Annual Rigging Check List

  1. Check rig at least once a year, more often with heavy use or before a trip.

2. Insure that you bosun's chair is in good shape and that there are no problems with the halyards before going aloft.

3. Inspect the inboard and outboard spreader ends. Some signs of wear are rust spots and paint bubbles. Pull off tape or spreader boots to look at the full spreader end.

4. Cordage should be free of snags, knots and chafed spots. Especially critical are furling and reefing lines, sheets and halyards.

5. Examine the joints around shackles and wire-to-rope splices. Wire with broken strands, or meathooks, should be replaced. Don't neglect seldom-used lines such as the outhaul.

6. Broken, bent or balky shackles need to be serviced or replaced. Clean with a rag and a small amount of metal polish while inspecting.

7. All blocks should turn freely without noise that indicates undue friction. Look especially for checked or cracked plastic sheaves.

8. Winches should turn easily with a light, even clicking sound.

9. Stand at a distance off the bow and note that spreaders on standard rigs are cocked upwards. Drooping or uneven spreader ends requires further investigation.

10. Make sure to inspect all fittings. Don't forget tangs that may sometimes be hidden from view.

11. At the base of the mast, the sail track on most boats should appear straight and true from aft and both sides. Twists or bends indicate improper tuning.

12. Bubbles in spar paint or crumbly white aluminum pitting around fittings indicate corrosion forming from trapped moisture or dissimilar metals. Especially critical is the gooseneck area where many winches, cleats and other fittings are mounted.

13. The maststep and deck collar should be dry. These areas can degenerate rapidly if water stands inside the mast. Clear drains with a pipe cleaner.

14. Furling gear should display no undue resistance or emit unusual sounds when turned. Furling line blocks leading aft should have minimal friction. Flush hesitant ball bearing blocks with lots of fresh water.

15. Shrouds and stays ought to be free of deep rust pits or broken strands. Look carefully as a broken strand will often lie in place. Light discoloration that wipes off with your polish rag is of no concern.

16. Wire terminations, especially swages, should display no unusual rust, swelling, or cracks. Since swages cause most rig failures, use your rag and metal cleaner to get a close look. Bad terminals can be replaced in a few minutes if the proper tools and fittings are on board.

17. Turnbuckle covers should be easily removed. Use two wrenches to turn each turnbuckle a wee bit. Bent or frozen parts should be condemned.

18. Check that all clevis pins are free of corrosion and are the proper size as undersized pins cause accelerated wear.

19. Badly rusted and bent swage fittings, such as this pelican hook, can compromise the strength of the fitting. In this case, the lifeline is possibly unsafe.

20. Damaged or missing cotter pins should be replaced. Tape them to prevent catching unsuspecting sails or skin. Do not use leather because it holds moisture against the metal.

21. Lifeline wires with rust-stained vinyl coating is a clear safety warning. Check the lifeline swage fittings, turnbuckles and pelican hooks. Where wire passes through stanchions is a common wear spot.

22. When going aloft, check the sail track as you go up (it should be clean and free of rough spots its entire length), and everything else on the way down.

23. Check that the mast mounted anchor, steaming, foredeck, and spreader lights shine brightly.

24. Check the operation of sheaves for wear and noise.

25. The upper halyard swivel of most furling systems should be mere inches from halyard shackle to masthead sheave. Alternatively, a halyard diverter should be installed. Failure to observe this can lead to a halyard wrap that can break the headstay.

26. Wind indicator, VHF antenna and other mast mounted instruments should be firmly in place. Their wires should be protected by rubber grommets in where they pass into the mast.

27. Shroud tangs, tang bolts, and all wire terminations aloft should be more sound than at deck level. Again, check that swage fittings, clevis and cotter pins are intact.

28. Spreader function is crucial to rig integrity. Sight down the spreaders to insure they are without bends. Bolts, pins and welds at the inboard spreader roots should not display enlargement or cracks radiating from their base holes. Shrouds passing over the outboard spreader ends must be positively locked in place with seizing wire, bolts or other mechanical method. Check carefully under tape to assure all is well.