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Old 12-10-2012, 11:14   #1
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Spreader Question

I have mysteriously bent the port spreader on my Columbia 7.6. The bend is parallel to the deck (meaning it is only visible from below) and appears to be angled about 5 degrees toward the stern. The 'bend' is within the first 1/4 of the spreader length from the mast.

I've sailed through 20 + knots of wind a few times while keeping an eye on it and have not noticed any bend in the mast, nor any further bend in the spreader.

Am I just waiting for a disaster? And in addition is there anywhere I can find a 'load' bearing diagram for the rigging of a typical sailboat while under sail?

Thanks!

(Additional info: the mast itself is chunky for the size of mainsail - as appears to be the case with most Columbia models)
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Old 12-10-2012, 11:18   #2
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Re: Spreader Question

Although the main forces in the upper shroud will be vertical the spreader will take a good bit of loading. I would want to replace the spreader. Maybe if the bend is very slight you can live with it but better safe than sorry.
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Old 12-10-2012, 11:30   #3
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Re: Spreader Question

I personally wouldn't want to risk it with a bent spreader. It very well could last you for years, or it could fail the next time you take her out. I would recomend getting a spare set made up and keeping them with you, just in case.
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:35   #4
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Re: Spreader Question

Skipmac's idea of replacing the bent unit sounds like a better plan than having a spare set ready to use after the mast crumples.
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:46   #5
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Re: Spreader Question

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Skipmac's idea of replacing the bent unit sounds like a better plan than having a spare set ready to use after the mast crumples.
Not what I was recomending. The bent spreader should be replaced immediately. I would keep a spare set of spreaders on me though in case it happens again. That way, you've got one ready to go.
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:59   #6
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Re: Spreader Question

That DOES sound like a good plan.
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Old 12-10-2012, 20:26   #7
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Re: Spreader Question

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Originally Posted by Kevin84 View Post
I personally wouldn't want to risk it with a bent spreader. It very well could last you for years, or it could fail the next time you take her out. I would recomend getting a spare set made up and keeping them with you, just in case.
I have never heard of anyone carrying a spare set of spreaders let alone 3 spare sets if you have a triple spreader! . Just replace your bent one and it should last for many years.

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Old 13-10-2012, 00:43   #8
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Re: Spreader Question

It would help us all visualize your problem if you described the spreaders a bit. Are they simple round tubing, oval tubing, flat section, or what? A bend in a simple round tube is a lot easier to do than a bend in a hollow, flat airfoil section like our spreaders have... and a lot easier to repair.

Give us data or photos and we can reduce the conjecture factor a bit.

And carrying spare spreaders is kinda silly IMO!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 13-10-2012, 01:06   #9
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Re: Spreader Question

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And carrying spare spreaders is kinda silly IMO!

Cheers,

Jim
I carry a spare set when I'm out cruising. When I'm at my home marina, tied up to the dock, I keep the spares in my storage unit. But when I go out on a trip (anything where I'm more than a day or two from shore) I bring em with me as part of my spares kit. Yes, they can be a hassel, but I would rather have em, and not need em, then have one fail on me and not have them. However, I will grant you this, if you're only day sailing or you are no more than a day or day and a half from shore, you don't need to carry them. But if your days away from shore and need to replace one, and you don't have one, you're screwed.
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Old 13-10-2012, 15:03   #10
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Re: Spreader Question

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Yes, they can be a hassel, but I would rather have em, and not need em, then have one fail on me and not have them.
Wouldn't a proper periodical mast inspection negate this problem? I have actually never heard of a spreader falling off of a mast.
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Old 13-10-2012, 15:37   #11
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Re: Spreader Question

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Originally Posted by Kevin84 View Post
I carry a spare set when I'm out cruising. When I'm at my home marina, tied up to the dock, I keep the spares in my storage unit. But when I go out on a trip (anything where I'm more than a day or two from shore) I bring em with me as part of my spares kit. Yes, they can be a hassel, but I would rather have em, and not need em, then have one fail on me and not have them. However, I will grant you this, if you're only day sailing or you are no more than a day or day and a half from shore, you don't need to carry them. But if your days away from shore and need to replace one, and you don't have one, you're screwed.
Well Kevin, everyone gets to decide for themselves what spares are essential for their mode of cruising. You are the first cruiser that I've heard of carrying spare spreaders... doesn't make it wrong, just unusual. Spreader failure isn't very common in cruising boats, though, and thus to me, carrying spares is not a requirement.

And seriously, using your example of being "days away from shore", if you had a spreader failure, merely having a replacement wouldn't do you much good. Replacing a spreader whilst at sea seems pretty unlikely to me... going aloft with a severely compromised rig with the boat rolling about is nigh unto suicidal!

If one has a failure and does manage to reach a safe anchorage, a spreader can often be locally manufactured. We knew a boat called Kialoa II... a famous race boat from the late 60's, 70+ feet of heavy displacement sailing machine. Had a towering mainmast with ~ 1 inch capshrouds. She was owned by a chap named Frank Robbens (sp?) who eventually took her cruising from SF to Mexico. Broke a spreader on the voyage south (don't remember how). In La Paz he tried to get proper "yacht quality" repairs done without success. So, he went to a chap who made ax and pick handles by hand, and had him manufacture a spreader out of local hardwood. Everyone laughed at this crude effort and assured him that it would cost him his mast if he went to sea with this silly thing up there. Fast forward some 5 years... met them in Suva, Fiji, and that silly "ax-handle" was still up there! They had done a lot of miles in the interim and the not-quite-straight bit of timber was intact and functional.

Anyway, I digress... sorry 'bout that, folks!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 13-10-2012, 16:05   #12
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Re: Spreader Question

I'll be going out for an easy day-sail tomorrow and i'll make sure to take some pictures of the problem spreader.

In response and some additional questions:

They are oval in shape.

In terms of repairs I am able to go aloft to fix the problem.

Are spreaders usually affixed by a screw / bolt at the mast slot?

I will have to loosen the upper port stay - should i secure the mast with a halyard prior to doing this?

Also any pointers to where i can purchase / order a replacement would be much appreciated (I am unaware of any machine shops in my current area).

Thanks
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Old 13-10-2012, 16:23   #13
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Re: Spreader Question

We had a spreader break mid Atlantic while hove-to in a heavy blow. Actually the spreader was sawn through by the action of a wire halyard (probably the storm jib if IRC) during the gale. Next day a 35 yo.aussie shipmate was hoisted up the mast multiple times as our 46' cutter rolled in the after swell and fitted a wooden spreader made from some cabin interior woodwork. The whole job took the better part of a day and held up fine through a few other trashings by mother nature till we reached England. .Quite an act of seamanship and carpentry since we had very few tools aboard.
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Old 13-10-2012, 16:36   #14
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Re: Spreader Question

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We had a spreader break mid Atlantic while hove-to in a heavy blow. Actually the spreader was sawn through by the action of a wire halyard (probably the storm jib if IRC) during the gale. Next day a 35 yo.aussie shipmate was hoisted up the mast multiple times as our 46' cutter rolled in the after swell and fitted a wooden spreader made from some cabin interior woodwork. The whole job took the better part of a day and held up fine through a few other trashings by mother nature till we reached England. .Quite an act of seamanship and carpentry since we had very few tools aboard.
I'm sure impressed by that feat! Well done indeed.

I had to go aloft at sea to replace a broken baby stay many years ago. Only about halfway up the mast, didn't take long, and I was beaten black and blue despite wearing a padded PFD and using a line to tie me to the mast and limit the pendulum effect. Your Aussie chap must have been pretty athletic (or in that common Aussie state of twilight anesthesia brought on by Victoria Bitter).

And finally, your story is yet another reason to use Dyneema halyards!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 13-10-2012, 20:49   #15
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Re: Spreader Question

I broke a spreader when my upper shroud caught on a very high piling (it was low tide) when I was leaving the dock. The piling was leaning out over the water and I didn't notice it until it caught. The spreaders were fit onto aluminum bars welded to the mast, with two clevis pins holding each spreader in place. The turning moment applied by the shroud catching on the piling moved the spreader aft and the extrusion cracked over the forward edge of the bar. I didn't notice the crack until the mast was unstepped at end of the season. I was lucky I didn't lose the whole rig.
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