this boat would have a little red thrown into the mix. At the same time that I ordered this main sheet, I ordered the halyards for the main sail and genoa. I discuss these in a separate article.
I ordered 35 feet of 7/16 inch Trophy Braid. I decided to order 35 feet instead of 30, which was the length of the original sheet, just to give myself some extra. As it turned out, I could have used 40 feet. 30 feet is probably just right for the main sheet itself. When you use the main sheet for stepping the mast, however, 40 is better. I explain this more fully in my article, "Spars, Mast Stepping." I considered ordering 3/8 inch Trophy Braid, but I liked the feel of 7/16 in my hand much better. Therefore, I ordered 7/16 inch. The Trophy Braid in this diameter had an average tensile strength of 4,000 pounds.
My choice of 7/16 line for the main sheet dictated the size of the blocks that I selected to replace the old ones. After conducting some research, I settled on Garhauer Marine in California as the source for the new blocks. I had earlier purchased a stainless steel anchor roller from Garhauer and been impressed with the quality and the price. These blocks were high quality, and they were more affordable than anything sold by the big names such as Schaefer and Harken. All of these blocks that I purchased from Garhauer were of the US class, which in Garhauer-speak means "Unibody Standard" stainless steel. By "unibody" Garhauer means that the cheeks for the blocks are of one solid piece of stainless steel. This, they say, "distributes the total load more evenly across a larger surface." All of these blocks from Garhauer were also of the 30 series, which means that they have a working load of 2,400 pounds and a maximum line size of 1/2 inch. The next size smaller Unibody Standard stainless steel block was the 25 series with a working load of 1,150 pounds. The maximum line size for this block was 3/8 inch. Therefore, I could not use 7/16 inch line in this block. This line would have been too large.
The specific blocks that I ordered were as follows: three, single blocks with adjustable shackles (30-13US); one, single block with becket and adjustable shackle (30-14US); and one, fiddle block with becket, cam cleat, and adjustable shackle (30-06US). As you can see in the picture below, the fiddle block was comparable in size to the original fiddle block. The others, however, were considerably larger. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably opt for the Series 25 blocks, because the Series 30 blocks are almost too large for the space between the boom and the traveler. I must say, however, that it sure is nice having that 7/16 line in my hand, and it takes almost no effort to sheet in the main, even in a blow. I'm talking casual, one-handing sheeting.
I began by joining the becket on the fiddle block to the adjustable shackle on the middle block.
Then I laid out all the new blocks beside the old ones to remind myself of how they should be roven.
The becket on the middle block was used to terminate the main sheet. Here there was a bowline.
Therefore, to the becket of the new middle block I tied the same knot.
After I got a good sense of things in my mind, I carried the blocks and the main sheet outside and joined everything to the boom. Here's how it looked when I was finished. I thought it looked quite nice.
I thought it looked even nicer seeing it in action out in Charleston Harbor.
This ends this posting on how I replaced the main sheet blocks and the main sheet on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

Spars, Boom, Hardware, Removal and Reinstallation

The boom, after the removal and reinstallation of its hardware
The boom on a sloop-rigged or cutter-rigged sailboat is the spar that provides a foundation for the main sail. The Ericson 25 is a sloop-rigged vessel. In other words, it carries a jib or genoa and a mainsail. It can, though, be cutter-rigged, whereby it carries an additional sail - the staysail - just aft of the jib or genoa. Regardless of the rig, the boom is an important piece of equipment, and it must be in good condition for several reasons. First, it supports the foot of the mainsail, Secondly, it provides a means of achieving tension in the mainsail by means of the clew outhaul. Finally, its bales support the blocks for the main sheet - the piece of running rigging used to control the position of the mainsail relative to the wind, on one point of sail or another. Aside from these basics, the boom on the Erison 25, like the boom on plenty of other pocket cruisers, can be used as a gin pole for the stepping of the mast by means of a tabernacle or hinge at the base of the mast. For all of these reasons, I thought it important not to neglect the boom in my overall refitting of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In this article, I describe how I removed the hardware from the boom, how I reinstalled all of the hardware, and how I waxed the boom when I was finished.
I purchased this boat in the fall of 2009 from a person who lived in the Pamlico Sound region of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
A friend and I spent two nights aboard the boat as we moved her from the previous owner's personal dock to Oriental, North Carolina for haulout.
Once there, we were able to trailer the boat back to my home in Charleston, South Carolina. For more on this part of the story, see my article, "Haulout and Initial Trailering."
One of the first things that I did after I got the boat to my house was to remove the deck hardware. For more on this early project, see, "Deck Hardware Removal."
I also built sawhorses to support the mast and rigging.
Sometime later I replaced the wire-rope halyards with all-rope halyards.
Then I replaced the old standing rigging with new.
This, by necessity, was related to my replacement of the old roller furler with a new one.
This led me, by necessity, to initiate a conversation with a sailmaker.
I could not neglect the spreader brackets and spreaders in this refitting. They were a known weakness of the Ericson 25.
Nor could I neglect the mast compression post. It had some issues that I needed to address.
The construction of the new mast step and the installation of the new mast hinge kept me busy for a long time.
Then I was able to remove and reinstall the traveler bridge with G-10 backing plates.
I knew from the start that the chainplates were bad. I finally got around to making new ones.
I removed and inspected the forward chainplate and then reinstalled it.

I did the same thing with the aft chainplates. In the process, I gave them a good buffing.
Likewise, I did this with the stemhead of the boat.
After I had completed all of this work on the spars and rigging, I at last turned my attention to the boom. It was not bent. That was good. It was, however, in shabby condition, like just about everything else on this boat.
Let's take a look at the different parts of this boom, before I discuss my removal of the hardware.
First, there is the gooseneck - the heavy-duty piece of hardware on the forward end of the boom. This joins the boom to the mast. Please ignore the annoying broken screw for the moment. I will soon address this.
At mid-boom are the bales - the stainless steel loops that support the blocks for the main sheet.
On the aft end of the boom is an aluminum end cap and a stainless steel tang. The hole in the aluminum end cap supports the shackle for the clew outhaul. This shackle is also important in the stepping of the mast. The stainless steel tang is used simply for the boom topping lift and the pigtail. The boom topping lift keeps the boom from falling down on the deck. The pigtail keeps it from swinging port to starboard when the mainsail is down.
In the picture below we see the starboard side of the boom with its cheek blocks used as outhauls when reefing or double-reefing the mainsail.
The starboard side, as seen from the gooseneck end (forward end).
Now that we've looked at the different parts of the boom, let focus on my removal of the hardware. The gooseneck had to come off. Back when I had first gotten the boat to my home in Charleston, I attempted to remove the gooseneck to inspect it. One of the stainless steel screws holding it to the boom broke off when I turned it. This sort of thing is not uncommon when stainless steel has been joined to aluminum for almost 40 years.

The inside of the gooseneck was stamped with the following letter and numbers: "GN-104." What this means I have no idea.
The gooseneck, as you see it here, consists of an aluminum end cap and various stainless steel parts. I opted not to disassemble all of these parts. I inspected them closely, found them to be in good condition, and left them alone.
Then I moved down to the other end of the boom to work on the aluminum end cap.
Two of the three screws were easy to remove.
The third one gave me some resistance. It was doing double duty, supporting not just the end cap, but also a stainless steel loop.
This screw ended up breaking off on me. Therefore, I had no choice but to drill it out.
Even with all the screws removed, the end cap stubbornly refused to leave its home of almost 40 years. I had to use a dead blow hammer to convince it to depart.
Afterwards, I took a few pictures of it, just for the record.

Now that I had removed the gooseneck from the forward end of the boom and the end cap from the aft end, I now focused on the bales that were mid-boom.
The three bales were through-bolted to the boom with long, 1/4 inch screws. On the ends of these screws there were acorn nuts. These nuts were there obviously to protect the sails from the rough edges on the ends of the screws.
The bales were of stainless steel, as were the screws.
The shapes of the bales were different from one to the next. This led me to believe that they had been made by hand at the Ericson yard or some other yard there in Southern California in the 1970s. Notice how the two ends of the bale in the picture below are not perpendicular to the boom. Since they were not, the person who drilled the holes and installed the screw through the boom did so at an angle. Now it is possible, of course, that the person drilled the holes at an angle and then bent the bale so that its own holes would conform to the holes in the boom.
Even though I had removed the hardware that held the bales to the boom, I could not remove the bales themselves at this juncture. These bales would need to slide off of the boom, and the other hardware, still in place, was prohibiting them from doing this.

Therefore, I got to work removing these other pieces of hardware.

Whereas the port side of the boom had a lot of eye straps, the starboard side had not only the cheek blocks that I have discussed, but also cleats. These cleats were used for the clew outhauls.
There was one eye strap on the aft end of the starboard side.
The cheek blocks came off without any problem with the screws.

There was a fair amount of corrosion where the stainless steel of the blocks had been in contact with the aluminum.
The screws for the hooks were not as cooperative.
Some of them ended up breaking on me.
The cleats came right off.
After I had removed everything from the boom, I could, at last, slide the bales off of it.
On a nearby window sill I laid out all the hardware in order, so that I would remember where it belonged on the boom when the time came to reinstall it.
The boom was covered with tiny spots of corrosion. I purchased some synthetic steel wool from the local hardware store to remove it. I didn't want to be too aggressive. Otherwise, I would damage the anodized finish on the aluminum.
The boom was also covered with lots of unseen dirt and grime from years of use.
The murky water in the bowl was a testament to this.
To help cut through the dirt, I brought out some mild dish-washing liquid.
This helped to restore some luster to the anodized surface.
Then I took the spar out into the yard and sprayed its interior.
Back on the porch, I wiped the entire surface dry.
There were still some stubborn spots of corrosion. These I lightly scraped with the end of a screwdriver. I made a point of avoiding the surface of the aluminum. I merely sought to bring the raised spots down to the surface of the aluminum.
Then I hit these spots again with the synthetic steel wool. This made the surface of the boom much smoother than it had been.
Now it was time for me to get back to the end cap. You'll recall that one of the screws had broken off when I was unscrewing the cap from the end of the boom. Right there, on the spot, with an electric drill in hand, I drilled out the part of the screw that was stuck in the aluminum of the boom. There still remained, however, the part of the screw that was stuck in the aluminum of the end cap. I began by cutting off the tip of the screw (on the interior of the cap) with the Dremel.

Then I took the end cap to the bench vice. There, I applied some cutting oil, and drilled out the remaining part of the screw.
Since this hole was now bigger than it had originally been, I could no longer use a #8 screw here. I had to move up to a #10. Therefore, I drilled the hole to 3/16 inch in preparation for receiving the #10 screw.

This worked.
Now I needed to reinstall the stainless steel tang on the end of the end cap. I opted to use a new 1/4 inch stainless hex bolt and a new washer and lock nut for this installation. After 40 years, it was worth the two dollars.
First I cleaned the relevant areas.
To ensure that corrosion in the future would be at a minimum, I applied Tef-Gel to those areas of the aluminum that would be in contact with the stainless steel.
Then I installed the nut, washer, and bolt, and tightened everything up.
If you've read my multi-part article, "Spars, Mast Hinge," then you'll know that I spent a lot of time creating a new mast step and installing a mast hinge upon it. The purpose of this project was to enable me to step the mast without having to pay a boatyard to do it. This was a retrofit on my part. Many original owners of the Ericson 25 opted for the mast-stepping package. This package included a mast tabernacle, which enabled them to step the mast by themselves, and it included a bridle of stainless steel guys used to keep the mast true during the stepping process. I explain all of this more thoroughly in my article, "Spars, Mast Stepping." For the purpose of the present article I will simply say that other components of this original mast-stepping package were two tangs installed on the aft end of the boom. These tangs were designed to receive clevis pins for the purpose of joining the guy wires of the mast-stepping bridle to them. Since I was retro-fitting my boat in imitation of the original, mast-stepping system, I had to procure two tangs and install them on the end of the boom. Fortunately, I did not have to create these tangs from scratch. If you've read my article, "Spars, Spreaders, Removal and Replacement," then you'll know that when I installed the new spreader brackets on the mast, I also installed two new tangs for the lower shrouds. Since I still had the old tangs for the old lower shrouds, I decided to repurpose these for this mast-stepping project. All I needed to do was drill an additional hole in the center of each tang. For this I reached out to a friend with a drill press.
There were not any good pictures out there of the Ericson 25 mast-stepping system, and there were no published specs on the hardware or the rigging for this system. I had to rely on a picture supplied to me by a kind Ericson 25 owner out West.
Studying this picture carefully, I installed each tang, using the end of the spar and the black line as references.
I drilled one hole at a time. This would ensure that all the holes lined up correctly. In the picture above and below you can see one half of the mast-stepping bridle. I paid a local rigger to make this for me. I installed it to the tang to help me determine exactly where I needed to drill the second hole. There had to be enough room between the tang and the boom for the clevis pin that secured the bridle to the end of the tang.
After I had drilled the holes, I applied Tef-Gel to the tang.
The finished installation. Note that I had not yet installed the end cap on the end of the boom. I delayed its reinstallation so that I would have access to the back side of the ends of the hex bolts.
Here's a picture of the washers and lock nuts on the inside wall of the boom.
Satisfied with this side of the boom, I turned the boom over and got to work on the other side.

In the picture below you can see what I mean about the space needed (between the tang and the boom) for the clevis pin.

Now it was time for the reinstallation of the cheek blocks.

These blocks were manufactured by Seaway. To the best of my knowledge this company is no longer in business.
Having completed the cheek blocks, I could now focus on the bales. I replaced the original hardware with 1/4 inch hex bolts. In the picture below, we see the old on the left and the new on the right. I used hex bolts due to their greater shear strength. These bales had to support the load of the main sheet, not only when the boat was under sail, but also when her mast was being stepped.
This hardware, like the rest, got a good coat of Tef-Gel.
The reinstallation of the bales was time-consuming. It was difficult to get the hex bolts lined up with the holes in the spar and the bales. See the deadblow hammer in the picture below? I had to use it to tap the bolts into place.
Notice that the forward and aft hex bolts are oriented one way and the center hex bolt is oriented the opposite way. I found it impossible to orient the center one in the same fashion. As I said earlier, these bales seemed to have been forged by hand and the holes drilled in the boom were different for each bale. I made sure to reinstall each bale in the same place and orientation that it had originally been. I marked each bale with a Sharpie marker so as to avoid any mistakes. Despite my efforts, it was, as I said, not easy. Note that I did not reinstall the main sheet blocks on the bales. This was because I was going to replace them. For more on this, see my article, "Rigging, Running, Main Sheet Blocks and Main Sheet Replacement."
After I had installed the bales, I could install the other hardware that remained. The cleats got Tef-Gel, like everything else.

After I had finished installing everything on the port and starboard sides of the boom, I cleaned everything up with mineral spirits. This solvent is a must for removing Tef-Gel not only from your work surfaces but also from your hands and fingers. It's sticky stuff that can make a big mess real quickly.
Having completed this initial clean-up, I could now install the end cap.

Last but not least was the gooseneck. Before I could reinstall it, however, I still needed to get rid of that screw that had broken off inside of the aluminum cap.

I tried to drill out the remnant of the screw, but I was unsuccessful. Since it was too difficult to fit this gooseneck in the bench vice, I decided just to leave this remnant in place. I would coat it with Tef-Gel to inhibit corrosion in this area of the gooseneck.

I decided to drill a new hole next to the original one.

My final step in the refurbishment of this spar was to apply several coats of wax to it. This was carnauba wax that I had purchased at my local hardware store. This is the same wax that I had earlier used in the centerboard mold. For more on that project, see my multi-part article, "Centerboard Construction."
The wax gave this spar a shine that it probably had not had since the day it left the Ericson yard.
I felt like this spar was as good as it possibly could be for being almost 40 years of age.
After I had completed the waxing of the boom, I added a new stainless steel shackle to the end cap. This would be necessary for my use of the boom as a gen pole in the stepping of the mast.
I also purchased four, Schaefer brand quick-release pins.
Then I tested two of them out on the tangs and the mast stepping bridle. The other two would be for the tangs in the upper shrouds. I address these tangs fully in my article, "Rigging, Standing, Removal and Replacement."
Now this project was complete.
This ends this article on my removal and reinstallation of the hardware on the boom of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.