Now it so happened that David was visiting another junkie, Paul, who is in the midst of refitting a 32 ft steel ketch he built in S Africa. She was, of course, to be junk rigged. Their joint enthusiasm led to momentary madness when Paul e-mailed me saying that he had a good sewing machine, a large table and some ‘spare’ sailcloth, which should be about enough for me to build the sail that David had designed. What could I say but ‘thank you’ and from toying with a long-term plan, I was suddenly committed to an imminent project.
I am not good at planning too many steps at a time when making things. This occasionally results in my having got so far and being unable to see where to go next. However, I am stuck with the brain I was given, so have to live with it. So having started cutting material, I still didn’t know exactly how I was going to get to the end result: a sail. But once the material for the panels had been sewn together, I could begin to see the whole process. The latest thinking, in the junk rig world, is that it is both possible and beneficial to put camber in the sail itself, thus avoiding the weaknesses that have always plagued the flexible battens that people have used towards this goal. But being junk rig, things are not as you might expect: instead of the camber being along the height of the sail, it is along its length, between the battens. There are several ways of doing this: I used a method whereby one cuts out lens shaped pieces of fabric and sews these to the straight edges of the generally-assymetric panels.
As I cut them, I marked top, bottom luff and leach and, for good measure, such things as ‘to lens no 4). I can be remarkably stupid at sewing up a simple frock, so I tried everything I could think of to make sure nothing went wrong with the assembly. Odyssey is coated on one side, so that one side is shiny and the other matt: this also had to be taken into account. In fact I only had to undo one seam: a batten pocket that I did sew on wrong side up. All the graffiti paid off. The final cutting job was the batten pockets.
Once my pile of pieces was cut out I was ready to begin sewing. Although I have been involved in making junk sails before, my role has invariably been that of assistant, but when I started sewing I was amazed by how much had sunk in. I started from the top, because these panels were smaller and easier to handle. The plan was to sew panel to lens, sew on next panel and then to sew a batten pocket over middle of the lens. This way I was always working on (more or less) the edge of the sail. It all went surprisingly smoothly, although my stitching was far from straight or regular. For several panels I rolled the sail that I had already made, into a tube, thinking this would be easier to push along the table, but it was reluctant to slide. Eventually I just shoved mountains of material back and forth. This did allow the machine’s foot to do its thing and feed the fabric through, but it was still far from perfect. However, the stitching does the job it is meant to do, even if its not exactly of professional quality. Rough chipboard is rather different from the varnished floor of the average sail loft.
Back in Nelson I started thinking about the mast. I investigated timber, new and second-hand, alloy poles of various shapes and sizes and even fibreglass. A neighbour, clearing out under his house, presented me with a broken Douglas fir mast and a large baulk of the same timber, about a metre and half long. This gift eventually decided me to go for a ‘hybrid’ mast, with alloy base and wooden top – not a revolutionary idea, but one suggested in Practical Junk Rig. The longest length of 152 mm tubing I could buy was 6 m. I needed to end up with a 9.5 m mast and the topmast would need a bury of some 400 mm. I reckoned I had just about enough wood.
I now had a square-based mast and a round hole to put it in. So I filled out around the base to create an almost-circular section. I fitted pieces of wood roughly to size and then filled in the gaps with thickened epoxy. The whole butt was then sanded. I had bought an offcut of alloy tubing of similar dimensions to my mast and used this to ensure a good fit.
Instead of making a masthead fitting, I glued some large hex bolts into the top, head down (I had left extra wood here for this purpose) and a large eyebolt for the halliard. Stainless steel eyes were screwed to the bolts. A certain amount of tooth-sucking from various parties has resulted from this, with dire warnings of fatigue because the eyes are not meant to be used in this way. But they’re very big! Finally, I used the said eyes to suspend the mast while I painted it my favourite shade of turquoise, which colour I intend to use on my boat when I repaint her.
While waiting for glue to dry, etc, I had prepared the old rig to be removed. New Zealand yacht clubs and marinas rarely have their own mast cranes and masts are left in boats for decades at a time, apparently without problem. The usual route for me to have taken would have been to hire a crane, but this was going to cost several hundred dollars and I don’t have many. Instead I consulted with my friend Dick, on Irene, one of the most competent sailors it has been my good fortune to meet. Brought up around smacks and Thames barges, Dick knows how to use low cunning instead of raw power. We arranged to bring Joshua alongside his Irene – a large gaff ketch – and use her gear for pulling out the mast. My friend Ulla assisted, Pat took photos and provided tea and the whole thing went like clockwork, as anyone who knows Dick would have anticipated.
Had I made the mast and partners out of wood, I should have ended up with overly large structures, so I bit the bullet and asked a local metalworker to make them for me out of stainless steel. Galvanised would have been as good, but they would have to be sent to Christchurch to be galvanised (assuming the works had survived the earthquakes) which I reckoned would cost almost as much as the extra expense of stainless. When Bob presented me with the heart-stopping bill, explaining how much welding gas he had needed, I wondered if I had made the correct decision! Still and all, they are very well built and robust. So with plenty of what the Kiwis refer to as bog, plywood on deck and a hefty piece of mahogany below, I fitted the partners.
Now I had to line up the step. I dithered and measured and worried and fretted. Finally I got the whole stub of the main mast and stepped it through the partners and marked as well as I could where the step should go. The mast seemed to have an excessive forward rake, but I took photos and measured the angle and it seemed to be about 6º. With a bit of help from a neighbour, I got the heavy tube out again and started another round of fretting and worrying: the marks I’d made didn’t match up with my measurements. I faffed about for another couple of days before forcing myself to get on with it and bolt the step down. This, in itself, was a bit of a mission, because a previous owner had added some trimming ballast just where I wanted to fit my step and these random-shaped pieces of lead were very firmly secured with Sikaflex. Eventually, I filled in the gaps with (huge amounts of) epoxy until I had a solid layer to set bolts into. Using the Gougeon Bros methods, I then drilled oversized holes and set greased bolts into these, held in place by the step itself (also greased). When the glue set, I backed the bolts out and cleaned up the step. Then I spread Simson’s Marine Glue and stuck the step down, replacing the bolts.