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Project Log:  Sunday, April 27, 2014

After pointedly ignoring the boat all morning while I worked on other things, in the mid-afternoon I decided to give the mast wiring--specifically the snake--another shot.  It seemed I was at an impasse.  I just couldn't get the snake to move past a certain point, just as before.

I figured what was probably happening was that the snake was getting itself up into the small slot at the outside edge of the plastic internal conduit, then eventually jamming.  I'd even seen this happen through my little "portal" halfway down the mast--the eventual masthead (steaming) light location where I'd had to free the snake once or twice.  But when it happened somewhere downhill of that, there was no easy way to free it other than to try and twist the snake through, or back and forth as needed.

Finally, after some minutes of back and forth and twisting and so forth in unsuccessful attempts to free and move forward the snake, I withdrew the snake further than I had before, keeping an eye through the wiring hole at the spreaders so I could see when the end of the snake disappeared from there and avoid pulling the snake all the way out accidentally.  (I took a picture of this, but all it shows is the mast hole, and fully dark inside, but I could see the snake within.)

Anyway, at some point I decided I'd reeled in enough of the snake:  it was still in the conduit, but somewhere closer to the top of the mast.  Slowly and carefully, I started pushing it back through the conduit, and to my surprise and pleasure, it seemed to keep going, and before long, it was out the bottom of the mast.  Sometimes these things happen so unexpectedly that one wonders why it could ever be so hard, and I was caught by surprise that I'd actually succeeded.


That was a major hurdle to pass, but I still had to pull three wires through from mast base to masthead.  I was concerned whether they'd even all fit through the conduit and, especially, through the 1/2" hole at the masthead.  To see what I was in for, I drilled a 1/2" hole in some scrap plywood, and checked how the three cables (SimNet network cable for wind instruments, 14/2 sheathed cable for the anchor light, and coax cable for VHF antenna) fit through.  They did fit, but I'd have to lead with the SimNet cable, with its attached connector, since it required the most clearance.  As for the conduit itself, it turned out to be plenty large, with an internal diameter of about 3/4".

I set up my wire reels, and then securely and thoroughly taped the network cable to the snake over a long area, hoping to avoid having the snake come out if pulling encountered any resistance.  I'd long ago removed the standard hook from the end of my snake, as most boating-type pulling tasks were only complicated by this, so the end of my snake was smooth and as low-profile a possible, but this did mean that it could pull away from the cable if not really securely taped. 

This particular cable was a fixed length, something like 50 feet, but much longer than I needed, so for pulling purposes I could afford the extra length, and I allowed plenty of room--a few feet--before I taped on the next two wires, also staggered by a foot or two so that at any given time I'd only be forcing one additional cable through the top hole.  It's the bulk and "edge" where the end of the cable is secured to the snake that can make pulling hard.


Stuck in one of our typical spring Omega-block upper air patterns with its easterly flows, and its resulting unsettled weather featuring destructive sunshine, there'd been showers off and on all day, but when I started the job it was actually partly sunny and hadn't showered for some time.  I even stopped to take a picture of one (I thought) departing shower, forgetting that the showers were actually moving the opposite direction from normal:  this meant that the dark clouds to the east, highlighted in the afternoon sun, were actually heading my way, as I was to find out presently.

Slowly, I pulled in the assembly, going back and forth from masthead to base to keep the cables free and avoid unnecessary wire tension.  It started to rain, and I moved the horse containing the wires under a nearby boat for a little protection.  Eventually, I saw the first signs of black tape at the masthead, and very carefully I eased the bulky network cable connector through the hole.

One down, two to go.  I continued, finally exposing first the electrical cable, then (the one I was most worried about) the VHF coax.  As it happened, there ended up being no issue getting these safely through the mast and to the masthead:  a clean pull the whole way, and, while tight at the top end, there was sufficient room to get the wires through.


In increasing rain, courtesy of my little black cloud, I cut off the two reeled cables and got them indoors, leaving substantial extra at the bottom, and removed by long-suffering snake from the top end.  I still needed one more cable run between mast base and the spreaders (for the masthead light)--and I thought there was plenty of room in the conduit for this--but I'd continue that another time, as it was simply too wet.


Total Time Today:  1.25 hours

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