Friday, February 29, 2008

Partner Box Installed

Installed the partner box in the deck today. All went very well and I'm excited to see how it works this summer.

The box was made of G10, which is a building material made of epoxy and cloth laminate. It's quite a bit stronger than regular fiberglass, although that property is a bit of overkill in this application. Took a couple hours to design and make the box, which was then assembled using west system epoxy and 404 adhesive filler.

To install we first located the proper location for the partners. Our old oval partner hole was 3/8" offset to port, which would translate to several inches at the mast tip. It was also longer than the class allowed opening. The new partner box is centered, and at the class legal fore/aft location. Not wanting to screw this up I had my dad to help as a second pair of eyes, and we checked everything 4 or 5 times. Centerline was established using the forestay fitting, and arcs from it were made at the gunwale, which were then used to establish a series of centerline marks along the deck. Once these all agreed, a chalk line was made down the center of the foredeck. The box had it's own centerline, which let us lay it out on center. While measuring, we found that the gunwale to center measurment was off by as much as 1/16" of an inch, in the area of the chainplates. This was probably due to lateral compression of the deck caused by the shroud loads. Our centerline seemed to be the more reliable measurement, and when installed the box measured as center to within 1/32" of the gunwale.

I cut the deck using one of my favorite tools, a Bosch jigsaw. I've used a couple other brands, and nothing comes close in terms of power or control when cutting. This is a newer model and the blade change mechanism is great, to eject blades you pull a lever and the blade pops out on spring action. This way you can launch hot blades at people that come to BS while you're trying to work. Very handy.

Cutting the deck was a bit nervewracking, but the box fit just fine and matched all the marks we made.

To install the box, I first sanded and cleaned all the surfaces, and then wet out all the bonded surfaces with neat epoxy. Laid on quite a bit of epoxy thickened with 404 adhesive filler, thinking it was better to scrape off excess than to have any voids. I set the box in place, and cleaned up the epoxy that squeezed out the sides. I used one of the west system mixing sticks, as they have a rounded end that lets you make great corner fillets, and the square end makes it easy to clean up leftover epoxy on finished surfaces. This mix is hard to sand, so the better you get the surface before it cures, the easier your finish prep is! I did the same on the underside, where the partner box extends below the deck for about a 1/4". I left the overlap here so I could make a nice clean fillet joint on the bottom. If the top fillet isn't good enough, I'll use 407 fairing filler to make a better one before painting.
Under deck view of partner box, fillet around edge

The yard is pretty damn cold, so I made a small heat tent using the boats 6mil plastic cover, a space heater and a 700w work light. The temps under the deck were in the 70's around the box, and above deck the temp was 65 on the surface. I kept this up for about 4 hrs to cure, in which time the epoxy was tack free. I'll return tomorrow and heat it up again to post cure it make sure, by keeping the temp as high as possible for the entire time I'm there.

Setup And Install Partner Box 5hrs (+2hrs cure time)

While sitting around watching epoxy cure, I decided to make and fit the mounting plate for 88's spin sheet ratchet blocks. Most of the time when racing the shields, you keep the spin sheets on the winch, but rarely use the handles. In order to make a faster trimming sheet-as well as to take some weight off the boat-I removed the spin sheet winches and made plans to install Harken 57mm Carbo Ratchet blocks. I kept the winch mounting pad, as I liked the angle it made to the cockpit, but needed a way to seal off the hole for the winch spindle, as well as a way to get the block up a bit higher in order to have a fair lead over the coaming. I used 1/4" HDPE (Starboard). I cut a half circle that matched the old winch base, and then cut the inside edge of the mounting plate on an angle to match the coaming. This makes the blocks high enough, means the sheet will clear the coaming, and seals off the old winch mounting holes. They fit well, but I'm going to put a nice routed edge on them before installing, which we'll do after painting. The blocks are positioned so that the spinnaker sheet can be cleanly led forward to the jib winch if we ever need winch power for heavy air trimming of the guy. We'll see how well this works out. I'm a pretty average sized guy, and the only time (as a spin trimmer) I ever needed the winch was in 20+kts.

Spin Sheet Ratchet Block Dry Fitted

Fabricate and Fit Ratchet Block Plates 2Hrs

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Partner Box Install Prep

Only had time for a quick boat visit today, but it was time well spent. My dad came by to check on progress, and I used the extra set of skilled eyes to lay out a couple items of deck gear. Most important was the location of the partner box.

Surprisingly, the old partner box was pretty sloppily located, being 3/8" off center to port, and pretty far forward relative to the classs mandated location. We triple checked to make sure that we were right and CC wrong, but there it is. I also used the grinder to remove the damaged port edge of the current partner hole. I don't know what caused it, but the port middle side of the oval hole is crushed and pushed up. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that while unstepping the mast, it twisted and one of the below deck exit boxes caught and ripped the deck. Careful!

The new one is being installed at the class legal spot, and also on centerline. I layed out the markings, and will cut and install tomorrow. Very exciting, as I've been trying to find a good solution for the partner box issue on Shields. So far this seems leike a good one!

Kristian 1 hr
Victor 1hr

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deck Prep

Spent part of Friday and Saturday prepping the deck for paint. For this special occasion Niki came out to help sand!

Between the two of us and two days, we've got the stbd side nonskid sanded off. I ground and filled holes in the deck, everything aft of the winches.

Kristian 8hrs
Niki 4hrs

What the heck are these??? Find out later this week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shields Partner Box

Keel stepped masts, like the one on the Shields, have to pass through the deck. The structure that the mast goes through is called the partners.

Most Shields I've seen have pretty bad partner box systems. Originally the partners were just an oval hole in the deck, sometimes with glass protecting the core, and sometimes not. The mast is stepped, and then various wedges and shims are used to hold it in place. Over time, the shimming and wedging makes the hole irregular, larger, and broken. I recall (fondly) sailing on #90, which had the most comically oversized partner hole ever. We would jam wood shims, doorstops and god knows what else in there to get the mast stabilzied, and then wrap the whole mess in duct tape. It was ugly, but that boat went pretty quick!

On 88, it's not that bad, but the partners need repair, as the port side has curiously lifted up from the deck, and then been repaired with an unknown putty. Rather than mess around with fixing the oval partner, I'm going to replace with a raised rectangular box style of partners. 150 had this and it works great. You make up HDPE shims that fit the box and the mast, and get 0 movement when installed. To make this out of glass and fair it into the deck takes a lot of time, and if you want it done right, vacuum bagging skills. Instead, I've come up with a simpler bolt on (well, glue on) solution by making a flanged box out of G10 material (epoxy glass), which can be installed into a rectangular cutout in the deck.

I've got our box more or less finished (as well as one for 126), and am going to try installing it next week.
Make Partner Box 4hrs

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Weighting Game/Why I don't Sail With Coatracks

Yesterdays halyard weights got me into weight-crazy mode, so I decided to check in and see how our hardware was doing on the weight front. This was pretty easy, since all the old hardware is in one box, and all the new gear is in another. These boxes contain things like blocks, cleats, padeyes, brackets, mounting gear, etc. The fasteners are in another box (5 lbs).

The old gear wasn't all that bad, but came in at 32lbs. The new stuff, all Harken except for a few spinlock parts, came in at 18. Nice!

In doing this, I was once again stunned by the amount of bizarre crap that I see on boats. When I'm out working on other peoples boats, I always notice how much useless/extra gear they have on. I know how it happens, the "stuff accumulation cycle" but it's still shocking.

88 was kept pretty lean, but there is still quite a bit of waste. When I say waste, I'm referring to: a)extra weight, b)gear that interferes with the function of the boat instead of helping.

Here is a photo with just a few of the many things that struck me as odd/hilarious.

Top: Coat Racks. These odd items were throughbolted (and glued with 5200, you bastard) to the forward bulkhead. While they appear to be coatracks, they're actually for hanging sheets and other lines when not in use. Now, I know I can be picky about this stuff, but this is a failure on many levels. A) they're massively overbuilt. It's like 1 1/2" teak, glued on and throughbolted, with 1/4" stainless backing plates. B) They're in the worst possible location for... anything. They're one the back of the forward bulkhead. For those not familiar with the Shields that means that someone wanting to hang up a wet jib sheet to dry would have to get down on all fours, and crawl over/around crew gear, spinnakers, the mast, the anchor well just to reach these stupid little pegs. They weren't easy to remove (Damn you 3M 5200) but I'm glad they're gone. If we had sailed the boat, I know I'd be thinking about these heavy useless parasites. (ok, so I'm a weight nut)

Middle Left: Flagpole sockets. Ok, it's nice to fly the ensign. But why in the name of God, were there TWO of these on the boat? There is only one good place for the ensign (on the aft deck) but this boat had one mounted above deck, and one underneath that _TAPED TO THE OTHER ONE_. Huh? It wasn't mounted, it was just a pole socket taped to another pole socket, under the deck, where it couldn't possibly do any good. Did a previous owner assume these things get lonely or what? Baffled. Completely baffled I am.

Middle Middle: This was in the toolbox. It's a bilge drain plug. I like keeping spares on the boat. Spares of things I might need during a race. I know for a damn fact, that no one, not anywhere, has EVER needed a bilge plug drain fitting while sailing a Shields. Why am I so sure about this? Because in order to install it, you need to have the boat out of the water so you can drill a hole in the bottom of the hull for this thing. Also confusing.

Middle Right: I don't recall why this ended up in the photo. It's a crappy old slow heavy schaefer cheek block. I suppose it's here because I just plain don't like bad blocks.

Middle Bottom Left: Most people won't know this one, I do because I'm a rigger. It's a tool for pushing a splicing fid through rope. It lived in our bilge. There were no fids or other rope working tools on the boat. Can you picture a situation where you're heading out to the race course and get a burning desire to splice some rope. You've got (in your pocket I presume) a fid, a knife (you should actually), some twine, a needle and tape. But damn your lazy soul, you forgot a fid pusher! Oh wait, there's one in the bilge. Thank our lucky stars. GONE.

Bottom: I have no idea what this is for. I kind thought rum holder, but it was mounted (again with a bigass stainless backing plate) in the rear air tank. I though maybe it was a holder for the non-working flugelhorn thing we found (actually a noisemaking device which is a required bit of racing gear) but it doesnt fit. I tried a number of things in this holder. The best fitting object was a beercan in a foam coozie. Why it's in the aft tank I don't know. The only scenario that comes to mind would be: you're fixing a broken backstay pennant (this happens a lot on Shields), its hot, and you've stuffed your sweating body into the tiny cramped aft air tank. You're going to spend, minimum, an hour fussing with a nicopress tool to get the whole backstay pennant put back together. Why wouldn't you want a cold beer located at your feet! Actually, that sounds pretty good. I would really think about keeping this device for holding my aft-air-tank-work-beverage, if not for a)the heavy backing plate b)I've set our new backstay system up so that it's less likely to break pennants, and easily removable to replace it with a new all-swaged pennant.

While having fun with old crap, I also got a lot of work done. All of 88's flat (meaning not non skid) deck is scraped, and I've drilled out all the old holes for refilling. Next is to sand off the old non skid, and smooth sand the flat deck. It's really great to see big change on the boat. 4 hrs.

Just today, I've had two different conversations in which I was told that theres a surprising amount of people reading this blog, including someone who used to sail on this boat! If you're reading, please make a comment or two, just so I can know you're out there. I'm really curious to see who reads this stuff!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


As a rigger, I find myself espousing the value of line and hardware that's smaller and lighter almost daily. Today I had the chance to put my money where my mouth is, when it came to Shields 88's halyards.

88 was a perfect candidate for going lightweight, as the halyards were pretty much the same technical vintage as the boat itself. The spinnaker halyard was a gigantic 1/2" poly halyard, which has the virtues of being stretchy, heavy and slow over sheaves. The main and jib were wire-rope halyards, which always makes me cringe when I see them on a racing boat. Now, wire-rope really has it's uses, cruising rigging (where the wire wears better for extreme long term use) and boats with halyard locks being a few examples. But. 88 is not cruising around the world, and it doesn't have a halyard lock (dammit). In addition, the wire portion of the halyard was really short; on both halyards the wire only went half the length of the mast. Why, I dont know, but this setup combined the worst of both wire and rope. It was heavy, hard on sheaves/mast/gear, and stretchy. The only thing I can possibly say that was good about 88's old rigging was that it lasted, and the shackles weren't too gigantically oversized.

just what you want on a boat, heavy, stretchy, sharp.

What I wanted for 88's new lines, was to be as light and efficient as possible while still being easy to handle, and with a reasonable lifespan. Since rigging is my business, I figured I could go all out and make the perfect halyards, even if they ended up being a bit of overkill.

The main and jib are New England V100 (vectran core), which has been stripped to save weight (and windage on the jib) I wanted to stay light with the shackles, and used Tylaska's P4 polycarbonate spool shackles. To keep the halyards around for a while, I added back cover to the last 5' or so, so that the halyards wouldn't chafe at sheaves and exits, and also so they could be skyed to protect the uncovered portion completely from UV. The spin halyard is New England Endura Braid, stripped and recovered the same way as the other two. It has a stopper ball (the shields has a really odd halyard spectacle that can get jammed with a shackle) and a standard snap shackle with swivel. The topper is Endurabraid as well, 1/4" in size. All the halyards are 5/16". They are extremely low stretch, the small diameter runs very quickly over sheaves and they're quite light.

Lighter, stronger, and dare I say it prettier.

While I had everything out of the mast, I wanted to weigh both sets of halyards, just to see what kind of real world difference I could expect. I expected a couple pounds difference, but was surprised to see that the new gear weighed just more than half! The old halyards weighed 13.5lbs, and the new lines came in at a svelte 7.5. While I'm happy to save 7.5 lbs anywhere, taking that much weight out of the rig is huge. I realized only after uploading the photo that 88's topping lift and downhaul were included in the 7.5 figure, so we probably saved a bit more.

I'm not going to make any performance predictions on this change (ha) but the formula thats generally bandied about is that taking 1lb out of the rig is equivalent to adding 7lbs to keel, in terms of righting moment. Should we ever win a race by 15' or so, I will credit the halyards.

Pull halyards out of mast, run messenger line. 1hr

While there, I took care of a couple more odds and ends. Fitted the underdeck control boxes. They're going to work quite well, once I make a few small mods to get them a) at the right height b)angled up to where the trimmer sits on the windward rail. Also started drilling and routing the holes in the deck, so as soon as it gets a bit warmer I can fill them with epoxy and fair.

Fit Control Boxes/Drill out holes&remove core 2hrs

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Deck Paint Prep/Boom/Control Lines

Missed a couple of updates since the camera charger went AWOL. Have a new one now so I can get back to photo-heavy articles about sanding.

Deck Paint Prep:

The last paintjob on the deck was bad, really bad. I initially want to leave it crappy white and fix it next year, but a couple things intervened. 1) I had the toerails off, along with a lot of other deck gear 2) The bow had to be fixed, 3) The previous paint job was peeling off. So, on we go to another project!

I started sanding off the old paint, which is a pretty slow process. Our local glass/paint expert Mick (from Lakeshore Marine) happened by, and before I knew it he had scraped off a 1x1' area of deck using only a dull razor blade. He knows from experience that the upside of an old crappy paint job is that it comes off fairly easily! So I decided to scrape the old paint, then sand the gelcoat underneath.

About halfway done I'd say, as I've scraped up to the front of the cockpit. A good carbide scraper means this goes faster than sanding. It's still going to need some time with the DA sander, but only what's required to prep for primer (and take out a few scrapes). The photo below shows progress, the white on the deck is interlux brightsides, the tan is the original gelcoat.

In the meantime, I've started working on the holes in the deck. Some of these are from old hardware and will be filled/painted over, and some are going to be reused, but with a disc of thickened epoxy inside the deck surrounding the hole, to keep water from getting into the deck core. For both the process is similar, overdrill the top of the hole, scrape out the core around the hole, fill with epoxy and sand flush. For the ones I'll be reusing I'll redrill a new hole through the center of the epoxy disc.

Scrape Deck Paint: 8hrs (partial)


Our old boom was pretty lousy. It had poor control lines, heavy hardware and was generally ugly. I scrounged up an old Shields boom section (thanks Skip!) that was in better condition than ours, and added new and old hardware to it.

I originally planned to do away with the heavy end casting on the aft end of the boom. New shields booms have an exit block in the top, and the back edge is bias cut to match the angle of the deck. It looks cool, allows access to the outhaul internals, and if you drop the boom on the deck it _may_ do less damage.

Unfortunately our boom (and all old booms) was too short for that. If we put an exit block in, even at the very back edge of the boom, we wouldn't be able to pull the sail all the way aft. This made the use of the end casting neccesary, but aw well. Maybe next year I get a new boom section and get it right.

The old boom had a very outdated outhaul setup. It was totally external, and had a wire pennant leading to a harken 5:1 magic box for purchase. I decided to go with an all internal purchase and increase it to 8:1. At the same time I improved the outhaul cleating setup. This boom (and most) has a horn cleat, which is difficult to adjust and means you have to really lean in/get into the boat to do it. On all the boats I've sailed on, this means the outhaul tends to get adjusted exactly once per leg of the race course.

The other problem with the boom was that it was just barely long enough to fit the sail (when pulled to max tight), and the shackle on the outhaul pennant was pretty long. I went with the shortest profile shackle I could find, which turned out to be a Tylaska S5 spool shackle on a 4mm SK75 pennant. This will let us pull the sail all the way to the class legal limit. At the same time I filed out the inside of the end casting in order to install a Harken ball bearing sheave, which replaced a really nasty old fiberglass one which was starting to fracture.

Outhaul shackle, hooked to mainsheet block to keep it out of the way
wow look at that weight savings... worth at least 6 knots

The internal purchase is all dyneema and harken carbo blocks, cascaded to 8:1. The cleat is a pivoting exit block, which means that the added purchase can be easily controlled from the rail.
beats the heck out of a horn cleat

The stainless bail on the boom for attaching the vang was in bad condition, so I decided to replace it with a dyneema strop attached to the mainsheet bail throughbolt. Since I was upgrading the purchase to 8:1 anyway, I incorporated the bail right into the cascade block, using a Harken 57mm Ti-Lite. I love these blocks, they're light, strong and the soft attachment means you have lots of ways to secure them.

All the hardware was removed from the boom and reattached. A shocking amount of it was either the wrong fastener (head wrong, wrong size!, not actually threaded to anything) so I ended up drilling out and retapping most of the holes. Everything was put back in with blue loctite and/or lanocote unde the heads.

It's great to have a project done with and put away.

Rerig Boom: 8 hrs

Although this was pretty straightforward, the extremely cold temperature in the yard made this difficult. Although it was up to 28 outside, it was a chilly 12 degrees in the storage building 88's living in. Touching a an aluminum boom at this temp is actually quite painful, not to mention the cold really slows down your reflexes. I had to run the purchases a couple times when my clumsy hands kept messing things up. Wish I could do this in summer but thats when I make my money!


Jib Halyard Control

One of the most important controls on the Shields is also one of the hardest to adjust. Class rules say the only legal method of changing jib halyard tension is the winch, which must be located belowdeck on the wooden kingpost. On every Shields I've been on, this means that the jib halyard is on the port side of the kingpost, down low by the floorboards. It's usually locked off using a cam or horn cleat.

This arrangement really sucks for racing. Anytime you want to change the jib depth, someone has to go below and crank it up. In a perfect world I'd put a deflection style adjuster with 6:1 purchase on there, but class rules say not. Next best thing to me was relocating the jib halyard, and giving it a cleat and line location that could be controlled while sitting on the highside.

The halyards in the mast will be switched so that the jib exits on the stbd side and goes to a winch which is higher up on the king post. This means that the winch can be controlled by leaning in from the stbd rail.

On Shields 90, we had a spinlock clutch mounted after the winch for locking the jib, which I found to be a lot better than the cam cleat on 150. The cam cleats can be knocked loose too easily, and sometimes it's tough to tail the halyard into the cleat.

Mounting the clutch this way is bizarre, as usually clutches are mounted between the winch and the mast, but for on 90 it worked pretty well having the clutch on the king post. You could tail the halyard better, and ease it with tension on the tail.

For 88 I decided to try and improve on that, and made an aluminum bracket to mount the clutch in a way that kept the halyard accessible. In this mounting the halyard exits at deck level, pointing up. The clutch is accessible from both rails for easing, and on stbd tack you can use the winch handle from above deck.

Jib Halyard Clutch and Mount: 6 hrs (had to make this twice as I messed up the lead from the winch on the first try)

Control Boxes

The current best way to rig the Shields backstay and traveler controls is to mount them remotely under the side decks. Then you can control and cleat then from the opposite windward rail.

I really agonized over how to do this, and wanted to make up a large custom control tray out of carbon fiber. This would be quite cool, and make for a better cleating location. However, that would take a whole lot of time, and I already had the standard pieces from Cape Cod. They're aluminum, but not terribly heavy.

I'm going to have all the traveler purchase below deck, with Endura 12 pennants running above deck. Both traveler and backstay will have ratchet blocks to make trimming easier, and I'm considering mounting the twing cleats on the side of the control boxes. This is what they look like now. The two carbos in the middle are ratchets, the double block is actually from our old traveller car. The cleats have the extreme angle fairlead so the lines can be controlled from the front or back of the boat. One the forward side of the control box I'm mounting Harken Micro Carbo Cams in Extreme Angle Fairleads, and 29mm Ti Lite Carbo Blocks. This is for controlling the twing lines, which are going to be led below deck. Most boats either have the twings above deck (which means big nasty wood blocks to sit on) or routed below deck (to cleats awkwardly located underneath, up by the shrouds). Having trimmed spin and driven lots of Shields, I know this doesn't work all that well, as its too crowded and theres too much going on for people to be messing with these. I'm leading it aft so that either the driver, the trimmer or the 3rd crew can work the twings. This seems smart to me now, but we'll have to see how it goes on the water!

Load Control Boxes: 4hrs

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Deck Hardware

Over last two weeks removed all the deck hardware. Not the easiest job when you're by yourself, but a vice grip (or 6) sure helps!

Taking care of odds and ends to get ready for the season, mooring bridle, partner box, control line shelves. Pics to come.

Remove deck hardware: 12hrs