Restoration Tip 11-5-14: Replace lines and hardware BEFORE they break

I do a fair amount of coaching on other boats and am always amazed by some of the old pieces of hardware and line that people have not replaced.  In my opinion, you should never have a line break or a piece of hardware fail.  That means when a line gets to be faded and obviously worn, you should simply replace it, instead of having it break at a critical point in a race or, even worse, cause an injury.  I would say this is even more important for hardware.  If a turning block doesn’t turn easily or is missing its bearings, it cannot handle its rated working load.  It may not break right away, but you are putting more stress on everything else related to it.

One of the most common combinations of line and hardware replacement that seems to get overlooked is halyards and their related turning blocks.  If you have an old genoa halyard, going through an old or undersized turning block on the mast, and then through an old or undersized turning block at the deck level, and then around old blocks attached to an un-serviced magic box, which happens to have old line, you are asking for a disaster.  The additional forces needed to make this system work will cause added stress to the boat itself, as well as the crew.  More importantly, if any part of the system fails, your day of sailing will promptly end, and you’ll still have to replace it.

Sail controls are another place that people seem the let age more than other parts of the boat.  I know lots of people aren’t adjusting their outhauls because the line is bound up in the boom or they have a hard to use external set up.  Travelers are notorious for being bound up with old line, blocks, and a traveler car that only has half its bearings.  If you aren’t using a Harken captive bearing traveler, you’re out of date by about 15 years.

The other nice part about replacing hardware and lines, is that they work better!  I raced on an Ensign called Corsair in this year’s Nationals and after agreeing to sail on the boat, I made the owner replace a few lines that were similar in age to something Noah may have used.  Both the owner and his regular crew were amazed at how much better the traveler worked with a new line and a heavy splash of McLube.  The crew also noted how much easier it was to trim the genoa with a new sheet on it.  These two lines cost him less than $100 and aside from making some major systems work better, it significantly improved morale.  We also tied for 2nd, so that didn’t hurt either.

I’ve worked on several other boats this summer that had similar reactions to new line and hardware.  One of my last customers for the season got a completely new traveler and main sheet system.  They had no idea how much they had been struggling until the new stuff was on.  It made a fundamental change in how they were sailing the boat.  I put a new mainsheet on my dad’s Yngling last year, and he still hasn’t stopped talking about it.

The take-home point here is that if you are looking at ways to improve your boat, take a look at lines and hardware.  In most cases, they are easy ways to make a big difference.

Since you’re all going to be looking around your boats for hardware upgrades, I’m going to run a 10% off sale on lines and hardware for the rest of this month!