I apologize to anyone who’s been looking forward to updates about Niagara, her crew, activities onboard, etc… I’ve been too busy over the last year to keep up with the blog. I’m hoping to expand authorship of the blog to include some of our crew and volunteers in the near future to prevent such long lapses. No guarantees, we’ll see.
Last summer was very busy. Our “Home Year” was far more taxing than are our “Voyage Years”. We conducted 27 daysails and visited several ports on Lake Erie during the months of June, July, and August last year. The ship sailed about as often as any other year, but the shorter passages and many daysails meant that the crew were tasked more frequently with the hard work of setting and furling sails. They got quite good at it by season’s end in September.
By mid-October, the ship was rigged down for the winter, the winter cover installed, and we sent the mainmast ashore to dismantle and re-condition the main tops (the big platform on the mainmast), and to replace the main mast. I was encouraged to find that the mast was just beginning to rot where the standing rigging is seated at the hounds. That is to say, rot was found to have developed up to one inch deep in the twenty-inch thick mast. So while the rot was not serious, it was likely to grow quickly, and it’s good we replaced the mast.
The new mast is made of laminated pressure-treated pine. The old mast was laminated non-treated pine, and we have been affecting rot repairs to it for years…always working hard to keep it in excellent condition. The masts (new and old) weigh about the same, and it’s my hope that the new mast will last for decades without rotting.
The big news is the choice of material for the new mainmast’s standing rigging. We’re replacing the 3/4″ wire cable shrouds, which are “wolded” with 5/8″ rope, with 2-inch Kevlar Rope. The old shrouds had rope wrapped around wire cable and made to look like 2-inch fiber rope. Despite a good effort, it was not a very authentic-looking solution to creating long-lasting and low-stretch standing rigging. Instead of looking like authentic 4-strand shroud-laid hemp rope, it looked like what it was…skinny rope wrapped around wire cable.
The new standing rigging material is 4-strand, shroud-laid, kevlar rope, which once tarred, tooks very much like hemp, is 10 times stronger, has no appreciable stretch, and is lighter than the wire & fiber rope standing rigging we are replacing. We considered using hemp, and a much lower materials cost. Hemp is more than adequate, if not an excellent material for the job, but would likely require complete replacement every 2-3 years. The relatively frequent rig construction, assembly, and tuning labor would be far-more costly than the extra expense spent now for Kevlar. So in the long-run, I think the new kevlar rig is a labor-saving, more reliable, longer lasting, and therefore more cost effective solution than hemp. At any rate, it will certainly be better looking, longer lasting, lighter weight, and more reliable than the old rig which held up nicely for 18 years.
Check out the photos of the mast removal on John Baker’s photobucket site at: http://s220.photobucket.com/albums/dd89/bakerbrig/Niagara%20Mast%20Project/
Check out the photos of the new standing rigging under construction at: http://s220.photobucket.com/albums/dd89/bakerbrig/Winter%20January/