Field Repairs: fixing the Backstay chainplate

One of the first questions that cruising sailboat owners ask each other when meeting is, “So… what’s broken on your boat?” Cruising is also known as “fixing your boat in remote places” and you better learn to enjoy it! In this case we had the delightful backdrop of Rikitea, which during the 2nd week of our stay, we had the good fortune of several calm days as placid as a lake.

It always makes me feel better seeing how much work it takes to maintain new, half-million dollar boats — it’s not just old boats from the 60s like Aldebaran that need elbow grease! Owners of expensive yachts reported there were leaks in the pumps; gaskets were broken; engine belts worn off; paint in aluminum sailboats wasn’t adhering; lights that wouldn’t work, and the list went on. Of course, our work is a little more non-stop because of the age of our vessel 😉

The backstay chainplate with new caulking

The first major task on Aldebaran was the leak in the 7 year old backstay chainplate, which had been getting worse during our passage. Everyone uses this as a support to enter the boat from the dinghy, so water eventually found its way in, and had damaged the wood backing plate. Fortunately, our boat has two backstays (a spare, right Michael?) so we could remove one easily while the other held up the mast.

This was a three day job removing rotten wood with a hammer and chisel, drying the soft wood with penetrating epoxy, cutting new mahogany on a diagonal with our skilsaw, and installing the new backing plate. Finally, we caulked and bolted the chainplate with new nyloc nuts we had on hand. Every step was done with great care, since keeping the mast upright while sailing is an utmost priority!

The new inside backing plate. Should look nice again after we paint it!

Luckily, we’ve been able to talk by satellite with our good friend in the U.S., expert rigger Ian Weedman, to ensure we’re doing the right thing. He also advised us along the passage about our reefing installation, sail chafe, and many finer details for which we are super grateful! For anyone doing a rig installation (or a tree house, which he is also famous for) please contact Ian at { iweedman at yahoo dot com }

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