Wednesday, March 13

Standing Rigging Self-Inspection

By Andrew Spaulding and Jon Paige

We wanted to follow up on some of our popular newsletters from last spring and shed more light on a few of them. Last April, we published an article named “When Should I Replace My Standing Rigging?” which you can read in our blog archives at The Crowley Advisor by clicking here.

As that article mentions, regularly inspecting your rigging can be the key to finding a standing riggings problem before they lead to a failure, which almost always ends in disaster. We wanted to give you a few hints on how to conduct a DIY rigging inspection, when to call in a professional, and the best way to save your budget when it is time to replace the rigging.

The first step is to get the mast down since you cannot conduct a proper standing rigging inspection aloft. Sure, you can check what you can see on the standing rigging and the running rigging, but without de-tensioning the rigging and some disassembly there isn’t any way to inspect all the components of the standing rigging. In my opinion, this can lead to a false belief that the rigging is okay, when in fact, it may have serious damage.

The mast and rigging should be visually inspected at least once a year and a thorough inspection carried out by a professional rigger every 3 or 4 years.  When inspecting the rigging the obvious things to look out for are broken strands (pic 1), cracked swages (pic 2) and any fittings that are producing a lot of rust staining.  Rod rigging requires a different approach to inspection as the rod heads are hidden inside the terminals.  We’ll cover this in a future article.

The rigging inspection form that we use at Crowley’s has over 30 check points on it covering the mast, boom, vang and standing rigging. To see the full check list, click here to go to our blog. Basically, it follows a mast from the top to the bottom. We inspect every mast opening, sheave, attachment point, fastener and light. We do the same thing on the wire; inspecting every piece from top to bottom with special attention to the attachment points and turnbuckles. This includes the chainplates which are often forgotten in a rigging inspection since many people consider them part of the boat. It is important to inspect every inch of the wire since a broken strand can be anywhere along the stay.

If you find a problem or issue that you don’t feel comfortable with, it is time to call in a professional rigger. When you find something that requires replacement, remember that the entire standing rigging does not necessarily have to be replaced all at once.  Cables can be replaced in pairs and this can often be done with the mast up.  For example, after 15 years the forestay and backstay can be replaced, the upper shrouds the year after, and so on.  If a crack or broken strand is found on a particular stay, it is good practice to replace its opposite number at the same time.

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