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Shrouds and mast are considered among the most reliable components of a sailboat. Not many other items convey the same feeling of being reliable. And maybe this is why their maintenance is often overlooked.

However, service them regularly is essential to be sure that their reliability is maintained.

When the season is over it is recommended to climb the mast using the bosun’s chair and wash it with fresh water to remove the salt, as well as to brush the shrouds to get rid of the most deeply stuck salt crystals. The same cleaning, although lighter, should be performed at the beginning of the season, when the red sand accumulated during the winter has to be removed.

Apply some polish for inox on the easy-to-clean parts. Spray polish on the rigging and let it enter deeply. During cleaning you may realize that the rigging is badly stained or shows filtering. Should this be the case, check the rigging carefully as a strand may be damaged.

Common polishes are normally used to clean shrouds, but some acids fit for the purpose are also commercially available, such as the oxalic acid, that needs to be used very diluted. However I wouldn’t recommend it as the rigging has to be removed to be cleaned, which wouldn’t be very convenient.

It is also important to service turnbuckles: these should be removed and cleaned with water and soap, scraped with a toothbrush to remove all the foreign bodies from the top of threads. This is not very often performed as removing turnbuckles means to have to adjust the mast again, which can be partly solved by placing a reference adhesive tape on the thread. Of course, in case of 14-15m length boats, there are force limits and a rigger may be useful.

A careful cleaning of rigging and mast is also a great opportunity to check the conditions of other component parts. You could single out a broken split pin or mooring light, a worn out strand, a blocked pulley, spreaders clearance and so on, in order to replace the item at a sufficient early moment. Moreover, a clean mast will keep the sails clean, too.

Once the cleaning has been completed, rails and pulleys have to be lubricated. Use a dry spray (TFT) that does not run down.

Spreaders edges and end parts shall be covered with sewn leather and secured with velcro or vulcanized tape to be replaced whenever you clean these parts, which are most at risk of getting dirty or rusty.

What still needs to be checked? Electric connections, VHF connections, rivets (better in Monel or inox, not recommended in aluminium), painting, if there is corrosion. If necessary insulate couplings between different materials using paste such as Tef Gel or Duralac. And finally, check the condition of jib furler profiles and their dowels (if necessary, use threadlockers, medium size).

Remember that to climb the mast not only a bosun’s chair and relative safety devices are required, but also a piece of rope to climb from forestay to backstay while being firmly secured. A person is needed onboard to open and close the water hose, which has to be very long to reach also the highest points. Fasten the pipe to the halyard, as it will be heavy during the cleaning and therefore difficult to manage. You will surely get wet, so wait for a hot, sunny day.

And make sure you are not afraid of heights!

Davide Zerbinati

Architetto Navale e Ingegnere Nautico specializzato in barche in alluminio è un riconosciuto perito nautico e appassionato velista di seconda generazione, ha collezionato molte miglia in Mediterraneo.
Autore del libro “Lavori a Bordo” e conduttore del serial Tv “Lavori in barca”.
Davide Zerbinati

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