Steering Wheel Systems

Idler Sheaves, Chain and cable sailboat steering systemIt is almost winter and it may be time to check all of the components of your boat that are often times forgotten about. Your boat’s steering system is no exception. Whether outfitted with a hydraulic, geared, draglink, or a chain and cable system, winter time is a great time to have the boats steering works inspected. If you are hauling the boat it may even be a good idea to disassemble the rudder post, drop the rudder or rudders altogether and service them. This will give you the opportunity to clean and repack bearings, undo frozen screws, and Edson Chain, Eye Bolt, and Cable Kitif nothing else give yourself a peace of mind that you have taken care of this. Unless you are mechanically savvy yourself, know what to look for, and are totally comfortable with this type of work, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced professional.

Although all sailboats should be equipped with emergency tillers, steering (much like standing rigging) is not something to take lightly. Steering failure can be detrimental to the boat, the crew, and even others sharing the waterways. If the system hasn’t been serviced in a while, or the boat is new to you, or is beginning to make strange noises, or just plain doesn’t feel right, it is time to call someone. In most cases, inspections or even a full service can come at a fraction of the cost to the alternative.

Radial Arm Gear Drive Steering System

Radial Arm Gear Drive Steering System

In regards to how often this should be done – well, that all depends on how much you use the boat, what conditions you typically use the boat in, and what type of system that your boat uses. We, at The Rigging Company, recommend that ALL steering systems get inspected regularly….maybe even every year, depending on use.

For specific tips and tricks in dealing with your system, be sure to check out some of the maintenance guidelines from Edson Marine, a globally respected manufacturer of yacht steering systems since the mid-1800’s. 

Idler sheaves, pulleys, chain and cable steering system, Edson

Cable Steering System

A cable system should be serviced every 2-3 years and the cables be replaced every 5. If utilizing a cable and chain system make sure to inspect and service the system in its entirety; from the chain beneath the binnacle, to eye bolts that fasten the wire to the quadrant, and all idlers, pulleys, clevis pins, conduits, and cotter pins along the way.

Hydraulic Steering Wheel System

Hydraulic Steering Wheel System

A hydraulic system should be serviced as needed, i.e. seal leaks, dry-rotted hoses, etc. For easy inspection of hydraulic systems, the external components should be well cleaned and wiped down; even the locker or lazarette that contains these components should be clean and freshly painted, so that even the slightest leaks become instantly noticeable and can be fixed immediately .

Radial Arm Gear Drive Steering System

Radial Arm Gear Drive Steering System

Direct gear systems, like rack and pinion or worm gear systems, should be taken apart cleaned and greased (much like servicing a winch) on a regimented basis.

Mechanical Steering arm sailboat steering wheel system

Mechanical Steering Arm System

The mechanical steering arm or draglink systems prove to be very low maintenance, but just like anything else make sure you inspect the system and any moving parts, i.e. ball joints/pivots regularly.

Have a question? Leave us a comment.Need us to look over or service your steering system? Please fill out our online work request form.

Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Team Vestas Wind Gets a New Boat…

…well, maybe.

The famous Vestas Wind Crash Picture, total loss, run aground, crash into earth

Look at the SIZE of that hole!

If you’ve not heard by now, the Volvo Ocean Race Team Vestas Wind smashed into the earth several days ago. The boat grounded in the Indian Ocean Off of the southeast coast of Africa on the Cargados Carajos Shoals (St. Brandon), some 260 miles north east of Mauritius.

Here is the latest edit of the footage from on board as well as some insight into the what and where.

Courtesy of the Volvo Ocean Race Channel‘s YouTube feed.

In the latest news: the team deemed the boat irreparable. However, with their crew now safely on land, attention has turned to retrieving the vessel. Even though the boat is a loss, it appears to be early enough in the race that the powers to be are playing the numbers and logistics involved in building a whole new boat! I am not a boat builder but imagine that’ll be some feat.

Good Luck Team Vestas…..I hope to see these guys back out there.

Posted in Around the World, Incredible ocean, Modern Yachts, Racers, Sailing, Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Conventional Mainsail Reefing

Reefing the mainsail

Reefing or reducing a conventional/non-furling mainsail can be done by way of either a slab or a single line reef system. Today, I want to talk about the difference between the two reef systems and how they should be set up.

FIRST: Read below for a few thoughts on reefing procedure

Heavy wind big storm sailing

  When reefing, conditions are usually rough and frustrating, take time to first make sure that you are safe and tethered to the boat  (in position to perform the reef). Try and stay calm and think clearly about what you are doing, and what you are about to be doing. Ensure all leads are fair, ensure the boom topping lift has been snugged-up (this is very important), release the vang and then the main sheet slightly so as to just luff the sail. Now release the main halyard. Be sure to pay out enough halyard so that the reef is actually below the boom. If the wind is so strong that the sail won’t lower easily, make sure the halyard is still free to run and pull the reef line and/or jack lines at the luff slides to help lower both ends of the sail.  Now, continue to tension the reef line (you should be able to do this without a winch) and tuck the inboard and outboard ends to the boom. Once the reef is tucked, double check to make sure all leads are fair and take the reef line to the winch and begin to tension it adequately.  Lastly, tension the main halyard, loosen the boom lift and then sheet-on as needed. When the boat is stable again and everyone is settled in, safely, go and clean up the reef slabs. Remember that friction can easily be overcome by your winches, but be careful, because this is how things get broken!

Single line reefing

Single Line Reefing

Since more and more boats these days are leading the halyards aft, single line reefing has become a very popular method for reefing your mainsail. Single line reefing essentially means that the outboard and inboard reef cringles use one line to tuck (or haul down) both ends of the sail. In general, this system is configured in two ways:

One is to ‘simply’ run a line from the outboard dead-end, up through the o.b. reef cringle, down to a sheave at the o.b. end of the boom, which will turn the line forward to another sheave at the inboard end of the boom, which will turn the line upwards to the i.b. reef cringle, then down through a fairlead on the mast to the deck and aft via a series of (you guessed it) more sheaves, then to a clutch, and finally to the winch (gasp!).

The other method’s end result is the same (one line to pull on, back in the cockpit), but it adds yet even more sheaves. It does this utilizing ‘shuttle blocks’ which run on the inside of the boom. The shuttle block system, although providing more purchase, can cause increased friction and even worse – lines to become twisted or tangled inside of the boom; this can make it difficult or even impossible to reef the mainsail when necessary. Reef systems that utilize shuttle blocks can also be problematic in that they can limit the height of the reef point to the length of the boom. ~Pay attention to this if having a new sail made~

In order to make things simple we, at The Rigging Company, prefer the first system – no shuttle blocks. Although this method does not offer any additional purchase, your cabin top winches will surely be able to overcome any load that you might encounter

For more information on leading lines aft, read here.

Single lien reefing, shuttle blocks

Single Line Reefing with Shuttle Blocks

Additionally, it may be advisable to hang small high load blocks from the sails cringles to reduce the friction further. Also if you are noticing that the inboard end is tucking sooner than the outboard end, hanging a block from the OB end only may balance the system out a bit more.

NOTE: For either of these systems to work efficiently the boom needs to have sheaves oriented in such a fashion that the line can both enter and exit the TOP of the boom. .

Tack-end Reef Hook

Tack-end Reef Hook

Traditional slab reefing is a much more simple and classic approach. Although care needs to be taken here to ensure all leads are fair. Slab reefing is intended for use on boats where the halyards are left at the mast. This system also uses just one line per reef; but this line is only responsible for the out-board/clew-end reef. Typically the in-board/tack-end is then reefed separately either
via Reefing Hook (see picture) or Cunningham.  A good slab reef system should lead to a dedicated winch located either on the inboard-side of the boom, or just below the boom gooseneck on the aft face of the mast (see below). If the boat is equipped with multiple reefs, all lines should be cleated using rope clutches before the winch (anytime more than one line leads to a winch the use of a rope clutches is recommended). Leaving everything at the mast, properly rigged, will ensure the least amount of friction out of any reefing system.

Slab Reefing

Slab Reefing

Peterson 44 Boom, 2 Internal/External Reefs

A Properly Configured Multiple Slab Reef System

There are many variations and details in setting up one of these systems on your boat. Please consult with your local rigging professional to determine which set up is the best for you.

Reefing Winch

Reefing Winch Below the Boom

Leave us a question in the comments below. We will reply!

Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yachting Anyone?

There are big rigs and then there are big rigs!

mast elevator - felicita west - panamax mast

Perini Navi and Ron Holland deliver once again in typical fashion. This incredible yacht, “Felicita West”, cuts no corners. Check out the video that showcases some of the vessels highlights. As well as the refit and massive mast stepping project undertaken by Seahawke Rigging along with Beyel Bros. Crane and Rigging Services.


felicita west under sail

Felicità West

Posted in Around the World, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Rigging, Sailing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Adjust a Turnbuckle

Open Body Turnbuckle W/ Swage Stud and Toggle

Open Body Turnbuckle W/ Swage Stud and Toggle

The concept of how to properly adjust a turnbuckle seems to sometimes elude most people. This is understandable as I didn’t used to spend my days thinking about tightening cables, like I do now. So let’s take a moment to discuss how this is done properly.

There are generally three different styles of turnbuckles. Yes, there are a few more styles, however these concepts should give you the gist for any turnbuckle.

Open Body Turnbuckle with a Toggle Jaw at Each End

Open Body Turnbuckle with a Toggle Jaw at Each End

First things first, always make sure that you start by taking out the cotter pins and removing any old tape. Generally, to tighten or loosen turnbuckles it is the reverse of what you have learned your whole life, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” is now “lefty-tighty, righty-loosey”.

OPEN BODY TURNBUCKLES: The open body style turnbuckle is the most common style in today’s sailboat market and will require either an adjustable wrench and a spike (a ‘beefy’ screw driver should do), or a second adjustable wrench. If you have a turnbuckle that has a swage stud at the top end, then look closely and locate the wrench flat which will be either machined or pressed into the stud by the manufacturer.

NOTE: Some boats today still have the old, Closed Body/Tubular Style , stainless steel bottles screw type turnbuckle (these should be replaced ASAP with chrome-bronze bodies). To adjust this type of turnbuckle you can use either and appropriately sized Ice Pick or C Sherman Johnson’s purpose made tool  (click link and scroll to bottom of page) to stick in the small hole located in the middle of the body. Vise grips or channel locks are not the answer here.

DOUBLE JAWED TURNBUCKLES: You may also have a double jawed turnbuckle which accepts an eye fitting attached to the end of the stay. In this situation it is important to keep the upper jaw/eye end from spinning by using either a spike or screwdriver. Also, please note: these turnbuckles are often installed upside down and not consistently. So figuring out which way is tight and which way is loose can be a doozie and may vary from stay to stay. It may be worth the extra time to make sure they are all configured in the same fashion, matching up with the aforementioned tightening/loosening method (“lefty-tighty, righty-loosey”).

MECHANICAL STUDS AND ROD STUDS : It is also possible that your rigging utilizes a mechanical stud at the top end of the turnbuckle. This is a similar product to that used for open body rod turnbuckles, and the same directions should be followed. Be careful in this situation as the mechanical stud will have two wrench flats, one is to tighten the cap of the mechanical stud (this is NOT the one to use and may cause the fitting to become undone!) and one is to hold the stud in place while turning the turnbuckle body. This wrench flat will sometimes be less noticeable, but if you look closely you will be able to determine which ‘flat’  holds the stud and not the cap.

Mechanical Stud, Similar to Rod Stud

Mechanical Stud, Similar to Rod Stud

TURNBUCKLES THAT UTILIZE RIGGING SCREWS (ROD AND WIRE): Next we have the rigging screw style turnbuckle, typically provided by Navtec. This looks like an open body turnbuckle, but in reverse. Instead of one body and two studs, there are two bodies and one stud. This is another typical turnbuckle found on rod rigged boats and you should follow these same guidelines here as well. Again, care must be taken to ensure that the upper end of the turnbuckle does not spin. In this case it is the upper body portion that will need to be either held in place by an adjustable wrench or a spike. Then use another wrench to turn the rigging screw by using the wrench flats on the screw.

Rigging Screw Style Turnbuckle

Rigging Screw Style Turnbuckle

COQUILLE OR STEM BALL TURNBUCKLES: You have probably noticed by now that I keep making the point of always holding the upper end of the turnbuckle in place, be it a stud, jaw, or body. Well, that is because in most situations the bottom of the turnbuckle is kept from spinning by the way it is pinned to the chainplate. EXCEPT, when the chainplate isn’t conventional. Beneteau and Jeaneau are notorious for these types of chainplates. They use what is called a coquille style chainplate, that means essentially, that the connection of the turnbuckle at the deck is a ball and socket type (which means it can spin freely). Here you need to either have three hands and arms, perform a bit’ of a magic trick or grab a friend. Both the top and bottom screws will try to spin in this case, so you will need to hold both upper and lower studs by their wrench flats. I like to go for the “magic trick” method myself, by using large vise grips to grip the lower stud. I will then place my knee near it (as I am in the crouched position) so that the vise grips become wedged up against me as they begin to spin. Then, I will go about holding the upper stud with an adjustable wrench and turning the body with my spike as usual. This maneuver can be a bit tricky, but with a little body contortion and the right tools, it can be done. OR…… simply grab a friend and have them help you ;-0)

Coquille Style Turnbuckle, Popular on Beneteau's and Jeaneau's

Coquille or Threaded Stemball Style Turnbuckle, Popular on, Catamarans with Diamond Stays, Beneteau’s and Jeaneau’s

When you are done make sure you line up the cotter pin holes in the studs so that the turnbuckle can be pinned. If cotter pins aren’t present then there should be locking nuts of some sort. A turnbuckle ALWAYS needs to be secured so that it cannot become undone.

TIP: No matter what type of turnbuckle you are adjusting make sure the wire, rod or whatever type of stay material you may have, does NOT turn, or is in any way able to become distorted. This can lead to shroud failure!

Remember, if in doubt you can always ask……

Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments