Readers of our rebuild website may remember I hand-spliced the standing rigging for the new mast we built for the Far Reach. It was one of the many projects associated with the six year rebuild. I used a splice called the Liverpool Splice. I learned it by reading Brion Toss’ book The Rigger’s Apprentice.
Our wire rigging is not 9/32 1×19, like a stock CD 36, but instead is 5/16” 316 7X7. An advantage of 7×7 is it is significantly easier to splice than 1×19. However, it has the disadvantages of slightly more stretch and and a little less strength, thus we increased the size of the wire slightly.
The bronze thimbles and the rigging for our taller double spreader rig, to include two spritshroud stays (we have a little more rigging than a stock CD 36) for the longer traditional bowsprit, cost about $1400. Of that, the thimbles cost $750 but they have the advantage of being reusable. That means that I can replace the entire standing rigging for just the cost of the wire—about $650 in 2014 dollars.
Because the wire terminates in a tapered splice there is almost no work hardening which is usually what defeats 1×19 wire whether it has swages or compression fittings. Also, because there is minimal work hardening the rig does not lose as much strength over its lifetime as wire used with hard terminals. And because the splice is not “serviced” (wrapped with thin line) the integrity of the splice can be visually observed. After 3 years of sailing the rigging looks new. I expect to get at least 10 years out of it in the tropics.
Spliced rigging is not for everyone. It was a fair amount of work, though mostly very pleasant, to turn out a consistent quality splice. I made about 25 practice splices before I made the first one for the Far Reach. Much of that was accomplished over several years. Practicing a little here and a little there until we finally got around to building the mast. If you have someone teach you the splice you can learn it over a long weekend.
So why am I posting this? Well, a friend of mine has invited me to help him splice the rigging for his gorgeous self-built Lyle Hess designed 34’ Falmouth Cutter. He also chose hand spliced rigging. Since I had not made a splice in three years I needed to practice. A few nights ago, I broke out the vise and using some left over wire made a practice splice. I had a lot of fun working in the shop and remembering how to make the splice. It’s really not difficult once you learn how. And having the opportunity to make a bunch more splices will help me retain and further improve my skills. A few more over the next couple days and I should be ready.
I think the moral of the story, if there is one, is there is more than one solution to a problem, task, project…one that may well be different than the offen times recommended “industry” standard solution.
Not long after our boat was launched a professional rigger was on the dock and asked me about the splices. I explained the rationale behind them. He commented he would never make one or encourage a client to splice a rig. When I asked why, he said “because there are better ways.” My reply was “there are no better ways than a proper spliced rig…only different ways.”
There is a lot of narrow thinking out there that often is not based on the most effective solution but rather the easiest solution. And the two are often not the same.
So, whether solving design, rig, sail plan, paint, plumbing, engine, electronic, accommodation, or navigation issues the latest most expensive solution is not necessarily the best, only, safest, or most seamanlike choice available.
And don’t forget solutions built on those traditional skills. They can be a lot of fun and rewarding to learn, less expensive, and just might be more reliable in the long run than the one the “experts” insist you must chose.