Using high-tech line for centerboard cables

By Jack Brennan
Shanachie, 1974 Bristol 30
Tierra Verde, Fl.

Eight years ago, when I first bought my 1974 Bristol 30, I took a chance by replacing the stainless steel centerboard cable with a 3/16-inch  high-tech line called Amsteel Blue.

Now, with my latest haulout, the verdict is in.  I hired a rigger to replace the line with new Amsteel Blue. Here’s what he said: “That line was as good as new. It would have lasted another eight years.”

The Amsteel Blue line after eight years of holding up Shanachie's 90-pound centerboard.

The Amsteel Blue line after eight years of holding up Shanachie’s 90-pound centerboard.

The stainless steel cables have always been a source of worry for owners of the many Bristol models with centerboards. They run through fiberglass tubes with multiple sheaves, and there is no way to inspect them.

The cables are vulnerable to corrosion in saltwater. Riggers also usually make a small eye with a Nicropress fitting at the end to connect the cable to the centerboard. This presents a number of potential problems.

First, stainless steel cable was not designed to be bent sharply enough to create a small eye. That, along with the saltwater corrosion, encourages the individual strands on the cable to break.

Also, the Nicropress fitting is subject to corrosion and has a nasty habit of giving way without notice, leaving you with a fully extended centerboard, quite a problem if you are in shallow water.

On my boat, at each haulout, the previous owner would have the yard cut off the deteriorating eye on the stainless steel cable and create a new one. When I had Shanachie surveyed, the board would only go halfway down.

A close-up of the eye in the Amsteel Blue after eight years of use.

A close-up of the eye in the Amsteel Blue after eight years of use.

Amsteel Blue and similar high-tech lines are actually stronger than steel and very resistant to wear and deterioration from saltwater. The only thing that can kill them is UV radiation from the sun, and a centerboard cable is hidden away.

I saw no evidence of the sheaves causing any damage to the line.

These high-tech lines are reputed to be a little slippery when it comes to knots, so I had the rigger splice an eye at the centerboard end and loop it through the hole in the centerboard to attach it.

All in all, it’s nice not to have to worry about the centerboard cable anymore.