Gear Check – #71

It’s time, once again to cover some of the gear that I found indispensable on my last cruise. As you likely know, my adventure was decidedly low end and so what I lacked in funds I had to make up for in creativity.

We all need a way to get up the mast and we would like to be able to do it singlehanded. I have recently arrived home from a boatshow where I saw two of the new systems. One was a long length of looped strapping that, once fed into the mainsail mast track, was hoisted to the top. It allows you to climb the mast like a ladder. The other system has you climbing the halyard or any other line using mountain climbing gear. It uses the power of your legs to conquer the mast. My personal rig is not very original but it is low cost. I remove the set of blocks from my boomvang and attach a very long length of line. The blocks allow four to one purchase. With a forty foot mast I need more than a hundred and sixty feet of line. I attach one block to my boson’s chair and hoist the other to the top of the mast. Pulling hand over hand; I go up. To secure it, I pull the line into a cam cleat and for extra safety, tie off the end to the purchase. If I won’t be needing the vang right away I lower the whole rig into a plastic crate, chair and all. From there it pays out easily. A disadvantage is that, even when rigged carefully I cannot stand and view over the top of the mast.

When crossing oceans in the cockpit of a boat we are exposed to the sun. The morning’s routine application of sunblock is important. Just as important is having a comprehensive shade management program. One of the things that I found useful both at sea and on land was a lifeguard hat. For those who haven’t seen one, it is a hat made from straw that starts out on top like a cowboy hat and finishes with a wide brim that curves down slightly to the outside. The brim is big enough so that it covers your neck and some of your shoulders as well as your face. The lifeguard hat comes with a shoelace chin strap and sells for about 10 bucks out West.

Offering up a form of entertainment when invited to a sundowner is almost always appreciated. Some bring in musical instruments, others come equipped with their fire making skills. When I felt the occasion called for it, I would arrive with Bocce. You’ve probably seen the game in some form. It is a little like lawn bowling. Where I’m from, the game is best enjoyed in its free range form, on the open beach. Integrating turf into the challenges of Bocce enhances the game.

It seems like a simple thing but for those of us without mainsails that furl or self stack, your choice of sail ties is important. I’ve tried all different kinds. I prefer the nylon ones with the loop in the end. You can make these yourself. If you have different lengths you can use different colors to remind you where each tie goes. I keep them the same length and color. Before sewing up the loop, be sure to give the end a twist so that the loop tends to stay open. To secure the sail, lob the tie over the main and pull the end through the loop. Don’t go too tight, it’s hard on the sail. Finish with a simple bow knot. When you go to raise the sail, pull the end of the tie to undo the bow and then pull on the loop and the tie comes free.

I made my own lifelines. I used the 316 stainless wire which is not quite as strong but it stays shinier while keeping the rust away longer. I stayed away from the wire that had the plastic cover. I was never comfortable not knowing where I was getting rust or other kinds of deterioration. Stainless needs oxygen (an argument against rigging tape too). I crimped my own ends using one of those kewl (and cheap) bolt operated hand swaging tools, some stainless thimbles and some copper oval sleeves. You get everything lined up and then tighten down the bolts; a perfect crimp every time. I put three crimps in each sleeve just to be sure. Instead of those dumb pelican hooks which can open at any time sending you overboard; I used line and lashed the eyes to the stern pulpit catches. Having a long length of wire onboard with my crimping set up would have enabled me to make a spare shroud or stay at sea if the need arose.

In our haste to depart I ignored all that wiring coming out of the bottom of the mast. Originally, Low Key had in mast wiring for tri-color, anchor, steaming and spreader lights. I left with running lights at deck level. You are allowed to rig an anchor light in the foretriangle so the only time a law was broken was when I would motor at night without a steaming light. Sue me. While holding over for cyclone season in Australia I stripped most of the wires out of the mast, removing much weight aloft. I left the wiring for the steaming light, tag lines for the masthead wiring and added wiring for a spreader high VHF antenna.

Also removed from the mast were the wind instrument wires. I was never a big fan of gauges. Do I really need to have a gauge to tell me that it’s windy? I did however, need to know the apparent wind angle to make the most of my sail trim. For this I set up one of those cheerfully simple and infallible wind indicators atop the mast. Look up and see which way the wind is blowing. At night, a quick flick of a weak flashlight would light up the reflectors on the high flying arrow. The wind indicator’s only lethal enemy was a very heavy footed bird. In my trip around I was spared a fatal blow.

Most boats have them. The flexible plastic, almost rubber, winch handle holder. I had one in the cockpit and one on the mast. These useful pockets also just happen to be the perfect size to hold a coldy. And while we are on subject of drink holders I would like to mention my own product, wrought from years of demanding research and development, the Winch Wench. It is simply, a beverage/small gear holder that fits into the winch handle recess that you’ll find at the top of most every winch. You can get them at our Ship’s Store. Order yours today so that I can get back to sea already!!

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