American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase “Form follows function”, meaning that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended purpose. Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked for Sullivan in the ’20s rephrased that statement to read “form and function are one”.
Recently, we finally received the bronze rigging hardware we ordered several months ago from Port Townsend Foundry up in Washington. Six new chainplates for the shrouds, the backstay chainplate, two whisker stay fittings, the bobstay fitting, and the new kranze collar for the bowsprit that I’m in the process of building. What was supposed to be a 6 week lead time turned out to be something more like 4 months. Though not extremely impressed with customer support, I am quite pleased with the quality and craftsmanship of their product.
In case you don’t know, the chainplates are the metal bars attached to the boat, to which the wires holding up the mast are connected. Chainplates on a Tayana 37 penetrate the side decks just inside the raised toe rail and are attached to wood knee blocks on the inside, which are glassed to the hull. As the rig works under sail, the chainplates flex at deck level causing the sealant around the penetrations to fail. Any water running down the side decks in weather usually finds it way inside the boat, eventually rotting out the wood knee blocks and potentially causing crevasse corrosion of the stainless chainplates and fasteners. This is the perfect recipe for catastrophic failure under load, potentially resulting in losing the mast overboard.
Many who’ve owned an older Tayana 37 have had to replace the chainplates, and often times also the rotten knee blocks due to this inherent design “challenge.” There are nearly as many different ways of solving the chainplate issues on these boats as there are T37s floating around the world, some less aesthetically appealing than others. Our plan was to move the chainplates outboard and bolt them directly through the hull with backing plates on the inside as on other T37s we’d seen. At one point we considered titanium over stainless steel to eliminate any future corrosion potential, and there wasn’t that much difference price-wise between the two. Another added benefit was that titanium is much more DIY friendly than stainless, meaning I could make them myself. After sitting through a couple of rigging seminars with Brion Toss, we considered using bronze instead of titanium. Again, an easy material to machine and fabricate, cheaper than titanium, and also not subject to the corrosion issues of stainless steel. However, after seeing a few other Tayanas that had their bronze chainplates and fittings cast through Port Townsend Foundry, we decided to go all in and spill a few grand on what some have called “boat jewelry”.
So when it comes down to function vs. form, I say why not have both? After all, “life’s too short to sail in ugly boats.” Now that I have my lovely bronze parts I can finally finish up that new bowsprit that’s been sitting in my shop since March (more on that in a future post).