Progress on Visit 3 in 2021 (part 1)

Today we have removed all 6 chainplate bolts that are accessible from the aft cabin. See Feeling vindicated by chainplate condition. Also one mooring cleat and the pushpit bolts (which had no backing plate at all).

Then we have prepared the largest plywood backing plates. These go the full length of the aft cabin under the hull shelf that supports the deck. They are 9mm marine ply, thickened epoxy will ensure a smooth, even bed between the shelf and the ply.

This will be supplemented by extra localised backing plates for the cleat and pushpit.

In the picture you can see another, smaller 9mm ply backing plate on top of the large one. This will be a backing plate for all 3 chainplates per side, attached with slightly thickened epoxy. Below that will be a third, smaller backing plate of 10mm G10.

The next job has been preparing the aft cabin to fit the backing plates. After a lot debate we decided to remove the ply lining from the cabin sides. This will make the backing plates easier to fix and we will be able to fit a lot more insulation between the stringers.

We have sanded the underside of the deck shelf ready for the ply backing plate.

Hoping to do the first epoxying tomorrow, possibly. Meanwhile the temperature is plummeting so retreating to the cabin with the heaters.

We did get to measure all the existing stainless steel rigging. As we suspected 6mm for the mizzen and 8mm for the main mast.

Late evening progress

Well we arrived at Vida at 11.20pm and decided it was worth connecting our new mains consumer unit before bed.

We can now use the full 16amp boatyard supply. At the moment I’ve wired in a couple of extension leads. Already a nice tidy up possible from the way we have managed with a “consumer” unit designed for tents.

We are using a cheap domestic consumer unit at the moment. Obviously not a long term solution, but our plans are not stable enough yet to get a marine one which we will probably need to make a custom cabinet for.

Progress on Visit 2 in 2021

Rather than returning to Friday updates I thought I’d share progress bu visits. Our first visit in 2021 was really just a checkup and a nicer place to work from. Last weekend we managed a couple of nights and made some real progress πŸ™‚

Most of our progress has left Vida looking a bit more naked πŸ™‚

We have got the bow roller, anchor locker hatch, pullpit and guardrails off. We found that the pin for the forestay was pretty worn.

Also the hole it was using has been elongated.

There was a lot of water trapped under some of the pullpit legs

We (Jane) have managed to clean up the anchor locker a lot

I was delighted that it was much easier than I expected to remove the bow roller and that it looks straightforward to have it adapted for our Spade anchor and new forestay setup. As well as extending it out forward a bit so that the anchor fits better and doesn’t hit the boat, we will be adding some extra length coming aft with extra bolts to counteract the leverage of the anchor. We will also add means to ensure that neither the chain nor anchor can “escape” and chafe through the forestay.

The anchor locker is going to be radically changed. I wrote about our plans in this post about anchoring. Over the summer we can thrash out the details. First job will be to make a mock-up, of the changes to the bow roller, using plywood to give to the local fabricator as a template

The pullpit will probably sit on pads which will help keep water out, otherwise it won’t change. The anchor locker lid will be partly fixed and partly opening but it is starting to split open so will need some reinforcement/rebuilding.

Hopefully we have made some progress on getting a new toe rail fitted (was arranged for and paid for by the previous owner but still not fitted 2 years later).

No pictures, but we also removed two u-bolts from the cabin roof having discovered they were leaking a little over the winter. Once things have dried out we will replace any damaged core with thickened epoxy and not refit them.

I’ve also removed all the shrouds and tangs from the mizzen mast so that we can start on the dyneema replacements.

We have now made a detailed workplan now for fitting the chainplates in the aft cabin without causing to much disruption to our sleeping arrangements. Basically we will return home late at night after doing epoxy work so that we don’t have to move everything to sleep in the saloon. The marine ply is now ordered.

We have also ordered the “Ecor Pro DryBoat 12 DH1200 INOX 12 Litre Boat Dehumidifier” that we had planned on getting so that we can leave it on and hopefully ensure that nothing gets mouldy again. To fully achieve that will require us to finish the insulation and headlining but that can’t be done in the aft cabin until the chainplates are done and the mizzen mast support strengthened and the bed rearrangements completed. So a few weeks off.

As part of that we are preparing for a first fit of our new mains consumer unit. So far we have been using a camping unit but this will allow us to use more electrical things at the same time. Later it will be properly wired into Victron Multiplus units (see House Battery Bank: Should we go 48 Volt?) which will be connect to both a proper mains supply connection point and to the battery bank. We have gone for a large unit so every socket on the boat will have it’s own (appropriately sized) circuit breaker.

One slight gotcha was that by the end of this visit I’d used up my bandwidth for the month on my tablet (which also acts as a hotspot). Hadn’t really planned for 6.5 hours of zoom meetings, uploading edited video etc.

So a good amount done. In our next visit (weather permitting) we should start to see more things being created rather than removed πŸ™‚

More reasons for our new sail plan

So I wrote about our new sail plan, one of the key features is that we will not have any “traditional” roller reefing headsails. That decision has been mostly driven by wanting Dyneema rigging which can be inspected and changed by us and which reduces weight so we will heel less. Also it is going to save us a lot of money and should be more reliable.

There are more benefits though. Although it is perfectly possible to leave our furled sails (yankee jib and code zero or asymmetric spinnaker) hoisted ready for use, it is also easy to lower them and take them down below while still furled. There are 3 key benefits to doing this:

  • Longer sail life (less exposure to UV and wind)
  • Better anchoring. Something I’ve learnt from Attainable Adventure Sailing is that reducing windage forward means that you lie more consistently at anchor rather than sheering from side to side. Not only is this more comfortable but you are also putting less angled strain on the anchor which is therefore much less likely to get pulled out of the the seabed.
  • This great video from Ran Sailing Tie everything downπŸŒͺ Winds of 60 knots are coming! – Ep. 248 shows another. When you see them safe, but a bit uncomfortable, in a marina side on to very high winds you that they are heeling more due to the windage on their two rolled heasdsails. They can’t do anything about this as the sails would have to be unfurled in order to lower them (impossible, dangerous and probably destructive of the sails in those winds).

At almost the same time Delos had strong winds while alongside, this time being blown onto the dock. Again reducing the windage would have made things less uncomfortable (but is not possible with roller reefing).

Of course we recognise the disadvantages. We will have more foredeck work. We think it is worth it (at least if you can have a cutter rig which reduces the individual sail sizes). We don’t have to swap between different headsails (except in light winds) which makes it a lot easier.

Our desired long-term sail plan

I’ve made some progress on where we want to end up in terms of a sail-plan that is efficient in a wide range of wind strengths and angles. I’ve also, hopefully, got to the point where we will be able to get sailing without having to buy any new sails to start with. After all we are starting with 12 sails!

Here is the original sail plan.

Sadly, our current mainsail is much smaller (it was made for the roller furling that had been added to the back of the mast), it also does not currently have slides for the mast track and it has no reefing points.

Our genoa uses an old Furlex roller reefing and the sail shape, especially when reefed is terrible as this picture shows (it should not be all baggy in the middle of the forestay).

Traditionally Rivals have a fairly poor reputation for speed in light winds (and a fantastic reputation for ability to keep going in very strong winds). When you look at the sail plan it isn’t surprising (very little in the way of light wind sails, all sails set within the forestay apart from the small symmetrical spinnaker). In the last 50 years there have been huge improvements in what is possible (such as Code Zero “genoas” and Asymmetrical Spinnakers) compared to carrying 5 hank on jibs of different sizes as shown in the drawing. The switch to a roller furling main and genoa will have increased easy of changing sail sizes but at great cost in efficiency.

We believe we can now do better, especially in front of the main mast.

So this is where we want to get to in the long term.

Mizzen: shorter boom to keep it out of the way of the wind vane self steering and also the solar panels. Fully battened (so that you can use it as a steadying sail without it getting damaged by flapping) and a fat head for more area. Two slab reefs – again useful for a steadying sail and as more options for small sails for storm conditions.

Main: Our new boom is a bit longer. So we will get a little more sail area without needing much roach. Will be taking advice (and be affected by price) as to whether to go fully battened for longer life but more expensive sail and potential need for much upgraded slides for the track in the main mast. 3 reefing points so we can put off getting at trysail (with choice of either reefed mizzen or 3rd reef in the main we think we can go small enough and have a backup option). Will be loose footed. We will probably make a stack pack for it (although will keep it as small as possible as the boom is already quite high due to the wheelhouse so we want to minimise extra windage).

Staysail: Using a removable inner forestay (supported by new runners) we will have a hank on staysail made of pretty heavy Dacron so that it can be reefed to be a storm jib.

Yankee Jib: Designed to work well as a typical cutter rig with the staysail. This will be around 100% with a relatively high clew (works well with the staysail and keeps it well clear of waves). This will be set using a continuous line furler. That means it can’t be reefed (partially unrolled). It is either all set or all rolled away. The continuous line furler has an anti- torsion stay in a pocket on the leading edge of the sail. This supports the front of the sail and passes the twist of the furling up the sail. Critically it will be set just behind the forestay (like a Solent rig but without two roller furling sails hoisted all the time). However, as it is not the forestay and does not have a structural anti-torsion stay, it can be lowered to the deck while rolled up when not needed. When at anchor in storm conditions it massively reduces windage and also surging from side to side if you have no rolled headsails up. With a normal roller furling genoa you have to unroll it in order to lower it (impossible and dangerous at anchor in strong winds). Plus sails that are not left up last much much longer. We will be able to save money initially by using a dyneema line instead of an anti-torsion stay and not having a furler.

Forestay: we need to have some work done on our bow roller to fit our anchor. As part of this we will move the attachment point forward a little so that the furler for the yankee jib will be clear of it. As the forestay will not be used for any roller reefing or roller furling sails it can be dyneema, the same as the rest of the rigging. I have designed a way to neatly connect a Dyneema forestay (and tension it/remove the gains in length from creep) to our bow roller. The changes to the bow roller will include a guard to make sure that neither the anchor not the anchor chain can ever chafe against the dyneema.

Bowsprit for Code Zero or Asymmetric Spinnaker: we will fit a removable bowsprit such as this one from Selden. This is the key to significantly improving light wind performance. Using a second continuous line furler we will be able to fly either a huge Code Zero (flat sail for going upwind in light conditions where we would be very under powered at the moment) or an Asymmetric spinnaker (much easier to use than a traditional spinnaker although not quite as good for going directly downwind). We could save quite a bit of money initially by using “socks” rather than a furler for the spinnaker.

Downwind extras: We have two more options for downwind sailing. One is a Mizzen Staysail (like an Asymmetric Spinnaker flying from the mizzen mast). The second is to add a hank on jib (of appropriate size) to the forestay. The yankee jib can then be poled out on one side and the hanked on jib/genoa poled out on the other side. This is the classic downwind setup for ocean cruisers.

Getting there

So if that is where we want to be. Now we just need to get from A to B.

First task is all the chainplates and the bow roller so we can get the rigging sorted and the masts up.

Second task is to fit some form of hank to all our jibs/genoas (that won’t damage a dyneema stay) then we can use any of them on either our forestay or inner forestay (until they self destruct as some of them are original and so over 40 years old).

Third task is to fit slides to our existing mainsail (and possibly some reefing points).

This will allow us to get out and start sailing. Then we can prioritise new sails (although I’m sadly confident that the Bowsprit, Code Zero and Asymmetric spinnaker are a long way off at the moment).

The goal

This setup means we have enough choice of sail area through easy switches between sails that we don’t need any roller reefing (expensive, heavy, poor sail shape, high maintenance). All with 8 sails. So for example to go upwind

In light air: Mizzen, Main, Staysail, Code zero

First reduction: raise furled yankee and unfurl, furl code zero and lower. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Staysail, Yankee

Second reduction: lower staysail. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Yankee

Third reduction: swap from yankee to staysail. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Staysail

Storm: Get everything small: Mainsail with 3rd reef and reefed staysail (optionally swap main for reefed mizzen if it gives better balance)

Quick response to a squall: Lower the main and furl the yankee for a “Jigger” rig of Mizzen and Staysail (with reefing options for both).

Throughout the sail reductions we can reef the main and/or the mizzen to maintain balance. Very often to be very close hauled the mizzen will be lowered as it stops the main being sheeted in so hard.

Whilst it looks at first glance that there will be a lot of wet, dangerous foredeck work it is much easier to manage than the original sailplan where switching down a jib size would mean lowering a sail and going right to the forestay to unhank it (during which time it will trying to throw you overboard), then hanking on a smaller jib, swapping the sheets and hoisting it. In normal sailing there will be no need to go right forward (the yankee and code zero can be left up while furled until it is safe to bring them down). The staysail can have a downhaul so can be just pulled down to the deck and held there while you lash it to the rail – anyway it is much further aft. All the mainsail reefing will be done from the mast with the dinghy on deck providing a place to sit with a short lifeline so you can’t go overboard.

There are plenty of examples of Rivals being able to sail to windward in a Force 9. This sail plan should allow us to do that (with no illusions that it will be pleasant or comfortable) as well as go much faster in light winds.

Downwind: Again we have plenty of choices with easy twin headsails or the Asymmetric spinnaker plus the mizzen staysail for fun. Also the potential to use either the staysail or the mizzen sheeted in hard to reduce rolling.


We think we have a route forward that is reasonably affordable and ends up with a fantastic rig that will significantly improve both light wind speed and be far better in storm conditions compared to where we started and also compared to what was available in the 1970’s.

Final Dyneema Chainplate design

This is it. The final (at least the latest) design of our Dyneema, synthetic chainplate.

A short recap on the background.

  • This is a Rival 38 Centre Cockpit Ketch (possibly the only one)
  • Currently we have the original Superstron (Bronze) chainplates
  • The chainplates are essentially an eyebolt with a flange that is bolted through the deck and the hull shelf that the deck rests on. Below the deck there is a small backing plate and two nuts. The backing plate is made up of two strips of stainless steel.
  • The chainplate for the main mast cap shrouds is tied into a bulkhead. A stainless strip has been bolted to the bulkhead and the top bent over to right angles (flush with the underside of the hull shelf), this has a hole which the chainplate comes through.
  • We have cracking in the deck around one of the mizzen chainplates (the backing plate is made of 2 sheets of stainless steel and they have slipped so no longer aligned and therefore have bent and not spread the load correctly)
  • Several Rivals have had chainplates fail. This has happened to both original Superstron and replacement stainless steel chainplates. Other Stainless Steel versions have been inspected and found to have corrosion where the thread meets the flange at the top of the deck.
  • Other Rivals have had some deck cracking around chainplates. Some have installed larger backing plates.

We have some constraints (and remember we need chainplates of 4 sizes for 12 shrouds, 2 main mast backstays and 2 mizzen running backstays so 16 in total)

  • For a wide variety of reasons we want to switch to Dyneema Rigging
  • Replacing the Chainplates with new and longer versions (and ideally slightly increased diameter) so that they can be used with thicker, larger backing plates would cost several thousand pounds.
  • New metal chainplates will need a means to connect to a tensioning lashing for the shrouds. Colligo make suitable products and we would also need toggles to ensure alignment. This would cost several thousand pounds.

So we have decided to make our own.

We have been through a number of designs. All of them look similar above deck. A low friction ring is held in one of more dyneema loops that disappear into the deck. The shroud or stay will end with a low friction ring and a lashing will be used to join these and tension the shroud/stay.

Below decks our ideas have varied. The key difference for this design is that we have decided not to create any extra connection between the hull and deck. Whilst modern design would want to see a solid tie between the chainplate at the deck and the hull (preferably extending a long way down the hull) we reason that Rivals were not built that way and none of the failures that we have heard of include separating the deck from the hull. Amongst other factors to create such a link would require the removal of the inner plywood lining that is fitted to the inside of the stringers approx 3cm from the hull.

Here then is our design for our chainplates. Note that for the main mast Cap Shrouds we will still create a “knee” to tie the chainplate to the bulkhead (not the hull) – this is not illustrated.

Vida Chainplate

We welcome your thoughts.

Lessons after a 6 month boat abandonment

So about to go to bed for the second night aboard after a 6 month gap through a Welsh winter. We hadn’t expected such a long gap. Back in October we were expecting Wales to restrict entry from Manchester but we hadn’t expected the double restriction of not being able to enter Wales and not being able to stay away from home to last until mid April.

The only problems we found were:

  • Our duvet and pillows went mouldy. We wouldn’t have left them all winter, we certainly wouldn’t normally leave them with no heating in the boat (not sure when our electricity ran out but until it did we had the heating set to come on at 5 degrees C)
  • One of the only deck fittings on the main saloon roof has leaked (a u-bolt for a harness to clip to). It isn’t much but we will remove it and check for damage to the balsa core.

The great thing we found:

Both our composting toilets were in perfect shape to continue to use them right away. We had emptied the urine bottles but not the compost areas. There was no smell, no mess. They were absolutely ready to use straight away. If you had left a chemical toilet partially full then it would have been disgusting, as would the holding tank of a typical boat toilet. Any toilet with water it could have had problems with freezing and the smell of the stagnant water would have been unpleasant. I don’t think there is any other form of toilet that you could unexpectedly leave for 6 months and find no problems at all (and of course most boat toilets can’t be used while the boat is ashore anyway)


Since arriving we have spent more time working on non boat related work than anything else. So the only real progress has been to check some of our plans against reality.

Also it has been pretty cold here both days. Tonight it is due to drop to 1 degree C, our two infrared electric panel heaters can’t maintain a comfortable temperature in the cabin. We are ok in bed with a replacement duvet and hot water bottles but running out of fleeces to where while out of bed. This has been made worse because earlier this evening our electric fan heater blew up and tripped the electrics. With that we could keep a comfortable temperature, since then it has been dropping a little each hour.

Anyway we have:

  • checked reconnecting the steering to the rudder and in the process checked whether a Cape Horn Wind vane self steering could be fitted (we think it can)
  • reviewed our plans to remodel the aft cabin (better double bed with easier access, comfy seat, wider door to heads compartment, better support for the mizzen mast)
  • come up with a “final” design for our dyneema chainplates
  • reviewed and improved our design for a solar arch, getting very excited by how that is looking now.
  • rethought our chart table area (we are going to follow the recommendation from Attainable Adventure Cruising and do chart work in the cockpit, so we are removing our chart table to make an excellent spot for a Refleks Diesel heater (looking at a 62MSK which heats directly, plus radiators and has a stove top). Apart from that we will have extra storage.
  • rechecked our measurements for the dinghy on the foredeck and that it won’t cause problems for the windlass and inner forestay.
  • taken lots more photos so that we won’t have to rely on memory so much in the future πŸ™‚

I’ve a 4 hour zoom meeting tomorrow morning (Saturday) then home in the afternoon, so not much more to do here except enjoy the views and the relief at being able to be back here.

A nice place to do the washing up

Still here!

We have arrived at Vida for our first visit for almost exactly 6 months. Lockdown restrictions have eased enough for us to both get out of Manchester and be allowed into Wales.

Only problem is that our duvet and pillows were are very mouldy. We would never have left them if we had realised it was going to be for so long.

Otherwise a completely dry bilge and no other problems. 😁