I (Jon) finished this job on May 7th .
When starting to sail away from Lady Musgrave Island in heavy winds, I raised the main sail to the 2nd reef and began tightening on the 2nd reef clew line. I then tightened up the vang as the boom seemed unusually high. Somehow something that I did, in combination with the heavy winds, caused about 8 rivets to pop out from the mast. These rivets held in the metal track which holds the plastic sleeve the main sail slides up and down on.
I pulled the plastic sleeve off from the bottom of the mast. In order to do this, I had to remove the boom. There was very little room for it to over the fixture the boom attaches to, and I was skeptical that it would be able to make that bend. It somehow did, and so I pulled all 50 feet of plastic track off. I then drilled out the rivets that had broken but had partly remained in their holes. I also drilled out another 8 rivets that had not separated from the mast but were closest to the separation.
Drilling was miserable, as our bits are getting old and worn down. Also I was hanging in a harness for some of them and didn’t have much leverage. On a side note, at one point I fell from about 8 feet up while hanging from a tibloc that was attached to a halyard. The failure point was a knot in the amsteel line running from a carabiner to the tibloc. Thank god my feet were only 8 feet off the ground and I wasn’t up much further. As it was, my wrist and back hurt for a few days.
We didn’t have the original size of grommet, which I think was 3/16 inch thick, but I used one size larger that we had about 20 of. We originally used these for the installation of the mast steps. One size up meant that each hole had to be drilled out with a larger bit. Luckily we had the perfect bit for the rivets, an F bit, which is .257 inches. Not .250, not a ¼ inch, but exactly .257 inches.
One size larger didn’t quite fit flush on the outside of the metal track, but once compressed with the rivet gun, they seemed to fit fine.
Once the holes were drilled out and the new rivets installed, I slid the plastic sleeve back on. This involved using attaching a line to the top of the plastic strong track sleeve and winching for the entire length. the friction was pretty large and the winching was not fun, particularly after a exceptionally miserable conversation with people back home.
And that was about it. The job was much easier than I had expected and everything seems fine for now.
In the oddest of coincidences, another Valiant, Gizo, is currently cruising the coast of Queensland, in fact as I write this we are both in Cairns. They just replaced their Strong track within two days of when I was fixing ours. On Gizo’s strong track, one of the slugs that moves up and down the plastic track pulled out. Small world.