Dock walk:  rigging fails

6 Jan


We’re rarely in marinas, but in South Africa’s harbors tying up is the norm. Jamie and I have fun walking the docks, checking out other boats; I always have something to learn from the critical eye of my sailmaker/rigging-savvy husband. Most often, it’s the condition of sails; on a blustery day in Durban, rigging mishaps were the theme.

-stanchion bent-lifelines stretchedThe first one that stood out was just across the dock from Totem. It’s a perfect example of why sailors shouldn’t be tempted to tie fenders to the lifelines, although many persist in the habit or don’t seem to know it’s a bad one. Toe rails are much stronger and often have a convenient opening to tie into. What’s the problem:?  Tying to lifelines sets up a couple of problems, as seen here. When a fender gets pinned to the dock when the boat rolls, it puts tremendous force onto the lifeline. This can break the fender, but that’s the least of the problem. It weakens lifelines (work hardening the stainless steel) and can eventually break them, and bend the stanchion.


classic “banana” swage

Here’s a swage to wire stay that’s “banana-ed.” The swage is poorly executed, and bent into a curved, banana-like shape. Because the swage isn’t straight, under load it tries to pull straight, and this work hardens both the swage fitting and the wire—shortening their lifespan.


What’s wrong with these chainplates? The original, longer part (painted white alongside the hull) was cut off; the stainless part of the chainplate is the current load-bearing portion. But that’s just ONE BOLT carrying the entire load, tying it to the old chainplate… way too prone to failure.

DSC_1254Whoops…someone didn’t measure the rig very well! See that big gap inside the left-hand turnbuckle? It shows that the wire is barely long enough to screw it on. Oh, and up by the arrow, if you look closely… the top threaded stud is missing a cotter pin. Yikes!

Moving right to that middle turnbuckle, now the wire is clearly way too long. There’s no wiggle room to make any adjustment to tighten it further if needed.

You might get away with this if the rig is perfectly tuned. It was plain from a scan that the rig was not well tuned, and now there are limitations to what can be done because the wires are either too long or too short. Hopefully the owner didn’t pay too much for such sloppy rigging work.


This sprit is bent, suggesting it’s under spec’d and not strong enough for the load it has to bear. Code Zeroes and other asymmetric sails that would attach to sprits like this can generate huge loads, especially shock loads, when sailing in a good breeze and/or lumpy seas.


Hello, weak link: this sprit has a big eye on it, and then this dinky little shackle. The extension is fine, with square structure inside the relatively thin-walled round tube lending strength. The wee little shackle, however…


No problems here! Jamie liked this sprit, which serves the same task as the one above. Jamie recommends that his customers buying an asymmetric / code zero / screecher install something similar to this; a number of companies make good, after-market sprits like this. They’re often not beautiful, but they’re very practical and simplify working with downwind sails.

We’ll leave you with that hallmark of developing countries: the good-ol bent rebar anchor.


This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.


This article was syndicated from Sailing Totem


  1. Boba

    I have a sense that you have replaced every single part on this boat. You may make an article now: “Why you should buy a boat like this”,- in terms of how much costly is all that price!
    I know how much big is the “wish for having a boat” and where is the compromise.

  2. Barry Needalman

    It’s possible the wee little shackle is an intentional weak link. The add-on sprit has no bobstay. Probably better to explode the shackle than bend the sprit.

  3. Behan Gifford

    You’re all too right! In fact, that’s how a lot of our dock walks start – going out when the wind really kicks up, to make sure the boats that don’t get may visits are sufficiently secured.

  4. J2 J Squared

    Ron White, the comedian has a saying. After seeing these boats and the condition of their gear, lines, etc as Ron White would say, “jYou can’t fix stupid.”

  5. Captain Jack

    We have fun seeing how people tie there boats off in Sausalito, CA. The best one was they tied there bow line and there water hose together on the dock cleat. we have seen 1 rap around dock cleat. We have seen nylon ski rope holding a 41 foot boat. Next time you are in dock, take a look at how people tie off.

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