Saturday, October 1, 2016

Rebuilding a Forespar Whisker Pole

Kintala came with a whisker pole mounted to two brackets on the deck. It took us quite a while of sailing the boat before we dared try the pole and we almost dumped Tim into the drink trying it. We weren't impressed.

Along came a good friend of ours, Barry, who showed us how to use the pole. I'm embarrassed to say how easily he did it, and he's considerably lighter built than either Tim or I. We began, tentatively, to use the pole. After two years of using the pole while cruising, we weren't sure how we had ever sailed without it. We spend a considerable amount of time sailing on just the genoa, and an even greater percentage of that time sailing in light wind. If you try to do this without the pole, you end up slatting the genoa and greatly decreasing its lifespan.

Back a few months ago while we were heading down the east coast of Florida to Snead Island for this job, we put up the whisker pole with a new rigging design we had read about in an article. I doubt that it was the rigging design, but the inner tube of the pole bent and broke after we had it fully extended. We tied up the pieces and anchored them to the mounting bracket the best we could and added it to the summer project list.

Early in the summer, I contacted the wonderful tech support at Forespar. They were kind enough to tell me that it wasn't entirely our fault that it broke, since it was two (not one, yes two) sizes too small for our boat. Go figure. Unfortunately, a new pole properly sized for our boat was just under two grand. Definitely not in the summer budget.

We began to look on Craigslist and eBay. We did find one that was the right size, but the description included the fact that one end didn't come with it. That end would have set us back nearly $500 so, with the price of the pole, it was also out of our budget. After a while I started looking at the possibility of repairing ours. Yes, it was two sizes too small for our boat, but it had lasted us almost 5 years and who knows how long it was used before that. As long as we were careful about the load we put on it, it might be worth exploring. After a few days of research, we surprisingly found that West Marine had the pole precut in the proper length and at the best price. Who knew? I ordered one from the parts department here on sight and waited the three weeks for delivery. As a side note, Rig Rite does also have most of the parts, but we were able to get a better price through the boat yard here from West Marine.

It appears that Forespar doesn't really want you to rebuild your poles, though. Finding information on parts and reassembly was difficult at best. I did happen on the basic drawing on their tech support site that I used throughout the rebuild that you see below.  It's part of an interesting article about whisker poles so read it when you get a chance. After removing the pole ends, which were all riveted on, you end up with four basic pieces - the outer tube, the inner tube, the inboard end fitting with the attached stinger tube, and the outboard end fitting. There are also two bushings that enable the inner pole to slide in and out. Every rivet had to be drilled out, and every screw was completely corroded in place and had to be drilled out and retapped.

New control line and jaw control line
While I was waiting for the new inner tube, I removed the old control line and replaced it with a shiny new one. I also removed all the smaller lines on the outboard end that are used to pull open and lock the jaw as well as provide loops to hook guy lines. One of our sheaves was completely locked up from corrosion and had to be drilled out and replaced. Fortunately, we had one just the right size from a block that we removed from The Floating Bear fiasco. Score!

The broken 90° tube. You can see the missing outer nut
where it's supposed to be in the photo above
There is also a 90° bent piece of aluminum tubing that guides the short piece of line on the outboard end that pulls open the jaw. It has a threaded end on it that comes up through a hole in the side of the tube and then a nut screws down on it. The whisker pole is aluminum, that tube is aluminum, and the nuts are stainless. Can you say corrosion? The little tube cracked and the nut fell off. I was unable to find a replacement online so I called Forespar and they were able to get me one.

A new jaw control cable. You can also see the new sheave where the
control line exits the end fitting. Please ignore the dirty deck :(
The hardest part of the rebuild was figuring out how to reassemble the pieces. It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You have to slide the inner tube into the outer tube until it's completely inside, install the stop bushing on the end of the outer tube, slide the inner tube back through that bushing, and then put the end on the inner tube. I confess it took me two tries to get it right. Some of it I riveted, some other pieces lent themselves better to being assembled with screws and nuts.

After a sigh of relief that it actually worked the way it was supposed to, I strode confidently to the foredeck to mount it in the brackets. Ummmm...when you order the inner pole it comes pre-cut at nine feet four inches, the exact measurement that it's supposed to be for that model pole. Unfortunately, some previous owner cut two inches off the end of the pole so this pole won't fit. After looking at it with Tim, we realized that the aft bracket had been installed backwards and so, rather than remove the bracket, rebed it, and reinstall it, they decided just to cut two inches off the pole. Go figure.

The whole project took about three weeks including the waiting, but we  have our original pole restored for a little less than $250 instead of $2K. Yes, it's too small for Kintala, but cruising budgets sometimes demand some compromises and this is one of those for us.


Mike said...

Big score on doing the rebuild instead of new purchase!

I'm curious do you determine what size of pole you need?


Deb said...

@Mike - Go to the document link at the beginning of my post. On page 10 of that document it has the list of boat sizes and the proper pole to use for either a genoa or a working jib. Let me know if you can't find it

Mike said...

Got it. Thanks Deb!