First Hole is the Hardest

October 8, 2011

It’s true – the first hole you make in your boat on purpose is the hardest one to make.  It’s also true that once you make the first hole, all the others are no big deal.

Today’s task was finally getting to install the single line reefing system on Ilya.  This is not as simple as it sounds.  I purchased the kit from Sailcare, a company based in Western Pennsylvania.  Last year, I got our mainsail serviced by them: they cleaned it, installed a reef point in the sail, and repaired a few other items on it.  In addition, I purchased my sail cradle from them, though I don’t think it’s been as effective as the reef points should be soon.  The kit is by Barton, a British company.  If you’re a bit psychic or Holmesian, you can imagine the first challenge I encountered when trying to use this kit is the use of metric tools and measurements versus English.  I feel a little dumb not being able to translate back and forth between the two systems, though it seems to be as difficult for hardware stores as it is for regular guys like me.  After striking out at Lowe’s, I found good assistance at Snead’s TruValue Hardware store in Dowell, MD.  A guy there helped me find the right drill bits and taps.  (I learned from Listening to Car Talk what taps do).  After hemming and hawing, and being afraid of making that first hole, I took the plunge today.

I had originally wanted my son to help me with this.  My wife had suggested that we spend some time together to bond — that old father-son stuff.  He flatly refused, and I mean refused.  And I certainly knew I couldn’t do it myself.  He insisted I ask his sister to go instead.  He always does that, and while I always enjoy spending time with my daughter, I like spending time with him, too.  Well, I asked my daughter anyway..  She was happy to go with me, and did a very good job.

First, we tried to attach the slide track on the boom.  This went pretty well, we thought: we drilled the three holes, used taps to thread the holes and then began screwing in the track itself.  We started with the middle hole, and discovered that the other holes didn’t line up.  Eventually, we only attached the first and third screws leaving the middle hole woefully out of alignment.  Here’s hoping we only need two screws to attach it.

The next task was to attached the tang to the mast.  This took not one attachment point, not one installation but yes, two installations, and another hole for a third that I didn’t use.  Don’t ask, except that the piece is installed, and the other three holes have been appropriately filled based on a recommendation from my friendly neighborhood West Marine store manager.  Installation of the bullseye to the port side of the mast flawlessly.

We spent quite a bit of time on the next item — actually installing the stand up block on the deck.  Once I knew we had it in the right place, and I was absolutely sure I had the proper drill bit, I did it; I actually drilled four holes in Ilya that were properly spaced for the four bolts holding the stand up block.  It took us awhile to ensure that we had each of the bolts properly aligned with the fender washers and nuts, but we did it.  It was a bit anticlimactic, actually, but something momentous just the same.

Later, after I took my daughter home, I went back and installed a new cleat on the deck, and a cam cleat for the starboard jib sheet; the port one cam wait until I have an extra set of hands.  All in all, a very constructive day.

I had originally decided to take pictures along the way, but didn’t want to take up any more of my daughter’s time than was necessary, and I was a bit too nervous about each step in the process to take breaks to click the camera.  Maybe next time….


3 thoughts on “First Hole is the Hardest

  1. Sounds like you had a good day. You are starting to talk like a sail master also. Sorry that your son wasn’t interested, his loss. I am sure it is the age thing that happens to teens.
    Now that ilyas made it through her operation with flying colors and multiple holes, you can say all is well with her and her additional parts. Happy days. So what is next? When will she go into storage for the winter and are you using the same company? They did take a while getting her back in the water this Summer.

  2. I’ve tapped hundreds of holes, so it’s become anticlimax, but I’m still careful each time. I mounted some lazy jack stuff just a few weeks ago:

    The alignment trick is this: drill and tap the first hole, install that bolt in the hardware just snug, and THEN drill the other holes. It is SO easy for the hardware to slip a bit. I’ve made that mistake. Doing one bolt first is worth the time.


    I’ve sailed many times with my daughter, often for weeks. Perhaps it helps that we started when she was small and water was so much fun. But as a result, she is pushing for a 3-week trip around the Bay this summer! Please read the “trip report” tab on my blog; perhaps there are some ideas in there. The boat she learned on was a Stiletto 27 catamaran, small in many ways than the Mac 26.

    Also, I have some reports of some beaches just north of Solomons that might get the kids interested. Not far (Calvert Cliffs area and Warriors Rest).

    A trip to Tangier might be the cure!

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