View Full Version : protecting against gaff saddle chafe

John B
08-29-2000, 05:35 PM
i'd be very interested in some options/opinions on the best way to protect the mast against the working of the gaff saddle. the saddle is leathered and vaselined but i didn't leather or copper the mast because i didn't like the idea of tacks into the mast (you know..... tear along the dotted line principle) i've also seen fibreglass but that makes me nervous as well.
what else is there?

08-29-2000, 06:26 PM
Hi John,

My information on this is a bit theoretical, but I wonder a few things that could be of value.

Are you attempting to maintain a fairly high finish on the mast? Maybe let that go and live with a regular application of varnish or switch to oil?

Try a different lubricant, perhaps tallow (though I've heard from leather mongers it rots the skins, something else to worry over!) or beeswax? Someone here must have a favorite formulae.

Are the leathers thick enough? A related question, are the edges of the "saddles" well enough rounded? The toggle have enough play?

Other than that, a copper shield, which, let's face it looks better than glass, shouldn't weaken the spar. The thing is, if the spar is varnished, the tacks and catch basin of the copper will likely lead to degradation of the finish.

I think I'd look to problems with the saddle before anything else.

Well, all I can think of. Best, Ishmael

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 08-29-2000).]

Dale Harvey
08-29-2000, 08:33 PM
You might want to look at the positioning of the throat halyard tackel. Maybe it should stick out a bit further from the mast, or the toggel be further in. Do you also have a downhaul on the boom for luff tension? Mount the copper in 5200 or better, two part poly. Secure with hose clamps until set up.

08-29-2000, 09:25 PM
Here is THE ANSWER...

My boat has had this for 63 years.

Half a dozen or so vertical strips of oak, about 2ft long, glued and screwed to the mast where the gaff jaws come when the sail is not reefed. Unlike coppering the mast, which I don't advise, having seen masts break from hidden rot at that point, there is no danger of rot getting behind them; everything is out in the open. If they wear down, which they will do much more slowly than the wood mast, they are easy to replace.

I copied this idea under the outboard end of the boswprit, where the ring traveller chafes it. Works there, too.

08-29-2000, 09:45 PM
I like the solution presented by ACB. It solves much and doesn't cause any obvious new problems, except minor adjustments to the saddle (BTW, we call them gaff jaws) diameter perhaps. 'Course that could mean rebuilding the whole saddle arrangement, but that's doubtful.

If you go with it, make sure you taper the oak strips at their ends, and I think good solid bedding, with old fashioned goo, rather than glue, might be in order. If you ever want to change it, glue could be a problem.

I also, if you haven't done so, would look more closely at the mechanics of the saddle itself, and perhaps its associated tackle, before pulling the mast or goin' aloft with oak strips and associated tools in hand Best o' luck.

P.S. It's a wonderful if somewhat maddening part of this wood boat passion, that for us amateurs, as well as professionals, there is almost always another consideration. If you go with the strips, you will likely want to make them concave to sit tight to the spar. It is a very simple matter to cut a concavity along strips of wood, with a table saw. Look it up, as I am not about to attempt a description of the process.

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 08-29-2000).]

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 08-29-2000).]

John B
08-29-2000, 10:06 PM
thanks for the idea's,..... i'm just getting normal fair wear and tear but would like to nip it for the long term. i like the vertical strips idea as well as the 5200 adhesive.i'll consider both
thanks john

08-29-2000, 11:28 PM
a little cortizone cream cure my chafe!

John B
08-29-2000, 11:57 PM
i'm not saddle sore

John B
08-30-2000, 12:18 AM
but just in case, ....where would i get that stuff? marine chandlery?

Jim Budde
08-30-2000, 12:26 PM
just a thought ... use neats foot oil instead of vaseline. The old stuff we used in th 50's for baseball gloves. Allows you to soften thick leather and enhance flexibility, too. I bought a 1/4 hide and used this thick leather to cover both boom and gaff jaws. After several applications softening w/ neats foot oil, I am no longer seeing any damage to mast at ether point.

Ian McColgin
08-30-2000, 01:00 PM
Bag Balm works on mine . . .

Actually, the strips Andrew mentions are best for larger boats. For smaller boats if you make the jaws have a pivoting verticly oriented bit of wood in a notch at the center apex of the jaws you'll spread the load. Cover it and the jaws with leather, lube it good, and enjoy.

08-30-2000, 03:29 PM
On the main mast of our little schooner thereīs copper wrapped around the mast and fastened with tacks. I haveīnt looked at the wood beneath that copper for many years, but it constantly worries me. I donīt like the tacks. Polyurethane glue, e.g. 5200 would be better, but then some screws or tacks would possibly be needed anyway. On the foremast thereīs leather protection maybe 2 or 3 mm thick. It has cringles (sp?) and it is laced just like shoes are laced. It stays there amazingly well, especially if wet when tied in place. It could also be secured with a narrow vertical strip of polyurethane glue. Itīs easy to detatch when the mast is being varnished. Iīll probably replace the copper on the main mast with leather because Iīve seen no downsides to it so far. Otherwise I think I would use the oak strips ABC mentioned.

08-30-2000, 03:31 PM
Sorry for my misspelling, ACB.

John B
08-30-2000, 03:46 PM
jorma, now thats one i haven't heard of. i'll give that one serious consideration as well... thanks john

Ian McColgin
08-30-2000, 04:22 PM
I remember working in a sail loft overlooking Hyannis inner harbor a few winters back and saw our Senior Senator bring Mya home with no foremast. Msl. rigging hung between triadic and jib stay. Seems that 50 years of rot had accumulated under the copper where the jaws were and some more rot (similar to what I found in Goblin) was around the compression block at the partners. So when the mast broke at the jaws, the lower unsopported part just fell out.

Copper tacked to the mast is a very bad thing.

08-30-2000, 05:11 PM
There you have it John. Nothing like the voice of experience. Don't tack that copper sheath on, for the future if not for yourself. I'd look after some modifications on that saddle, as a start, if I were you, but then I'm not there and can't look at it so....who knows. What does John Leather, in his book The Gaff Rig? have to say about it?

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 08-30-2000).]

John B
08-30-2000, 05:45 PM
these are the sort of reasons i just plain did nothing. the lace up sleeve and the battens are the frontrunners in my book so far ( plus the cortizone of course). i'll look for the neats foot oil at the local market .... i'm sure that'll be beside eye of newt just down from the cauldrons.
this is all good stuff. i can't remember what is in john leathers book ishmael.

Roger Cumming
09-06-2000, 11:18 PM
Last winter I had the masts refinished on RARUS, our 24' gaff yawl. I had oak strips slightly mortised and screwed into the mast where it was wearing from the jaws of the gaff. My feeling is that it is easier to renew the leather in the jaws than try to keep varnish on the mast at that high wear area. After one season the mast looks excellent, and the gaff jaws show no wear from the oak strips. I'd recommend this highly.