There Actually Is Joy in Mudville

I finally had time and inclination to address my furler and headstay.  Good news: I was able to disassemble the entire mechanism.  I was also finally able to expose the entire lower headstay fitting. My method was a bit unconventional, but much more effective than trying to disassemble the last piece of headstay foil – a task I’ve found completely impossible in the past. The problem with the foil is that it’s at least 20 years old, fastened together with SS screws into the aluminum extrusion, and regularly bathed in saltwater.  The SS and aluminum have become “uni-metal” – so corroded and frozen together the only possible remedy would be to drill out the screws. This is a perilous procedure with the thin aluminum extrusion. So having a good 18 inches of room to slide the stay and fitting up the extrusion before being stopped by the extrusion linking piece, I simply cut off 3 inches of extrusion.  This exposed the entire fitting and 2 inches of wire.

Here you can see the link at the left side of the frame.  The stud fitting on the end of the wire won't slide past this link, and thus won't slide out of the extrusion.

Here you can see the link at the left side of the frame. The stud fitting on the end of the wire won’t slide past this link, and thus won’t slide out of the extrusion.

Here's the end of the extrusion (just to the right of where the other photo ends.  You can see the 3 inches of extrusion I cut off - in 2 different little sections.

Here’s the end of the extrusion (just to the right of where the other photo ends. You can see the 3 inches of extrusion I cut off – in 2 different little sections.

As you can see in the photos, I can now cut off the eye fitting at the top of the stay and use the wire as a messenger for the new rigging wire.  I now have room below the extrusion to install a Sta Lock fitting.  Once the wire is led through the extrusion and fittings installed, I’ll be able to reassemble the furler, and it will be ready to reattach to the mast and stem. I’ll build the stay, reassemble the furler, and stow the assembly on deck for transport across the creek when I haul out in December, then reattach when the rig is down for other work and inspection.  The upshot is, I’ll be able to retain the furler without converting back to hanked on sails, though having sails that hank on is still attractive to me. . .

For anyone’s curiosity, and my own documentation of the furler assembly, here are photos of it in various states of being taken apart.

All together here.

All together here.

. . . in this order. . .

. . . in this order. . .

Here's the eye swage at the top.  Will be replaced with a mechanical fitting.

Here’s the eye swage at the top. Will be replaced with a mechanical fitting.

Stored along our fence while awaiting parts to rebuild.

Stored along our fence while awaiting parts to rebuild.

An interesting discovery regarding clevis pin sizes and eye-fitting dimension: pin size at the stem is 5/8″ for the furler, but the old original stay was 1/2″.  And of course, the stem fitting accepted 5/8″ too – that’s a heavy cast aluminum part.  Why the change?  More curiously, the masthead pin was 1/2″ for the furler, but 5/8″ on the old stay. . .  Huh?  Did someone in the rigging shop get confused?

Here’s a bit more serious question:  Should both fitting eyes be 5/8″ since both masthead and stem are sized for that? I’ve read that pin and hole diameter should match.  I’ll have to do some more research before I order and size replacement parts.  I do know this: the furler as installed lasted 20-plus years with the pins sized as noted.

And finally, as far as I can see, the current headstay and fittings are in perfect shape. It’s the stuff you can’t see that’s the most worrisome: work-hardening, internal corrosion, broken filaments inside the extrusion.


  1. Rick –
    Everything I’ve read says pin and hole sizes should match. If the pin is undersized, it creates a stress riser where it contacts the inside of the hole. That said, 5/8″ seems oversized for a 27′ rig…

    • Thanks Bob, and I agree on both counts. Mysteries are associated with the current mismatch of sizes. Stem head definitely accepts 5/8″. Stemhead attachment on stay is a toggle which can be changed out for different sizes, as needed. In fact, the old head stay has a 1/2″ toggle – at the stem end, attached to the turnbuckle, of course.

    • Above, I indicated that the stem head fitting was heavy cast aluminum, and it is, with several different sized holes in it to accept different pin sizes (I think). However, the headstay is pinned to a regular heavy stainless chainplate that fastens to the bow and bolts through the hull 3-4 times. That chainplate pin hole is 5/8″.

  2. Tate said:

    You might run into a problem trying to find fittings with a 5/8″ pin for the size wire you’re going to use, just depends on what it is, I’m assuming its not nearly as big as ours. If you can find them though, I’d def go with 5/8″ pins. If not, I’d probably put a sleeve into the holes and a pin with a washer through that.

    • Thanks Tate. I’ve done a bit of preliminary shopping (on line), and I don’t think sizes wrt mechanical fittings is going to be a problem. Though your rig is undoubtably heavier than mine, Watkins used larger-than-expected wire and fittings. I think the rationale was (back in t he late 70s and early 80s) that these boats were aimed at the Florida, Caribbean, and Bahamas market. Hence the shallow draft (all of their models were shoal draft – even the w36). Anticipating sudden strong tropical squalls, the rig was designed to be more robust as well. My back stay and forestay are sized at 1/4″, which is one size larger than you would expect for a boat like this.

      I’m more concerned with getting the threaded stud sized correctly regarding thread count, diameter and length. This sort of thing makes me nervous – ordering sizes online and not being familiar with measurement standards or practices that riggers refer to. Then building the stay, cutting the wire the correct length, obtaining accurate pin-hole to pin-hole measurements. I just know myself too well – measurements is something that I somehow often get wrong, so I’m obsessively anxious about it. Silly I suppose, but then again, I’m never sure why I got a measurement wrong in the first place. I know – measure twice. . . for me it’s more like measure 7 times, and hope you get the same answer 3 out of 4. Not sure there’s any cure for a certain degree of muddle-headedness.

      • Tate said:

        I know that feeling well. When we rerigged it was like a nightmare replacing every one of the stays. But keep in mind you don’t have to be spot on perfect because the turnbuckles will take up some slack or let out a little. I’m assuming the furler unit has some sort of turnbuckle or turnbuckle like device. We don’t have a furler so I’m not as familiar with them.

  3. Great documentation of something that daunts me. Closest I’m looking at now is getting my cutter rig built and installed w/o the yard helping me at astronomical mark up. I tend to go bigger to add a greater margin. My furler is loosey-goosey and bound to fail in the near future. Maybe your work here will give me the fortitude to disassemble mine to see how bad it really is. The more I dig the more I find to repair.

    • That’s the way of old boats, until you reach a point where you’re actually ahead of the repair/maintain curve. From then on, it’s just “continuous refit.”

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