Tuesday 28 April 2015

Frigging with the Rigging and the Tale of Three Blocks

April 28, 2015

When we purchased our Whitby 42 ketch the standing rigging was over ten years old so a comprehensive rigging inspection report was required by the insurers before they would issue full cover for our boat.  The rigger we used was extremely thorough and documented a long enough list of problems that we decided to bite the bullet and commission a full, masts out, re-rig of ‘Our Dreamtime’ to provide the peace of mind that only all new stainless steel can provide.

Lifting the masts off 'Our Dreamtime' for the re-rig
She simply didn't look right as a motor boat - although our neighbour suggested a flybridge would help.
With the masts laying on stands in the boatyard, every fitting could be very closely inspected and replaced if any doubt was found regarding its integrity. We also took the opportunity to replace all the electrical wiring running down the mast, fit new lights, wind instrument and even the latest and greatest mast top TV antennae.

 Meanwhile back on the boat, we dismantled all sorts of cabinetry to get access to and remove every chainplate that the rigging attaches to. Thank heavens we did as we found a number suffering stress cracks. Bolting the new rigging to these would have been like pitching a circus tent with plastic tent pegs, a recipe for eventual disaster.

Just getting access to the chainplates was a task and a half.

An old coat of paint can hide many sins

All chainplates were removed, cleaned up as shown then crack tested and sent to be polished
The project took longer than anticipated and a lot more money than we expected but, when all was done and we came back to the dock after completing sea trials, we felt very satisfied that all the effort had been worth it. We’d now done EVERYTHING that could be done to ensure our rig was as good as it could be. Or so we thought. The rigger had spotted a small crack in the triple block at the base of the mast that the main sheet and preventer lines run through. When he pointed it out we quickly agreed we should replace it also.

The small crack in the block.
You can’t get those old type blocks anymore,’ he said. ‘I’ll order you a new style one and drop it down to the boat for you when it arrives but the old one should be fine in the meantime as long as you don’t go out in any gales.

After being dock bound for months while the re-rig was completed, we then took every opportunity to throw the lines off and sail our boat. A couple of weeks later the replacement block arrived and $208 disappeared from our bank account. Karen and I sat comparing this new piece of mainly plastic kit to our old, sturdy looking stainless steel example and we both commented that you don’t get much for a couple of hundred dollars these days. It was then put in a locker stacked with other spare bits and pieces with the intention of fitting it when we got the chance.

For the next few months every time we would head out for a few days sailing in Moreton Bay we’d get underway and then think, ‘We probably should have swapped those blocks before we left’ but never actually got around to it.

We were, however, progressively replacing our running rigging and when the day came to run a new main sheet it would have been plain stupid not to replace the block it ran through at the same time. The new, flat black plastic version was finally in place just before the Easter weekend.

Easter Sunday saw us set a course for a 13 nautical mile downwind sail to Peel Island in a modest 12-15 knot breeze. We enjoyed a very relaxed run in the sunshine and were having a great time. That was until we gybed the boat around the point to head into our anchorage at Horseshoe Bay.

We are cruisers, not racers, and very conservative sailors. As such, tacks and gybes are performed in a very slow and controlled manner so as to not stress either the boat or crew. We bring the boat around sedately and use the main sheet and preventers to bring the boom across as we go so it eventually just flops across a short distance before being eased out to where we want it.

Despite our gently, gently approach, as the boat came about and the breeze took the boom across our new block exploded with the starboard preventer line and bits of black plastic spread all over the deck. So much for the new technology. Suffice to say we were unimpressed that our $200+ block was apparently built to last for many  years or one gybe, whichever came first.

At $200 per gybe this type of block could get expensive

Once anchored, we swept up all the bits into a plastic bag to send back to our rigger with a ‘please explain’ and our trusty old block came out of the spares locker and back onto the mast where it had successfully lived for a decade or more, but not before taking note of the make and serial number stamped into its stainless steel construction. Ten minutes at the keypad interrogating our favourite know it all, Mr Google, about ‘Cleveco – Made in New Zealand’, and we discovered a Kiwi marine store whose online catalogue listed blocks that looked remarkably like the one we had that ‘you can’t get anymore’.

For something 'You can't get anymore' our new block looks remarkably like its older brother that served so well
A week later a shiny new stainless construction block was delivered to our door from NZ for $30 less than the plastic thing had cost. It now resides on the base of the mast where we hope it will serve us as well as its older brother. Meanwhile old faithful has again been retired to the spares locker but seems ready and eager to serve again if needed.

Next time someone tells us ‘You can’t get that anymore’ we’ll be heading straight to Google.

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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.



  1. I hope you got your money back!?!? What would we do without google, hey?!

  2. Thanks for popping by our blog. I've added you guys to our sailing blog page and look forward to following along with your adventures.

    Why do they hide chainplates in such inaccessible places? Inspection holes had to be cut through the cabinetry in ours to see what kind of condition they're in. Such a lot of work you're doing to your boat, but you'll have such peace of mind sailing on her.

    Cheers - Ellen

    1. Thanks Ellen. The chainplate saga took many, many days of work but we're much happier now knowing the rig has decent foundations. Cheers


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