I've devoted my few spare hours to beefing up the Blue Moon's running-rigging. The goal is to make all the working bits both strong and functional. Since I've never done anything like this before, its been a voyage of discovery, captained by the great Tom Cunliffe via his book Hand, Reef And Steer.
The picture below (from Google Books) shows the general direction I've been aiming at.
I was never happy with the Blue Moon's reefing gear, which always seemed a bit flimsy for her big mainsail. It never actually failed on me, but during a blustery night passage on the west coast of Florida, it did worry me, so I've been looking forward to beefing it up.
Tom's basic idea is to use two cheek blocks, one on each side of the boom. The reefing line goes up through one of the blocks, through the reef cringle in the sail, and back down through the other block.
The advantage is that you can always work on the windward side of the boom, by dead-ending the leeward end of the line. Not only is it easier to work on the windward side, the sail doesn't get pulled down into the block, as it can when you are pulling down on the leeward side.
It's all explained in Tom's book, which you can sample above. A must-have book for traditional boat lovers.
Of course, I'd never made a cheek block, but it didn't seem too difficult, so I just jumped in with both feet. Always the best way to learn something, I think!
I started by checking out the only cheek blocks I could see with my own two eyes: the reefing blocks on the Christine -- the historic boat I volunteer on (when I have the time!)
Like most cheek blocks I've seen in pictures, hers have no inside cheek -- the pin goes right into the boom.
I didn't like the idea of drilling a hole -- even a shallow hole -- in my boom, so I decided to use a thin, but strong, inside cheek. To get it, I had to tackle my very first re-sawing job!
Re-sawing is cutting a thicker board to get two thinner boards. I wasn't sure my bandsaw was up to the job, but in fact, it had no problem cutting through the white oak:
|My first re-sawing attempt|
(all photos jalmberg)
|Getting all the spacers the same height|
The only thing tricky here is to not clamp them too hard, and to clean up the dripped and squeezed out epoxy *before* it dries. Particularly on the inside, where it is mighty difficult to get off, after it dries (ask me how I know that.)
Note the plastic wrap to keep everything from sticking together.
|Glued up blanks, plus an over-eager sheave|
I glued up another blank to replace the failure.
|First attempt... Fail!|
|Drill the holes, first... Drill the holes, first... Drill...|
To cover the end of the pin, I used one of those Canadian dimes with the Bluenose Schooner on the reverse side. Sorry, Canada! It's your fault for minting the perfect coin for the job!
|Ready for assembly|
First, I must take back my previous 'idea' about using linseed oil as the main lubricant in my blocks. This, in hind sight, was a pathetically naive idea that someone should have called me on. Unless you want to oil your blocks every few days, you need to grease them with a heavy-duty water proof marine grease. The stuff they use on boat trailer axles will do fine. You can find it in any automotive store.
Second, I am done, done, done!, with those modern bedding compounds (3M 4200, etc.) that come in tubes. Sure they work great, but I never need more than a dab of the stuff at a time. There's nothing more aggravating than to open up a $17 tube of 4200, knowing that the next time I need it, the whole tube will be a solid mass, no matter how tightly I close it up and wrap it.
The traditional bedding compound is slower to dry, but stays fresh in the can for at least a year, I'm told. A dab here, a dab there, and you only pay a few cents per dab, rather than $17/dab.
An expensive lesson that took me far too long to learn.
Anyway, here are the two assembled cheek blocks, glistening with their linseed oil finish.
|The final products|
As I said, you dead-end the leeward end of the reefing line with a figure-8 knot, and then haul down on the windward end. I can either tie the end off on my new, oak boom cleat (not in photo, alas), or in a real blow, I could use the outhaul tackle to pull it down.
|Beefy rigging system, installed on boom|
Speaking of beefy boats, I spotted a very nice wooden boat in Huntington Harbor the other day, and rowed over to say hello to her owner, Bob.
She's a John Atkin "Vixen", and a real beauty she is. Of course, William Atkin had his first boat shop in Huntington, a long time ago, so Bob and I had a great chat about Atkin history.
Another Vixen just completed a circumnavigation, with two small children onboard, and I was happy to speak briefly with her busy young owners at the Wooden Boat Show, this weekend. A beefy boat, indeed.
|A real beefy boat -- John Atkin's "Vixen"...|
|...at home in Huntington Harbor|
Next Episode: Mark III Block