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2015-09-23

The bitter end

Our main, it has been suggested, has been cut down along the foot from something considerably bigger. Photo (c) Jeff Cooper
There is no picture of the visit yesterday of Ron Fernandes, the owner of Triton Sails, because I was hauling and flaking and going hmmm. Ron came by to measure and to discuss the New World Main (yes that may be a Rush pun), the details of which will be shared in the future. Amidst all my rattling on about chafe patches, triple stitching and the need to widen the mast gate in the slot a touch for the Tides Marine batten slide system I intend to get (the measuring kit arrived very promptly, which is nice), Ron suggested that the angle of the batten pockets and certain other giveaways argued that our main was once the top two thirds of a much larger main, like off a 55 footer or something in that class. The number is suspiciously low.

He's probably right, which is why he is the sailmaker and I am the customer, because this never occurred to me. But in the shot above, you can see what he's getting at. What I am getting at is that this sail, while in remarkably good shape given that it may be original to the boat, i.e. 1988, it's not 27 years old, it's a maximum of 20 years old, as it's been packed away in my garage for seven years. Furthermore, I don't think the previous owners sailed very much, as it shows little of the sort of thread damage or signs of chafe one comes to expect. So the above main is now the "Light Air/Spare Main"; it has three reefs and plenty of life in it yet, but it's somewhat lightly built for the ocean, in the view of myself and the sailmaker, who may be biased.
This is possibly too much roach. Illustration from Wikipedia

Looking more closely, one can see that there is zero roach to this sail, and as we are going to have battens to better control and shape the sail, we might as well get the benefit of some extra sailing area, and therefore, extra drive, out of a new mail. While some disagree that battens are necessary or desirable, not me. I like them and I want them. While the headboard of the current main is properly sized, it's pretty well the long side of the triangle down to the outhaul from there; even a conservatively cut roach will add precious oomph. My thoughts on where the reef points should go, I will save for now.
Yes, you are looking as a miscalculation.
The sharp-eyed will note that there are only two Kyocera solar panels here, and not four. This is because I failed to recall that I had backstays when I had the solar arch fabricated. Needless to say, I feel a right twat, but this can be fixed with a little welding of plate and some repositioning of the mounting fittings. Live and learn...the hard way.

These holes are as small as I could make them and are well off the anchor well decking.

A more successful needful task was to make up a place to attach the anchor rodes to the boat. Such a place is normally called the bitts, and was traditionally two heavy timbers lodged into the frames of the boat or ship. This bitts differ from bollards, which are deck-mounted structures that perform the same function as cleats, but which are generally more heavily built. The term bitter end is the end of the anchor rode, which can be rope, chain or both, which attaches to the vessel. 
Pacific Fasteners, you are so much more reasonably priced than chandleries.

Non-sailors assume that this is where the anchor rode pulls at the boat at the bitts; this is not in fact the case. The anchor rode can be attached to the bow of the boat at the waterline with a snubber, a plain piece of stretchy rope with a chain hook, or via a bridle, two ropes that run up to cleats and bollards. Other pieces of colourfully named equipment, such as a devil's claw or a chain brake, come into play as well.

A fairly typical bridle and hook setup. Some sailors tie the nylon rope directly to the chain. Illustration (c) Bosun's Supplies
The point is that the chain, which in any kind of a sea can experience very impressive shock loads, is not in fact directly attached to the bow roller, the windlass or, indeed, the end of the rode, directly to the boat without some kind of intermediate shock absorber to tame the yanking motion of the boat going up and down in waves. The weight of all-chain rode does dampen this naturally, but the idea is to have stretchy or springy materials absorb and smooth out the sometimes abrupt loads.
Some dielectric paste and Lanacote to mitigate the dissimilar metals.

Now, the gold standard of making this up would be to not use aluminum plate as a load-spreader with a stainless steel U-bolt going through mild steel. I know this. But I also happened to have these pieces of aluminum, which I originally drilled years back as backing plates for deck-mounted cheek blocks on Valiente, handy, and I had Lanacote and dielectric paste, plus butyl and the fact that all surfaces are painted on my side. So I'll test this and see if it is sufficiently galvanically isolated to not corrode overmuch.
I love butyl and I cannot lie.
First off, I put butyl strips on the back of the "outside" plate. The SS threads and nuts were liberally coated with dielectric gel.
The whole forepeak will be emptied this winter, and will get a fresh coat of anti-rust paint, topped with bright white two-part for maximum light down there.
The same process was repeated for the back side of the anchor well, inside the forepeak.
Finger-tightened. No butyl is escaping at this point.
I added washers for very little reason, save that I had them nearby. There's enough leftover threaded U-bolt inside to conceivably make a bracket or a light mount there. Depends on my ambition, really.
Why, yes, I did have an 11/16ths inch deep socket. Doesn't everyone?
Dogging down the bolts consecutively, the butyl started to squeeze out around the edges of the backing plate. I've done this sort of job with butyl and bedding goo so often, I can usually estimate "enough" without needing to trim or to fetch rags.
Done...for now.
Here's the finished job on the outside, although I will trim that slight over-squish next time I'm there.
Strong enough to step on. I know, because I did it.

The two rodes, one a rope and the other a chain attached to a rope attached to the U-bolt, here performing the function of the bitts, are now securing the anchors safely. Whatever else I do, I can't easily let the anchor rode run off the boat now. 
Looks like it's supposed to be there. I can also attach chain hooks to this if I wish.
But what of the bitter end? See that red, white and blue piece of knotted rope? That's a cut from the spare Dyneema cored halyard I bought when I reroved the mast halyards. It's between the U-bolt and the bitter end of the chain rode that terminates at the other end at my Fortress anchor's stock. If the chain ran completely out in benign weather, sans bridle, snubber, chain brake or devil's claw, it's strong enough to take the pull. If, however, we get hit at anchor with such heavy winds that it is impossible to retrieve the anchor without injury or damage, and we have to put to sea...fast...think of that piece of rope as a fuse. It can be cut with a few strokes of a serrated knife, and a small, labelled buoy can be affixed to the bitter end with enough light line (enough to match the depth of the anchorage) to let the buoy float. Heavy weather passes, and you go back and haul in the chain and anchor. It helps to keep a non-rusting, serrated knife nearby, but you should have one in your pocket or on your PFD.

Now I think I'll relax with some bitters in my rum.
Paradoxically, I'm feeling less bitter already.