Reefing On All Points of Sail

Morgan’s Cloud is the only boat I have ever sailed on (I only started sailing after meeting John) and so I generally assume that the way we do things on our boat is the way it is done. Which suits John just fine—he’s been able to brainwash, I mean, teach me how he likes to do things.

However, when I read books or articles on sailing I will sometimes come across things that are done differently on other boats than on Morgan’s Cloud, which usually leads to a lively cocktail hour as John and I discuss the pros and cons of how we do it on our boat as compared to doing it the “wrong way”.

I’m about halfway through Over the Top: The First Lone Yachtsman to Sail Vertically Around the World by Adrian Flanagan, and so far it’s a good read. However, I was dumbstruck by the way his boat, a Trireme 38, was rigged: He had to heave-to or bring her up to weather in order to reef (p. 141). As you would expect, this led to at least one hair-raising situation.

On Morgan’s Cloud we are able to reef on all points of sail, meaning that we can always reduce sail when we need to, even when we get caught snoozing. It seems unbelievable to me from a safety standpoint that an offshore cruising boat would be rigged any other way.

Have I missed something? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

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Meet the Author


Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

9 comments… add one
  • Tim Allen May 20, 2010, 6:43 am

    I wonder sometimes if some people are just stuck in believing that they have to be head to wind to put in or shake out a reef, having never tried it any other way?

  • Nicolas Kats May 21, 2010, 5:59 am


    This is good.

    I sailed all my life, almost entirely self taught. Until last year I could only reef going upwind. I did not know about the pennant. Reefing was onerous!!

    Last year a racer showed me how to use the pennant & how to reef, even downwind. Splendid!

    I remain immensely grateful to my friend the racer for this fabulous tip.

    As an aside, this racer insisted that it took 3 people to do this going downwind safely. Since then, I found it straightforward to reef solo & quickly, going downwind in a gale, with no one at the wheel (my boat has a very long keel).

    I really enjoy your website. Great stuff on heavy weather sailing.

    Many thanks
    Nick Kats
    ‘Teddy’, 39′ Colin Archer ketch
    Clifden, Co Galway, Ireland

  • richard May 21, 2010, 6:16 am

    I’ll bite…what’s the secret please? Is it Nick’s pennant? If so, what is that please? Richard in Tampa Bay

  • Ed Seling May 21, 2010, 7:31 am

    So what’s this pennant (which I always thought referred to any short length of line)? Is it the mainsail topping lift? The thingy from the masthead to the aftermost end of the boom? And what is the technique you refer to?

  • David Head May 21, 2010, 6:22 am

    On my Saga Saltram 40 reefing on all points of sail is also the norm. I normally haul in the leech pennant whilst easing the luff, but not fully harden the pennant until the luff strop is over the gooseneck ‘horn’. The boom strut makes this an easy option, and allows for some tidying of the baggy leech in case I am about to create a chafe problem when the leech is hardened. Some markers on the halyard would make life a little easier.

  • Eric Schlesinger Sue Peterson May 21, 2010, 10:50 am

    Yes, more! On our gaff-rig main we always heave-to to reef. It is easier then, but still requires a bit of work. Cheers, Eric and Sue

  • Scott May 21, 2010, 9:10 am

    Yes – more details on the pennant contraption/thingy, please!

  • Phyllis May 21, 2010, 1:14 pm

    Thank you all very much for the comments and thank you for the kind words re the site, Nick.

    Once we are back on the boat (engine in, hoping to launch this coming week), we will take photos and write up how we reef on MC. Hopefully it will be applicable to most of your boats. My understanding is that it is a bit more difficult to do with a gaff rig but John may have more to add on that.

  • Peter Bateman May 25, 2010, 12:33 pm

    Just to add to the mix, have a look at an unusual sail plan. This cat has two roller furlers and reefs easily on all points of sail I had a look at her in Cape Town and was impressed.

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