Upgrading Sails and Rigging | Cruising World

Upgrading Sails and Rigging

In a new installment in a series on refitting a classic-plastic Pearson 36, the focus shifts to the sails and rigging.

Hard on the breeze, Snoek charges to weather on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.

Between fall 2015 and summer 2016, I conducted a major refit of a Pearson 36 named Snoek after a fish I used to catch while growing up in South Africa. My first article was an overview of the project; the second focused on plumbing; the third on deck layouts. Going forward, I’ll delve into other parts of the boat to present a detailed record of the work involved. This month, we’ll take a better look at the sails and rigging.

Here is what the mast looked like when I pulled it out of the boat (top left). You can see the horrendous corrosion going on. I decided to cut 3 or 4 inches off the bottom — it looked like the dog had been eating it. Then I had the problem of how to fix it. I solved the problem with a couple of pieces of a material called G10, a bulletproof fiberglass-and-epoxy laminate that I had professionally cut on a laser cutter. I gave the guys a portion of the extrusion that I cut off the mast to use as a template. The idea was to have one section that would fit inside the mast and another on which the mast would sit. I epoxied the two pieces together, then drilled and tapped them to make a single platform (right). Once the mast was re-stepped, you could see how much I’d shortened it. I also ended up drilling some holes in the fiberglass insert so it could drain any water that got down there (above left). Now we’ll never have those corrosion problems again.

For the mainsail track, I decided to go with a new system from Tides Marine called SailTrack. First, the company sent me a specialized tool to measure the existing track so they could machine the SailTrack insert. The insert then fit right into that existing track. Tides Marine provided all the little sliders and miscellaneous pieces — it’s a bloody great system. I had to modify the slot a little bit to get it going, but once it was in you could release the halyard and the mainsail dropped right onto the deck.

The wooden collar where the mast comes through the deck looked rotten and scary but wasn’t in such bad shape (bottom right). Still, it needed to be addressed. Once the mast was out, I got to work. I took a big circular sander to the entire area and then took about an eighth of an inch off that collar, which revealed nice, clean wood that I was able to epoxy and then paint. Next, where the bolts for the stand-up blocks came through the decks, rather than keep the horrible-looking mess, I covered everything up with aluminum backing plates and nice new nuts (left).

My friend Phip Hallowell, of Rig Pro USA, said that if rigging wire is over 10 years old it should be replaced. So I went ahead and had all the 1-by-19 standing rigging replaced with new wire. Here’s Phip doing the swaging work at the company’s shop in Portsmouth, Rhode Island (above right).

This picture shows all the old running rigging that came off the boat (left). It was in pretty bad shape, and some of the stuff must’ve been over 20 years old. I contacted Yale Cordage and we redid all the running rigging. We now have fresh, new lines with bright colors that are easy to identify (right). Some came spliced, and I did the splicing on some of the others. The new line makes a huge difference in the appearance and utility of the boat.

Old main, new main. Here, we’re looking up the leech of the old mainsail, which was pretty deep and quite tired (above left). I had a lot of weather helm with this main. The new main, from North Sails, is absolutely beautiful (below left). I also discovered I have a lot less weather helm with the flat new sail. North’s Dan Neri suggested putting two full battens in the top of the sail and two shorter battens down low. He said it was the better way to go. When running downwind with everything eased out all the way, we don’t have any big battens wrapping around the shrouds. I’m very pleased with the setup.

I definitely wanted a cruising chute, and North built me a beautiful little asymmetric kite that is the perfect size for the boat. We set this with a sock and its own snubber, which you can see at the top of the sail.

In the end, everything fit perfectly, and it was great. The sails are awesome, and Snoek is clearly in her element.