From Towline to Self Propulsion

Tales of Trinka

By Alan Saunders

It all began some four summers ago while sailing aboard a friend’s boat. It was then I first noticed her -- a sleek silhouette sharply outlined against a brilliant morning sky. But what at a distance had been a thing of beauty, up close turned out to be the hull of an older, badly neglected 38-foot C&C sloop riding an outermost club mooring. Her filthy topsides, torn sail cover, and dangling rod saddened my eyes, which nevertheless kept returning to her time and time again. For many months thereafter I did not give her much thought, blissfully unaware that on that fateful day, I had indeed become hooked.

So, some two years later, against all sage advice -- for when asked, no one had but bleak words to say-- I took her on. I was determined not only to restore her, but also to fit her out for double -- and if no woman would have me -- single-handed sailing.

As much as one might love a boat and the refurbishing
of her, there are limits. While working on her rigging
did start that winter, we did wait until after the ice and
snow were gone.

The first step was to tow her to a marina slip where the refit could take place in earnest; for with her steering gone, her Volvo seized solid, and her rigging shot, she was then more barge than boat.

A sweaty morning’s work in tight, stifling quarters took care of the steering gear; mostly a question of replacing a worn cable on the quadrant, and taking care of sorely needed maintenance. Not easy tasks; what with poor light, no headroom, and my backbone astride a rib no matter which way I turned. but the diesel was to be another matter. She just sat there; a silent, stolid mass of Swedish iron, obviously determined not to be disturbed.

First I took out her injectors and poured WD 40 into each of her three cylinders. This I let sit for a few days, topping them up each evening as the thin lubricant slowly seeped through. But when I thought the engine might at last be willing to let go, I found her as steadfastly frozen as before. So, grimly, I opted for brute force. Placing hardened steel bolts on her shaft pulley and getting the biggest crowbar that would swing inside the cabin, I began to tap-tap on it with a large sledgehammer, all the while slowly dripping about a gallon more of WD-40 into her cylinders. After some weeks of this treatment (and many a bent pulley bolt), one happy day she relented, grudgingly allowing me a single eighth of an inch turn. Eighth by eighth and day by day she slowly yielded: until finally, still with the help of the crowbar, I could wring one full turn out of her; then a second; and then a third.

Always the optimist, I switched her diet to Marvel Mystery Oil and replaced her injectors. Then, on the advice of Detroit Diesel, the Volvo importer, I hooked her up to a battery, said a silent prayer, and turned the starter key. For what seemed an eternity the engine labored and sputtered, the starter painfully grunting and groaning at the exertion. But then, with a roar that would have made Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang proud; and with her exhaust spewing blue clouds of smoke and a glorious spray of seawater, she finally came alive once more.

I now had a vessel that could be driven and steered -- but that does not a sailboat make -- so a local rigger was summoned for his expert advice. However, after one look at her broken shroud, and the kink in another shroud, he politely declined to go aloft. Further inspection would have to wait until the mast was unstepped, he declared. When I told him that I had already been to the masthead, he muttered something about fools and celestial protection, and left.

The mast was unstepped the next day.

refit2.GIF (27093 bytes)Obviously, between age and unknown exposure, much of my standing rigging could not be trusted. So full replacement became necessary. (Navtec recommends rod rigging be replaced every ten years - and from the sorry look of her gear, she was long, long, past her due date). I was then faced with a tough choice: stay with rod and its low-stretch advantages, or switch to wire with its greater availability in far-off places. Since I intended to do some bluewater cruising, wire won. Norseman three-part swageless terminals -- which also mean easy field replacement -- were used. Swaged terminals are fine provided you have faith in the shop that did the work. As with rod, not all marinas hold to the same standards, and I did not want to take the gamble. Turnbuckles and tangs completed the order. With the help of a friend, we managed to rerig in five long days. Much of the time was spent in stamping feet and blowing on hands, in not always successful efforts to keep them from going numb, for now winter was upon us.

First was the measuring, (and re-measuring), of shrouds and stays, which for accuracy’s sake, had to be done with gloveless hands. Then came the hacksawing of wire rope lengths, always remembering to start with the longest and finish with the shortest. An obvious fact that any fool could figure out, but it took this fool a mighty close call before he caught on. Still, chopping wire was not too bad, for the exertion kept us warm. The worst though, was the assembling of the wire to the swageless terminals; slow detail work, what with pricking wires, chilled components and stiff fingers smearing anti-corrosion glop, definitely not a good dockside, cold-weather task. It does build character, though.

Bred as a racer, Trinka in that endeavor would normally carry a crew of nine or more. But since my plan was to cruise with just two, I felt that a number of important changes would be needed to make it a safe and comfortable option. Obviously most would involve sail handling -- the major one being roller furling gear for both jib and main, a decision that would horrify a serious racer.

We are all familiar with foresail furlers and their cockpit convenience, so for me that was a foregone conclusion. That gear though, had to be reliable, have an easily removed drum, and have a double track for my occasional club race. I opted for a Hood System 5 as best meeting my requirements.

Next came the main. Here there are two basic roller-furling approaches: mast or boom. The mast units - my preference- come in two types. In one, the mast itself is the sail housing. In the other, an aftermarket unit attaches to the mast. Since I already had a good mast, thank you, my choice was narrowed. Here my pick was Forespar’s EasyFurl, for among other good things, its housing also has an external track where a storm trysail can be hanked on, which means my light-cloth main needs never be used that way. Of course this track could also be used with a standard main -- as long as the sail might raise their heads somewhere in my far future. Luckily Trinka’s masthead already had four sheaves forward and two aft, so the second aft halyard provisions for stormsail and/or battened main were already in place -- a welcome respite from galloping wallet fatigue. So for now, not only is her mainsail furling system a delight to use; it also makes reefing infinitely variable - and of course it all gets done without leaving the cockpit.

But the system also has its shortcomings. At first I had problems with keeping the correct tension while rolling the sail in -- which made rolling out difficult. But once I got the hang of that, the problem disappeared. Also because the sail needs to be cut quite flat to roll in evenly, its effective area is reduced somewhat. (Not terribly important on this boat, for it’s the jenny that does most of the driving).

Installing the EasyFurl unit was a challenge though, never having done one before, and not having a sample unit to compare. While the instructions were clear and the parts kit quite complete, our learning curve remained steep and long. Still, armed with the enthusiasm of the amateur -- and a very good collection of tools including a heaven-sent, air-driven riveter, (for nearly all fasteners were pop-rivets)-- my faithful friend and I tackled the job. At the same time I decided to insert a two-inch PVC tube into the mast to hold masthead antennae, light and instrument cables - six in all. This we did following the instructions for little engineers in Don Casey's ‘This Old Boat’. His attention to detail - and the detailed drawings - made the task easy. The tube does away with a goodly part of the unwelcome "mast music" normal to a nighttime anchorage. I heartily recommend it. Some 10 days later we finished with tube and furler, both now fully wired, assembled, and riveted in place. We did make several mistakes, but thankfully, none of them were irremediable. So we now had the mast ready for transport to the haulout marina. And here is where we nearly came a real cropper.

The dock we had been working on is the trunk for slips that branch from it, and Trinka was lying to at one of them, some 200 feet away. This meant that we would have to wheel the mast to her, the two of us push-pulling a heavy 60-foot stick on eight-foot wide docks. This in cold, windy water, with a pair of makeshift trolleys carrying most of the weight and one of us steering at each end; not exactly a rigger’s dream arrangement. Then, on coming to the slip, the trolleys, now placed closely together, were to form the pivot-point needed to balance the mast and make a 90-degree change in direction. All went well, until, on making the turn, one of the overloaded trolley wheels came off - and the flimsey carriage collapsed. Then, all hell broke loose with the mast heading for a submersible trip of its own with both of us in tow, for we were not about to let her go under.

But sometimes stubbornness, ignorance and lack of foresight pay off. Instead of launching the mast and ourselves into the dark, dirty waters of the harbor- which logic demanded - we managed through no fault of our own, to get it safely aboard. A stiff shot of rum (actually more - the cold, you know) and some lashup time later, Trinka, her unstepped mast, internally warmed crew, and softly purring diesel were at last ready for the three-hour journey to our haulout destination.

It was there, come spring, that further propulsion systems work would make her once again a top-notch sailing craft.

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