Pre-Departure — Final Boat Preparations

October 2015


We finally got the replacement bowsprit mounted on the boat. The bowsprit on the Westsail 42 is a stainless steel appendage, roughly triangular in shape, protruding from the front of the boat and serving the purpose of extending the forestay and jib sail beyond the deck, giving a longer base for the fore triangle and making possible the cutter rig on a 42 foot-long hull with a 55 foot-tall mast. Also, it gives the anchor something to hang from so it doesn’t smash against the hull as it is raised and lowered. As an added bonus, the bowsprit serves as somewhat of a battering ram when maneuvering in close quarters, such as a marina. (This is not something one would normally use it for on purpose.)

It was not easy getting the new bowsprit installed. We had ordered it from the Westsail parts supplier, Worldcruiser Yacht Company in Newport Beach, California with the hopes that it would be an identical replacement to the original. But with the original being forty years old now, perhaps those hopes were unrealistically high. Bud emailed us a simple drawing with the dimensions between the four mounting pads. Those dimensions were a bit off from the old one which was now sitting on a trailer in our driveway. We corrected the dimensions and emailed it back. And waited.

The original was removed in April, at the beginning of our pre-trip boat “refresh” project. Since we were pulling the masts anyway, we thought it would be easy enough to also use the crane to just lift off the bowsprit once it was unbolted and set it on the trailer to take home for storage. It was the bowsprit mounting brackets bolted to the hull that we were after. A rust stain running down from one of the bolts had caught the attention of a surveyor a few years earlier and we needed to investigate.

It was not easy to get it off. With the boat still in the water, and the crane attached to the bowsprit, the mounting bolts were removed from the tabs but the bowsprit did not move.
It took the efforts of several people, hammers and pry bars and everything else we could think of that was available, but mostly it took time that had not been scheduled. Finally, slowly, it began to move, then came free. The crane operator placed it on the ground and went home. Everybody else went home too. It was late. We managed to slide it up on the trailer ourselves.

Before our 2015 “refresh” was over, we had replaced nearly all bolts in all parts of the rig, including all sixteen for the bowsprit mounting brackets. But it was the bowsprit itself that was the unexpected surprise. While cleaning and polishing it, and after having a broken weld in the pulpit rail repaired, we discovered a couple of small cracks in one of the mounting tabs. Closer inspection by a stainless steel expert revealed many very small cracks threatening the structural integrity of the whole thing. The decision was made to replace it. Little did we know we would still be installing it in October.

When the bowsprit finally arrived in late August, it was boxed in two pieces. This was a change from the one piece original. The pulpit was now a separate assembly from the main structure, which made it easier to handle. We unwrapped the main structure and measured the distance between the mounting tabs. As far as could be determined with a tape measure stretched over a three-dimensional surface, the dimensions looked good.

The original bowsprit had teak decking that was nice, but a pain to maintain. So we didn’t. With the bowsprit off the boat, we removed all the teak so we could sand it down and refinish it with “Honey Teak,” a hard acrylic finish that should last longer than varnish or teak oil. Once refinished, the teak would be installed on the new bowsprit. However, the new one was missing the extra internal frame that the teak had been mounted on. Without those cross pieces there was insufficient support to mount the old teak on the new bowsprit.

The next thing we noticed was that the steel plates that the port and starboard running lights mount to were much smaller on the new bowsprit than the old one. A quick check proved that our Aqua Signal running lights were too big for the welded plates. This would require cutting out some teak backer boards, sanding and finishing them, and bolting them to the stainless plates. The lights could then be mounted to the boards, with the wiring run through the pulpit rail, as before. Meanwhile, we thought maybe some trampoline material from Seattle Fabrics, stretched across the open bowsprit, could serve much the same purpose as the teak decking had. However, it would not be the solid surface we were used to.

We took the main frame of the bowsprit to the marina without really knowing how we were going to get it in place on the boat. It was heavy and awkward. We rolled it down the dock on a small mover’s dolly. The original plan was to reinstall the bowsprit using a forklift while the boat was in the boatyard. Even though the boat was in the yard for nine weeks–three times longer than planned–that opportunity passed two months before the bowsprit had worked its way through the fabricator’s project queue. However, we found plenty of willing and eager help in the form of several admittedly bored guys standing around on the dock. A bowsprit installation was the best thing they had going at that moment. They made short work of simply picking it up and holding it in place while the bolts were dropped into the holes. One, two, three, but not four.

We tried for a long time, loosening, wiggling, retightening, but the best we could do was get three of the four holes to line up. Suggestions were many. None really possible or practical or quick. We went home with no answer, just a question as to how bad could those cracks in the original really be?

The solution that worked its way to the top of the list was a shim. We could cut it out of 3/4 inch thick Coosa board and place it between the hull and the bracket that would not line up. This would move the bracket outward and the holes should align. They did. We worked hard, squirming through small openings, over the holding tank and into the anchor chain locker to barely get access to the nuts on the bolts. It worked. But it’s now well into the first week of October.

Below: the rusty bolt on the bowsprit mounting bracket that delayed our plans.

The Rusty bolt