PROtect Tapes

PROtect Tapes supplies chafe protection and other tape and film products for the worlds best race boats.  Their products include the wing film on the foiling AC boats, but for the rest of us there are a few good tapes to have on your boat. In addition to the in stock tapes which can be purchased online, we can also special order anything from the PROtect tapes catalog as a custom order.

The basic go to tape is their MASK product, which is often called “millionaires tape” due to relatively high cost of the tape. For preventing damage though, it is worth it.  Used to both prevent chafe and reduce friction, it gets used all over the boat. The applications are endless, but think about using on running backstays, spars, ropes, spreaders, toerails and more.

For boats with Carbo Foils or Tuff Luffs and assymetric spinnakers, spin sheets burning holes through the foil are a serious concern. Adding a layer of HEADFOIL tape on the foil or over your existing aluminum or kevlar chafe guard reduces friction and adds another sacrificial layer of protection.

To protect sails, rigging and crew from cotter pins, a self amalgating rigging tape is needed. The WRAP product is easy to apply, and sticks to itself in all weather.

The CHAFE product is a heavy duty  film, thicker than the MASK product and designed to be applied to smooth surface.  It prevents impact and chafe damage, so is great for spars, cabin tops, spreaders and any place you need more protection and don’t need to conform or stretch the tape.

J/109 Bobstay and Inhauler Upgrades

 

The J/109 class association recently amended the rules to allow for 2 significant upgrades. The first of which is a Dyneema bobstay.  This is a rope stay that suppors the spinnaker tack fitting, and prevents the carbon sprit from bending and losing luff tension-or much worse-snapping.   I’ve adapted the self retracting bobstay that was originally worked up for the J/111, and made some tweaks.  The retractor pulls the bobstay out of the way and keeps it from dragging in the water. Without a retractor, crew need to go forward and lasso the bobstay and hitch it to the bow cleat. The current bobstay version retracts inside the pole, and requires the addition of a bearing installed in the bow.

The second upgrade is for inhauling the class jib.  Our version has 8:1 purchase, and some really nice lead rings for doing the actual inhauling.  These are a huge upgrade over stainless rings in terms of friction and wear on sheets.  This is available as a kit that comes with the inhauler rings, control line blocks, cleats with extreme angle fairleads, control line, purchase line,  all fasteners and backing plates.  The kit itself is discounted from the total price of the individual items and will be $615.  If self installing it is critical that epoxy plugs and good backing be used for all hardware, but especially for the deck lead as the loads are considerable.

Please contact me if you have any questions,  having done this project I’ve picked up a few really important tricks.
Inhauler kit $615

 

 

Lifelines: Replace and Update

Lifelines tend to be neglected systems on most boats; if they’re brought into the shop it’s usually because something has broken, or the white vinyl covering has surpassed the disgusting-threshold.   They should be inspected and replaced as part of a boats preventative maintenance just like other bits of rigging, and the good news is that they’re cheap insurance and also a good place to improve safety and function.

The lifelines in the picture above are from a small cruising boat, and were part of the owners service schedule when he bought the boat several years ago (as a sidenote, one of the best life-easifying tricks ever is to asses a new (or current) boat’s systems and develop a multi year plan of repair:  you know what to expect in terms of spending and can spread out the projects) They are 1/8″ wire inside a white vinyl coating, with pelican hooks at the aft end,  little steel clamps to form the gate (a gate is a section of lifeline that can be released at one end without dropping tension across all the entire run of wire) and lifeline adjusters forward.  The wire was original, and the adjusters had been tightened until they had no thread left on one side.

Since they were past due for replacement,  obviously new wire was in order.  Since it was getting replaced, this was a great time to investigate improvements that could be made.

The first thing to consider with lifelines is the wire itself.  Coated wire was popular for a very long time, as it was more comfortable to touch, and looked nice (For about a season in the sun) The picture above demonstrates the big issue with coated wire.  It is prone to cracking when flexed, and when water gets under the coating it rusts the wire.  Even in fresh water this happens quickly:  stainless steel needs to be exposed to air in order to resist corrosion.  You can also see that the gate clamp is an imperfect solution when you want a lifeline gate. In addition to the clamp sliding away under load,  it also makes the wire itself the means of articulation.

Replacing covered wire with bare 1×19 wire is one of the few issues you’ll get pressure from me on.  The good news is that it usually doesn’t need much convincing:  bare wire is cheaper, stronger and will last much longer.  The downside is that it’s less flexible, and you don’t get the zen experience of watching white turn to yellow turn to brown turn to dust over the years.

The customer came to the shop looking for a better lifeline gate as well, so we were able to discard the clamp fitting, as clamps on uncovered wire are even worse than they are on vinyl coated. 

The picture above shows the old hardware (bottom left) and new hardware (top.) The clamp has been replaced with interlocking gate eyes, which are nice because they allow for more articulation of the gate, and don’t stress the wire.  The lifelines originally had 3/16″ thread adjusters in place.  The boatowner is a technically minded guy and enjoys rigging, so we made the swap from adjusters to a Dyneema lashing.  The lashing gives more range of adjustment and is less prone to damage/snagging. Of course, the line should be inspected and replaced regularly.

Using a lashing to attach lifelines also has an important safety benefit, especially for race boats.  A turnbuckle or toggle attaches to a welded eye on the pulpit/pushpit.  When using a lashing, the line can be passed through that eye and around the stanchion tube itself.  This means that instead of relying on the strength of the weld, you can put all the load onto the stainless tube.  I have been on a boat where the welded eye on a lower lifline has come free while the crew was hiking, but luckily it was only a partial failure of one weld.  The line went slack suddenly, and everyone leaned back while we figured out the issue so there was no swimming!

The last place to make improvements was at the gate fastening itself.  This boat-and many of it’s vintage-has a snap hook that is released by sliding a catch and then pulling the arm of the hook out of the body.  They’re reasonably secure unless the arm is bent. Or the catch it loose. Or the detent on the hook body is worn away.  The newer style of pelican hook (right) works just like a snap shackle, where you pull the ring to release the pin. It’s even easier to re-fasten, as you just close the hook and it latches automatically.

It’s worth taking a look at your boats lifelines to see where they are in their safe lifespan, and whether there are improvements to be made.  Feel free to contact me at kristian@chicagoyachtrigging.com or just send them in for more info and a quote.

 

Recovery Mode

If the picture above looks familiar, you’ve probably experienced the upper limit of a rope covers durability before!

This is an asymmetric spinnaker sheet made from New England Endura Braid Euro.  It’s a great line, very tough cover, but it still failed after just 2 seasons.  What gives?

Asymmetric sheets are very tough on covers.  They tend to have higher loads than a symmetrical spinnaker sheet, and are also trimmed more actively.  Things really get interesting in a gybe, when the line speed is MUCH higher.  In a gybe on a boat this size, you’re moving around 65′ of line every time you gybe, and the faster the better. On a boat like this with a pedestal grinder, you can pull the sheet around quite quickly, so it makes for snappy maneuvers.

What this means for the rope cover is lots of heat and abrasion.  Most assym  sheets start to feel a bit crispy in the middle, and that’s because the friction over the drums is generating enough heat to melt the cover.  The bigger the boat, the higher the loads and the more line to move, so the covers get abused more.

The solution is better covers,  specifically using heat and abrasion resistant fibers.  At the very top end we have PBO covers, which handle the highest head and load, but can retail for over $40/meter for the 10mm size. No, I’m serious, stop laughing! It gets better too, since they’ll break down in the sun and wear out quickly. Oh, and it leaves gold dust all over your boat and crew.  Anyway, the good news is there are lots of better-than-polyester covers that will cost less than a used car.  There are kevlar blends like Yaletail, and Runnertail (technically Twaron but who’s counting) but in the last couple years the default go-to special cover has been Technora blended with polyester. New England makes a rope called Poly Tec which is available as a cover or a built rope with Dyneema core.  I’ve been using this for the last 4 seasons and have been very happy with it, and have never heard a complaint about it from owners.  Marlow Ropes makes a full suite of specialty covers, but their version is Tech 50. The 2 covers are quite similar, so it usually comes down to which is available in what color first.  In addition to durability, you’re going to find that the grip on winches is more consistent, and they handle great!

So, let’s pretend your boat has taken your nice Dyneema double braid sheets and turned them into the mess you saw in the first picture. The cores are ok, but the cover looks like a shriveled churro.  We can take the cores out of the old line, and put a Technora blend cover over the top for less money than new sheets.  The cores still have a few years of life, so this is a great way to keep them going while get a nicer hand to the line and better grip on winches.

For the above sheet, the owner opted to swap both covers for Poly Tec, and gave them distinct colors while we were at it. The sheets were end-for-ended as well so the old loaded end of the sheet is now the tail and vice versa. The sheets look new, and should perform that way for many seasons.  Win!

It was a good idea in this case for a few reasons: the sheets were relatively new, the cores were in good shape and the core material was Dyneema.  If you have a damaged cover with similar parameters we can save it!  CYR also stocks regular polyester covers for a repair at considerably lower price point, although it’s worth considering why the cover failed in the first place (*usually T10 halyard with XAS clutch) It doesn’t make sense for every line though.  If the line is particularly short, the cost of labor doesn’t usually add up to less than a new line, and if the core is damaged, or Vectran/Poly/PBO it’s not usually a good idea to recover it.  If you’re in doubt, drop by the shop and we’ll look it over.  Plenty of samples to look at, and the odds are very good I’ll have rope in for the same repair to show you!

 

Epoxy plugs for mounting hardware in cored decks

Yacht decks are typically composed of layers, with the top and bottom layers being paint or gelcoat over a fiberglass skin, and the thicker inner layer being core. The core thickens the deck to increase stiffness, generally using a low density material to keep the resulting sandwich lightweight.  These core materials are typically not designed to be wet, so any water intrusion is bad news.  A wet core in a fiberglass structure gets softer and can delaminate from the fiberglass skins. The result is a soft feeling deck, which can make the boat slower as it flexes and lead to further structural issues like fiberglass cracking and failure.

The culprit behind wet decks is often improperly installed hardware.  If the deck feels soft, it’s usually near a piece of gear that was installed in a hurry.  If non through bolted fasteners like self tapping screws are used,  the hardware will loosen over time. Similarly, inappropriate backing plates and or washers under the deck mean the deck will crush over time, loosening the hardware as well. Once the hardware is loose, water finds it’s way in and softens to core.  Poor or no sealant is another issue, as hardware needs a sealant beeding to keep water out.  Something flexible like a polysulfide or rubber is best, as it keeps a tight seal even if the hardware isn’t installed perfectly tight.

So.  Assuming the hardware is installed correctly, and the proper sealant used, what else can one do to keep a deck intact?  The goal being to first keep water up on deck where it belongs, you can also ensure that if water does make it’s way under deck gear, it won’t reach the core.  I like to surround each fastener with epoxy where it goes through the deck, so that any water around the screw isn’t allowed to get to the core.

Here is a quick walk through on how the core was sealed on a 1970 Shields deck, while installing a 2:1 jib sheet system.

 The hardware in this case is a Harken cam cleat with an angled riser to get the sheet led to the trimmer at a comfortable angle.  You can see I’ve done a quick mask around the area,  as there will be several glues and sealants used, which we want to avoid having to clean out of gelcoat.  The holes are drilled, in this case at an angle to match the cleat riser.The next step is to drill a much larger hole partially through the deck.  This larger hole is going to determine the size of the epoxy plugs that surround the screws. In this case I used a 3/8″ bit to surroud #10 (or 3/16″) screws.  When drilling the oversize hole, go through the top skin of fiberglass and the core only; don’t drill through the bottom skin.  This lets us have a solid layer of skin on the bottom, to better support the backing plate.  

The epoxy plugs work best if they’re larger than the top hole in the deck. This means that the cured epoxy will make a small flange under the top layer of the deck, holding it in place. To make this work I use a small bit in a drill, held at an angle, to “till” the core out of the deck around the hole. When complete, the void under the deck will be around 3/4″ around. This ensures both plenty of epoxy surrounding the screw, and that the plug won’t pull out of otherwise move from the hole. I’ve also heard of people using a angled allen key to scrape the hole out, but I find the drill faster. Caveat: you must be extremely steady with the drill, to avoid going through the bottom skin of the deck, or carving up the top skin. After I’ve done the routing out of the hole, I like to wash the hole and surrounding area with acetone. Give it plenty of time to dry.

Here is the underside of the deck.  I’ve taped over the bottom of each hole with two layers of masking tape, after washing the area with acetone to ensure a good tape bond.  You really, REALLY, want the tape to hold here. If it doesn’t, you’ll be happily injecting epoxy through deck, right into the cockpit or cabin, probably on top of the owners bunk or a brand new sail or something. 

All that work, and the actual epoxy part of the job takes about 5 seconds!  I think West 610 is the best for this purpose, but for smaller jobs will often use the Loctite 5 minute self mixing epoxy. Both are far easier than mixing epoxy and loading a syringe.  It’s best to fill the bottom of each hole, move on to the next one and then come back and top it off, as there is typically some soaking of epoxy into the core, which shows up as the epoxy settling.  Once this is done, double check the seals on the bottom of the deck and walk away.  Really, go tune the rig or something, as this will take time to set.
Is it set? Really? Are you sure? Tune the rig again if not 100% convinced.  Once it’s set, I will drill the holes for the hardware again.  Once the holes are in place, test the fit again. Once happy with fit, I like to use a countersink bit on the holes, to make a small depression in the surface of the deck. This void will fill up with sealant, giving a better seal than simply a micron thick layer between the hardware and deck.  Depending on the part I’ll sometimes use the countersink bit on the bottom of the hardware as well, to make a raised dome of sealant to similarly keep water up and out of the hole.

Once the holes are drilled, and the tape removed from the bottom of the deck, add your


sealant. I really like butyl rubber best, but for some fittings-like this angled cleat riser-it’s not the best fit. In this case, it’s because the bottom of the riser has open voids to make it lighter, which means there isn’t a lot of surface area for butyl to spread. For this I used Sika 291, which is pretty good as an all around bedding compound.  When installed bedded hardware, tighten the screws only just enough to get the part touching the deck, and then let it cure.  Have you tuned the rig yet? Why not do it again?  Once the sealant is cured, you can tighten the machine screws down all the way. This gives you a thicker patch of sealant. If you go to full tightness right away, the sealant can be thin, or squeezed out entirely.  I never use sealant on the bottom of the deck;  if water does find it’s way in, I woudl rather have it dripping out of a screw hole (alerting someone to the leak) than trapped inside the deck

.And we’re done.  The cleats installed, and this boat can make it through another 40 years with the same deck!

Fix and Prevent Traveler Car Failures with Aluminum End Caps

You can prevent the dreaded “how many bearings were in this car, anyway?” question on race day with a little help from Harken.

The standard end caps on traveler cars are plastic, which works great 90% of the time. However in situations where the loaded up car slams over and over into the end stop, these eventually wear out, crack, and deliver to your cockpit floor between 40 and 148 tiny little ball bearings which promptly scatter like cockroaches, leaving your crew to try and catch up to the car before trying to corral all the bearings back into place.

Well, if you’ve done that once, odds are good that once was enough, so these metal end caps might be a good bit of preventative maintenance, or more likely, the caps you should replace the broken ones with next time! Available for older, non CB midrange and big boat cars, they’re more expensive than the stock plastic ones, but well worth it to save lost sailing time and the wonderful excitement of ball bearing wrangling.