Anniversary chainplate progress

To celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary we have fitted the chainplate backing plates in the lazarette for the mizzen running backstays. These were the least accessible, so it is good to have got them done.

They are temporarily held in place, while the thickened epoxy sets, with the old chainplate bolts and old backing plates. The difference between the backing plates in size and thickness is startling. Plus ours bed onto a very smooth bed thanks to the thickened epoxy which has squeezed out a little all the way along all 4 sides.

The extra holes visible in the pictures are from the bolt holes for the davits that we removed early on. They didn’t have much in the way of backing plates and had caused some cracking in the gel coat. We will fill them properly when we next mix thickened epoxy.

We just have 2 FR4 plates to fit to the big plywood backing plates in the aft cabin, we fitted full length plywood backing plates in the aft cabin because each side has 2 mizzen shrouds, 1 main backstay, 1 mooring cleat, some solar panel supports and the pushpit. Just to be sure we are going to distribute the chainplate loads over the plywood with FR4 bonded to it.

Then we can start the holes through the deck for the dyneema chainplate loops. Initially a 44mm hole through everything except the FR4 backing plate. Then fill this with thickened epoxy (to make sure we have a waterproof seal to the polyester resin of the deck and the plywood) . Then, for the mizzen, a 29mm hole through the thickened epoxy and the FR4 for the dyneema loop to be pushed up through (after it has been sanded beautifully smooth).

Any water coming through the deck hole will be caught by a tube around the dyneema chainplate loop. We have simplified this. The tube will have 2 end caps. One glued to the underside of the chainplate backing plate with a hole for the chainplate loop. Then the other on the bottom to catch any water.

On top of the deck we are going to put “mushrooms” which will stop water running along the deck flowing into the hole. They will also be a collar to hold the bottom of the fabric sleeve that will protect the dyneema from UV and chafe.

It all feels a lot closer to getting the mizzen mast up. That will, hopefully, prove that it all works so that we can do the same for the main mast. There are plenty of other things that we can make progress on once the mizzen is up.

Bow roller for anchoring progress

Yesterday evening I updated the template for our extension to the existing bow roller.

It doesn’t look quite so massive now. It has holes in the right places for attaching the forestay, yankee furler, anchor rollers and anchor retainers. The anchor retainers will be adjustable plates bolted to this, they will be connected by a roller which will stop the shank wandering around and damaging the dyneema rigging when the anchor is being raised or lowered.

Both the forestay and yankee will have a pair of stainless plates bolted to the assembly so that the dyneema attachment is well clear of any possible chafe damage.

We will need two almost identical copies of this template (the one in the middle needs a little cutout for the round pulpit socket). At the aft end they will be connected by a plate which will be through bolted to the deck in a couple of places. We will have a third shorter copy for the port side of the second roller (we don’t need that to come all the way aft as it won’t be used for storing an anchor.

We will then create a V shaped pad that will attach to the bow (where the narrow piece goes down the outside of the bow) which the anchor will wedge against when fully raised (so that it doesn’t move when hit by waves).

Next task is to get a price for the stainless, the cutting and welding.

Autopilot progress

On Friday, while preparing to fit the backing plate in the cockpit locker we decided to remove the drive unit for the  original Neco autopilot.

This is a beefy electric motor that uses a chain drive onto one of the shafts of the Whitlock steering system. From all we can find out about this it is definitely worth keeping. It seems to be highly regarded although it predates the availability of small affordable permanent magnets, that have transformed electric motors.

The bracket it sat on had a lot of loose rust on it. This mostly seems to have come from elsewhere, probably the old fridge condenser. A bit of sanding shows that all it needs is cleaning and painting (and new bolts).

However, the controller is in much poorer condition.

Also it doesn’t fit what we want from an electronic autopilot. For us there are three key missing features.

  • Click on from standby to continue on the current course. Something has happened and I need my hands to do something (adjust a sheet, do some navigation, take a cup of coffee from below, move to get a better view under the sails). This should be a one button press and be almost instant. With this unit you first have to turn it’s compass setting to your current course and then turn it on. That means looking at the compass then looking at and adjusting the compass dial on the Neco and then switching it on (except currently there is no on/off switch so you had to go below and turn it on at the circuit breaker).
  • Tack. When sailing singlehanded we can’t reach the genoa sheets from our steering wheel (and certainly will need both hands to tack the genoa). With a good autopilot you click the on button and the the tack port or tack starboard buttons. The autopilot does the steering to tack the boat while you sort out the sheets for the sails. With the Neco you have to work out what course you want to be on after the tack and turn to that (quick what is 47 degrees less 90? – which is what you have to work out if you are on starboard tack steering 47 degrees and need to tack. The answer is 317 degrees).
  • Steer true course rather than heading. Due to tides and leeway, the actual direction a boat goes in is rarely exactly the same as you are steering. The Neco doesn’t handle this well. All you can do is enter the heading. Modern autopilots can do either and they generally have quick buttons to adjust the course a degree or 10 at a time. Again with the Neco all you can do is turn the compass rose to the heading you want.

So what are we planning?

Our plans are changing a bit. Ideally we would be fitting a Hydrovane Wind Vane for self-steering before our launch. However, at nearly £6,000 it will have to wait for a bit. So the cheapest solution to having some self-steering is to use this existing drive unit with a new controller.

The controller we are looking at is essentially a DIY system using the PyPilot software running on a RaspberryPi Zero W with various boards and sensors attached. It can have a screen and be controlled by a keypad, a remote control device or a mobile phone. It can also integrate with the OpenCPN chartplotter software that we intend to use.

There are people who have got PyPilot working with Neco drive units so whilst it isn’t a small, simple task it is perfectly doable.

This isn’t a replacement for the Hydrovane (that has big advantages in not using any electricity and providing an emergency rudder).

Eventually we want to end up with a whole range of steering options (sorted by preference when cruising):

  • Wind vane (probably a Hydrovane) which is independent of everything else and steers us at a constant angle to the wind.
  • Neco drive unit controlled by a Raspberry Pi running PyPilot.
  • Standard hand steering using the wheel (primary choice in confined spaces)
  • Emergency tiller steering. We have a two part metal tiller that is stored under the aft cabin bunk. By lifting the cushions and opening a hole in the deck we can put the emergency tiller on top of the rudder shaft and steer from the aft cabin roof. Useful if if any part of the connections from the steering wheel fails.
  • Emergency tiller attached to the wind vane for hand steering (built into a Hydrovane and an optional extra for a Cape Horn wind vane).

We have also considered adding a tiller autopilot attached to the wind vane. Both the HydroVane and Cape Horn vane steering allow an electric tiller autopilot, designed for smaller boats, to steer the boat via the wind vane system. However, if the Neco unit can work we probably don’t need this (at least for a long time, we might like the extra backup on very long ocean crossings). Meanwhile it saves us another £1,000 or so.

This feels like a good project for winter nights, and if we can’t find time before the launch I can do it on the water providing I have bought the bits.

Short and Longer term plans for Instruments, Navigation, Communications, Safety

True to form we are going to be ripping out all the original instruments, after 44 years they are all well past their useful life. Both the speed and depth sensors used holes in the hull (and we are determined to minimise holes!). Nothing is connected to anything else and their were no updates to technologies such as DSC on the VHF radio (allows private direct calls between radios), AIS (potential to receive and transmit details of your boat, location, speed and direction for warnings of potential collisions), or GPS (position). Even the compass has problems as it’s light doesn’t work and there is air inside it instead of oil.

Later we need to get onto other essentials such as navigation lights, as the current ones are all either broken or very UV damaged and none of then are LED.

When thinking about instruments and navigation there are almost an infinite number of options available and the choice can be bewildering. Hence, a very common choice is to fully equip with a range of sensors and multi-function displays from a single manufacturer connected using (for new systems) NMEA 2000 (a wiring and data standard). However, this is way beyond our budget (probably by at least an order of magnitude). The biggest names supplying everything are B&G, Raymarine and Garmin.

Obviously, there are significant advantages in buying a complete set of instruments, and electronics from one company. Principally it should all connect and integrate seamlessly. Installation should be simpler and the learning curve should be reduced.

However, there are disadvantages besides the cost.

  • With a fully integrated system you can only see the output from a sensor (for example the depth) if the sensor, the network, the system cpu and a multifunction display are all powered and working. That is a lot of potential points of failure and potentially a lot of power consumption.
  • Another disadvantage is the extent to which you get locked (literally or emotionally) into a single ecosystem. That means when you decide to add something new (for example connecting to the boat systems using your phone over the Internet) you might find yourself waiting for the one supplier to add this feature or unlock it for others to connect to.
  • Until you start connecting items from other manufacturers you can never be quite sure how standards compliant the system is. So if a sensor breaks do you buy what is available locally or wait until you can get something from the same manufacturer?

At the other end of scale are the cheap but not connected products. For example you can have  standalone depth sounder (sensor and display), a GPS, a VHF radio with AIS that doesn’t share the data with anything else.

In the middle are options to buy individual items that can be connected using a standard interface (most commonly now NMEA 2000). This way you can start with specific paired sensors and displays (such as wind speed and direction) that can later be connected to other things. With some skill and luck you can mix and match from different manufacturers.

Once you have fully integrated instruments and navigation you can have a big chart plotter screen that doesn’t just show the chart and your position but adds radar overlays and AIS targets and predictions based on wind speed/direction (current as well as forecast), even camera views can be added. But at this point you have gone beyond the data speed/capacity of NMEA and are needing to look at using WiFi.

That brings us to some leading edge developments that are starting to bring in new competition and disrupt the marketplace. Principally Bluetooth LE, WiFi, 4G and solar.

An obvious example is to have a solar powered, wireless wind sensor for the top of the mast. This is potentially much simpler and more reliable than running data and power cables in the mast. The traditional companies now have these. However, they typically wirelessly connect with a proprietary protocol to a little black box that is physically connected to the NMEA 2000 network. As far as the rest of the system is concerned it appears exactly the same as a wired sensor. An alternative is skip a few technological steps and use other standards, such as Bluetooth. This means you can have a solar powered, wireless wind sensor that connects directly to your phone which displays the data using your choice of app. No NMEA network, no other devices needed.

Also there are more options than just the proprietary NMEA standard. For example there are black boxes available that connect to NMEA 2000 and make the data available over open Internet standards (both WiFi and wired). The Bluetooth sensor companies are also adding black boxes that connect their devices to NMEA.

Another development is to bring the Internet culture of Open Standards and Free Software, that can run on a variety of different hardware, to the marine instrument and navigation arena. Two notable examples are SignalK (an open standard that replaces NMEA and runs on Internet standards) and OpenCPN which is a free/open navigation tool (runs on many operating systems and also phones).

At this point these are not really mature consumer options, they require a fair bit of DIY (potentially to the level of soldering circuit boards), some familiarity with system setup & administration and even programming.

Given the constraints of our budget and time, the lack of anything to build upon, we have decided to get afloat with the things we see as essential, have them mostly standalone with goals of low cost, reliability, simplicity, low power consumption and the ability to add more DIY functionality later.

Instruments

Compass: New bulkhead compass to replace the original “Big Ben”. Not connected to anything but a light (at the end of the day a compass, a watch, a sextant and paper charts make a safe fallback situation that should be available even after a lightning strike)

Depth: Our first choice would be an in hull depth sensor (no hole in the boat needed) with a dedicated screen (with features such as a shallow water alarm) plus interconnection potential so that in the future  we could check the depth on our phones while ashore (in case we have miscalculated the tides and we are about to go aground, could also be that the wind changed and blew you into shallower water). Unfortunately, I haven’t found this combination so we will probably go for the Nasa Clipper Depth (approx £130) which doesn’t have any connectivity options at the moment.

Wind Speed and Direction: We want a wind instrument that uses a solar powered, wireless sensor at the top of the mast – that means one less wire in the mast, and one less hole in the deck to leak (hence a much simpler installation). This eliminates one of the most common causes of problems (the wire or the connections) and must surely reduce the chance of lightning taking out all your instruments. We want it’s own dedicated display for installation simplicity and to increase reliability by keeping the number of points of failure down. However, we also want the option to be able to connect it to other devices in the future. That allows better information on the chart plotter. Much more than that, by connecting NMEA to our Raspberry Pi systems (probably via SignalK) we can connect phones locally using wifi and remotely via 4g over the Internet. Not only does that let you to display things on your phone such as a graph of wind direction and speed over say 24 hours, but it also lets you pick that up while the boat is anchored and you are shopping. Then you can see if there might be a problem coming (is there a wind increase that will make it harder to get back in the dinghy? Or might your drying laundry be about to blow away?). The Clipper Wireless Wind (True) looks a good initial option (but only Nasa themselves seem to be selling the True wind version at the moment at £373) . While we would not have the true wind display initially, it would be available once we connect it to NMEA with a GPS device also connected. An alternative would be the innovative OpenWind.de solar, Bluetooth LE but it is over £100 more and we would have to use a phone as the display until we have a connected computer display.

No speed: We are not going to have any measure of speed through the water. It always requires a hole in the boat so we are ruling it out. We will rely on GPS (and there are going to be multiple GPS systems). These can now use multiple satellite systems which improves reliability. They don’t allow us to directly see the effect of tide or current but we feel this is something we can live with for reliability (the paddle wheels used in the ones we could afford are vulnerable to damage and growth) and safety (look at the Sailing Zingaro where he nearly sank his Oyster because the speed sensor leaked and note that he should have also had a working bilge water alarm and automatic bilge pump as we already have ready to install).

Navigation

Initially we are going to use our phones and Android tablet. There are plenty of apps that we can use. I’d like to start with OpenCPN which is what we eventually plan to run on Raspberry Pi computers.

While I have most of the stuff to setup the Raspberry Pi navigation system (and there will be lots to write about that in the future) I doubt I will have time before our first launch. Maybe it will be a project whilst we are out sailing on my sabbatical – but I don’t want it to be something we rely on without a lot more time to develop and test it. Even then I’m not planning to have it as the only way to view instruments or navigate – just too risky.

In the long term though the plan is for a “chartplotter” in the cockpit that can be seen and controlled when steering. It will be powered by a Raspberry Pi 4 below decks controlling a 15.6″ touch screen (with the option of bringing out a wireless keyboard and mouse in suitable conditions). This will display a chart with the boat position and AIS overlay. So it will be used primarily for live navigation.

We will have another Raspberry Pi 4 below, using a 21″ TV as it’s display (again a wireless keyboard and mouse). This will be able to function as a chartplotter (principally for planning, backup and keeping an eye on things when nipping below when on watch). It will also run our entertainment, office and editing software. We will have a 3rd system (with a more basic screen) pre-configured and up-to-date that will be wrapped with a battery in multiple layers of foil and plastic that will act as a Faraday cage so that it should survive a lightning strike.

Communications

We do have a basic handheld VHF radio which we will keep for emergencies and dinghy to boat communications (bit with mobile phones likely to be the preferred option if there is a signal).

We will add a fixed VHF radio with DSC and a new aerial. Possibly something like a basic ICOM IC-M330GE for around £200

We will setup a WiFi network for the boat and eventually we would like to add a full 4G mobile connection to that using big aerials to pick up a mobile phone signal several miles offshore.

Safety

AIS: We will install a minimum of a full Class B AIS system that both transmits and receives. We are looking for models from Digital Yacht that provide a WiFi interface (simplest for both our Android devices and Raspberry Pi’s). So at the budget end an iAISTX for £522.00

I think that if we upgraded to the iAISTX plus version (£642) which has an NMEA interface then it should be possible to connect the AIS to the VHF DSC system allowing you to pick a target and directly connect to them on the VHF using DSC. So if the AIS tells you that a ship will collide with you 5 miles ahead then you can call them to ask what they plan to do about it. Without this you can find the call details on the AIS and manually put them into the VHF (tricky if it is rough and you are stressed/tired and the wind is changing etc).

If we could afford it I would like the Digital Yacht Class B+ device as it transmits at twice the power. Hence, we would be detected by ships at a much greater range than 8 to 10 miles as well as more reliably in very busy areas with lots of signals. However, the AIT5000 with WiFi is £1,074.

Whichever AIS we get, we will add a Man Overboard alarm and Man Overboard devices to our life jackets. That means if we fall into the water an alarm automatically goes off on our boat (and any others within range) and the chartplotter will show the position of the person in the water so that you can find them again.

The AIS will probably use an aerial splitter so that it can share the aerial with the VHF radio.

Radar: For the foreseeable future radar will remain on our “would be nice to have” list. Cost is approaching £2,000 for the radar dome, mounting bracket etc. OpenCPN already includes support for a growing number of Radars so you can see the radar scan on top of the chart (makes it easier to work out if the radar image is showing land, rain, a ship or a buoy). For collision avoidance we think AIS is much cheaper, it gives much more accurate and detailed information, however not all vessels have it. Radar is great for fog, rain squalls and navigation in busy waters at night. Radar is much better for detecting fishing boats (who frequently don’t want to advertise their position on AIS).

At first launch

So we will have the following before we launch:

  • Compass
  • Depth with dedicated display
  • Apparent Wind speed and direction with dedicated display
  • 2 phones and a tablet all with chartplotter software and charts (with waterproof cockpit mounts and USB charging)
  • AIS class B (displaying on the phones and tablet) with MOB alarm
  • AIR MOB transmitters for our life jackets
  • VHF radio

Medium term

  • connect the devices that support it, with NMEA 2000 (gives true wind on the Clipper Wind, AIS integration with the Radio (including MOB support)
  • Raspberry Pi 4 powered chartplotter in the cockpit
  • Raspberry Pi 4 powered chartplotter, office and entertainment in the saloon
  • Spare Raspberry Pi system in Faraday cage

Long Term

  • Long range 4g connection for the whole boats WiFi
  • Additional sensors and monitoring through a web interface on all our devices anywhere as long as boat and we have an internet connection (battery state, solar, motor temperature, tanks levels, bilge pump alarms, lots of environment data such as temperature and humidity etc)
  • Mast mounted forward looking camera with night vision for watch keeping
  • Security cameras
  • Radar
  • Long range WiFi connection for the whole boat (as free WiFi comes to more places)
  • Extra Raspberry Pi powered screen in the cockpit for a customised dashboard next to the chart (wind, depth, battery, solar, cameras, AIS text).
  • Automation (alerts to phones, full management of solar power including control of dump power – eg heat water, run dehumidifier, electric blankets, boat heating)
  • Add PyPilot software to control original electric autopilot motor

That should be enough to keep us going for a while and also plenty to spend our entire living budget for several years  – which gives an idea of how much of it will happen 🙂

Sailing Florence preparing for crossing the Indian Ocean

We really enjoy the video’s from Amy and Matt on Sailing Yacht Florence. Here they are preparing to cross the Indian Ocean, far from any boatyard facilities, having been trapped in Indonesia for over a year.

Their rig check show some of the challenges that have led us to our dyneema rigging plans and long-term sail plan.

First, as Matt checks the rigging he comments that he doesn’t know what they will do if they find a problem as they can’t buy replacements for any of the rigging where they are. By carrying some spare parts that are not heavy and don’t take much space ie

  • dyneema line of a few sizes and some seizing line and chafe protection sleeve
  • low friction rings
  • FR4 board and some epoxy
  • a few bolts (sized for our mizzen and our main mast)
  • some sunbrella fabric and stuff to sew it
  • a few basic splicing tools

With that little lot (which we admit isn’t cheap for a ketch as we need so many dyneema line sizes) we can replace any part of the standing rigging. And we really mean any, it is enough for us to replace any chainplate, any shroud, any mast tang, any shroud tensioner or change the chafe/UV protection anywhere in the rig.

Second, as Matt tries to inspect the forestay and the roller furling but demonstrates that it isn’t possible. As with Vida when we bought her, the forestay and it’s end fittings are all hidden inside the roller furling. That has to be a worry. especially as they have been unable to get the mast down for an inspection in a lot more than a year. Our plans remove this problem. We are going to have a dyneema forestay that will only be used for a sail when sailing downwind with 2 headsails. Our yankee (which is smalleer than a genoa with a higher clew because we are switching to a true cutter rig) will be on a continuous furler and will be lowered to the deck when not being used. This means that our forestay can be fully inspected at all times. If we have a problem with it that we need to fix then we can use the inner forestay, the yankee halyard and the code zero halyard to support the mast while we fix the problem.

I don’t think we are anything like as adventurous as Amy and Matt 🙂 Especially when it comes to exploring so much of Asia and staying around the equator for so long. However, being able to inspect our whole rig and both carry replacements and be able to fit them outside a boatyard is very important to us. Not only from a safety point of view but also a financial one. By spending some money up-front (at least before the first ocean crossing) our budget is much more predictable.

A day for Sustainable health

The past few days working on the aft cabin have been hard on my back and knees. It is a confined space, the floorboards had to be up which means you are always standing on a slope and stepping over beams while crouched over. Plus lots of ladder climbing.

So I ended up with a very stiff and achy back and a pulled something behind my right knee.

Today has therefore been about recovery. We had a nice brunch, lots of sleeping and a lovely walk along the “Swellies” which is the stretch of very fast moving water in the Menai Straits with lots of rocks and islands.

This evening we spent some time in the NWVYC reading pilotage and charts and it all made a lot more sense. With our plans we can be sensible and cautious which basically means

  • From the North East, go through the Swellies 2 hours before high tide Liverpool. (this direction seems a little more forgiving)
  • From the South West go through the Swellies 2.5 before high tide Liverpool
  • Make sure we have updated your chart very recently before crossing the bar at Caernarfon, the channel can move by a mile in winter storms. Also check that all the channel buoys are in position as they frequently drag.

Absolutely no need for us to ever go through the Swellies at less than ideal tide time, we have nothing to prove.

As with our cruising from Chichester Harbour in the past, crossing a bar like Caernarfon is a chalk and cheese issue. In good conditions you wonder what all the fuss is about. Try to push it in bad conditions and you can easily be utterly terrified at best and lose your boat at worst. When it comes to these choices we are pretty risk averse. So we would divert or heave to, waiting for safer conditions. This is the kind of thing that puts me off racing. So while taking part in the Three Peaks race appeals in many ways, I’d also be useless at it 🤣

No way am I going to cross a bar or go through the Swellies, even in a race, except at the right time and conditions. We would probably lose 24 hours just from my caution by the time we were past Beaumaris 😊

Dyneema Shroud and Chainplate progress

We haven’t been able to get to the boat this week, Jane has been ill and I had a seminar on my day off.

But we have had a delivery from Jimmy Green Marine. That means I’ve been able to do some practice splicing. As a result we can see how the Shrouds and Chainplates are going to work.

The first image shows my very first Dyneema Eye Splice. It isn’t very good, but that isn’t a surprise. I’m going to make sure I practice lots before the first real splice 🙂 This is a Möbius Brummel splice (which means it is locked in two directions with a long straight bury. To see how to do this splice see this video from Rigging Doctor. As Dyneema is slippery you need to bury a tail that is 72 times the diameter of the line in length. Our Mizzen Shrouds are 9mm (for reasoning behind that choice see The mysteries of sizing Dyneema standing rigging). For simplicity and an overabundance of caution I decided on 720mm of bury (I think I ended up with about 680mm on this first attempt). The double locking stops the splice from slipping but another key to the strength is tapering the buried portion (so there are no kinks caused by sudden changes in direction for the fibres), my taper ended up being 360mm long. I’ve put a low friction ring in this eye splice which is what will be used at the bottom of the shroud. At the top another eye splice will be fitted to the custom tangs I’m going to make.

Now we have my first attempt to make a chainplate loop. This is also very simple. It is essentially a soft shackle with overhand knot (I tried this one without the soft shackle eye but will put that in the next one). A video on how to make this is here. As I didn’t make the soft shackle eye I’ve put a simple whipping to hold the low friction ring. This started as 3m (3000mm) of 9mm Dyneema and has ended up being about 300mm sticking out above the overhand knot. This uses 2 simple Brummel splices which the loop goes through so that they go around the overhand know,. As the buried tail reaches all the way upto the whipping it can’t slip as it is going all through the knot. Nor can the knot slip because the tails are these eye splices held by the main loop.

This one is only pulled hand tight at the moment. I’m going to have to make some kind of rig to properly tension these to get the knots tight before I install them.

To install them the chainplate is basically a big backing plate with a hole going through it and the deck. The loop (without the low friction ring) is push through the hole from below. The knot can’t fit through the hole in the backing plate. The low friction ring is inserted and now you have a secure point to attach the shroud to.

I’m guessing I can reduce the length of the original line to 2.5m and the buries to 600mm without any significant strength loss. That would place the low friction ring at about 200mm above the deck which is just about what I am looking for. Rremember that Dyneema rigging is sized for stretch not strength, so even with the splice it should be more than 3 times stronger than the stainless steel it replaces. I will do some strength testing but don’t think I can affordably or safely achieve a 10,000kg pull.

Here they are together. They get joined by a 6mm dyneema lashing, that loops between the two low friction rings. When you pull on the tail of the lashing it gives you a mechanical advantage (more will be needed to get enough tension),

Neither of these were difficult to make. I managed both in a couple of hours. I’ve ordered some extra splicing tools and special dyneema knife and scissors (it is very hard to cut!!). My next practices will be on 6mm Dyneema which is for the guardrails/lifelines and the shroud lashings.

We had another delivery today, some Mild Steel Angle Iron which I am hoping to use to repair the platform on my drill press. I have plans to use that to help make the tangs for the top end of the shrouds.

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 down🌪 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 won’t have a trisail (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 makde 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 ring). 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 might 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 these sails.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Next generation Dyneema Chainplates

This is a rewrite/reorganisation of this post (no diagrams yet) to, hopefully, make it clearer.

I think this is our 3rd generation of Dyneema Chainplate design. We think it is a significant improvement on our previous plans, yet realistically it might demonstrate some “Lockdown overthinking” so we are not ruling out variations on our original Synthetic chainplate idea in: Chainplates. We are going for a radical dyneema option.

All these designs and the process is for us to work out what we are going to do on our boat. We are happy to share to give you ideas for your own boat, but you need to check your plans with appropriate professionals as we can take no responsibility for whether they will work for you.

Although our previous design was significantly stronger than what our Rival 38 has had for the last 43 years, we have come up with big improvements (with a lot of conversations, especially with Simon T who has a Rival 32). Specifically these are:

  • More flexibility in deck position so they can be closer to the original chainplate position
  • More flexibility in the positioning on the outside of the hull to avoid rubbing strakes, coving strips etc
  • Simpler to build
  • Ability to have tie connections down into the hull (as Rivals should really have had)
  • Reduced possibility of chainplate lashing line chafe.
  • Reduced friction when tensioning the rig, making it simpler to tune

The previous design already met these requirements, but they are worth repeating:

  • A chainplate design ideally suited to synthetic shrouds, that eliminates the need for deadeyes and toggles to reduce the number of potential points of failure.
  • A chainplate that is much stronger than the original Rival implementation. See Deck repair question and note that Cherry Ripe had one chainplate fail on a recent transatlantic trip (their YouTube videos haven’t caught up with that point yet).
  • A chainplate that cannot leak, fully sealed with epoxy from the inside of the boat
  • A chainplate that could be fully repaired with parts that can be carried on board
  • A chainplate with minimal chance of hidden problems causing a sudden failure

We really need to define our own terminology so

  • Chainplate structure: the permanently bonded structure between the hull and deck that the Chainplate Lashing will thread
  • Chainplate Low Friction Ring: A standard Low Friction Ring that is the point to which the shroud is attached by a tensioning system.
  • Chainplate lashing: a light (we are going to use 4mm) dyneema line used to hold the Chainplate Low Friction Ring by being routed through the Chainplate structure. At a minimum the strength of the total lashing needs to exceed the strength of the original stainless steel shroud.
  • Tensioning system: we will be using a simple, thin dyneema line to lash the bottom of the shroud to the Chainplate Low Friction Ring. It will loop around multiple times to give a mechanical advantage and the end will be attached to more mechanical advantage (can be done with a winch or other means) to get enough tension into the shroud.
  • Knee: a shaped piece of material (we are going to use 10mm G10 or FR4) that ties the underside of the deck down the side of the hull. It helps stop the tension of the shroud on the chainplate structure breaking or distorting the boat shape.

Inspiration

The greatest inspiration for me was this video from Free Range Sailing “Our sailboat REBUILD begins ⛵💪 – Episode 157

They have an unusual situation for their backstays, when drilling the holes for the lashing they don’t go into the interior of the boat. A key design goal was to find a way to have a similar lashing for the low friction ring in places where it isn’t possible for a hole to go from the desk to the outside of the hull without going into interior. Also I didn’t want to have to add GRP matting to the outside of the hull. Finally, I was unhappy with the lashing as it relied on knots which is a problem with slippery dyneema.

Key Design elements

First we have a permanent structure to be built

For each shroud two plastic pipes will go through the deck (approx 40mm gap between them – scale as appropriate). On a Rival they can be in approximately the same place as the existing chainplate. They should line up with the shroud (following both the fore/aft and athwartships angles). Below decks they will curve to exit through holes in the side of the hull (still the same distance apart and level with each other). The pipes end approx 50mm above the deck.

A “backing” plate on top of the deck will provide reinforcement. It will make it easier to keep water out of the holes in the deck.

A “backing” plate on the outside of the hull will spread the loads and can be shaped to allow a very smooth curve for the chainplate lashing between the two pipes.

Inside the boat a knee will be fitted between the pipes. It will tie the deck to the hull and will extend down far enough to spread the loads over a large area of the hull.

Inside the boat the pipes will be encased in thickened epoxy. The will prevent any water intrusion. It will also create a single solid structure of deck, hull, pipes and knee to ensure loads are widely and evenly spread.

Second we have the connection for the shroud tensioning system

The permanent structure allows a lashing to attach a low friction ring above the deck. The shroud can be directly tensioned to the low friction ring using a lashing. As the low friction ring is lashed directly to the chainplate structure we eliminate a deadeye (with two thimbles) and a toggle – so removing several of single points of failure.

The chainplate lashing line starts at the low friction ring. Then it loops several times going through one pipe, across the outside of the hull, back through the other pipe and around the low friction ring. When there are enough turns for the maximum load the lashing terminates at the low friction ring.

Rather than use knots to tie the lashing at each end (which lose a lot of strength), terminate each end with an eye splice. These both loop over the low friction ring. Eye splices retain approximately 80% of the line strength. As all the loops of the lashing go over the “rim” of the low fiction ring the shroud tensioning lashing is held captive by the chainplate lashing. Therefore if the low friction ring breaks the shroud is still held captive. We can use eye splices rather than lashing knots as there is considerable flexibility as to how high the low friction ring ends up above the deck.

Third we have chafe and UV protection

The pipes extend approx 50 above the deck, their ends should be slightly flared. As they are slightly flexible they will automatically align (in a gentle curve) with the tensioned lashing so that chafe is minimised. The lashing can be easily inspected for chafe as it enters the pipes.

Extending the pipes above the deck also prevents dirt, particularly gravel, being washed into the pipe as this could quickly cut through the lashing.

The up-stand of the pipes allows a fabric sleeve to be secured at the deck so that everything from the shroud to the deck can be protected from dirt, chafe and UV. If the sleeve is a basic rectangle, with Velcro along it’s length, it can be easily removed to inspect both lashings and the low friction rings.

On the outside of the hull the backing plate can be filed and sanded to provide a smooth rounded route for the lashing to go between the two pipes.

Potential Upgrades

Rather than rounding/smoothing the backing plate on the outside of the hull a plastic pad could be added to provide a lower friction, smoother route for the lashing.

A pop-on plastic cover for the hull backing plate would protect the lashing as it goes between the holes. This would protect it from being damaged by docks, dinghies and the sun. It could be removed to inspect the lashing.

Instead of a single low friction ring for the chainplate lashing it would be possible to use 2. One for each pipe. The two rings would not be directly connected together above the deck but only by the lashing going down through the pipes. The advantages are a) alignment with pipes would be slightly improved as the lines from the pipes only come together at the bottom of the shroud rather than at the chainplate low friction ring. b) two rings so each has half the load c) each ring will only have half the number of turns of the shroud tensioning lashing, so a little less binding and friction.

Rather than a single chainplate lashing line, for each shroud, it would be possible to use several, each would act in parallel. The first eye splice on the low friction ring, through one pipe and back through the other before the other eye splice goes onto the low friction ring. Each “turn” of the lashing would be a separate line. If one line chafes through, it will be very visible but the shroud won’t suddenly become slack. This method would require very consistent splicing so that the lines are very equal in length (although even the small amount of elasticity and creep in dyneema will tend to equalise small differences over time).

Maintenance

All the key potential chafe points for the lashing are easy to inspect as it is highly unlikely that the lashing will chafe first in the hidden but smooth run inside the plastic pipe. Instead chafe will come first a) where it exits the hull, b) where it exits the pipes at the deck, c) where it loops round the low friction ring, or d) where something rubs against it.

Replacing either the chainplate lashing or the shroud tensioning lashing should be straightforward, even potentially possible at sea on the appropriate tack.

The most difficult task will be replacing a pipe when it wears through (although plastics such as hdpe should be very wear resistant). There are a few options

  • start with an oversized pipe so that a smaller pipe could be inserted through it later as a replacement (or have an fixed outer pipe and a floating inner pipe from the beginning)
  • coat the pipes in a mould release agent during construction so that they can be removed (some ingenuity may be required to ensure that they don’t move during use)
  • if the pipe fails then use a dremel with a flexible attachment to sand the route through the thickened epoxy so a pipe isn’t needed (a short length of pipe could be inserted at the top to provide the gravel protection).

Our construction details

We are hoping to use HDPE pipes, they should be low friction and hard wearing. However, the smallest I have found them is a 20mm external diameter. Maybe inserting a smaller sacrificial tube inside them would be a good solution or a different type of plastic?

I’ll use a heat gun to flare the top of the pipe to make sure the lashing doesn’t get damaged by the edge.

We will use the same dyneema line for both the shroud tensioning and the chainplate lashing to reduce the number of items we need to buy and carry.

Our main mast cap shrouds are the only ones with a chainplate that has a connection to a bulkhead. So some detailed thought will be needed (one pipe each side of the bulkhead?)

Our chainplates are in the deck and are close to the bulwark so the internal intrusion will be small. This solution may not be the right one if you have very inboard chainplates. In that case look at my original “padeye” design.

I’m going to use 10mm G10 for external chainplates and 10mm FR4 for the knees (I want first resistance inside the boat).

All holes in the deck and hull should be sealed with thickened epoxy (drill oversize hole, fill with thickened epoxy, when cured drill correct hole through the epoxy).

When drilling the final holes angle the drill to reduce the curvature of the pipes.

Our holes and backing plate in the hull will be a bit lower so that they are below the rubbing strake. You might want to miss things like cove lines.

Our cap shrouds have a piece of stainless steel bolted to the bulkhead that has a bent over top that sits under the backing plate. It has a hole fitted over the chainplate bolt and so when the nut is on the chainplate bolt is connected to the bulkhead. This will be replaced (on all our chainplates) by the FR4 knee. The top edge of this shaped piece of sheet material will be fitted to the underside of the deck and the long edge will fit vertically down the inside of the hull. In our case it will go down far enough to “hook” over the first horizontal stringer. The inner edge of the knee doesn’t have to be a straight line but can be cut away as a nice organic curve. The best place for the knee is between the two pipes. It should be glued in with thickened epoxy with good fillets along all the edges that touch the boat.

It is going to be tricky to fill around the pipes and knee with thickened epoxy so that there are no air pockets. My current plan is to create an enclosed space that I can fill (using thin plywood held in place and “sealed” with epoxy fillets). So the plywood is creating a kind of mould covering the pipes and part of the knee. Before I fit the deck backing plate, I will drill some extra holes in the deck and inject into them slightly runny thickened epoxy, until it is full to deck level. Once they are filled these holes will be covered by the backing plate. I can remove the plywood to confirm that the space has been properly filled.

The strands of the chainplate lashing are going to be under a lot of tension between the two holes on the outside of the hull. So it is vital that the route out of one hole and into the other is very rounded and very smooth. That transition from pipe to backing plate is going to be the key load point of the lashing, so it is vital that it does not chafe through here. We are going to carve a solid plate of hdpe (we will make ours as part of our plastic recycling work) that will sit on the G10 plate and be a very low friction, smooth, curved surface for the line. We will also fit a removable hdpe cover plate to protect the chainplate lashing from being damaged by docks or anything else.

Fitting the lashing

When you are ready to lash the Chainplate Low Friction Ring into place you have a choice. You can use a single ring per chainplate structure. Or for slightly higher cost you can use two. Having two improves the alignment of the chainplate lashing slightly and makes tensioning a little easier. If you use one then you need to size it so that the outer sheave can fit 3 turns of the lashing line rather than 2 (the number of turns depends on your calculation of loads and the line you are using – I’m planning to have 6 of 4mm, 3 per pipe, which is quite a lot stronger than my shroud).

Whether you use one ring or two your chainplate lashing needs a eye splice at each end designed to loop over the exterior of the low friction ring.

If you are using One Low Friction Ring then:

With the low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the low friction ring and go down the first pipe again. From the hull outside return as before. Repeat for another loop through the chainplate structure. At this point the low friction ring should have one eye splice and two loops. Each pipe will have 3 lines through it. The outside of the hull will have 3 lines between the holes. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the low friction ring (4 lines in total on the top of the low friction ring). While holding up the low friction ring up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. You can now use the tensioning system to connect the chainplate low friction ring to the shroud.

If you are using Two Low Friction Rings then:

With the first low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the second low friction ring and return down the same pipe again. From the hull outside return up the first pipe and over the first low friction ring. Back down the first pipe, outside the hull and up the second pipe. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the second low friction ring. While holding up the low friction rings up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. Each low friction ring should have 1 eye splice and one loop of lashing line. Each pipe should have 3 lines. Each low friction ring should have 3 lines all going into the same pipe. The outside of the hull should have 3 lines. To tension the shroud the tensioning lashing should start from one of the chainplate low friction rings, go up to the shroud and down to the other chainplate low friction ring. Continue to add more turns, alternating between the two chainplate low friction rings.

Tensioning the Shroud.

There are videos from Rigging Doctor, Tula’s Endless Summer and Sailing Zingaro showing how to tension using a lashing. Although, of course, we have our own ideas which we hope to test before too long.

Conclusion

We believe this design will create

  • a chainplate structure that you can easily build yourself.
  • something that you can visually inspect for wear and damage.
  • something with no metal parts that need to be fabricated, that can corrode or fail due to fatigue.
  • where you can carry all the parts to replace everything that works with the chainplate structure (lashing line and low friction rings, shroud tensioning line, shroud) even at sea.
  • a significant weight saving
  • a significant increase in strength on boats like Rivals where the chainplates are not very well connected to the hull
  • huge cost savings if your chainplates or turnbuckles need replacing
  • a very simple, strong, neat, light way of connecting dyneema shrouds to an older boat