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Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.” – Captain Jack Sparrow

I received a comment from a fellow owner of a Columbia 24, Mark, that I would like to share with everyone:

Submitted on 2012/02/21 at 11:15 am
I wish you great success on your adventure! I also own a Columbia 24; HN 126.

For your extended voyage offshore, you might want to consider double lower shrouds. I find that the mast pumps in the wind for want of double lowers.

Are you considering a wind vane? I fitted on on my boat that is fun but I would think it vital on a long power-limited voyage.

First of all Mark, thank you for the positive response!

Secondly, yes, I do plan on upgrading the rigging. In fact that is my next big project (first was the hull (removed 48 years of old paint and applied three coats of epoxy and two coats of anti-fouling paint, replaced seacocks and upgraded the bilge pumps), second was the electric drive with help from Electric Yachts of Southern California…).

I plan on dropping the mast myself — yes, myself! After watching a video on YouTube I am convinced that I can build an A-Frame and pull the deck-stepped mast either by myself or with minimal assistance, thus saving myself about $700 as I won’t have to use the marina’s crane (and their 2 hours of minimum billing, per man…) to lift the mast and to later reinstall it. As for the rigging, I might do it myself, but the idea of having a professional eyeball the 49 year old aluminum does warrants the extra costs. If I go with the professional option I plan on hiring San Diego’s Pacific Offshore Rigging as they’ve provided the most reasonable quotes in addition to answering all of my emailed questions.

(February 2015 update) Instead of Pacific Offshore Rigging, from whom I bought a new-to-me boom, I decided to go with Rigworks for the rigging and with Allied Titanium for all tangs, nuts, bolts, compression leave, sheaves and clevis pins. Not wanting to ever, ever climb the mast (have I mentioned that this is a small sailboat?), I feel the slightly premium price of these items more than warrants their amazing specifications well beyond that of simple weight reductions.

(September 2012 update) Here is an image I saved off of the Columbia Yacht Owners Association website (CYOA) that concerns the mast:

As for changing the rigging, I whole heartily agree with you that the mast needs two lower shrouds, which I am already planning, but I am not stopping there. I also want to move them off the deck and I am relocating them to the outer hull. Of course I will heavily reinforce where they enter the hull. In addition to the double lower shrouds, I am also contemplating the addition of a removable inner forestay to A) be able to fly a small storm staysail and B) to add extra support to the mast’s lone forestay (after all, it is a deck-stepped mast and if the forestay were to pop there would be nothing left to hold it up). And finally, when the mast is down, I might re-rig the backstay and add a duel backstay system.

As for your final question about wind vanes; Yes, I agree with you 100%. A wind vane is a definite need and not simply a want. Having a system that will steer the boat for long periods of time, using no electricity, food, nor having a need to sleep will be like having a crew member on board. And for those of us who seriously contemplate singlehanded sailing, a self-steering system is not an option, it is mandatory.

After a years of consideration, I am going to go with Hydrovane. I am so certain about this that I even visited their office in Vancouver, British Columbia, twice, while up there on business this last summer to check them out first hand. And I can tell you, seeing them “in the flesh” as it were instilles cold-steel confidence in their quality, construction and inevitable performance. I am so confident in them I will say this; it will be the last thing I buy before — literally and figuratively — cutting the dock lines and sailing away.

If you have not checked them out, you really need to before buying another system even though they are not cheap. Having no lines in the cockpit, having an installed back-up rudder ready to go and at hand, and taking into consideration the Columbia 24’s weakest link (it’s deeply forward set rudder and subsequent weather helm with anything larger than a working jib), the Hydrovane brings with it incredible amounts of benefits that it more than warrants its premium price tag. Of course, I will be selling my Yamaha 1100 Classic when I castoff to finance it, but what the Hell, I can’t ride a motorcycle to Bora Bora!

Here is a link to their Instructions Page if you want to read more about this fantastic, solid product.