That sticky-uppy thingy! (Mast care)

Stepping the mast on Wailana

Stepping the mast on Wailana

This is from the Express 27 site but it applies to the Express 34 and the 37.

Bit o’ Trivia – Why are the Express masts black? Black anodizing lasts much longer that other types. As per Buzz Ballenger.

Ballenger Spar Systems

Sailboat Masts, Booms, and Rigging

Care and Maintenance of Express 27 Spars

Spars, like all other equipment, require routine maintenance and inspection. Many of the E27s that have been built are now getting to be four or five years old and are in need of a serious inspection to prevent future problems. Checking for fatigue and wear are fairly simple and can prevent a multitude of problems that can lead to failure of the spar. Racing in San Francisco Bay is some of the toughest on equipment in the country, and maintaining a periodic inspection and maintenance routine is very good preventive medicine. I would like to outline where the problem areas are, and the possible solutions.

Hounds area— This is the area of the highest loading on the spar. It is subjected to constant loading and unloading and will develop fatigue problems eventually. The first sign of fatigue is generally a small crack across the top of the hounds box weld. Repairs should be made immediately and are fairly simple. This type of problem will occur mostly in masts that are bent a lot and are raced hard. This area should be checked often.

Topping lift box— The slot that the box is installed in can begin to show fatigue also. The first indication is a small crack forming from one of the corners of the slot. The fix is to install two doublers (bar stock) on either side of the box slot.

Standing rigging— Check for broken strands, cracked swage fittings, kinked rod uppers,etc. Boats that have Navtangs installed for the upper rod (virtually all, identifiable by the stainless steel caps that are visible on the upper rod termination) should be sure that the tie rod is well lubricated and that both caps are able to move freely. Inspect the turnbuckles for bent studs, toggles or worn clevis pins.

Lubricate sheaves— Both the main halyard and jib sheaves should be lubricated with a heavy bodied lubricant (lithium grease is a good type) frequently. Lack of lubrication can lead to premature wear or galling of the metal parts. Halyard life and ease of operation will be compromised.

Halyard chafe— Check to be sure that there are no deep gouges in the stainless steel chafe guard at the jib hounds. If you find the chafe guard to be rough, file or sand it smooth, and have the deep gouges filled with weld and smoothed out. Also check to see that the masthead crane isn’t damaged by the main halyard where it exits at the back of the mast. A stainless steel chafe guard can be installed to minimize further chafing. Inspect the halyard exits for any cuts in the aluminum. The addition of stainless steel rub bars on the upper end of the exit will eliminate further chafe.

Mast butt— Inspect the butt of the mast to make sure that the bottom is not corroded and that the fasteners that attach the mast to the base plate are secure. If severe corrosion is found, slight trimming or a small external sleeve can solve the problem. When the mast is stepped and the rig is at its standard rake, check to see that the front of the base plate is in contact with the bottom plate. If there is a gap greater than about 1/16th” the bottom of the mast should be trimmed to allow the base plate to contact the bottom plate. This contact is important in that it insures engagement of the mast step pin and reduces loading on the hinge. This is very important to check on any boat that is using a longer headstay than was supplied with the standard boat. Our current standard butt angle cut is 2 degrees.

Spreaders and bars— Remove the spreaders from the spreader bars and the tips from the spreader extrusions. Make sure that the spreader bars are not cut deeply by the halyards(caused by installing the halyards in front of the bars). Replace if necessary. Reinstall with all of the halyards behind both spreader bars. Install the spreaders and tips using silicone or Never-Seize on the screws. Be sure that the screws are not stripped and are secure. It is a good idea to seize or tape the spreader tips in position. To avoid a case of droopy spreaders. A ball of tape below each spreader works, as does seizing with waxed thread. The dihedral angle (upsweep) of the upper spreader is approximately 5 degrees and the lower spreader 3 degrees. The idea is to bisect the angle of the shrouds running over the tips. That makes the lateral spreader loading mostly compressive.

Anodizing after several years of use— The anodized finish on the spars can become dull, and marked. To clean the surface and renew the color, make a paste out of any abrasive type cleaner (Comet, etc.) and water. Scrub the surface of the spars with the paste and a soft sloth. Rinse with water and apply Armor-All or paste wax. NEVER use anything that has a caustic base (lye, some paint strippers, bilge cleaner, etc.) on the anodize since it will strip the color from the surface. Rinsing the spars with water after sailing is important to reduce corrosion problems.

I hope this information will be of use to identify any potential problems before they become serious. We always welcome questions about any of the spars that we have built and can solve most problems over the phone. Please feel free to call about more specific information.

Good sailing,
Buzz Ballenger
215 Walker St, Watsonville CA 95076

[NOTE: Buzz Ballenger is a true friend of the Express 27 Class. He knows all about spars and rigging; his service is prompt; and his prices are reasonable. He and the guys in his shop couldn’t be nicer to deal with, in my experience.

Even though I’ve got a Klacko spar Buzz has always answered all my spar questions. Super guy, super company and the makers of the original Express 34 spars.

Cams needs love too!

So all the do-dads that make the Express 34 so ‘tweakable’ also means that you have to occasionally pay them a little attention. Or wait a bit and then it’s a lot of attention. Take these cams:

Half a cam ain't no cam!

Half a cam ain’t no cam!

It’s easy to forget about these kinds of parts.

Sometimes the best maintenance is the skipper’s shadow. Spend time on your boat just looking at things…really looking. Get down on your hands and knees, stick your head in places where you don’t normally stick your head, stare at stuff and wonder, “Why is it like that?”. Take things apart. Put them back together. Clean off the crud and put a magnifying glass on it. Go up your mast and look around. If you can’t do that, get a pair of binoculars, lay down on the deck and cockpit and just look up there.

Bit o’ Trivia – Why are the Express masts black? Black anodizing lasts much longer that other types. As per Buzz Ballenger- Ballenger Spars

What do you get when you buy an Express 34?

I’ve had several people who were looking to buy an Express 34 ask me what are they getting into?

Petite Helene

Here’s my thoughts:

  • It’s an racer/cruiser not a cruiser/racer; Think 70% racer and 30% cruiser.
  • They are a blast to sail. I would compare them to BMW car. In fact the Express tag line used to be, ‘The Ultimate Sailing Machine’!
  • They are fast but won’t keep up with the latest rocket sled out there.
  • They are a sailors boat. Super maneuverable. Very tweakable. But don’t expect to let go of the tiller and go below and make a cup of tea!
  • A well built boat; Carl Schumacher didn’t design crap and the Alsberg Brothers didn’t build crap. This is a boat with good ‘bones’.
  • The PHRF rating of 99 is neither a gift or a punishment. They have won a ton of races both inshore and offshore but you need to sail well to sail to the rating!
  • I think they are a bargain. The price range seems to be between $30K and $60 (2017 dollars) depending of the condition.
  • It’s an older boat that holds up well. That being said any 30 year old boat is going to have issues. Things to watch out for:
    • Water intrusion into the deck core especially around the anchor locker. Many E34s have this removed and glassed over.
    • Plywood backing plates under the winches. After 30 years mine were pretty well compressed.
    • Freeze cracks in the base of the stanchions. Not really a deal breaker but something to watch out for.
    • Standing rig. If it’s the original, probably time to replace it!
  • The Express 34 is a boat that is easy on the eyes. These are sexy boats that still make my heart go thump when I walk down the dock. Easily the best looking boat in my marina.

    Epiphany spinnaker run

    Epiphany spinnaker run

Questions? Comments? Other opinions? Click the ‘Reply’ button at the top of the page.
We’re here to help!

Greg S. – Wailana – Hull #1

Holes in boats

From Mark H. on Epiphany:

“Regarding the thru-hulls on the boat, I replaced all mine when I first purchased the boat.  I have a mix of Marelon and bronze (where the Marelon was too big, like in the engine “room”).  I also epoxied 1/2″ thick fiberglass backing plates onto the inside of the hull at each thru-hull so that I could screw down a proper seacock.  This is an example from the head, 1.5″.  I had to completely destroy the head to repair the outer portion of the starboard bulkhead which rotted out.  That is the downside to the whole anchor locker idea.  The gelcoat in the locker was compromised in some way and then all the water that came into the locker worked to destroy the forward and aft bulkheads in the head.  The fix involved radical surgery which included the removal of the anchor locker.  After the fix, I now have a lot of interior storage.”

Kudos to Mark for installing the proper backing plate. Wailana also had her anchor locker surgically removed. The bulkhead was still in pretty good shape.
All my seacocks and valves are Marlon. I had replace the valve under the sink when the handle broke off. The older units tended to do that. Not a fun job so lube them up and work them gently on a regular basis!
Greg S. – Wailana

Epiphany seacock

Epiphany seacock

Keep the wet stuff out

So Mark on Epiphany has a novel way to mount his dehumidifier. Why does he do it this way?
If you notice there’s a black hose running from the back of the unit into the sink. This way it automatically drains and he doesn’t have to empty the tank. Clever!
The lines support most of the weight.

I live a half mile from Wailana so the dehumidifier gives me a good excuse to go check on the boat. 😉


Epiphany’s dehumidifier

We talked about the usefulness of these devices in an earlier post here.