Cunningham replacement

One afternoon, stumbling about the topsides, looking things over and daydreaming about getting the boat off the hard and into the water, I stopped in my tracks by the mast. Something was missing. The cunningham. How, or why, a cunningham goes missing, I don’t know. But it wasn’t there.

I immediately googled “Cunningham J35″ and came up fairly short-handed. It appears the boat originally had a 6-to-1 advantage setup with 20′ of line, but I can’t find images anywhere.

Concurrently, my most visited store, West Marine, was having their spring commissioning sale, with triple member points (which means it adds up to 15% off when you get the voucher back, instead of the typical 5%). Looking around, I found a Ronstan 50mm fiddle block both with and without a cleat. I ordered them (plus another $100 of other stuff, because boats).

Picking them up, I also got some 3/8” dacron line (20′, as recommended by the Chesapeake J/35 fleet webpage available here.). The blocks and the line have a Breaking Load just north of 3,000lbs.


Once I had everything, I laced them all together. I ended up tying a bowline around the beckett on the fiddle block that has the cleat.

On the boat, I found a convenient pad-eye bolted to the deck with four large bolts on the SB side of the mast. The build-in shackle on the block unscrews, so it was a simple matter to attach it to the pad-eye.

When I have 5 free minutes, I spend some time whipping the ends of the line.

The assembled cunningham

Bypassing the Y valve

During the pre-purchase survey, one of the few major problems identified was that the head’s y-valve handle had broken off. Allegedly, it was also stuck so the head would only discharge overboard, and not into the holding tank. Since we only intend to sail on the Chesapeake, where there is no legal dumping, that wouldn’t work. So, repairing the head became a critical winter project.

My first plan was to repair the y-valve. There were a handful of screws on the faceplate. I removed them, only to find they literally just held the faceplate to the valve, and the valve to the fascia under the counter. The valve was one, unserviceable unit.

Next plan, remove the offending valve and replace it. I did a little shopping and saw they run about $60 to replace. Not terrible, given the price of things, but, is it really necessary? I never intend to get beyond Norfolk. If I replace it, I need to secure it to holding tank only mode, to stay legal. I opted to bypass it entirely based on what happened next.

Back on the boat, I was able to get the valve freed up from the fiberglass fascia that hangs below the sink. Now, to just remove the hoses (which are original, 30 year old hoses)…

Those two exposed hose ends used to be one continuous hose…

Trying to get the old hose off the barbed end at the base of the head, below the pump, I succeeded in tearing the hose. Now, the whole thing had to come off. And I sliced my finger on one of the worm screw collars.

A week or three later, I came back with a pair of nippers. I ended up clipping the rubber tips of the old hose off the barbed male end of the head. Tracing the hose’s length, I did the same at the tank, which is on the SB side of the boat, opposite the head. The hose runs through the lockers under the V-berth. Once the hose was freed up, I had to snip the zip ties that were holding the hose, and the speedometer cable, to the bulkhead. I slid the hose out, and remembered I had a third hose: the attachment to the thru-hull. I removed that with the nippers as well. That hose attached to a reinforced hose that rose from the thru-hull to a U above the water line. I left that in place, and made sure the thru-hull is closed. Even if the thru-hull opens, the raised U should keep water out.

After measuring the old hose, I went to my local West Marine, and…found out they were out of the 1.5″ inner diameter sanitation hose I needed. I ended up ordering 13′ of it online from

When it arrived, I went back to the boat. While at West Marine, they suggested warming the hose, and possibly using soap as a lubricant on the inside to get it fitted to the snug male end of the head and tank. I got there, and tried it out to see if I could fit them by hand on a 45 degree day…and they slid right on. I struggled to get them back off again to get the worm screw collars on first. Since I had removed 3 old hoses, I had 4 collars spare, so I doubled up the collars on the head and the tank. I had to use a hacksaw to remove about a foot of hose (this stuff is steel-wire reinforced), as only about 12′ fit. I slid the hoses on, cinched them down, and ticked the project off the list.

Installing the Name, Part 2

This weekend, the weather was just warm enough to get the vinyl letters installed on the boat. Just in time, too, as we’re planning on having the boat in the water next weekend.

For the lettering, we went to US Boat. As members, we get 10% off and they typically do a good job. When the lettering arrived, I noticed that we had only received one set of registration numbers, not the pair advertised. A quick call to customer service, and another pair, plus the missing one, was delivered 48 hours later. So, if nothing else, we had a spare pair of registration numbers if we screwed up the install.

On Thursday evening, when it was a beautiful 70 degrees (with 20kts winds), I went down to the boat. After temporarily hanging the lettering, I taped off a work area about 15% larger, and rolled the letters back up. I attached the wax with a bottle of xylene and a rag. As I was working on the transom, the twilight was just right that I could see the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ with the xylene was essentially the same. After I finished up, I grabbed a hose and sprayed the transom…and watched water sheet up across the whole surface. Not a ton of wax is left on much of anywhere.

Registration numbers temporarily attached.

On Saturday, we headed back to the boat. The weather was less windy, but down in the 60s. After a quick review of the directions, I opted for the “wet” method. I luckily had a spare spray bottle.

The process is straightforward: clean the area with glass cleaner. Line up the entire decal where you want it. For the registration stickers, I centered them on the tip of the boot-stripe. For the name and hailing port, I centered them on the back stay. Measure to a constant line (rail, the row of scupper vents, etc) to make sure it’s level relative to the rest of the boat. Mark where the corners of the paper the vinyl is mounted on comes to with painters’ tape.

Once it’s in place, take the decal away for a second. Spray the area you are mounting it to with a generous amount of water with a couple drops of soup added to it. Then, on the decal, slowly peel back the wax paper under the letters, spraying the vinyl letters with more water as you go. Once the vinyl is good and wet, and the paper is off, align the decals back up on the boat, and use the spatula they included to smooth the letters down. Press hard. Don’t worry about getting the bubbles out of the paper. Just focus on the vinyl. Try to run the spatula the length of each letter, starting from the middle (so middle up, and then middle down to the edge). That will keep from moving the letter or lifting a corner.

Once all the water is squeezed out, step back, and let it sit for an hour (longer if it’s cold, I discovered).

The transom with the name fully installed, and the hailing port curing. Notice the cover paper is still attached, and has a ton of bubbles.

When you feel it’s sat long enough, find a corner of the paper, and slowly pull it off, at a 45 degree angle to the transom. Keep the spatula handy, to press down edges that might not have stuck fully (more of a problem when it’s cold.). Once the paper is fully off, run the spatula over the letters again. And then, you’re done!

For the hailing port, since the paper would have covered the letters of the name, we ended up doing them as two steps, a day apart. On Sunday, it was down in the 50s and 1 hours wasn’t quite long enough for the letters to stick, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they will cure.

I’m going to go back and wax over the letters once I think they have fully cured.