Onne’s New Goose: Mast Electronics

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In early January, when the outside temperature in Rhode Island was in the thirties, Onne van der Wal decided it was time to bring the mast and boom from his 1986 Grand Banks 32 to his home workshop, where the conditions would be much friendlier.

Besides the spars needing a paint job, the electronics on the mast and spreaders needed to be replaced. Most were original or vintage. The Raytheon radar was from the 1990s. “The stuff was pretty old,” Onne says. So, he ordered new instruments.

At about 12-feet long, the mast was just small enough to fit into his workshop, so he took it down—something he realized he should have gotten help with when he was lowering it to the ground—put it in his Suburban and drove it home.

Inside the workshop, with the thermostat turned up, Onne removed all the old gear from the aluminum mast and wooden spreaders. His orbital sander and Granat discs from Festool—starting with 100 grit and finishing with 180 and 220 grit—made the tedious sanding job go much faster. Onne likes Festool’s gear. “I use all their stuff,” he says. “It works beautifully.”

Onne filled the old holes in the mast with TotalBoat Seal elastomeric sealant. He used one coat of TotalBoat’s Topside Primer and two coats of TotalBoat’s Wet Edge, a shiny one-part urethane, to finish the spars, spreaders and tabernacle. He opted to use a brush since it was too cold to spray outside. “I have a spray gun and
compressor,” he says. “If it was summertime, I might have sprayed it.”

To make the painting a little easier, he used wires to suspend the spars from the workshop ceiling so he could rotate them as he worked his way from one end to the other. Once dry, he put them outside on sawhorses until the instrumentation arrived.

The navigation package includes Raymarine’s Quantum 2 Doppler Radar, FLIR M232 Thermal Image Camera System, AR200 Augmented Reality Camera Pack and the i70S Wind Bundle Pack. Onne also added a Shakespeare Super Halo Cell Booster and Imtra’s ILSL-1806F IML LED spreader lights to replace the old incandescents.

The FLIR will give Onne night vision, and the augmented reality camera will allow him to have enhanced visualization of objects during the day. “It puts a moving video image on your plotter screen,” Onne says, “and uses AIS and chart data to identify buoys and lighthouses and tell you about the vessels you’re looking at. With AIS and radar we’re going to be brimming with electronics. It reminds me of the days in the Cold War when the Russians would have these ‘fishing boats’ in the South Atlantic off South Africa covered in antennas. My boat is starting to look like a Soviet-era ‘fishing boat.’”

After drilling and tapping new holes, Onne riveted Seaview brackets onto the aluminum mast to mount the FLIR and radar. To prevent corrosion between the aluminum mast and the stainless rivets he placed small nylon bushings between the two dissimilar metals.

Onne decided to keep the original steaming and navigation lights. “The nice thing about that old stuff from 1986 is, it’s strong,” he says. The lenses had gotten milky, so he found new ones and replaced the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. He made a new gasket out of some rubber he had lying around in his shop. “I was psyched to find the lenses,” Onne says. “They shine like crystals with the bright LED light in there.”

All the new gear came with long wires, which he fed through the mast and out the bottom, but the spreader lights required splicing. He crimped the connections, then used heat shrink tubing to protect them from the elements.

The stainless rigging was still in good shape, but the running rigging for the boom needed to be replaced. For this, Onne went to his in-house expert, his son Billy van der Wal, who started and runs the rigging shop at West Coast Sailing in Portland, Oregon. Onne shipped the lines to Billy, who spliced them and then shipped them back to his dad in Rhode Island.

Onne doesn’t like shackles because they clang around and chip the paint, so he lashes his blocks with a 1/8-inch line that he got years ago from Yale Cordage for his sailboat Snoek. The line has a Dyneema-like core and is super strong and abrasion-resistant.

To get the mast with all its new electronics back on the boat, Onne recruited two friends to lend helping hands, but before he installed the tabernacle, Onne sanded the teak deck. “I don’t think that tabernacle had been off since 1986,” he says. “I hit the deck with some 60 grit, because the tabernacle was standing proud.” Using the tabernacle, he will be able to lower Snow Goose’s mast to reduce the boat’s air draft if he wants to go under a low bridge.

“The timing was perfect,” Onne says about the installation of the mast on a sunny, warm March day. “I’m sitting on the top deck in nice weather and all the lights are working.” The next project is to run the other wires to the flybridge and to the helm in the salon below.

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