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Old 16-06-2015, 15:25   #1
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Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Hi All,

I'm Jack, using the girlfriends account to pose some questions. We have moved onto an 1977 29' Columbia and it is a blast. One of the downsides is that the main and jib halyards are jammed up at the mast head. No amount of coercing has freed either halyard. Once up there I found that the halyards run up over the top in their shieves and down the other side. they do not go down into the mast.
Basically the main halyard doesn't move in any direction. The jib halyard also doesn't move. I managed to go up the main halyard despite this being dangerous using a climbing harness and a couple of prusik knots. I was able to get almost all the way up to the top but had to stop because the halyard transitions from line to wire before I can reach the mast head. The halyard is also old and fraying quite a bit. I managed to get a line through a spinnaker block at the masthead but everything I've read says that there are so many points for failure that it isn't safe for hoisting. Despite that I managed to get up there once I'm pretty sure there must be a safer easier way to do this.

I am out of ideas about how to unstick the halyards without putting myself in peril again. Any thoughts, ideas, recommendations for methods or professionals would be much appreciated.
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Old 16-06-2015, 15:40   #2
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Perhaps the halyards jumped out of their sheaves and wedged themselves between the sheaves and the side of the mast?
The sheaves could also be frozen but that should only make things difficult, not impossible.
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Old 16-06-2015, 15:50   #3
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

My guess is that the boat has been neglected for a while, and you are going to want to replace all the halyards. It will be just as well to retire the wire to rope ones, especially if they have "meat hooks" in them, places where the wire has broken.

The best deal for you is probably to plan ahead to have the mast out and refurbish it at that time (including paint, if you want to.) You'll be removing and rebedding the bits, in any event. The two jammed sheaves at the masthead are probaby aluminum and have corroded onto the s/s axle they turn on. They will be a PITA. Heat is your friend. A small sledge is, too. If you are able to drive out the axle, you might be able to deal with the sheaves. Otherwise, plan on new, and on using all rope halyards. We use spectra for ours.

This is a biggish job, with the fees for the rigger and the crane to lift the mast out, but you will be able to work on it much more easily when it is out of the boat; also, the rigger will be able to advise you if the wire needs to be replaced. One rule of thumb is that if it is older than 10 yrs., it should be replaced: this is a bit conservative, but having the mast fall down is not fun.
Have him take a look at the chain plates as well. He (or she) should also check for failed fittings.

Ask around before you pick a rigger, they vary in competency and honesty. Other cruisers will be able to make a recommendation, people from your sailing club if you belong, just other boaties.

Obviously, you're game, and you climed the mast once, and felt it unsafe. In conscience I could not recommend you re-ascend it, and honestly, it would be pretty d------d hard to do, hanging in a climbing harness. It may be that the fraying you saw is only sun damage to the outer core of the rope, or it could be severely chafed (inner strands broken) and therefore, weakened. And you can't really trust any of that gear till it's been inspected, and replaced, if necessary.

Good luck with it.

Ann
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Old 16-06-2015, 16:26   #4
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Everything that Ann said plus if you go to all rope halyards, you will probably have to replace the masthead sheeves to accommodate halyards thicker than wire.


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Old 16-06-2015, 16:30   #5
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Sounds like the sheaves in the masthead are corroded in place. You might be able to drive the axles out, free the sheaves, clean up the mast head and sheaves lubricate and reinstall with the mast in place but it will not be an easy job. It's probably going to take a bit of heat, penetrating oil, a proper sized drift to force the pin out and that bigger hammer you've been wondering if you'd ever use. Make take many cycles of heat and pentrating before things start to move. If you due for a haul out, might consider biting the bullet and pull the mast at the same time. Infinitely easier to do this job with the mast laying on saw horses. The things that you drop will be a lot easier to retrieve from the ground 3 feet below the mast than from 30' or more above the deck especially if they bounce off into the water.

If the spinnaker bale and block are in good shape it's fine to use for climbing. It is not as secure as the halyards with their locked in place sheaves but will hold your weight just fine. Use a backup safety line with a Prussic knot just in case there hidden failure points that you are unaware of. Would want to inspect the halyard and bale before using it, however. The spinnaker gets pulled and tweaked in all sorts of directions which seriously deform and weaken masthead hardware. Know my spinnaker block was a mess when I got my boat and was trash.

I'd get rid of the wire halyards. The new synthetics are stronger and less stretchy than the wire and not all that expensive especially if you could handle 5/16" line. Failing the high tech stuff New England Ropes XLS or StaSet X have acceptable stretch characteristics at pretty reasonable prices. Usually some good deals on line on Ebay if you aren't in a hurry. You'll have to get the masthead sheaves freed up possibly clean up any snags the wire might have caused. As long as you smooth off any sharp protrusion or burrs, your exisitng sheaves should do just fine with all rope. Check to be sure the sheaves are the dual purpose type wide enough for the diameter of line you'll be using and a narrower center groove for wire. Have more than 10,000 miles of sailing with rope halyards on those types of sheaves.
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Old 16-06-2015, 16:49   #6
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gystilyn View Post
Hi All,

I'm Jack, using the girlfriends account to pose some questions. We have moved onto an 1977 29' Columbia and it is a blast. One of the downsides is that the main and jib halyards are jammed up at the mast head. No amount of coercing has freed either halyard. Once up there I found that the halyards run up over the top in their shieves and down the other side. they do not go down into the mast.
Basically the main halyard doesn't move in any direction. The jib halyard also doesn't move. I managed to go up the main halyard despite this being dangerous using a climbing harness and a couple of prusik knots. I was able to get almost all the way up to the top but had to stop because the halyard transitions from line to wire before I can reach the mast head. The halyard is also old and fraying quite a bit. I managed to get a line through a spinnaker block at the masthead but everything I've read says that there are so many points for failure that it isn't safe for hoisting. Despite that I managed to get up there once I'm pretty sure there must be a safer easier way to do this.

I am out of ideas about how to unstick the halyards without putting myself in peril again. Any thoughts, ideas, recommendations for methods or professionals would be much appreciated.
Do NOT do this again. Pointless risk of life.Unstep the mast and service on the hard.
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Old 16-06-2015, 17:16   #7
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Being that you've said that they are wire to rope halyards, I'd venture that it isn't a matter of simply frozen sheaves. Rather, it is likely that either the wire part has jumped from the groove and is jammed at the side of the sheave, or that the wire has corroded and worn a deep notch in the sheave and is jammed into that. If it was simply a stuck sheave you would be able to move the halyard back and forth under no load conditions.

This sort of repair is bloody hard to do at the masthead, and as you have noted, kinda dangerous. Unstepping the mast is pretty much a necessity IMO.

Ain't boats fun???

Jim
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Old 16-06-2015, 17:55   #8
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Time to bite the bullet and pull the mast. Sure it will cost but then you will have ten years of hopefully worry free sailing.

Before pulling the mast check all your mast lights. I'll bet some don't work. To save time pulling the mast disconnect all the electrical wires yourself and then loosen all the turnbuckles. You don't need a rigger for any of this nor do you need one to pull the mast. The boatyard guys can do that.

Once the mast is laid down remove the halyards by driving out both sheave pins. They are bound to be corroded so you will need a 5lb hammer and a punch. Once the pins are out the sheaves and the old halyards will just fall free. Don't waste your time wrestling the wires out of the sheave boxes. Replace both sheaves with good quality ones with bronze bearings which last forever. If the pins are bent replace them. Check the pin holes for corrosion and treat as necessary with something like zinc chromate. Treat any other corrosion on the mast at the same time.

Join the new halyards to the old ones with some string and use the old halyards to pull the new ones up through the mast. 5/16"spectra (including cover) will be fine for the new halyards and for sure nothing bigger than 3/8".

Open up all the light fittings and check. Chances are they are all full of green coppery goop and the rubber seals are long perished. Replace lights as necessary. Some of the wires that run through the mast will be 38 year old originals and also need replacing. Give the mast a good clean with Comet powder and water then polish the mast. Touch up the mast with paint as necessary.

Then and only then do you call the local rigger and ask him to replace the cap shrouds. Chances are that the lowers will be OK. The caps will be at least 20 years old and might be originals. Your having wire/rope halyards tells me that the mast has not had any TLC for quite some time. Nobody has built them that way since the 80s. Cut off and keep the old halyard rope tails. They are always good for something like dock lines.

Replace the mast in the boat and admire your handiwork. Buy champagne for the admiral and yourself.
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Old 16-06-2015, 18:00   #9
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Being that you've said that they are wire to rope halyards, I'd venture that it isn't a matter of simply frozen sheaves. Rather, it is likely that either the wire part has jumped from the groove and is jammed at the side of the sheave, or that the wire has corroded and worn a deep notch in the sheave and is jammed into that. If it was simply a stuck sheave you would be able to move the halyard back and forth under no load conditions.

This sort of repair is bloody hard to do at the masthead, and as you have noted, kinda dangerous. Unstepping the mast is pretty much a necessity IMO.

Ain't boats fun???

Jim
That's the most likely thing. It happened all the time with wire halyards.
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Old 17-06-2015, 09:00   #10
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

agree, I would not trust the halyards to go up the mast, unstep the mast and go all rope halyards
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Old 17-06-2015, 09:19   #11
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

Just a note here,
pulling the rig sounds like the best thing, but it does not need to be the costly thing everyone is talking about. This is a small boat with a deck stepped mast and the rig is not heavy, no need for cranes and riggers.

If you are in a marina just get a couple of friends with boats and park between them with your masts aligned. Get rid of the main and boom, then use their halyards in a loop under the spreaders, disconnect your stays and uppers, put a little strain on the halyards then disconnect the lowers, have a line on the base and take it forward. (There will be some electrical wires at the base you will need to disconnect) Then ease off the halyards and lower the rig to the deck. Reverse to step it. Easy to do on a small boat, and really no problem.

Don't forget to put a coin under the mast when you re-step it.

Michael
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Old 17-06-2015, 11:57   #12
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

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Originally Posted by captmikem View Post
Just a note here,
pulling the rig sounds like the best thing, but it does not need to be the costly thing everyone is talking about. This is a small boat with a deck stepped mast and the rig is not heavy, no need for cranes and riggers.

If you are in a marina just get a couple of friends with boats and park between them with your masts aligned. Get rid of the main and boom, then use their halyards in a loop under the spreaders, disconnect your stays and uppers, put a little strain on the halyards then disconnect the lowers, have a line on the base and take it forward. (There will be some electrical wires at the base you will need to disconnect) Then ease off the halyards and lower the rig to the deck. Reverse to step it. Easy to do on a small boat, and really no problem.

Don't forget to put a coin under the mast when you re-step it.

Michael
Absolutely agree. I have no idea what all the fuss is about. I used to do my old Vega's mast no issues. A lot of people get the willies unstepping a mast though. Even on my present boat which has a tall rig (just shy of 23 meters), I pull the rig around every couple of years for one reason or another. No big deal, though that is defo more expensive. I often miss the Vega for that sort of reason!
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Old 17-06-2015, 12:06   #13
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

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Time to bite the bullet and pull the mast. Sure it will cost but then you will have ten years of hopefully worry free sailing.

Before pulling the mast check all your mast lights. I'll bet some don't work. To save time pulling the mast disconnect all the electrical wires yourself and then loosen all the turnbuckles. You don't need a rigger for any of this nor do you need one to pull the mast. The boatyard guys can do that.

Once the mast is laid down remove the halyards by driving out both sheave pins. They are bound to be corroded so you will need a 5lb hammer and a punch. Once the pins are out the sheaves and the old halyards will just fall free. Don't waste your time wrestling the wires out of the sheave boxes. Replace both sheaves with good quality ones with bronze bearings which last forever. If the pins are bent replace them. Check the pin holes for corrosion and treat as necessary with something like zinc chromate. Treat any other corrosion on the mast at the same time.

Join the new halyards to the old ones with some string and use the old halyards to pull the new ones up through the mast. 5/16"spectra (including cover) will be fine for the new halyards and for sure nothing bigger than 3/8".

Open up all the light fittings and check. Chances are they are all full of green coppery goop and the rubber seals are long perished. Replace lights as necessary. Some of the wires that run through the mast will be 38 year old originals and also need replacing. Give the mast a good clean with Comet powder and water then polish the mast. Touch up the mast with paint as necessary.

Then and only then do you call the local rigger and ask him to replace the cap shrouds. Chances are that the lowers will be OK. The caps will be at least 20 years old and might be originals. Your having wire/rope halyards tells me that the mast has not had any TLC for quite some time. Nobody has built them that way since the 80s. Cut off and keep the old halyard rope tails. They are always good for something like dock lines.

Replace the mast in the boat and admire your handiwork. Buy champagne for the admiral and yourself.
I would definitely not use a punch and heavy hammer to do this without a WOOD drift in between. Steel hammering steel through steel is a great way to damage or jam the sheave pins. A rawhide/copper mallet on the rawhide side would obviate the need for drift damping.

Also I would not be too quick to advise what needs replacing and what does not. The OP should get a good rigging book and learn how to check his own wires and turnbuckles etc. On a 29 footer it isn't a big deal. But it is important to ensure they and the chainplates are in good condition.

I concur with all that the wire to line arrangement is a poor one. Best to convert to full rope/line.
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Old 17-06-2015, 12:13   #14
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

I also agree with the plan to unstep the mast and lay it down with a safe plan. It used to be quite common to have locations at marinas with a high pole and block and tackle where anyone could raise their own mast, but liability problems, insurance and law suits have destroyed that. You need to find a place where you can be smart and safe with your own well thought out moves.
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Old 17-06-2015, 12:34   #15
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Re: Jammed Jib and Main Halyard

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Originally Posted by cabo_sailor View Post
Everything that Ann said plus if you go to all rope halyards, you will probably have to replace the masthead sheeves to accommodate halyards thicker than wire.


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Hmmm maybe but i think that's unlikely. From the description in the OP it sounds like they are wire-rope halyards. In that case, the sheaves will be metal (probably aluminium) and wide enough for the rope but with a groove in the middle to accept the wire. It's possible that the wire has corroded into this narrow groove, or that the skinny wire has popped off the sheave altogether and wedged itself between the sheave and the mast. You could try winching the halyard from the base and that would free them up if they're corroded, but if they've popped off this could exacerbate the situation. Immobile sheaves only are unlikely to cause the halyards to be completely immobile, though it's possible with wire, particularly if it's been sitting and corroding in place for a while. I'm afraid it sounds to me like you're going to have to either get yourself up there to take a really good look, or get the stick pulled. If you have a friend with a boat that has a rig that is at least as tall as yours, you needn't put yourself in peril. Just tie the two boats alongside and go up their mast instead, then swing over to yours in the bosun's chair. I've done this frequently when working on boats that i didn't trust to go aloft on. Good luck.
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