Why Things Need to be Replaced

Published 01/17/2020

We know that every item on a boat has a lifespan but getting to the bottom of when things should be replaced can be tough to understand. Here we will try to lay out the best practices for replacing rigging components before they fail.

Wire Rigging

Wire rigging should be replaced every 12-14 years regardless of how it looks. The wire gets fatigued due to corrosion, oxidation and load cycling. A load cycle is every time the mast tries to move against the standing rigging. In the water there is a load cycle every time a wave or gust comes by the boat, even with sails down at the dock and small ripples, the boat is always moving. On land this doesn’t stop. Every time the wind blows a little bit and the rig moves against the boat on stands, this is a load cycle. If the rig is not in the boat when stored on land this helps quite a bit but the environmental deterioration continues. 

Many people push their standing rigging well past its useful life. We are be gentle but firm in insisting on its replacement. 

Indications of failure include but are not limited to: 

1.       Cracks on the swage fittings that are given away by rusty stripes 

2.       A rusty stripe that follows the wire of the shroud in a candy-cane pattern  

3.       A strand of wire broken 

4.       Cracks or excessive rust on end fittings 

What can you do to extend the life of your wire?

Make sure your rig is properly tuned at all times. We are happy to tune the boat for you to make sure all the wire is loading properly. In the winter when the boat is hauled, ease some tension on the shrouds, 2 turns per turnbuckle should be enough. This helps slightly with fatigue on the wire but it helps even more with allowing the boat and bulkheads to relax a bit while the boat is sitting on its keel.

Rod Rigging

Rod rigging requires a much more aggressive maintenance schedule. Since rod is headed rather than swaged and the fittings are threaded, they can be disassembled. Every 2 years the fittings on rod rigging should be disassembled and inspected and the rod heads lubricated. Every 5 years the heads should be chopped off and new heads pressed onto the same rod to give a fresh bearing surface to the fittings. Every 15 years it should be completely replaced. 

Rod is also pushed quite far past its useful life and its maintenance is often neglected. Rod is particularly scary because it can fail at any time without warning. It is rare, but it can happen. 

Indications of failure include but are not limited to: 

1.       A crack in the head of a rod 

2.       A chip missing from the head of a rod 

3.       A rusty stripe on the rod that indicates the rod is beginning to crack 

4.       Excessive pitting or cratering in the surface of the rod 


Lines generally are replaced when they begin to fray or break. Lines should be replaced more often. Standard life for a piece of line on a boat is 5-7 years. There are many factors that can make that longer or shorter. 

Line is damaged by UV from being in the sun, microbial growth between the strands from being stored wet, or being overly chafed or abraded by the fittings that it is passing through.  


Indications of failure include but are not limited to: 

1.       Physical damage where strands are broken or frayed. 

2.       Physical damage where strands have melted and are shiny 

3.       Green or black mold growth between strands of the cover 

4.       Uncovered dyneema looking “fuzzy” with filaments beginning to stick out due to UV damage 

5.       The dye in the colored cover strands has faded almost completely due to UV damage 

How can you make your lines last longer?

Lines should be kept taut, even when not in use to minimize flogging which will accelerate failure from abrasion.

Tapered halyards should be skied on a messenger line whenever the boat is not sailing so that the uncovered portion of the halyard is inside the mast, protected from UV.

Lines should be messengered out of the mast and removed from the boat for winter storage. They should be cleaned and stored in a dry location.

To clean a line that has some microbial growth use a very gentle fabric softener. Smaller lines can be put in a pillowcase and run through a washing machine on a gentle cycle and laid flat to dry. Larger lines can be put in a bathtub with fabric softener and agitated by hand and then rinsed and laid flat to dry.


Blocks can live very long lives if they are treated well and usually only fail due to excessive age, improper loading, or being hit hard with some other piece of equipment. 

Indications of failure include but are not limited to: 

1.       Cracked sheave 

2.       Cracked or broken cheeks/side plates 

3.       Damaged/missing bearings 

Any blocks that can be removed when not sailing, especially those with plastic cheeks, should be stored out of the sun as much as possible.

Blocks should be lubricated frequently using Harken One-Drop so that the sheaves can spin freely.