Nov. 17th, 2008 Today, I'm really going to do some work. But it's very cold outside. It's only 45 degrees out there but we have no wind. So I'll get busy.

After a quiet breakfast of eggs, beagle, and lots of coffee I decided there was no reason to put off this whole chainplate replacement project. So I started.

Chainplate Replacement Project

Remember back on about 20 Oct when I wrote about noticing cracks in the chainplates? Well on that blog entry (click here) I talked about order new chainplates and then having to wait for them to come in. But since I would be motoring most of the way to Beaufort, I figured I could get down to here before I really had to install them. Well I have to install at least the upper shroud's chainplate since it has two cracks in it. Then I can at least consider Galena mission-capable and sail her without a great deal of concern.

First issue was the rail strake. Westsail put the rail strake (a strip of teak running along the side of the boat, just below the gunnel) on after the chainplates and therefore over them. Furthermore, there is one of the four bolts directly under the teak rail.

So one has to cut a chunk of the teak out over the chainplate. It looks like this:

The cutout in the rail strake (and the #2 bolt head) is circled in red.
I'm debating weather I should cut new teak to replace the piece I took out, or just taper the ends of what's left and leave the chainplate exposed.


Then I went below. At first I thought the bolts were accessible from inside the hanging locker. But no. Those were the bolts for the forward lower shroud. The uppers are the ones that are just aft of the main bulkhead. So I had to move everything off of the pilot birth (doesn't everyone use the pilot berth for storage?)

Then I had to remove a goodly portion of the ceiling. On a Westsail this means pulling down 7 of the teak slats running along the inside of the hull. They are each held in place with 5 bronze screws. Thank God for electric screwdrivers!

As an additional bit of aggravation, the two lower bolts are in line with the main cabin bulkhead. Makes sense from a structural point of view. Those bolts have been glassed over with the tabbing of the main bulkhead. That is, the bolts are covered with a couple of layers of fiberglass. See the red circled bulges below.


The view of the inside of the hull with part of the teak ceiling removed.
Circled in blue are the aft lower chainplate bolts.
Circled in red are the two lower nuts of the four bolts of the upper shroud chainplate that I have to replace. The nuts are under those bulges in the fiberglass tabbing. The upper two bolts are way up inside the bulwark. 

So, having not a lot of power tools available while sitting at anchor here in Beaufort, I used a drill to punch a bunch of holes around the bolt. Then I used a chisel to tear out the bit of fiberglass around the bolt itself.


Drilling into the fiberglass. Always exciting drilling against the inside of the hull.

With just enough of the tabbing removed to fit a wrench onto the bolt, I was able to remove the bolts. The fiberglass tabbing was very thick and very hard. No wonder this hull is so heavy. And this is just the glass holding the bulkhead in place!

The upper two bolts were not too hard. I used a ratchet-wrench tool (9/16") to get the nuts off. But, as usual with things up in that narrow slot, I now have hands and arms that are itching and scratched from the fiberglass. It will take days for the itching to go away, no matter how much I scrub my hands.

Just enough glass removed to fit a wrench on the nut and turn it a sixth of a turn.


With all four bolts removed, and with a lot of twisting and pulling and a little prying, the old chainplate came off.

The old chainplate hanging from the turnbuckle.
Yes, Galena was once white with red trim.


I cleaned the area under the chainplate and put sealant all around the bolt holes. With my friend, Capt Ron, holding the bolts in on the outside I went inside and put the nuts on. Here's a shot of the finished assembly from the inside, looking up into the bulwarks.

The top three of the four new nuts, looking up into the bulwarks on the inside of the hull.


I retensioned the rigging, put the ceiling slats back into place, put all the stored junk back on the pilot berth, stowed away the tools, tried like hell to wash off all the fiberglass dust from my hands and arms, and then went out with Capt Ron for a beer.

All told the whole thing took about 5-hours. Not too bad considering I was doing this at anchor and not at my home marina.

06 - 13 Nov 09 (Friday - Friday)
Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, NC (N 35 121.557' W 076 35.497')
Trip: 37nm, Total: 290nm, Eng: 2300hrs
Fuel: 50 gal @ $2.59 = $140; Marina: $1.50/ft/day



I had a good sail down the Neuse River and into Adams Creek. I was making good time so I continued all the way to Beaufort, NC.

I stopped at Town Creek Marina for fuel and to see my buddy Ron and his lovely wife, Terry (s/v Lastdance).

I decided to take a slip. I know that's way out of character for me. But I did it. As it turned out that was a very good idea. I had some work to do on Galena. There was that persistent overheating problem as well as a couple of cracked chainplates that needed to be replace. A slip would make all that work a lot easier.

One of the cracked chainplates had an obvious crack visible on the outside. And it was radiating out from the uppermost bolt. So only half the chainplate was holding the shroud. (For all my non-sailboater friends out there, a chainplate is a long hunk of metal that bolts into the side of the hull. At the top end is a hole and into that hole goes the wires (shrouds) that hold up the mast. If a chainplate fails, the mast may well fall down.)

When I pulled off the chainplate I found not just the crack visible to the right of the bolt hole below, but also a crack on the left side of that bolt hole. In essence the chainplate was only held together by about 1/4" of steel. Way too close to the mast falling down.


Close-up of chainplate with two cracks highlighted by the arrows