During our cruise this summer to Labrador and the Quebec Lower North Shore, we motored quite a bit due to the fickle nature of the winds in that part of the world, but we also had some lovely and memorable sails.
On one of those great sailing days, as I was coiling down after tucking in a reef as Morgan’s Cloud bounded along over a sunlit—we had an amazing amount of sunshine—white-capped sea, it struck me how much I still enjoy the process of sail handling. Even after over a quarter of a century sailing this boat there are few things that bring me more satisfaction than a fast and clean mainsail hoist or a quick and efficient reefing.
And further, as advancing age takes its toll, making sure that our sail-handling systems are as easy to use and efficient as possible, particularly since we are sailing a 56-foot 26-ton (17-metre 23.6-tonne) boat with just two people in a part of the world where the wind speed tends to change quickly and with little warning, becomes ever more important.
Selecting the right rope for each halyard, sheet, lift and downhaul has been a big part of making our rig work efficiently and that’s what this chapter is about.
Would you believe I’m old enough to remember when even cruising boats had wire halyards and some racing boats even had wire spinnaker guys? Now that was scary. Thankfully those days are long gone, and of course the reason for their passing was the advent of high-modulus low-stretch ropes made of fibres that go under a plethora of names.
The downside is that some of these fibres and the ropes spun from them have a place on an offshore cruising boat and some don’t. So when faced with all these choices, how are we to know what will and will not work well for each purpose, and when high-tech rope may not be the right choice at all?
The good news is that I have an oracle we can refer to, his name is Jay Maloney. He has been our rigger for 25 years, during which we have sailed our boat over 100,000 miles. And each time we returned from a cruise, Jay and I have combined what I had learned in all those miles with what he had learned from rigging hundreds of boats, to improve our running rigging.
All this came together when we replaced our aging and cracked mast in 2005 and, at the same time, replaced most of the running rigging. Since then we have tweaked a couple of things, but now there is nothing that we would change.
So I’m going to share exactly what rope we use for each purpose, and why, including brand names.
Let’s dig in: