Rod Rigging

Wally Day Sailor

    In the world of sailboat standing rigging there are three common materials used, stainless steel wire, Nitronic 50 rod, and various types of synthetic fibers, which are becoming more and more popular. I want to talk today about Nitronic 50 stainless steel rod. This specific type of stainless steel is very strong and noble. Rod rigging can provide lower stretch, less windage and reduced weight characteristics than its wire counterparts.

So if your boat is equipped with rod rigging, what maintenance schedule should one adhere to? In order to maintain your rod rigging or any rigging for that matter, it is highly recommended to simply wash and rinse the hardware with soap and water. This in itself      can make a big difference in its longevity. Mast Being unstepped!

The general guidelines for rod head inspection and service are 40,000 – 60,000 miles or 6 years, whichever comes first. Rods, tangs and fittings, generally should be replaced once the rig exceeds 120,ooo NM. This is a generalization that will vary by geographical region and use. Typically (at least in my experience) one will find that they reach the 6 year mark before the 60,000 miles. The rod head service is extremely important and should not be overlooked. In order to inspect/service your rod the mast will need to be un-stepped.

cracked rod head

Rod heads are made by a hydraulic cold press machine that utilizes a series of dies, clamps and rams to press a head onto the rod. The rod heads are responsible for keeping the fitting from slipping off. The rods themselves can last a very, very long time. Much longer than the expected life span of wire. This is due primarily to the type of metal used, how it is treated, and also the construction characteristics of the wire vs that of the rod. Rod cold heads however, are prone to cracking and should go no longer than 6 years without being serviced.

G100 eye dimpled fitting

Typically Rod Marine Eyes Get Dimpled!

With some type of rod fittings the head can easily be accessed, cleaned up and inspected for cracking. However, other types of fittings will be dimpled to lock the fitting and can therefore not be undone to be inspected. In this case you will need to replace the fitting as well as the head for a satisfactory inspection. This does not necessarily mean the rod needs to be replaced. The length lost will be minimal and is usually within the throw of a turnbuckle.

Navtec Rod Stud

Rod Studs Also Typically are Dimpled!

There are instances where the entire rod will need replacing. If the rod has been damaged, bent or kinked, one should replace it. Navtec guidelines talk about it being acceptable to bend the rod back only once if the bend isn’t too severe. Personally, I would get it replaced, because I don’t like ‘if’s’.

Navtec Spreader Bends

Aluminum Spreader Bend

Another situation that would call for rod replacement, is when a head needs to be replaced aloft on a shroud which utilizes a spreader bend. A spreader bend is an aluminum or stainless sleeve that is slipped onto the rod before heading and is bent in place to a designated angle at the point where the rod intersects the out board spreader end. As there is no turnbuckle at the top end of a stay (at least not typically, that would be weird), the loss of length can not be made up. In other words the spreader angle would no longer be the same. Lastly, you would need to replace any rod that simply does not have enough length for re-heading. This is rare but can happen especially if the rod has been re-headed several times.

Navtec C550 Rig Screw Style Turnbuckle

Navtec C550 Rig Screw Style Turnbuckle

Regarding terminals, if using a rigging screw type turnbuckle (see picture) make sure your rigger knows to replace the screw itself. These are also very prone to fatigue and aging. A good school of thought here is, any terminals that look extremely old and worn should be replaced. This should be evaluated on a case by case bases. Remember, it is always recommended to seek the advice of a professional. At least at The Rigging Company, advice is always FREE of charge.

Read here for more info from Navtec on how to maintain your rig!

Have a question or a comment? Just drop us a line below and we will reply.


P.S. –  If you have these tangs aloft ( old model C&C owners), you should have them checked by your local rigger. Certain older models have been deemed unsafe! – Ask us for details.

About The Rigging Company, LLP

We provide complete and professional rigging products and services!
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50 Responses to Rod Rigging

  1. g frank nin says:

    I have rod rigging on my 1982 islanders 40 , it’s been inspected and it is in good shape and I’m thinking of trucking the boat to a new port which would involve removing the mast. I am concerned about not damaging the rod rigging during removal and transit, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Andrew Towles says:

    I own in last the 3 years a C&C 42 Landfall 1978 model with rod rigging. Should it be looked at before i sail to far off regions.
    Morehead City, N.C.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Andrew,

      The answer is very likely yes, especially if you are under the impression that it has been done in the last 6 years.


  3. Ernest says:

    I have a compression fitting as shown for the uppers on my Cal 2-46 done in 1989. what types of problems have been found and what solutions are available?

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Ernest,

      The fitting is prone to corrosion issues at the threaded tube. The tube is aluminum and is also susceptible to being cut in half by the old stainless steel wire halyards (which then also chafes the newer rope halyards too). Then the older generations all used round balls for the rod head to seat in (inside the tang) which created a hard spot where the rod where it exits the ball and was known to cause rod failure. They later changed these tangs to a similar design with different rod seat called a tapered stemball. There are replacements readily available through <a href=”” target=”_blank”>BSI</a> and The Rigging Company. You will need to rehead stays and this means any stays with spreader bends will need to be replaced all together.

      Thanks for the comment. For more information please don’t hesitate to contact one of our sales staff at 443-847-1004.


  4. Have a boatload of Navtec (ugh) and the rod is cobalt non-contiguous on a 4 spreader mast. -150 down to -115 down to -60 up top half with diagonals -60, -30 -22
    What is the solution with Navtec now gone? Can I source Nitronic 50 and have the various rods made to length and threaded?? Can I trust the nitronic 50 buying it straight from supplier of rod?
    Is Navtec France still in play, can BSi produce the rod? Can I buy and trust the Nitronic 50 from a manufacturer and go the long haul to make up the new rod? Should I convert to Synthetic? What are my options?
    The solution and cost of any changes will be the difference from saving a grand old girl, or not.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Todd,

      Rod and all fittings necessary can certainly be sourced. BSI is a great place to start. I think Navtec globally is finished, their parts have been liquidated to various other manufacturers. Hayn, Rig Rite and another company that escapes me right now did most of the acquisition. We are dealers for all of the above and can therefore certainly be of more help. Please email for more information or give us a call at 443-847-1004. Synthetics are also an option, but I’d need to know more about the grand old girl before I can recommend one thing or another.

      Thanks for Commenting,

  5. Serge says:


    Thank you for your article with info about rod rigging… I have been sailing around the world on a Southern Cross 35 with rod rigging since 2009. Following Navtec guidelines since departure has kept the mast up all these years but I would sleep better at nigh knowing that I can jury rig something to hold the mast up and keep sailing (at least safely to my next port) if one of my rod fails in the middle of an ocean passage.

    In your opinion, could a 6mm Dyneema SK75 temporarily replace a Nitronic 50 number #10 rod that has a breaking strength of 10 000lbs ?



    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Serge,

      I think this is a great idea…we even make what is called a Spare Stay Kit here at TRC. It is basically as you describe, but with a very nice Handy Lock, tool-less, turnbuckle, and a few other nick-knacks for blown out tangs and/or chainplates.

      So if the rig is still up, and you can make it up the mast for a fix, I’d say there is no better option. Just check your breaking strength and be sure that you are running a stronger than the rod synthetic, it could even be Vectran (less elongation for long runs). Keep in mind as you bend the line, i.e. truckers hitch or other knot, you greatly reduce the strength (to be fair everything is typically overbuilt to ensure certain safety factors) so the stronger the better.

      ….at least to get you back to safe harbor to make adequate repairs. In the meantime stay on top of the rod service as you’ve been doing :0)


  6. Patrick Winter says:

    Thank you for your article with info about rod rigging. Just purchased a 1988 C&C 41 with rod rigging and during our first sail the intermediate shroud slipped suddenly about ¾ of and inch on the threads! Do you know if the stainless steel used is typically significantly harder than the bronze of the threaded rod? I am hoping that is the case and that I can simply replace that threaded rod and not the entire stainless shroud. Thoughts?

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Patrick,

      The theory of the bronze and the stainless is that the stainless will give way to the bronze. This preventing thread galling. However in your case if the threads have slipped already I would avoid all uncertainty by replacing the entire turnbuckle. I would additionally see my local rigger about replacing all of threaded rods with new ones as well as talk about reheading the rods if that hasn’t been done yet?

      Lastly, the age of the boat makes me think about the through-deck chainplates. Have they ever been pulled and properly inspected? Same goes for the shroud mast tangs.

      Just some thoughts and thanks for asking.


  7. frans says:

    Hi I have a 1982 Bruce Farr 48, build by Pacific Seacraft, with a broken rod lower port shroud, broken at the top stem terminal, size 3/4, nitro 50, can you please explain what i need to do to fix it? and send me what i need. I am in Tonga now the complete middle of nowhere as too rigging services, non existent! I expect to find a swaging machine in Fiji, where i will go next. There is enough room on the rigging screw to use the same rod. Does it need just a swage terminal, or a rod head, or both? Detailed instructions and education would be highly appreciated. your Frans

  8. Mark Epperson says:


    First, thanks for the explanation of rod rigging, service limits and repair. I am looking at buying a Morgan 454 and all of the ones I am looking at has not had the rod rigging replaced. As a result of reading your article, I have asked the brokers if there were inspections and replacement of rod heads. Is there an age limit or just the 120,000 NM limit? Also what would be a ballpark figure for replacing the rod rigging in a Morgan 454?

    Thanks for the help.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reading and the kind words. We are glad you find this info helpful. Rod rigging, unlike wire, has no set time limit, just mileage. Having said that the rigging does experience mileage just by sitting at the dock or on the hard, this they call cycle loading. Although it takes a REALLY long time for this to make the mileage requirements, it is possible. A very old boat that has been sailed hard for many miles and then stored on land, or in water, for an exceptionally long period, could make all of the mileage add up. So in this scenario complete rod replacement is recommended.

      To answer your question on cost; complete rod replacement for a boat like this could run around $7500 here at TRC (you can easily give or take thousands if not careful, i.e. $5500 – $9500). You will also need to think about taking the mast down and back up, add $2k (for rough numbers sake). A rod service (not complete replacement, but re-head all stays, replace fittings and rods on case-by-case basis) may run around $3500-$5500, plus taking the mast down and back up. So either way I would say…prepare yourself for a bill as low as $5k or as high as $12k, let’s just call it $10k. These are very rough numbers, but I have enough experience that I can speak loosely to the cost of things for this type of boat.


      • Mark Epperson says:

        Hi, Thanks for the great info.  I have contacted a rigging company in Alameda, Ca and we are going to do an inspection. Great service! Mark

  9. Steve jankins says:

    My understanding is that Navtec is going or is all ready out of business.
    Where can I purchase replacement rod rigging for an aging lagre boat?

    Thank you

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Steve,

      That is my understanding too. All of our rod products are now <a href=””>BSI of Denmark</a>. You can purchase them directly from us or ask us any questions we’d be glad to help. Thanks for choosing TRC for your sailboat questions, and please don’t hesitate to <a href=””>contact us</a> for more information, or more questions.


  10. Hello, I own a Beneteau First 40.7 year 2000 and I would like to know if I must change the rods.
    If yes, how much will cost the full replacement? As I intend do the North West passage, I would like to be shure that the rigging will not be a problem…
    As I will go up the Atlantic coast, where can I do the appropriate service?
    Best regards

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Elio,

      Full replacement is likely not necessary with rod rigging. Unless the boat traveled more than 120,000 NM. However the rod heads need to be replaced on all of the rods and fittings need to be serviced and inspected.

      Having said all of that, based on site unseen, you will likely need spend around $7k-$10k for a rod service. This includes unstepping, re-heading all rods, and stepping, complete with tune and everything ready to install sails.

      Full rod replacement may run around $10k-$15k including step and unstep. If you give us rod diameters of the various stays and some pictures we could come up with some more defined numbers.

      Also, let us know where on the east coast you are so that we can provide a good recommendation for where to take your boat.

      Thanks for the comment.


  11. emmanuel cockle says:

    Hi. I have just bought a second hand forestay furler. I need to shorten it to fit my boat.. I have already cut the ‘head end’ to start to shorten it. is there any other sort of head bearing other than the cold pressed head you describe ?.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Yes, the bearing is part of the fitting. What type of fitting do you require? Eye, eye toggle, jaw toggle?


  12. georges BERNARD says:

    i have the same cap tang from BSI . What is the problem with it ?

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Nothing, the BSI version is fine as far as I know. So is the newer version of this Navtec tang. It is this style tang, made by Navtec on older boats that have the problem.

      The through tube was aluminum and therefore corroded to the caps. It was susceptible to failure. Especially if the boat was ever equipped with wire halyards. Think….hack saw.


  13. Vladimir Lyalikov says:

    Hi, C&C 34, 1979. Apparently original rod rigging. The tangs looks exactly like the ones you mentioned in “PS” section at the bottom of the article. All but one tangs do have a ball inside the tangs moving freely, the one for the inner left shroud appears frozen. Did try PB blaster to no help.
    Do you have a cut-through diagram of how this tang is made?
    Any suggestion on how to unfreeze the ball. The mast is currently unstepped laying sideways, could that be affecting the motion of the ball on the top side?
    Why are those tangs unsafe?
    Thank you,

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Vlad,

      Thanks for checking us out. Those tangs are threaded onto a threaded tube. You need to use the shroud itself, uncaptivated by the spreader, in against the mast and into the slot where the stay goes into the tang. Then use the stays as the fulcrum in opposing directions to wrench them off…..HEAT REQUIRED (I recommend a good MAP gas torch). Should be lefty-loosy, righty-tighty. Here is a diagram of the tang.

      This thing might be a bear, but stick with it and get it REAL hot (I mean within reason:-0)). You will likely need to upgrade to the newer version anyways. In-case you have to cut it out!!!

      The problem with the old ones were that the wire halyards would saw through them. Besides that they used aluminum tubes with stainless caps, corrosion nightmare (hence what I said before about cutting them). Here is a likely replacement that will be much better.

      Hope that helps, good luck!


  14. gulabjab says:

    Can the cold pressed heads be safely replaced with swaged heads ?

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Clive, Not sure what you mean by swaged head. Although there have been some vague discussions on using wire swage fittings on rod, I would NOT recommend this… these fitting are designed to be swaged onto wire. Besides that, stick with what works, it’s a ’79 right? So just re-fresh what’s there and it should provide you with years of worry free service, as it has thus far :-0)

      Hope that helps and thanks for the help.


  15. gulabjab says:

    Is there anything in particular to do with the rod on the ’79 Landfall 42 that I should look out for beyond what you’ve said here ?

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hello, Just make sure that the rod has been properly serviced. This means the mast needs to be unstepped, the rod heads re-headed, then re-stepped. Unless this has been done recently. Certain rods and fitting will need replacement just due to the nature of re-heading. Be sure to contact your local rigging shop that can perform rod services for more information.


  16. Mike says:

    How would one pack rod rigging for shipping to you for inspection and repair? Navtec says the minimum diameter for coiling is 200 x rod diameter, which means at least a 75″ x 75″ box for 3/8 and around 68 x 68 for 5/16. (the vessel is a Shannon 39).

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:


      Although I have heard of this guideline, I have yet to actually use it myself, ha. This sounds like a very loose guideline. It also depends on how long the rod is. To be honest we do it by feel. We will usually twist in the first coil and then pull it until it starts feeling tight (but not forced, or too tight). I will then secure the coil with the short end via a twist. I then roll the coil until the twisted end begins to work its way out and then I twist it around the coil again (sometimes two times depending how much is sticking out). After the third twist I will make a bundle of tape at the loose end to secure it to the coil. Then I continue to roll the coil until I have the other end…again with three twists and a bundle of tape I secure it.

      Careful as loaded rod coils can cause injury!!!

      I have a piece of in the shop that is around 3/8″ now and the hoop diameter is approx. 60″. This is actually a bit of a sloppy coil so I think I could make it even tighter as it was done by the customer. It is an upper shroud off of a Sabre 42….just FYI.

      Please use our Online Work Request Form (or something like it in the package) so that we have all of your info. MAke sure you label the stays well and also (if you have not unstepped the mast yet) mark the threads on the turnbuckles where they intersect the threads.

      Regards and we look forward to working with you.

  17. Al MacLachlan says:

    Hi guys, I have one of these tangs on my 1983 CS 33. The boat currently has rod rigging but I am converting over to wire. I don’t race the boat and it is easier to service wire rigging locally. Do you know of a fitting that would replace this tang with one I could use with wire? Any help or thoughts would be appreciated.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      If you have the K150 style tang you should be able to remove the existing tang, make the cutout bigger and replace it with the Navtec K200. Use this in conjunction with wire swage stemball fitting. All parts apropo tangs and upper wire terminals should be listed on this page…..

      Thanks for the comment, hope this helps. Let us know if you need anything else and how things turn out.


      P.S. – NOTE: stay lengths and bearing points will likely be affected!!!

  18. Bill Watts says:

    I have a 1979 C&C 36 with original rigging that needs replacement. I cut off the head of the main shroud fitting near the spreader and it did not slide out of the mast. Do I drill out the center of the aluminum post?

  19. Steve Bielenda says:

    I have a failure of a back stay rod rigging on a 1999 C&C 110 sailboat and what published information you may have on the rod failures

  20. Angus Tungsten says:

    I’m contemplating the purchase of a 1980 C&C Landfall 38 and the current owner has told me that the rod rigging is “original”(!?!) – That would put it in the neighborhood of 35 service years! Is the Landfall one of the C&C models you alluded to above? Does this mean all rod & fittings will need to be replaced first thing? What kind of expense would I be facing to replace all the rod and accompanying fittings? Is there a more economical solution for replacing the rod rigging?
    Thank you for your time and consideration – I love your website!
    ~ Fair Winds!

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Thanks for the kind words Angus. The C&C is a great boat. I have one myself! I am not sure if this model will require the new tangs, but there is a very good chance. It would be best if I could look at it. Is the boat local to us in Annapolis, MD? In terms of how much money this could cost, it could be anywhere from $5k on the low end and $10k on the big end….so let’s call it $7500 for the sake of throwing around loose numbers. I can help create something more accurate by looking at it, or some pictures and measurements from you will suffice as well.
      Just let me know when the time comes.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Thanks for the kind words Angus. The C&C is a great boat. I have one myself! I am not sure if this model will require the new tangs, but there is a very good chance. It would be best if I could look at it. Is the boat local to us in Annapolis, MD? In terms of how much money this could cost, it could be anywhere from $5k on the low end and $10k on the big end….so let’s call it $7500 for the sake of throwing around loose numbers. I can help create something more accurate by looking at it, or some pictures and measurements from you will suffice as well.
      Just let me know when the time comes.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  21. Ray Clark says:

    Rod heads for Nitronic 50 are cold forged at the factory. Can they be heat forged on site? The boat has moved from the coast to a small lake.

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Ray, thanks for asking. I have never heard of heat froging rod heads. You would simply have to remove the rod, package it and ship it to us or any rod service location. We would cold press the new heads and mail the rods back once finished.
      Please feel free to contact us for further information.

  22. doug kovalsky says:

    I have a c&c landfall 35 with rod that I am replacing with 5/16 316 stainless
    The picture on your site the shows the shroud upper tang at the top of mast what tang would you suggest I use for wire

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Hi Doug, thanks for the comment. Navtec makes a direct replacement for this tang, if you were to stay with rod. Ultimately it depends on the size of the hole left behind. BUT if I were going to wire I might try to reshape the existing hole in the emast to accommodate the K200 tang by Navtec…

      Hope that helps, thanks for the read,and let us know if we can help you further.


  23. Hank says:

    I have one of the ‘old style’ navtangs on my ’83 S2 9.1 which I purchased earlier this year. I’d want to inspect the heads, so for starters I loosen the tension on the intermediates, went up the mast, to see if I could separate the heads from the tang. (I used halyards to compensate for the de-tensioned intermediates.) One head was jammed tight in the tang, it’s counterpart on the other side could move around a bit. Either way, I could not remove the rod from the tang nor could I disassemble the tangs from the tie bolt. Could you explain the proper disassembly procedure and the required tools to do it properly? Thanks

    • The Rigging Company, LLP says:

      Thanks for asking!
      These tangs can be very difficult to remove.

      You should know that these tangs are threaded caps which hold the rod and stem ball captive. These caps are then threaded onto threaded tubes.

      First, you’ll need to unstep the mast. Situate the mast in such a fashion that it can sit track up or front side facing up. This way you can access both sides of the tangs. Then take the spreaders off. Next heat the tang with a torch and make sure it is REAL REAL hot. Then fold the rod in alongside the mast in such a fashion so that it is laying in the groove of the tang. Now, using the rod as a fulcrum, with you on one side and another helper on the opposing rod try and break it free so that you can unthread it. This may feel really tough (it may be really easy too). Grab the rod as short as possible when wrenching it. Nitronic 50 rod is a lot less susceptible to bending than you might think. Beyond that….if the tang’s caps don’t want to break free you may need to go ahead and buy the replacements and cut out the old tangs!….

      Once the tang can spin freely, align the rod so that it is perpendicular to the groove, or 90 degrees to tang cap, and continue to unspin the tang all the way off.

      Note: You should have to perform several revolutions before they will unthread completely.

      I know this seems like more than what you may have bargained for, but this is how I’d do it.

      …hope that helps. Let us know how you did.


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