Elon Musk vs The Victorians.

We start building the tension in the lines.

28th April 2024

Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquises, French Polynesia

Technology on boats seems to change at both a staggeringly fast and a staggeringly slow pace. Communication has changed staggering fast with the advent of Starlink connecting every boat with everyone all the time, but masts are still held up with technology that would be familiar to Victorians. Entering Nuku Hiva, Ruffian’s rigging would have been familiar to those Victorians but when we left our rigging was in the age of Elon Musk.

As soon as we entered Nuku Hiva Nik from “Mindelo” arrived with arms full of everything we needed to change our poor broken lowers. From his inventory of ‘spares’ he came with reels of 13mm SK78* Dyneema, reels of 2mm whipping Dyneema and most importantly an air of both confidence and competence.

Under Nik’s expert eye we formed Brummel splices around reinforced metal eyes, threaded anti chafe over the rope and made lowers of exactly the right length all ready to replace the broken metal ones that were still tentatively holding the mast upright. It looked like our plan of using our old mast spoon fittings, combined with Norseman compression fittings and some big shackles was going to work.

With the sun just peeking its head over the hills the breeze had died, the swell was down and it was time for the the scariest part of the rigging changing operation. We secured emergency stays to cleats and then simply undid the metal lowers. The mast was now held up with little more than luck and our hopes that our plan would work.

As Iain climbed the mast it bent and shook as the support it had was superficial at best, but with his heart in his mouth each lower was slipped out of the mast and our new funky Dyneema lowers put in place. Now back on deck we once again turned to Nik and followed is expert instructions on lashings, frapping whippings and instructions on how to build tension in the high modular string that now held our mast upright.

Building tension in Dyneema lowers if not for the faint heated. We attached the thin Dyneema line to our jib sheets and wound it so tight that it sounded like a guitar string. It seemed impossible that such thin sting could take so much load and bit by bit the lowers became tighter and tighter. We slowly pulled out the creep that is present in all new string and removed any slack that was present in the lashings.** As our fear threshold was reached to tied knots that were completely new to us and gingerly released the dead end of the lashing from the winches. Our knots took the strain, we felt the tension equalise within the lashing and we marvelled that Ruffian was once again a fully functioning sail boat.

After just 2 days of work we now had modern lowers that were lighter, stronger and easier to replace than their old Victorian counterparts. This was all thanks to “Mindelo” after they gave us their time, expertise and spares. We are truly thankful to them for helping get us back on ‘the road’.

As Ruffian was now on the road to recovery we could also hit the roads and explore the island that was towering all around us. Our mightily micro car valiantly tackled the hills and took us to viewpoints that looked down impossibly pretty valleys, across plains where tree’s dripped with moss and through valleys whose sides sprouted waterfalls from unfathomable heights.

Nearing the end of our day on the tarmac we wound our way down gradients that seemed undriveable and our day of scenery gay way to history. We wandered around ancient religious grounds whose meaning has been lost to the eons of time and were on a scale that seemed too big for the fragility of man to have built. This island was giving surprises on every front.

After many thousands of very scary sailing miles, Ruffian’s rigging has now been fixed but that doesn’t mean the scary miles are over. As we continue to explore these remarkable islands we’ll be building tension in our new modern string and gaining confidence that our mast is in column, straight and strong. Ruffian may have entered the age of Elon Miusk, but our minds are still in the age of the Victorians.

* This string is specifically designed for rigging, has a breaking strain greater than steel, has low creep values and has even been pre stretched.

** Tensioning the rigging is far from finished as the lashings will settle, the splices will tighten and the last of the creep needs removing. Our first miles under sail with this rigging is reported to be ‘scary’ at best.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

1 thought on “Elon Musk vs The Victorians.

  1. Very well done on rigg repairs! Nuku hiva looks as beautiful as I remember it from 2009!
    Fab photos , stay safe both.
    Ps been looking at joining a Catamaran in Galapagos bound for NZ before storm season kicks in..

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