Sailing: End of the season

There comes a time in northern waters in fall when the sailboat needs to come out of the lake and put in its winter storage. For me, that time was this weekend, though the sailing season ended for my Catalina 22 “Amanda” two weeks ago.

My son and I had taken her out on Lake Ontario for a couple of hours and when it came time to lower the jib, aka the headsail, aka the sail in the front of the boat, it came down about halfway and then would move no more. The jib rides up and down on brass hanks that wrap around a cable called the headstay or forestay. Something had happened to the headstay while we were sailing. I pulled the sail in as best as I could and tied it up until we could get the boat back to shore. Once there, I lifted my 6 foot tall William up on my shoulders and he unhooked the sail.

I could see the the headstay had a problem and that at least one of the cable strands had broken and then wrapped itself into a knot as we lowered the sail. Here’s what it looked like up close:

broken headstay

That cable is not saying “repair,” it is screaming “replace.” For this particular boat, a new headstay costs about $75 and I need to lower the mast to do the work. Since the season was nearly at an end and I would be lowering the mast anyway, I decided to just say we were done until next spring when I would do the necessary labor.

I’m not sure I’m going to simply replace the headstay. I’ve been coveting a furling jib, basically a front sail that wraps around itself and the headstay via a coiled rope mechanism. They aren’t cheap, but the kits include a new headstay. They are easier to handle than raising and lowering a jib, especially if you are sailing solo. They are relatively new contraptions and many people swear by the traditional hanked-on jib setup that I have. I’ll think about it over the winter and make my decision in February or so.

It was relatively easy taking the boat out of the water and getting it on the trailer, especially since I had my son plus four other people who volunteered to help. I did not have to use the extended tongue on the trailer even the water level in the lake had dropped since I put the boat in in August. Though I did have to go into the water to maneuver the boat onto the trailer, it was too cold, probably about 60 degrees F.

The boat is now safely in my backyard and covered with strapped down tarps. I took everything out of the boat that should be indoors for the winter. My son is working through the candy bars I kept in the boat’s cooler. I also power washed the bottom of the boat and the rudder before closing it up.

The only remaining task to end the sailing season is to put the new outboard motor in the basement. First I need to build a stand from 2×4 and 1x stock and then clear some space. Before we removed the boat from the water I took off the gas line and let the engine consume all the gas in its fuel line. This will help avoid having a gummed up motor in the spring. I’ll probably bring it to a mechanic toward the end of winter to make sure it is in prime condition for next season.

sailboat in driveway

I have a mental list of things I need or want to do on the boat next season. First up is resolving the headstay situation I described above. If that cable broke, it’s likely that the other ones are also due for replacement since I need to presume they are all the same age, approximately 22 years. I was told that 10 years  is a good lifespan for these cables, so I will almost certainly go ahead and replace the shrouds and the backstay. While I’m at it, I’ll also replace the mainsail and the jib halyards which are starting to show their age as well.

Evidently I have a slight leak in the front hatch window. I’ll test that by having someone spray it with the hose while I look for leaks inside. With luck that will only involve some caulking.

Those are the “must do” items. The “nice to do” items include getting replacement cabin cushions and new cockpit cushions. From a quality of life perspective, the latter are more important than the former. Depending on my budget, I’ll probably spread these out over the next two to three years.

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