Stanchions & Lifelines
Our 1978 Bahama Islander 30 “Natasha” came from the factory with standard stainless steel one-piece stanchions supporting two lifelines from bow to stern. At the time of our purchase in 2003 the stainless steel wire lifelines were in poor shape with rust showing through where the plastic cover had worn off and at turnbuckles and gates. I was of the opinion that they were not to be trusted and obtained a quote of over $700 to replace them. Yikes! We had lots of other projects on the go to restore the boat to its’ original condition and this was not going to be one of them in the short term. My opinion on lifelines on typical sailboats boats in the 30 ft range was that they were there to catch your knees as you went over the side. In a standing position they are much too low to be of any use. With that in mind we replaced the wire lifelines with black 5/16th Dacron rope at a fraction of the cost! Much easier on the hands when pulling a boat into the dock, doesn’t get dirty (at least not that you can see!), and has survived very nicely for 6+ years with very little wear at the contact points. No doubt there is stretch associated to the rope not found in wire, but then we don’t depend on the lifelines as a back rest while sailing or at anchor.
The original stanchions are, as mentioned earlier, a one-piece design that incorporates both a base and the post into one welded piece. The angle between the base and the post is the same for every stanchion from bow to stern. Having looked at other Islanders it appears that all stanchions came from the same mold. On our Bahama 30 this worked fine at the cockpit where the angle of the deck allows the stanchion to be vertical. But it was not so good as you worked towards the bow and the angle of the deck causes the stanchion to tilt inwards. Working forward this caused the lifeline to almost be in contact with the stays. I found it to be a real nuisance while performing maintenance or simply going forward. I resolved this problem by designing and creating new stainless steel bases, cutting off the old bases from the original stanchions, and using the original posts in the new bases. In the design I wanted to move the bottom of the stanchion outboard as far as I could and then make the post vertical. This would increase the distance between the stays and the lifeline from about 3” to more than 10”. Using 3/8” plate stainless steel I had a friend cut out the bases and side support. I used stainless steel pipe as the socket for the posts. To put a slight bend in the base to get the right deck angle I used a jury rig (and propane torch to heat the metal) to bend the bottom plate. Then, after more than a few hours at a buffing machine to get the stainless steel polished bright, back to my friend to weld the base together. The pipe was then drill & tapped to hold the stanchion in place. Notice that the new base now extends all the way to the outside edge of the toerail even through the new base covers the old stanchion footprint on deck. The space under the new base was bedded with sealant except for a channel right next to the toerail. This is to allow water to run along the deck from bow to stern. Without this channel water would pool in front of each stanchion base. New holes were drilled through the toerail to incorporate bolts for the outside edge of the base. The old outside edge holes were sealed with epoxy. It seems to be a lot of work for 10” of space on deck, but when you’re working on the side decks that distance makes a world of difference!
Sidney, British Columbia
My 1978 Islander Bahama 30 (Natasha) still has the original raw water cooled Volvo MD7A two cylinder diesel engine tucked under the cockpit sole. The engine is still going as strong as a 13 hp engine can go although it’s a bit under powered for a 30 ft, 8,500lbs boat. I would love to install a new 18+ hp engine but the price tag is rather daunting! I have no idea how many hours are on the Volvo as there is no hour meter on the boat. One of the problems I encountered after purchasing the boat in 2003 was a perpetual case of overheating at cruising rpm (2400 – 2600). As the overheating (running at 200+ degrees) only occurred at cruising speed I identified the problem as one of water flow. Throttling back brought the temperature down to the standard 160 F. I tried all the usual repairs;
I knew it wasn’t a prop pitch problem as I could reach cruising RPM with no problem. Nothing brought the temperature down except removing the thermostat. Doing this dropped the temperature gauge down off the scale. Not a good sign. Infrared thermometers were just becoming commercially available at an affordable price and I purchased one. The readings showed that although the exhaust manifold was “cold” near the sender, the head itself was still hovering over 200+ F. Something had to be done!
During the winter of 2008/9 the engine came out into the cabin for an unrelated transmission leak. Time to tackle the overheating problem! The head was removed (not difficult when the engine is out) and examined. It was discovered that, of the five small circular water passages between the block and the head, three were completely and two partially blocked with an almost solid substance! It looked like calcium. This left very little room for water to pass through the two partially blocked passages to cool the hottest part of the engine! No wonder the engine was overheating!
One of the blocked passages could be cleaned with a pick, the other two had to be drilled out, the substance was that solid. In looking at the partially blocked passages it could be seen that the blockage was working its way in from the edges of the hole. Closer examination showed that the head gasket hole was just a fraction narrower than the surrounding metal. This edge was obviously catching any debris in the cooling salt water and building on itself. The oxalic acid could not clean out a completely blocked passage. The observable water jacket on the head and block were clean, bare metal, probably as the result of the acid bath with very little corrosion was evident. Once all the blocked passages were cleaned out and the engine re-installed the cruising temperature stayed right where it was supposed to, 160F.
Problem solved at the price of a new head gasket and a bit of labour.