The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Giving a Tough Old Ocean Greyhound a New Purpose

Mia and I bought Isbjorn, a 1972 Sparkman & Stephens Swan 48, before we sold Arcturus. For a brief period we irresponsibly owned two boats…and one house. Arcturus sold in September of 2015, only a few weeks after the house sold, so we’re back to being a homeless, one-boat family.

A Business

We bought Isbjorn as a platform on which to run offshore passage charters through our business 59-North Ltd, hence the big upgrade from a simple 35-footer to a huge 48-footer. Indeed, Isbjorn is a full three times heavier than Arcturus, displacing some 36,000 pounds.

Login to continue reading (scroll down)

More Articles From Lessons From Three Refits:

  1. A Trans-Atlantic Boat For Less Than US$100,000
  2. Refitting a Wauquiez Hood 38
  3. Giving a Tough Old Ocean Greyhound a New Purpose
  4. Things I’ve Learned From Three Refits That Will Help You
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Roger Harris

Andy, The time and money requirements never end … do yourself a favour and stop counting! πŸ˜‰


Good improvement on the rudder. With the upper bearing can you still use the emergency tiller?


Hi Myles, good thought, and yes. To be clear, the boat did have an upper rudder bearing similar to what’s in the photo, but over the years it had failed, so they replaced it with the beefed-up version in the picture. The very top of the rudder post, above the inside of that bearing, is squared-off to accept the tiller. A removable inspection port on the cockpit sole allows access to it.


My boat, a 41′ LOA centre cockpit, came with a rod steering system and it is a delight to use, strong and with good feedback, both a Monitor and an old Neco auto pilot steer her very well (when the Neco actually knows where it is). My system is very similar to the LS system on the link below but I have additional CV style joints as the centre cockpit makes the run much longer and far more tortuous. Having sailed many cable steered yachts I don’t have any issue with them and of course they are low cost, reliable and pretty easy to install. However, if I was ever considering upgrading a steering system I would seriously consider replacing cables with rods and bevel boxes. My system is actually identical to car parts so the cost does not have to be too high plus the bevel boxes fit inside the binnacle so that may not have to be changed either. A sister yacht to mine has cable steering in the same binnacle which is fitted with different internals.

The reason I mention this is that the steering cable diameter looks too small for the cable profile in the quadrant. I do a lot of hoisting and lifting and I would expect the cable to be far better supported by the sides of the quadrant groove. The image suggests that the profile would only support a small section of the circumference which results in high stresses in small areas of the cable. Wire should be supported in the groove between 122 degrees to 175 degrees of arc across the CSA of the wire.

Groove dimensions for various wire sizes can be checked here: –

Does your quadrant act as the rudder stop against the hull stops? I guess it is not much of an issue but for a commercial operation i.e. high usage I would want a dedicated stop clamped to the shaft so it can take any abuse and not the quadrant. A couple of chocks would be a good idea to drop between the hull and rudder stops and hold the rudder centrally should you ever find yourself on a sea anchor, it beats having all that strain on your cables. Of course most folks are probably moving towards the Jordan style drogue system now which eliminates surging backwards. Just some musings and thoughts which I hope are useful.

I am very like you when it comes to minimalism. As ‘want’ stuff stops working I repair it or bin it as I find I don’t really ‘need’ it and being a Scotsman I have short arms and deep pockets. (-;


Thanks for the good thoughts Alastair, something that never would have occurred to me! You can see the rubber rudder stops in the photo that act on the quadrant, as you said. Good point about locking the rudder with a sea anchor – though you are correct, I just ordered a Series drogue last week before our Atlantic crossing!

Stein Varjord

Hi Alastair
I find your experience with steering systems very interesting. Even though your comment is relevant, I’m going a bit off topic maybe, but I’ll try to not exaggerate, believe it or not. πŸ™‚

You say your steering system is based on rod links, like car steering. Then I assume just one rod is needed on each stretch and that its mostly not push – pull but rather rotation?

I’m a multihull fanatic and weight saving maniac, πŸ™‚ but I also strongly prefer a steering system that is reliable and gives a good feel, which means it must have low friction. Many like hydraulic steering, but for me that’s useless. Heavy, complex, and the worst possible feeling. Wire steering can sometimes be ok, if it’s very simple, almost no blocks etc, but mostly feels like a sponge is included somewhere. Direct steering with link arms is mostly perfect, but will severely limit flexibility in where steering position is located.

The system you mention might get too heavy for my Tylenol boats, but I’m thinking a combination of rotating systems for transfer areas and direct link tubes on longer distances. Do you know somewhere I could read about your type of steering?



The technical term for the rods are drag links (to and fro) or torque tubes (rotation), both terms used in literature and I have both in my system. The drag links have ‘rod ends’ (that’s technical term, google it) and the torque tubes have 6 bolt key flanges that couple the link to the bevel box. There are 3 bevel boxes (90 degree): at the wheel inside the binnacle, at the base of the binnacle and on the side of the hull. I then have a constant velocity (CV) joint, a flanged bearing housing mounted on a bulkhead, another CV, bevel box with tiller arm, drag link, tiller arm on rudder stock. If I grip the torque tube in the fat cabin and twist it I can move the whole assembly from rudder to wheel, so despite all these mechanical parts, it is very smooth. When the boat is out the water it is easy to move the rudder to and fro. Most of the friction comes from rudder stock and the two plain bearings in shoe and shaft housing, when the rudder is disconnected I was very surprised at how easy it all rotates.

Two of the torque tubes are splined and are telescopic so dimensions don’t have to be critical and the drag links have ordinary ‘rod ends’ that are a taper fit into the tillers. This stuff exists in abundance and just about any mechanical engineering supplier will all sorts of combinations available off the shelf. I am sure that you could find lighter weight materials as well as my stuff is quite heavy, as you suggest.

The old Neco is connected to a chain sprocket (as are some systems from Raymarine and Lewmar) which makes mounting a motor very easy.

Hanse offer a modern system that is reputed to offer excellent feed back.

Jefa might be fitted to Hanse but they are modern manufacturers of rod steering: –

And of course Lewmar: –

Hope the above helps.

Marc Dacey

Excellent summation, and you did yourself a huge favour with that upper bearing modification. My only query is the decision to keep a traditional flax stuffing box in the rudder post…is it easy to get to, and, assuming it drips as needed, to where does the water go? I’ve never had quadrant steering but the comments above concerning stops and wire sizes seem valid. I also find interesting that you considered Dux stays instead of wire as I would thought that the weight-aloft argument would not pertain to the same degree as with a racing boat. It’s just easier to fix wire with Sta-Loks or Norsemans, I would think, in your essential charter-boat configuration.

I do find you’ve come to love the watermaker. I resisted considering it for a long time due to cost and maintenance, but I realize its advantages outweigh, well, another 100 gallons of water.

We had the opportunity to go with Hydranet, but stuck with heavier Dacron for our new main. We can’t write it off as we aren’t chartering, and I wanted to do my own repairs and didn’t want dissimilar cloths should that be necessary. I do like it, however, just not for our poky motorsailer!

As for the rest, we are in a similar situation as you are concerning microwaves and A/C units: Nice to have, but if they break, they won’t be replaced and the space gain will be welcome. It’s very good circumstances made you keep track of the spending; it’s sobering, but accurate.


Hi Marc, I’m going to write a full piece on Dux outlining all of these comments and then some, but Dux in fact is MUCH easier to stow spares onboard and splice in an emergency than wire with mechanical fittings. This is probably the single biggest advantage with it to a cruising boat. Weight aloft helps anyone, but that’s not the primary reason to consider Dux for cruising.

An example: we have a 11mm Dux backstay on Isbjorn, that’s tensioned with a Navtec adjuster. Before the Caribbean 600 we needed to shorten the backstay to get really high tension in the adjuster (no, the Dux didn’t stretch – when we installed the new furler, we intentionally moved the mast aft about 5 inches with a longer forestay, so quickly ran out of adjustment on the backstay). I was able to go aloft, remove the backstay at the top of the mast, drop it down, un-splice it, shorten it, and resplice it, all with minimal tools (a Swedish fid was it) and in about an hour. It’s lightweight for storage, coils very nicely, doesn’t corrode in the bottom of the boat and is far easier to deal with in those types of situations. The reason I re-spliced it aloft is that our SSB antenna wire runs INSIDE the 12-strand braid of the Dux itself! Another very cool option for cruising boat – no backstay insulators! Stay tuned…


Marc Dacey

Thanks for the considered response, Andy. That “copper inside” option is appealing. I suppose you could simply replace wire with Dux as needed, as well.

It’s funny that I prefer wire stays and shrouds, whereas I completely jumped on a chance to buy Dyneema-core halyards when 90% of a reel came my way at a discount. Perhaps I should review my thinking: after all, it’s wire stays that are the historical exception, aren’t they? Looking forward to that article, especially as it relates to the sort of terminals and methods of tensioning employed when you’re running an 11 mm line to a 3/4″ cap shroud plate.

Ronald Ricca, JR

Hey Andy, we are about to undertake a re-rig on our 47′ Kaufman cutter with Colligo dux. Our boat is probably pretty similar in specs to yours as well, albeit a bit newer (1984). We have been working with John Franta at Colligo for a couple months now and have most of everything needed to put it up but just waiting for a good time window to do it. Were excited to get it up and get the rig sailable again. We will try to do a pretty good write-up of the whole thing on our website when we get finished. We are putting in a Harken MKIV Unit 3 on the headsail and a Arco Hutton 4800 furler (got a for a great price, new never used) for the staysail. Everything else on the Redemption will be Dux ranging from 13-16mm for the backstay, uppers, intermediates, lowers, and baby stay. The sails are old but we’re not getting new ones just yet, just modifying the old hanks for luff tape. Among other things, the running rigging is getting a overhaul as well.

We’re on year 2 of our refit and are getting the final projects taken care of, glad to see our costs are close to yours on Isbjorn. Can’t wait to see your article regarding synthetics.



Hi Ronnie,

Cool boat! Same one my idol John Kretschmer has I think, and based on the Swan 47 lines. Good choice! Keep in touch if you have any questions as you rig the boat. I’m very experienced with it and understand how to overcome all the potential issues that might pop up until you get used to it.


Ronnie Ricca, JR

Thanks! It sure is a sister ship to John’s! I hope to one day meet up with him on Queztal. I definitely fell in love with the lines on her, just looks so pretty in my opinion. Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely keep you in mind when we start the re-rig process. We are very excited to get it up and see how she sails!



Hi Marc, I’m copying and saving this comment for reference when I write the full piece. Good points, and good questions. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you read all of mine for real!



I look forward to reading your article on changing out standing rigging. My 86 CS 30 is likely due for new rigging – so it’s a timely topic for me.

I remember reading your online article when you changed the rigging on Arcturus – and one thing that I hope you address is a comment you made about needing to adjust rig tension to compensate for temperature changes and the differential expansion of the aluminum spar vs the synthetic rigging, which seems is less of a differential between aluminum and stainless.
Living in Nova Scotia we have a lot of cool nights and then warm sailing days – I’d hate to be constantly adjusting the rig tension.

Look forward to meeting you this summer when you pass through – sorry I couldn’t get a ride for one of your legs in the area.


Marc Dacey

Interesting. I hadn’t considered thermal issues with synthetic rigging. I’m imagining a set of calibrated little Highfield levers at the chainplates! It’s not weight aloft, but it’s weight (and expense and complication) and that would certainly influence a decision to go “soft”.


Mark, we just opened up two passages south to Annapolis in your area! St John’s-Fjords-St. Pierre-Chester, NS; then back from Chester nonstop to Annapolis!, check it out!

I will indeed address those issues – once compensated for, you don’t have to continually adjust. Stay tuned…


I look forward to the article.
And thanks for the heads up on the passages – I had seen your comment about giving up on the trans-atlantic passage and checked the website to see what passages would be available.
Unfortunately I’ve already made plans that don’t include a week of sailing back from NFLD!