It had been decided very early in the restoration process that the chain plates, holding up the cables which are holding up the mast, would not be installed in the original way inside the hull. The holes where they came through the deck to connect to the cables had been a major source of destruction, as it is almost impossible to seal them properly. I wanted my new chain plates to be made of bronze – for its strength and also for the traditional look of it.
I was thinking back and forth for weeks to figure out where in remote Guatemala I could get proper silicone bronze material and who would be able to fabricate the pieces for me. Having spent significant time in Belize, a possibility popped up. There is a large Mennonite community in Belize, that immigrated from the US in the 1950s. They are talented craftspeople and can get any job done you can think of. We had a team of them helping out with complicated engine repairs and fabricating of parts when needed for my charter company in Belize City. So I talked about it with Mr. Jacob, who confirmed that he could get silicone bronze from Mexico and fabricate the pieces with the old chain plates as templates.
Three weeks later, I got on the bus in Belize city heavily loaded with 6 old and 8 new chain plates! I was so excited to have found this great local opportunity to get my bronze plates and couldn’t wait to install them.
My enthusiasm was abruptly brought to an end when my mechanic friend Tyrone, who had worked in boat yards for years, inspected the new chain plates. He pointed out several spots with deep crevices and little holes that I had not given much attention. He expressed his doubts about the quality of the bronze and gently pointed out that it might not be the best idea to have anything else but perfect material to hold up my mast. I was paralysed for a moment. The chain plates had cost me a big chunk of money. But I knew Tyrone was right. I had taken a risk to give an important job to someone who had never done it before. It had been a great idea, but hadn’t worked out. Being in the third year of Alanis restoration, I slowly had learned to deal with moments like this in a more effective way. I felt the frustration, disappointment, worry about that big loss of money and anger at myself, but knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere.
A couple of days later, we ordered some cut to length high quality silicone bronze material. One more time, I ended up doing a job I really wanted someone else to do, by myself. With – and that was the crucial detail – the help of my friends! When the stock arrived, I bent the plates to the right shape. I started by standing on them and then, step by step, kept giving them shape with vice and plyers. Bronze is a soft metal, so we were able to cut the holes with a jigsaw and round the corners over with a grinder. We got them ready to install within two days.
In the meantime, Lorena had refinished the mast. She had taken off all the steps and hardware, scraped off the old paint, repainted it beautifully and reinstalled everything. Two corroded spots, on the bottom and close by the gooseneck, we reinforced with an aluminum plate riveted onto the mast.
In the first months of owning Alani, I had already replaced the fore- and backstay and the upper shrouds. Now, we also put in new cables and fittings for the lower shrouds and installed a complete set of new bronze turnbuckles.
When everything was ready, the mast was put up and installed by the power team of Damian and Tom within a couple of hours.
Alani´s garage time was now finally over!
Read the next chapter The Last Steps