Question:  Why would two seemingly rational cruising sailors with plenty of projects on their to-do list choose to remove perfectly functioning, beautifully installed cabinets from the bulkheads of their salon that have never been removed before?

Possible answers:

  1. We’ve been spending a little too much time in the sun.
  2. None of the existing projects promised to offer much in the way of “excitement”.
  3. The general stress level in our lives has been way to low lately.
  4. None of the above.

The answer is “4.  None of the above.”

Lurking behind those cabinets are Brilliant’s chainplates, those well-hidden yet essential stainless steel bars that anchor each of the shrouds (the wires that support the mast) to the hull.  Every boat is a little different but on Brilliant about 2 inches poke through the deck to enable us to connect the shroud to them while the remaining 8-10 inches is attached to vertical fiberglass ribs that are integral to the hull below decks.  The ends of the chainplates look fine; however one cannot inspect what one cannot see. Pretty profound, right?

Anyone following our blogs for some time may remember that in 2012 when we purchased La Creole, the 50 ft. 1978 Gulfstar Ketch, we opened up the bulkheads to inspect our chainplates and found that several of them were cracked and deteriorating, providing questionable support for either the 60+ foot main mast or the 40 foot mizzen.  We felt at the time that the only alternative was to replace them, all 14 of them.  That was fun.

Understandably, when we took possession of Brilliant, the health of our chainplates was a question we promised ourselves to investigate, but the prospect of removing the beautiful cabinetry that covered them just seemed to make other issues more pressing.

Then we attended the Melbourne Gam put on by the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) and the main speaker of the weekend was Nigel Calder, a name that many cruisers know well and whose books on mechanical, electrical and nautical equipment design and repair are required reading for those of us who do our own repair work. You won’t find many cruising boats without at least one of his books on the shelf.

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At one point during his lecture on lessons learned over his many years of cruising, he mentioned that no one should go offshore without inspecting their chainplates at least once.  I immediately winced and when I turned my head Carrie was looking right at me, and that project moved instantly to the top of our list.

So here we are in Vero Beach, our first stop down the ICW from Melbourne and I’m popping the little wooden “bungs” that cosmetically hide the screws holding the cabinets in place.  I will wager my retirement check that these screws have not seen the light of day since Brilliant was launched in 1989.

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The removal of the first cabinet to starboard was anything but simple, but the cabinets are modular by design so they are put together in two large units instead of many smaller pieces.  The suspense was broken when our first look at the starboard chainplates showed no apparent deterioration, no cracks, and almost no rust.

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The forward of the two cabinets and the second to come out was even more difficult, and ultimately we couldn’t remove it completely without removing a lot more of the surrounding woodwork, so it only came out far enough to peek over the top with a flashlight and inspection mirror.  Thankfully, the chainplates uncovered were also in good shape.

On a side note, one of my least favorite pieces of hardware design has for many years been the slotted screw.  I regularly curse whoever invented it.  I find them extremely frustrating and difficult to either tighten or remove without stripping the head.  That slot is insanely difficult to line your screwdriver head up with, and it’s never deep enough to support the torque required to move them through hard woods like teak.  Apparently Moody’s cabinet makers in the late 1980’s disagree because they used them liberally throughout Brilliant.

I continued that frustration today, destroying several of them during the removal process.  As I normally do I replaced every one of them with Phillips head screws when the cabinets were reinstalled, throwing all of the slotted screws in the trash.

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For a time the salon looked like a bomb went off in it, with the sofa cushions piled in the V-berth, and books, food cans and whatever else was stored in those cabinets spread everywhere to make room to work.  Removing the starboard cabinets generated considerable sweat and harsh language, and only half of the project is complete!  There was a meeting of the highest echelons of management aboard Brilliant (Spike didn’t get a vote because he was sleeping in the aft stateroom at the time), and the decision was made to go a different route on the port side.

 

Instead of removing the portside cabinets we will cut some small view ports in the cabinet walls to inspect the chainplates.  Carrie promises me we can make the ports inconspicuous.  You heard it here first.  Stay tuned.

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