Solent Stay Installation aboard WHOOSH,
a Pearson 424 Ketch
March, 2003
(click on any picture for an enlarged view)


Why a Solent Stay?

Probably the best overview of this choice is provided at Brion Toss' web site ( in the Archives of of the Spartalk section (search using Solent Stay, inner stay). Basically, it's intended to offer the offshore boat an inner stay as the weather builds, when continuing to roller reef a furling headsail becomes a less attractive option. Its advantage is that it is mounted near the masthead and therefore uses the offsetting tension of the backstay vs. requiring the installation and use of running backs. It also offers a longer luff if the sail is cut in that fashion. Whether additional tracks on the cabin top are added (to sheet the solent jib) depends on how you design the sail and the sheeting angles you want to have. In our case, we had an unused Hood #2 hank-on jib that came with our boat and, having that recut, found we could sheet it adequately by adding a new set of genoa blocks at the forward end of the genoa track. However, we are unable to drive the boat to weather using this sail as it won't sheet in that far. Offsetting that is the logic that we can start experimenting with what we have while keeping the initial installation costs down, we doubt we'll be hard on the wind in over 25 knots of wind, and there are some ways to reangle the sheet leads inboard if that's what's needed (see Brion Toss' book for a discussion of this).

There are four fittings required to install this stay the way I chose to do it; (see a picture of them together before installation) Is this a preferred choice over a conventional staysail? I don't have the experience to comment on that, but I do like its simplicity and it gives us the offshore sail option we think we need.

Deck Fittings Installation

Fittings to be installed:

  1. Deck Plate to which release lever is attached
  2. Angled Backing Plate to mate with Deck Plate on underside of deck and anchor locker bulkhead
  3. Flat Backing Plate in anchor locker to mate with Angled Backing Plate
  4. 3/8"; stainless machine screws, carriage bolts and Nyloc fasteners

Materials Used:

  1. Polyester resin, MEK and Bi-Axial Cloth - to increase laminate strength of anchor locker bulkhead
  2. 2-part Pearl Grey Epoxy Paint - to refinish anchor well after bulkhead is glassed; same as used to repaint engine and V-drive bilges
  3. WEST System Epoxy and 404 Hi-Density Filler - to bond Angled Backing plate to underside of deck and eliminate tendency for fittings to 'work' over time due to uneven mounting surface of underside of deck
  4. 3M 5200 - to bed in Deck Plate and Flat Backing Plate in anchor well.
  5. Tape and Wax Paper - to mask off Angled Backing Plate before application of Epoxy Mix

Sequence of work:

  1. Make up patterns for all fittings and have them manufactured at a good metal shop. (When taking your patterns, consider removing a small piece of teak rim from the forepeake bulkhead at the foot of the V-berth before patterning the deck-to-bulkhead angle. This will permit better accuracy and the teak trim will be removed in that area, anyway). For manufacturing the fittings, I used JTR in St. Pete, FL at a cost of $325, with all fittings made of 316 stainless and polished nicely. I was pleased with their work and recommend them. I began with patterns provided to me by Hal Sutphen of SEA DUTY but then adjusted the angles to fit WHOOSH's bulkhead (these bulkhead angles are apparently somewhat different from one another) and further modified them after examining a 1982 424 Cutter's staysail deck fittings, all of this in consultation with JTR. General specs for these fittings were: ¼"; stainless plate, 3/8"; fasteners, 5/8"; pin diameters for 5/16"; 1x19 wire.
  2. I chose to begin by laying up multiple layers (I chose two) of bi-axial cloth on the aft end of the anchor locker, which also forms a portion of the forward bulkhead in the Forward Cabin. I don't believe this was originally done by Pearson when they built their cutters. Nevertheless, this build-up seemed prudent despite the fact I was told by one 424 cutter owner that no signs of stress had ever appeared, even after extensive Caribbean cruising. I covered the full height of the locker's aft bulkhead plus an inch or so of the locker's bottom pan, this 'L' shape increasing the rigidity and strength of the additional laminate.
  3. You next need to determine where the deck fitting is placed, fore & aft, to mate up with the Angled Backing Plate…and also where the Angled Backing Plate is placed, port & starboard, to mate up with the deck's centerline (which I found helpfully molded into the deck pattern). As you can imagine, this is a bit of a 'chicken & egg' challenge. (Use of a 'peekaboo' hole or two for referencing is okay since they will be covered by the deck plate).
  4. At this point, you will know with some accuracy which portion of the teak trim on the forward bulkhead must be removed in order for the bulkhead to receive the Angled Backing Plate flush with its surface. Then the Backing Plate can be held in place, its outline scribed with the Sharpie, and a utility knife used to cut out the fabric which covers the underside of the deck. Remove it and the foam backing. Finally, you will judge the accuracy of that first drilled hole. It took me two more holes being drilled before I got one exactly right, but no matter as misaligned holes can be filled (epoxy & filler) and later redrilled. I used a 5/16"; bit when initially drilling the holes and, once I got two holes accurately drilled, opened them up to 3/8"; after which I could over-drill the other holes. The two aligned plates made good guides, allowing me to correct for the holes that were not quite on target.
  5. When the four deck holes are drilled correctly, the Angled Backing Plate should fit flush against the forward bulkhead while its holes also line up exactly with the deck plate. With the fasteners in the deck fitting temporarily but firmly installed, drill the holes for the carriage bolts in the forward bulkhead and insure the Flat Backing Plate can be accepted by them in the anchor well. Some hole alignment may be needed with the rat-tail file. Perhaps it's worth noting at this point what is revealed by these steps. The underside of the deck is probably somewhat uneven (mine was considerably so), and the deck coring where you've drilled may be plywood rather than the balsa used elsewhere in the deck mold. The bulkhead is a formica-covered ply structure on the cabin side, but backed with a few layers (not many) of fiberglass on the anchor well side.
  6. What follows are a few 'prep' steps I took before moving further with installation of the fittings. I used acetone to remove the cement on the deck's underside which held the fabric & foam in place, then sanded that area with 60 grit and finally applied a thin coat of WEST epoxy (no filler) to insure later 100% bonding. Using an artist's small paintbrush, I also coated all of the plywood coring revealed by the drilled holes with WEST in hopes of avoiding later water penetration if one of the fasteners somehow began leaking. I also used acetone to fully clean the back side of both backing plates, to remove milling residue and such. This is especially important with the Angled Backing Plate since it must receive the epoxy filler. Finally, and with the Angled Backing Plate again in place for a final 'dry fit' check, I masked off the area around that plate as I expected to use an abundant amount of epoxy filler when mounting it and anticipated quite a mess.
  7. Using 5200 for the Deck Fitting and a WEST epoxy + WEST 404 'mush' on the 'top' of the Angled Deck Fitting, install the fittings. As the machine screws are pulled down from below, monitor the Angled Deck Fitting where it mates up against the forward bulkhead, insuring that it remains flush. As the plate is pulled into place, ram the carriage bolts home as well but consider leaving them unfastened at this time; your priority is get a full fit of plate to deck underside with the filler solidly filling on voids and allowing an overnight cure.
  8. Finally, the next day apply 5200 around the carriage bolts on the anchor well bulkhead side and pull that plate home.


Masthead Fitting Installation

I'll let the pic tell the story as it's pretty straightforward. The main decisions to be made are:

  1. Designing the fitting and choosing it's location so the tang will accept the halyard block, the T-Bolt and the toggle's pin, things will not chafe on the spar, and its presence will not intrude on the genoa when in use. I mounted ours as high as I felt it could be sited in order to maximize the offsetting tension of the backstay.
  2. Do you insulate the fitting or not? I chose to use a thin inert flexible (teflon, I think) sheet which I bedded to the fitting the day before it was fitted to the mast. This maximizes the cathodic protection.
  3. Do you bed the fitting or install it dry? If I hadn't been helped by a good friend whose knowledge I deeply respect, I would have fitted it dry. But a combination of the more certain, well distributed attachment strength and better insulating qualities were urged on me and, since I had a second pair of hands on deck to do the smearing/gooping, I fitted it wet. Obviously, doing a good 'dry fit' is important since, once you reach the 'goop' stage, it's a bit tough to turn back.
  4. Do you tap for threaded fasteners or drill for Riv Nuts (rivets). I have a big rivet gun and was planning to use ¼"; stainless rivets, as the gun pulls those home fairly easily. (The metal shop preferred this choice, as well). However, the gun got lame just before installation and I opted for ¼"; machine screws. Each of these was installed using Tef-Gel, which I've had great success with re: avoiding corrosion of stainless fittings in the aluminum spars. (Note: Beware of the similarly labeled Tek-Gel with a 'K' now being marketed by West Marine, a rip off of the Tef-Gel name and a far inferior product. WM should be ashamed of themselves for doing this, especially since it's generally atypical of them).

Final Steps

  1. There are a number of 'release lever' choices and some research will give you many options. We ended up with an ABI lever because, for its price, it seems nicely built, it offers relative ease of release (some levers can be finicky to operate IMO) and is stout. I would recommend the version with the 5/8"; pin and swage for 5/16"; wire.
  2. Where do you stow the wire when you want the foredeck clear for dinghy wrestling and/or easy tacking of the jib? Often with removable staysail stays, the wire must be carried around some structure on deck and tensioned aft of the mast. Another minor advantage of the Solent Stay is that it can be moved to a simple bow eye mounted between the forward lower and upper shroud, due to the geometry of the stay (longer run and a more acute angle at the masthead). I mounted the bow eye far enough forward of the upper shroud chain plate to keep the wire out of mischief with the spreaders. It does not intrude on passage up/down the side deck.
  3. When pricing this out, don't forget the extra set of genoa blocks, halyard block, halyard and sheets, and the fittings for the sail plus the sail itself. Added to the materials referenced above, this is not an inexpensive project. In the end, I estimated I spent $800-$900 but started with a good sail for $0 that only cost $75 to recut.

How does it work? Don't have a clue, as the boat's essentially been decommissioned for the last too many months while many projects were completed. But we're hoping to sail to Europe this Spring via Bermuda and the Azores … and something tells me I'll know more by the time we arrive. We'll let everyone know what we think this coming Fall.

Jack Tyler
WHOOSH, being 'reassembled' in St. Pete, FL