Posted by: wrmcnutt | December 15, 2009

September Blue – Trouble In Paradise

If you’ve ever had a serious romantic relationship with the opposite sex (or with the same sex; I don’t judge), you know that there’s a moment when the “new” is over.  It may be the first time you realize that she squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube.  Or that he’s capable of stepping over a pile of socks the size of the Matterhorn rather than pick them up, or it may just be when you realize that his eyes, however limpid blue they may be, don’t point in the same direction.  Regardless of when it happens or what the flaw:  you realize that your new love is not perfect. I’m not talking about that “oh, he insists on putting his car keys on the first hook” thing.  That’s fairly petty.  I’m talking about the realization that your new love has a flaw that is going to bug you until it’s corrected.

I had that moment with regard to September Blue last night.  There had been a couple of things leading up to it.

I’ve been doing a little work on my dagger board rig.  More on that later, because it’s relevant, but the first “moment of imperfection” came when I went below and sat down to work on the daggerboard tackle. It’s a bit chilly up here in East Tennessee, and the rain has been more than a little frequent.  I headed down the gangway (a pretentious name for a three-step ladder) and sat down on the starboard quarter-berth to work.  After about thirty seconds, I leapt up.  My buttocks were cold. And, after a quick inventory, damp.  What th’ ?  The quarter-berth cushion is wet! Maybe it’s condensation?  No way.  Too much damp on my butt.  So I started hunting.  There were little drops hanging from the bottom of the hull liner under the aft portlights.  Those are the ones that open.  To all appearances they were securely dogged down, so alas, it wasn’t going to be as simple as having left a window open.  I still haven’t isolated exactly where the water is coming in, but I’m almost certain to have to remove and re-bed at least one of the portlights in marine adhesive to stop the leak.  I didn’t blame the previous owners, though.  D and De had always kept the boat cover on, so as far as I know, September Blue had not been rained on until I brought her home.  I don’t currently use the boat cover because it’s designed to be used with the mast up.  Since I have yet to park her at the marina where I can leave the mast up, I can’t use the boat cover.  So the PO’s (previous owners) had no way of knowing that there was a leak.

The next thing I noticed is that my sliding hatch cover is too stiff.  It’s hard to open and close.  It seems almost like the tracks are bent.  You have to be really careful to only push or pull from the center, and keep it very, very straight.

[iframe width=”1″ height=”1″ src=”″%5DThen something else has happened.  As I may have mentioned in a previous log entry, my last voyage ended on a low note, when the cable jumped off of the component block wheel on the dagger-board and was cutting it’s way through the component block housing.  Even quick action on my part was unable to prevent severe damage to the housing or to the cable.  I spent the better part of two hours getting the dagger-board all the way up so that I could get her back on the trailer.  This is apparently a fairly common problem with the West Wight Potter dagger-board tackle, as you can find any number of references to it online.  Unfortunately, once I got everything sorted, the wheel in the component block was damaged, the cable had sawed half-way through the housing, and the cable was frayed and had any number of very nasty “meathooks” standing off of it.  I was going to have to replace the cable and component block.  There’s a homebrew upgrade that a few West Wight Potter owners have applied to resolve this issue and a couple of others: replace the component block with a double block and shackle, and replace the cable with high-tech woven rope.

Mark Larsen, the skipper of the Harried Potter has got a great step-through on his web site, and had actually not only done all of the math, but has also posted a link-through to all of the parts necessary.  You might want to take a quick peek at the site.  My situation was almost identical to Mark’s, except that I had done even more damage to my component block.  I’d been meaning to rig the dagger-board cable to make it removable anyway, so  I decided to follow Mark’s example. Once the parts were delivered, I spent last Sunday installing his upgrade.  Everything went very smoothly until the very end.  We started taking the slack out of the new dagger-board line, and the block started to rise up . . .  up . . . up . . .  *tink*.

Tink?  Yes, the double block had made contact with the blocks on the cabin roof.  Without lifting the dagger-board.  Now, this is a problem.  I need to be able to raise the dagger-board at least a half-inch to take the weight off of the pins so that I can remove them and lower the dagger-board.  We stared and we pondered.  We scratched our heads and went “hmmm.”  But there was no way around it.  His third photograph, titled, “The new high-strength line,” clearly shows three to four inches of clearance between the top of the dagger-board and the bottom of the cabin roof that is just not there aboard September Blue. I didn’t see the larger, more serious problem because of the short term issue.  If I can’t lift the dagger-board, I can’t go sailing. We resolved the problem by removing the convenient shackle and replacing the through bolt with any eye-bolt.  This allowed us to attach the block directly to the bolt, lowering the tackle the height of the shackle. I can now raise the dagger-board off of the retaining pins, remove them, lower the dagger-board, and go sailing.  But what about the serious problem?  The flaw in September Blue? What is the spinach between her teeth that is putting me off now that it is too late to step back?

Her cabin roof is squashed.  At some point in her history, somebody left the dagger-board hanging from the tackle instead of resting it on the retaining pins.  The weight of the three hundred pound dagger-board has pulled down the roof of September Blue’s cabin.  My sliding hatch cover his stuff because the tracks are bent with the cabin top.  The portlights leak because the cabin walls have bulged a little bit where the weight has pulled the cabin roof down.  And the dagger-board replacement tackle didn’t fit right because the cabin roof is two to three inches lower than a standard West Wight Potter – 19 due to the cabin squash.

I’m wondering if I can fix this.  The cabin roof has, of course, taken a “set,” but it would be fairly easy for me to take a two-by-four and cut it to the correct profile for the cabin roof and then jack it up to the correct height, taking the droop out.  What I don’t know is if it will return to the correct set, or will immediately flex back down to the squashed position.  I’d probably also have to carry a compression post around for raising and lowering the dagger-board to prevent the squashed set from coming back every time I raised the dagger-board.  I could also make some pretty mahogany rafters that would help the coachroof retain it’s shape.  I can’t find much in the way of documentation of this problem online, though. I’m probably using the wrong jargon. Does anyone have any ideas on how to correct this?



  1. Below is a link to a site with a lot of great Potter info, including a little info on your particular problem. Maybe she can put you in touch with the guy whose boat is shown with a “squashed” roof. Best of luck – Jay

    • Thanks, Jay. I knew I’d seen that somewhere. I’ve sent Judy a message and asked her if she knows any more about the story.

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