Keeping a close eye on your rigging is an essential part of boat maintenance and good seamanship
Neglect your rigging and you could well lose your mast. It’s one of the most important fittings on your sailing boat and needs regular checks to ensure it’s in good, working order.
It’s essential to give your sailing boat’s rigging a once-over with the naked eye regularly in order to keep on top of any problems that may develop.
If you’re planning long voyages then it’s wise to unstep the mast and do a thorough check before setting sail. For gentler cruising, a full check every two to three years would be more appropriate, with a total overhaul of your rigging every eight to ten years. In between this, there are a number of checks you can do to ensure your rigging is in good condition.
When it comes to standing rigging, start at the swages and look for any broken wires that may be protruding. If you spot one stranded wire then replacing that shroud is something to add to your list of things to do in the very near future. Should you spot more than one stranded wire, replace that shroud, and the same shroud on the other side of the boat as a matter of urgency.
Another area to check is the rigging screws, or bottlescrews. Are there split pins secure, or are the rigging screws slowly unscrewing themselves?
It’s important to cast a keen eye over your rig every time you sail in order to ensure you spot any problems early on. If you see a bolt or split pin on deck, where did it come from? You need to find out. Binoculars help when checking the rigging further up the mast.
Checking the tension is another key part to ongoing maintenance. First, pull on the shrouds, forestay and backstay to ensure they’re not loose. The correct tension will vary between boats so it’s worth asking a rigger how much slack there should be in your rigging wires.
An easy way to check the set up of your rig is to lie down at the bottom of the mast, look up the main track and check it’s straight. If you spot your mast deflecting, then it may be a sign that your rigging needs adjustment.
Be sure to give your sheets and guys a once over when you sail. If you notice any chafing on the cover, you can whip over this to reinforce the rigging.
However, if your core is also damaged, then you’ll need to replace it. If you spot any fraying at the ends, whip or burn them to prevent anymore wear.
We’d also recommend washing your entire running rigging in hot soapy water regularly, before rinsing thoroughly. Another tip is to keep any spare rope below deck, as UV rays can degrade it.
With so much stainless steel rigging holding up an aluminium mast, it’s inevitable that corrosion will crop up in a number of areas over time. If your mast is painted, watch out for any bubbles that appear, as this is a sure sign of corrosion. If you spot bubbling then it will need further investigation by yourself or a professional.
Other places to check include kicker and gooseneck fittings, the blocks at the base of the mast, spreader roots and spinnaker pole ends. Anything that has been riveted to the mast should also be checked. If you spot any corrosion then you’ll need to remove the fitting, clean it and then fix it back to the mast with a barrier between the two, or using monel rivets.
In addition, make sure you check all your winches are working smoothly, if not, take them apart and grease them.
Check your shackles
All the shackles need to be undone and have the pins pulled to allow you to check for wear and tear. Once the pin is started with an adjustable spanner or shackle key, the thread should run reasonably readily. If it doesn’t, the pin may be distorted – double check before throwing anything away.
While you’re there, give your shackles and associated fittings a once over, along with the blocks too. If you spot any problems, get the items replaced.
When it comes to your masthead sheaves, ensure that they are moving freely to start with. Some of your initial checks should include taking a good look at the sheaves, is there uneven wear, or any sign of cracking? If you spot any of these problems then it’s important to get them replaced, as it will avoid having chafed halyards in future.
Check that all your electric cables are sealed at the ends and that there is no damage to the outer cabling. Make sure that none of them is lose inside the mast and check that there are no rough aluminium edges for them to get snagged on.