innocent question from new Wisconsin W leads to comprehensive running rigging discussion
In a message dated 11/22/2004 5:14:38 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:
I am in Wisconsin, USA. I just adopted a Wayfarer that was built around 1974 - it is a fiberglass hull in great shape  -  it has been kept inside during winters and well taken care of.  I was wondering about replacing the shrouds and forestay. How often should this be done?  They do not seem worn but I want to be sure not to have any surprises. How much would replacing these things cost?  Would buying on the net be a good idea?  Where would I go to get this stuff?



From Martin: Some UK boat insurers recommend every 10 years. A Dutch mast maker, who I consulted says that this rubbish and that the insurers are protecting themselves at the expense of their customers. His advice was that if the boat is given a regular real hammering then maybe 10 years is reasonable, otherwise it is completely unnecessary. Check the terminals for cracks etc. and the wire for damaged strands.

On Mon, 22 Nov 2004 19:45:12 +0100 "wayfarer"  writes:


I agree with Martin 100%. But, if you do decide to replace the SS-wires, here are some tips:

As long as you are no top racer any 3 mm stainless steel wire will do. Most commonly used is 1 x 19 SS-wire, top racers may prefer Dyform wire instead but I don’t see the advantage unless you call the hole in your wallet an advantage. Dyeform wire is supposed to have less wind resistance and smaller cavities between strands.... yeah, sure, whatever....

Here is the answer I got from Ian Porter when I asked him length the shrouds should be: "The Wayfarer shroud length that we use is 15ft 10.5 ins.  (4.839 metres), and we use Holt Allen HA 4272 adjuster plates"

Do not use turnbuckles, they tend to break at the most inconvenient moment. Use adjuster plates instead. The shroud length above assumes adjuster plates. Look at to see what horror could happen to you when using turnbuckles.

The best system for the forestay I have seen so far is to have it 4 or 5 inches short and use a rope purchase to tension it a little. A bungee cord parallel to the rope purchase will take away any slack once the Genoa is hoisted. The forestay only has two functions:
  • to keep the mast up in the dinghy park.
  • a safety in case the Genoa halyard breaks.
You want just enough tension on the forestay to keep the mast from moving around. If there is not enough tension the mast will bounce around 24/7 and a terminal will eventually break. The forestay is not used for mast pre-bend or other sailing functions. With that in mind you could also consider a full rope forestay.

With this information you should be able to get shrouds and a forestay anywhere. The material isn't very expensive (compared to some other parts). making the eyes is hand labour and is probably the most expensive component. My chandler allows me to do it myself using his equipment. That is a real money saver (and I don't trust the staff to make reliable eye presses, except for the owner himself). I would not be surprised if your local chandler has the best value for money since he would not charge you shipping fees.

Best wishes,

Ton Jaspers
(W5011, Netherlands)

 -----Original Message-----
From: Richard C Harrington []
Sent: dinsdag 23 november 2004 3:25
To: wayfarer

You surprise me.  As a cruising man, I would never in my life recommend anything other than a hard-wire, rock-solid forestay.  The day will come when you'll need to sail under mainsail alone, or no sail at all.  A solid forestay (taut!) is absolutely a must with me.  Its purpose goes far beyond that of holding the mast upright in the dinghy park.
Regarding old shrouds and stays:  If they are properly cared for, I see no reason to change shrouds based upon age alone,  especially in fresh water conditions.  Shrouds can survive far past 10 years.  A couple of times a year, the shrouds should be inspected, top to bottom, for kinks or a broken wire.  If any are found then it's time to replace them.  Old shrouds made up with brass Nico Press fittings should always be suspected as a potential source of trouble because these fittings can slip with age and use.  With the type of cruising I do, I will not allow anything but shrouds with swaged end fittings.  Also I strongly recommend going up a size to 1/8" diameter wire as opposed to the standard 3/16".  Besides being stronger, it doesn't kink as easily.

On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 19:39:27 +0100 "wayfarer" writes:


It is good to hear from you again. I have another way of dealing with strong winds. When the going gets tough, I take away my main and run away. Last summer I sailed solo in a force 7 to 8 all day under small jib only. I had no problems whatsoever. Only after I hoisted the main (without jib) did I get into trouble (capsized). It is amazing how high the boat will point under jib alone and how much control one has. Solo, under jib alone, I even managed to keep some sort of navigation going, drink a beer and roll a cigarette (when it wasn't raining) while sailing.

Also I have a furler, so I never take away the jib, except in the dinghy park, I just furl  it away. So, in my case I never have any tension on the forestay and it truly is just a safety line and it could be replaced by a Dyneema rope that has the same breaking strength as the SS-wire, IMHO.

The last 4 - 5 inches of my forestay are four pieces of Dyneema (rope purchase). A single 5 mm Dyneema line is about as strong as the 3 mm SS-wire. So, I am quite confident that if the forestay breaks, it will not be the Dyneema part. (Jib luff and halyard are 100% SS-wire though).

My shrouds are stronger than usual and have long (4 inch) swaged end fittings, the type normally used on much larger yachts. There I agree with you. My shrouds are now three years old, and since my chandler allows me to make the swages myself, replacing them wasn't expensive. Because of that, I have promised myself to get new ones the moment I lose confidence in them. Compared to other parts and sailing costs in general, the price of stays and shrouds is really low. Hence my advice to anyone is: if you don't trust them, replace them. If only for peace of mind.

BTW, I am changing my forestay arrangement by adding a blocks and leading the Dyneema rope back to the cockpit. That allows me to shoot bridges easily and it is nice for racing in light winds. It allows me to keep some tension on the mast while having some luff sag in the Genoa. I am still engineering a safety system that will keep the mast up in case the forestay extension line accidentally comes out of its cleat but that will still allow me to shoot bridges simply. Also the stay extension line and the furler control line will be moved below deck to minimize the number of lines in the cockpit and on deck. The cleats will be moved from the thwart to the tabernacle.

Best wishes, Ton

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----- Original Message -----
To: wayfarer
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2004 9:49 PM

Hello again Ton,
First, my apologies for neglecting to say how much I enjoy hearing from you.  It's been a while, too long in fact, since we last exchanged messages.  My best wishes for the holidays and hope all is well with your family. 
Regarding the forestay issue, I agree that if one has a roll REEFING genoa and doesn't plan to change jibs at sea, the importance of maintaining a hard forestay becomes less significant.  I continue to utilize a two jib combination, genoa and small jib, and frequently change jibs on the go under difficult conditions.  I depend heavily upon the forestay.  During my recent Maine coastal cruise with Tom Graefe, I probably changed jibs six or eight times.  One day alone, I did this three times, and all the while, Tom continued to sail the boat.  Ultimately, in winds gusting over 30 knots, we ended up beating our way up a narrow channel between several islands under the unusual combination of double reefed main and small jib.  The option of running before the wind was not a desirable one.  Were I sailing rivers and canals and in an area where there's a need to shoot bridges I'd certainly look into something similar to what you suggest.
My regards to all---DICK