January 25, 2011

The sleep-killing mast

WHEN YOU’RE THINKING about buying a boat there’s always something you think of too late. Something that will keep you awake all night the very first time you drop the hook in a beautiful anchorage.

Slap! Clang! Slap! It’s the noise of the loose wires in the mast. The incessant noise of the loose wires in the mast. The noise that drives you mad with frustration as you lie wide awake at 3 a.m. in your nice cozy bunk wanting to tear the mast open with your bare hands and strangle those damn wires that go clang with every little movement of the boat.

I have seen instructions from the experts showing how to pop-rivet a small-diameter plastic pipe inside the mast. Apparently, if you thread all the wires and cables through that pipe they can’t move around enough to make a noise.

The other way, which is a whole lot easier, is to fit those nylon zip ties used to bundle up electrical wiring. You’re supposed to use extra-long ones, so that the stiff ends protrude, and place groups of four of them together so they stick out at right angles to each other. The ends should protrude more than the diameter of the mast, so they will bend in place with enough spring to hold the wires in the middle of the mast. The groups of four need to be about 6 inches apart all the way up the bundle. You then haul the wires up through the mast on your messenger line, fix them in place, and hope for the best.

I don’t know how long this arrangement will last. I can’t guarantee that the stiff nylon ends won’t make dozens of squeaky little scritching noises in the middle of the night, which might be more annoying than a few honest-to-god hearty slaps, but people who’ve done it assure me they’ve enjoyed nothing but silence.

On a long cruise, I find that I don’t notice the slapping noises after the second or third night. My brain just tunes them out. But the first night is always hell, no matter how calm the anchorage seems, and no matter how many Dark ’n Stormies I have taken as a medicinal aid to sleep.

So before you buy your next boat, put an ear to the mast and get someone to rock the boat from side to side. Then get a quote for dropping the mast and fixing the slap. Subtract it from the purchase price. No seller with the faintest modicum of conscience will object.

More strangeness
ANOTHER strange thing happened. The number of my Followers has jumped from 29 to 36 virtually overnight. My fickle Follower who jumped ship has been replaced by seven new faithful Followers.

People ask me why I don’t show my Followers on this page, and I tell them that if I reveal my Followers then my readers may find them more interesting than me and desert me. For instance, I happen to know that one very interesting Follower has a Ph.D. in geology and sails one of my very favorite small boats, a Drascombe Lugger. I don’t doubt she’s more fascinating than me, and I know for sure she writes better than wot I can, so I’m not telling you who she is.

There is also a philosophical question concerning Vigor’s Silent Fan Club. If the chairman, Ivor Tungin-Cheaque, finds out about my Followers, and decides they are Following me as a crafty way of expressing praise for my writing, they will all be expelled from the club. As you know, members of this, the world’s largest fan club, are forbidden to acknowledge me or praise me in any way, in writing or by word of mouth. Old Medvedev has been very good about obeying this rule, and so has Mr. Obama, not to mention Queen Elizabeth, bless her little heart.

So I am playing it very cool for the moment, hoping that Mr. Tungin-Cheaque is looking the other way. I fear that a time may come when I shall have to reveal my Followers, but I leave that to Fate. The time is not now.

Today’s Thought
I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night, and then the nap takes me.
-- Samuel Johnson, (Boswell, Life, 1775)

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #151
Preparing a new boat for extended cruising costs about an additional 25 percent of the purchase price. A second-hand boat that has already been used for cruising will cost you only about 10 to 15 percent of the purchase price to be ready for cruising again.

“I find you guilty and sentence you to a fine of $250 and 30 days in jail.”
“Oh, please Your Honor, please I beg of you, please reverse my sentence.”
“Very well. I sentence you to a fine of $30 and 250 days in jail.”


EP said...

I feel I may have over-reacted by becoming a FOLLOWER, not having anticipated what this might do to my status as a Moonie. And so rectify I must

Oh and if you are the "Vigor" who has been cluttering up my book shelves, there are surely angry tree families out there. Perhaps they will follow you (avoid the woods at night, friend. Especially when under sail.)

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that 3 wire ties would work about as well as 4. It also seems like some way to keep the wire ties fixed in relation (angle) to each other would help a lot. Great idea.

John Vigor said...

Hello Anon:

Yes, three wire ties set at 120 degrees from each other would do it. I always tend to over-engineer.
The way you keep them in position is simply to use a nylon zip tie and tighten it up with all your manly (or feminine) force so it can't move around.

John V.

Aaron Headly said...

The original owner and builder of my boat accidentally discovered another way to keep the wires in the mast quiet:

He used extra-thick wires (6 or 8 gauge? Not sure), and he bundled them in a pretty stiff sleeve. The whole assembly is rigid and crooked, and it doesn't slap or rattle one bit. The kinks sort of brace themselves against the inside of the mast.

It did take me an entire afternoon with a voltmeter and a mate to figure out which wire was which when I installed a new masthead light assembly, what as there was no rhyme or reason to the colors of the wires, but I was happy to keep them.

Side note: I used a solar panel with alligator clips as a voltage source while I sussed the wires out, and that made it quite easy. Those things are handy!

Off topic: I'm finally reading Jack London's The Cruise of the Snark, and will recommend it to anyone interested in sailing or funny stories. Or both.