Getting all new standing rigging on a cruising sailboat in La Paz, MX.....not as challenging as it seems.

Like most sailboat owners, we closed on our (new to us) sailboat and quickly had the usual obligatory rig survey done by a rigger in San Diego California.  The rigging report turned out to be surprisingly good, telling us we had nothing emergent with the rig and 3-5 more years of life left in the rigging.  Coming away with that report, we didn’t think too much about the rig as we left the United States and sailed down the coast of Baja Mexico in November of 19.  As I recounted in my story about getting new chainplates in my story titled Phase-2 Tulum’s New Chainplates; we had the rigging surveyed on a whim in February.  The rig survey was more about what kind of things we could do better on our rig and running rigging setup than a serious survey to me…. but it got real quick.  Without even going up the rigging and after being on the boat for less than twenty minutes, our entire set of standing rigging was diagnosed as emergent and ready to be re-rigged now, a crushing blow that had me struggling to understand.  Let me explain: running rigging is any rigging that moves or is classified as line or rope, while standing rigging is unmoving (usually) wire or dynema rigging that holds up your mast.  On board our boat this last February, one only had to use a jeweler’s loop to take a look at our wire to see the obvious vertical cracks running up and down the individual strands of wire looping round itself to make up the standing rigging.  I took a close look…and the cracks (faults) were pretty obvious.  So, we left La Cruz in early March with a plan to head up to La Paz (Baja) to get the rigging and probably chainplates taken care of before spending the summer in Baja for hurricane season.  On the way up to La Paz, the world was gripped by the reality of Covid-19 and once we got to La Paz, most marine services were shutting down.  The most we got was another rig inspection.  By this point we knew we would have to spend hurricane season in Baja with a bum rig and tired chainplates, so we determined to baby them through summer the best we could.  This also influenced our August decision not to go further up the Baja than Conception Bay, as we would be getting further and further away from any services if something catastrophic had happened.

By October, we had made arrangements with both welder and riggers here in La Paz to get the work done and after a lengthy stay in the boatyard and a lot of work to get the chainplates in place, we were ready for rigging (see my separate posts about Stage-I and Stage-2).  Because we had already worked with the riggers, Luis Cosio and Dawn Rigging for a rig survey in late March and measurements for the rigging done in July (in Puerto Escondido), we were confident in Luis and his crew to knock out the rigging quickly once the chainplates were on….and they did.  In less than a week, most of the standing rigging on Tulum was replaced one wire at a time, often with the guys up the mast for 4-6 hours at a time.  Many minor details on both of our masts added up to larger projects once they were discovered and diagnosed.  Doing a roadtrip back to the US in the middle of the re-rig helped too, as I was able to take most of the running rigging home for replacement then bring it back while the crew was still working on rigging, so several different projects came to fruition upon returning back from the US with rigging supplies and running rigging.

Finishing up the splices for the new Dyneema lifelines we installed on our new raised stanchions.

Lessons Learned From Getting A Completely New Set of Standing Rigging in La Paz, BCS Mexico

– Great work can be done anywhere, but I highly recommend doing your research and getting multiple recommendations when doing something as important as standing rigging on a sailboat.

– Between chainplates and standing rigging, getting the rigging done was easier and faster than getting the chainplates installed.  We could have stayed on the boat for most of the standing rigging job, but the boat was unlivable (especially with kids and dog) during chainplate installation.

– Quality wire and parts mattered to me.  I made sure to ask about the origin of the wire (for the standing rigging) and we installed all new nickel-plated bronze turnbuckles and all new wire for inner and outer forestays as well as the triatic backstay.  I was also present for most of the rigging and although not “in” the riggers business, I wanted to be around to learn the process and watch the turnbuckle attachment to the wire….an interesting and important process that was done right on the dock in front of me….slowly and correctly.

– Raise an eyebrow to the next rigger who insists that you “GOTTA take the mast off”:  Getting ALL the standing rigging done then changing out most of the running rigging was done here (with the masts up) in about five days.  We were charged labor rates whether someone was up the mast or not but the riggers never even considered taking the mast down.  Most everything we needed was done while one of the guys was up on the sharp end….new mast light, new standing rigging and new running rigging.

– Patience, patience:  This is hard one for me because I want to get in there and help.  But both the Welders and Riggers knew what they were doing, so I had to manage to stay out of the way while trying to learn as much as I could….and definitely not come across as trying to micromanage.  Not sure if I succeeded, but this is our home…so I have a vested interest.  If you do any of these projects, I recommend staying involved.

In closing this post, I’m thankful for the hardworking guys who work with Luis Cosio and Dawn Rigging, as they spent countless hours up the mast and doing the hard work of swaagging the wire.

Having a complete re-rig this early in our cruising life wasn’t really in the plan, our budget or something we had in our minds when we left the US.  But this is something that HAD to be done and we simply had to bite the project bullet, no matter what the timing was.  I think cruisers have some ideas (like I did) about getting their boats out of the US via deferred maintenance and getting it done TONS cheaper in Mexico or somewhere in the Caribbean.  I’m not sure this is the case much anymore, at least not in Mexico.  I think if there’s projects that you can do yourself then things will be a ton cheaper, like hauling out and painting your own bottom.  But for projects you cannot do yourself, pricing down here may not be much cheaper than the US and you may have to wait on high quality or low density parts to get here…. then pay the shipping and taxes to get them in the country.  In short…. you’re going to pay more than you think for projects and parts that require specialists so consider this prior to leaving the US.

I’m not sure if my rambling in this third part of my series about Tulum’s refit made coherent sense, but I’m really happy we got it done and we’re probably on the water as you read this heading for Isla Isabel and La Cruz, Banderas Bay MX.  We live on our sailboat full time with our two kids and Great Dane…. trying to isolate from “La Rona” and take life slowly as we head south.  Got Questions or Comments…we’d LOVE to hear from you. 

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11 Responses

      1. My homebase will be Houston while I earn enough money for my vacation plans out west. Just let me know when you’re in town and I’ll get some time off!

  1. You are lucky you did things the way you did. To many people start in the US and never leave. Your sister ship is a good example. Abandoned in Ventura after several people tried and failed to keep up their courage in the boat yard. We were lucky. We did our work in Cabo and sailed the dream.

    1. Are we the only ketch or are there other Aleutians as ketch’s? We’re trying to get her to sail but so far haven’t gotten the hang of it. Advice?

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