One of the most important parts of your sailboat, but a part you likely do not pay as much attention to as you should is the sailboat rigging. The rigging is the system of ropes, tackle and general equipment that is used to support the mast and sails of the sailboat. The rigging is also used to control the sails and in some ways control your sailboat completely.
Why is rigging on your sailboat so important? There are a number of reasons. Perhaps the most obvious is that your sails and mast are the heart of your boat; they are what will control propulsion, in some ways direction and even the stability during high winds and/or storms. Without rigging that is well cared for and used correctly, you can be in danger on your sailboat. To ensure that you respect the importance of your rigging and keep it in good condition, here are some tips on caring for the rigging on your sailboat.
First and foremost, no matter what kind of rigging you have on your sailboat, you must periodically inspect it. Your rigging is central to boat function, so caring for it should be high on your priority list. Check to make sure your turnbuckles and chain plates are angled so that they line up with the shrouds and stays on your sailboat. If you find that it is not, you should address it immediately because it can cause bending of the chain plate which in turn will cause fatigue in the metal and eventually failure. If alignment is off, check for cracking around the chain plate on the deck or for deck leaks.
Another tip for keeping your rigging running well is to wash it down every spring. Some will tell you that this is only necessary in salt water environments, but that is simply not true. Debris and impurities in the water can cause your rigging to break down, deteriorate, and malfunction over time. Even the best of modern riggings can be subject to such problems. A simple rinse down every spring will go a long way in preventing problems and helping your rigging to last longer for you.
Each spring, when you do wash down your rigging, take the time to look over your equipment completely. Check the dock lines, boom vang, main sheets, job sheets, topping lift and halyards all. Making sure every individual part is equipped to perform well will put you in a situation to avoid equipment failure at an inopportune time.
Failure of any part of the rigging can be a real problem when you are out at sea or on a lake. Because the rigging is so important to your sailboat, you should make sure you are checking regularly for problems and keeping the equipment clean. There is no way to guarantee that you wont experience a failure, but you can cut down on the chances by taking proper care of all parts of the rigging. By doing that, you can enjoy your sailboat and water adventures with a little more peace of mind.