Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 30, 2009

Ship’s Log: September Blue – The Miracle of the Turnbuckle Pin

It’s not often I see a miracle in my day to day life, but I did today.  It saved my voyage.

I was single handing today.  No crewman.  This was the first time that was going to be single handing under sail.  My earlier night motoring was single handed, but there was no wind of which to speak.  (I first wrote “to speak of,” but that ends a sentence with a preposition.  I don’t care if the new school, namby pampy feel-good school says that’s okay.  It ain’t.  I do not end sentences with prepositions.)  To continue . . .

The sky was clear sapphire blue.  Not a could to be seen, and the wind was from the northwest at 10 – 12 miles an hour, steady.  Not gentle puffs or zephyrs.  The lake did not look like glass.  In fact, there were tiny, isolate whitecaps here and there.

Which brings me to the standing rigging.  For those of you who have never trailered a 19-foot boat, one of the important steps you have to take before you can sail to raise the mast.  Before you can raise the mast, you have to connect the stays and shrouds.  (Guy wires.)  (For the interested, stays are fore and aft.  Shrouds are port and starboard.  On the West Wight Potter – 19, there are:  one fore stay, one aft stay, two upper shrouds (one for each side) and two lower shrouds (also one for each side). There’s a turnbuckle at the end of each shroud that connects the stay or shroud to the deck.  They’re about eight to ten inches long, and very heavy duty.  All of them are important, but there’s only one aft stay.  You can’t raise the mast without it.

So you can imagine my utter horror and disappointment when I reached my aft stay and discovered that there was no turnbuckle attached to it.  The spring clip must have worked it’s way out on the highway while September Blue was under tow.  It’s a long tow from my buddy F’s place is a fourty minute tow over Union county roads and then sixty mile an hour tows over I-40.  All those bumpy roads and then the vibration of the highway.  That turnbuckle could be anywhere, and the boat was half rigged.  I couldn’t go hunt for it, and finding it would take all day.  I have no spare turnbuckle.  That’s going to change, but for this weekend, there’s no spare in my kit and no turnbuckle on my aft stay.  The part was critical, and while I could jury-rig a turnbuckle out of 1/8-inch nylon rope, the consequences of it breaking could be disasterous.  The mast coming down would damage the roof of the cabin, damage the mast, and severely injure me.  The cost could run into the thousands if the jury-rig failed, not to mention time lost at work and to my other projects and obligations.

On the other hand, the wind was freaking blowing!!! How often does that happen in East Tennessee?  Of course I’m going to risk the jury rig.  But first, I decided to get all the other standing rigging assembled.  So, one, by one,  I connected the other shrouds.  Starboard, then port.  When I got to the port side shrouds, I found, dangling by the spring pin from a worn out piece of tape, my missing turnbuckle! Whoo-hoo!  Now all I need is a pin and a spring clip.  Better news:  I have a spare block (pulley) which has a pin and spring clip.  Of course, the pin is very small.  It may not hold up under the stress of sailing.  And the head of the pin is just about small enough to fall through the fitting.  I could still lose the mast.  It’s less likely now, but still.

I’ll looked out toward the lake.  Occasional whitecaps.  It’s perfect sailing weather. Of course I’m going to sail with an undersized pin.  Perfect sailing weather.  So I continued with the rigging.  Time to rig the baby-stays.  These are the very short shrouds whose sole job is to keep the mast stable while it’s being raised and lowered.  There, on top of the cabin, just sitting there, was the missing pin for the aft shroud.

Now all that was missing now is the pin and spring clip.  And I have got a box of those.

So no jury-rigging necessary, the Saturday voyage was back on.

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  1. Last time I was on the Hobie 14T, I looked to the leeward side to see why my hiking line was banging.
    It was THE SHROUD! Luckily the forestay and port shroud were taking the load as I was on port Reach. I left the traveler fully extended and headed for the beach. I had a piece of cord rated at over 2200lbs it’s used for the flying camera rig @ football games. While steering with left hand I was able to resecure the shroud to the chainplate with a couple of overhand Knots. As we landed on the beach there was another Hobie prepping to go out. Luckily, he had a spare pin; its still on my boat now. I also will be assembling another spares kit.

  2. Hi Newbie, Next time you trailer, gather all stay and shroud ends, be sure that all the pieces are present, pull a sturdy pastic or cloth bag over the ends and tape the whole thing shut. Do not forget to keep duct tape handy for the return journey and a million more on board uses. Glad you are enjoying the sport .It sounds like you are hooked. At age 79 I find that it is a great pastime,only of course after the ski season . Cheers, RTH.

    • A good idea, I’m sure. I think, though, that rather than duct tape, I’ll try a drawstring bag.

  3. And Duct tape – he has. Trust me it is a staple supply of the medieval re-enactment group. You generally can’t go on the field without *something* sproinging on your armor and having to tape it together.

    Also – he has used duct tape to repair the Snark – is that on your blog yet Will?

    • Oh, I have, indeed. You can see The Rise of Duct Tape in sailing here.

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