The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2

In Part 1 I shared our thinking on the best ropes to use for each type of running rigging. In this chapter I’m going to tackle the details: attaching sheets and halyards to sails, preferred rope diameter, and chafe prevention.

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More Articles From Online Book: Sail Handling and Rigging Made Easy:

  1. Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often
  2. Don’t Forget About The Sails
  3. Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  4. Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
  5. Reefs: How Many and How Deep
  6. Reefing Made Easy
  7. Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  8. Reefing Questions and Answers
  9. A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  10. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  11. Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  12. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  13. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?
  14. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  15. Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  16. Sailboat Deck Layouts
  17. The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  18. The Case For Hank On Headsails
  19. UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  20. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  21. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  22. Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  23. Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  24. Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  25. Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
  26. Rigid Vangs
  27. Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1
  28. Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  29. Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  30. Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  31. Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  32. Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
  33. Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm
  34. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  35. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  36. Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  37. Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  38. Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  39. Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  40. Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  41. Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  42. 12 Great Rigging Hacks
  43. 9 Tips To Make Unstepping a Sailboat Mast Easier
  44. Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  45. Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  46. Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  47. Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  48. Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  49. Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist
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Hi John,

I found using a big soft shackle very useful and nice for attaching 16mm sheets to big Genoa.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Good recommendations as always. The only thing that we do differently is the attachment of jib sheets. Like Taras, we use a soft shackle. The reason for us is that we have hank-on headsails which we take on and off very regularly so this makes it easy, especially when it is a bit bumpy. The other thing is that I put in splices instead of bowlines to form the loops at the end of the sheets. When we got the boat, there were bowlines and the knot would often get caught on the shrouds for our #3 and #4 jibs. We were able to tune the length of the loop and make it less of a big deal but could never get it quite right as it was limited in length by the distance from the clew to the turning block on our 150%. Since switching to splices, this is just a non-issue but it does mean that we can’t end-for-end the line without putting a splice into already used line which is a real pain. Some people start with splices on both ends but I don’t like that from a safety standpoint.


Brian Russell

While I personally enjoy splicing, the main halyard is one place I don’t think it is the best option. One advantage of a knotted main halyard is that the working end can be shortened occasionally, as inspection indicates, to relocate the chafe point at the head box sheave. Also, the thickened line diameter of a proper splice is a tight squeeze on the masthead sheave, and the addition of a dyneema sleeve worsens this issue.

Brian Russell

We are using NER VPC for our main and genoa halyards. It is a hybrid rope with a Vectran core and polyester cover. The knots seem to be very snug and don’t slip and the rope has a good hand. Splicing requires a core to core splice. I can’t find any information about whether knotting it is verboten. I’ll contact NER and ask about it…
Cheers, Brian


Hi John,
I have found a great solution for attaching the genoa sheets. Before, I used bowlines, but the knots sometimes caught on the shrouds, I then switched to eye splices with a largish soft shackle, as Taras uses it. But again, a big soft shackle means a big diamond stop knot which caught on the shrouds every now and then.
After that I spliced an endless dyneema loop through the eye splices of the sheets, and clove hitched this loop to the clew ring of the sail. Now that works perfect for me, all smooth with no protrusions and absolutely no chance of shaking itself off. I use that pair of sheets for that sail only, the smaller headsails are selftending and have their own sheets, so I don’t have to remove the sheets from the (roller furling) genoa, except for winterizing. If I’ll have to end-for-end one or both sheets, I don’t think it will be a big deal to put an eyesplice into the other end as that end is never loaded and should remain supple and splicy. (The latter point is an assumption only, I know well how hard it can be to splice used rope) What if one of the sheets should part ? In that case I’d be back to a bowline.


Yes John, I mixed it up, it’s a cow hitch ! And yes, I pass the entire length of the sheets trough the dyneema loop, but as I have to do this just twice a year, it really is no issue.

Merry Christmas to the whole team of AAC and all members, I recommend this site to all my buddies, it’s worth every cent and then some.


Chuck Batson

I use a single, continuous line (poly double braid) for both genoa sheets, attached to the headsail clew with a girth hitch at the center. Seems simpler than involving a dyneema loop and eye splices? Some strength will be lost to the girth hitch, but I imagine it’s on par with a bowline.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Appreciate another well thought through article.
I will suggest an alternative to the J-Lock that I have found checks all the important boxes.
I agree about the use of snap shackles fore headsail halyards for all the reasons you cited. They are also long and, way in the past, I had a headsail that was just a scootch too long. I replaced the snap shackle with a much shorter screw pin shackle and have never looked back.
I do not mouse the shackle as I do not like the sharp wire ends so close to a sail nor do I want wire ties to do the job as they will suffer UV, although for one season they would likely be fine. I do secure the pin with a dab of silicone on the threads. I have done this for staysail and jib for decades now and have seen no evidence that the shackle done in this manner would come apart.
As for needing tools to release, this is usually a once a year job for me so using a tool is not onerous (and needing a tool just confirms the security of the shackle). Easy release that the J-Lock provides is not an issue if done so seldom.
The above does not need a tightly done splice specially attached to one piece of gear making turning end-for-end or chafe repairs more difficult or impossible. One can still splice or use hitches and the shackle can be removed for rope washing.
Then there is the expense difference (including rigging fee for the splice).
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Eric Klem

Hi Dick,

On applications like you mention, I mouse using light line. I use tarred nylon twine for this that I get at Hamilton Marine as they sell a lot to fisherman but you could use many other things. After a square knot and maybe an extra turn, the key is to put an overhand knot in each tail right against the square knot and then it won’t come out but can easily be cut. The only trouble is that they take a bit longer to put on but the lack of chafe is often worth it.

Coming from the commercial world, I get a real kick out of the mousings that many people do. I use 1-2 turns of heavier gauge wire and can do one in <20 seconds while I watch many people spend upwards of 10 minutes snaking small diameter stuff in painstaking figure 8's.


Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric,
Thanks for the suggestion. I do find that knots done in tarred twine, properly drawn up tend to stay together: the tar seems to “anneal” the knot a bit. My tarred twine is on board mostly for fancy work of various sorts so it is nice to think it can find a functional use. I also like your method of securing square knots.
With mousings, I also use heavier gauge wire, but admit that it is easy to succumb to the amateur’s tried-and-true fall back head-set best expressed with knot tying: when in doubt– tie a lot.
My best, Dick

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Yes, agreed. I was only thinking of headsail halyards which, on Alchemy, are up pretty much all season, but the spin halyard would be an excellent application for J-Locks.
My best, Dick

Sam Shafer

I had a very bad experience on the little race boat with a spin halyard that did not have a shackle that could rotate. The Spinnaker was attached with a bowline. Some how the spinnaker was twisted( I blame the fore-deck crew for a sloppy take down and repack) and when it untwisted as the sail filled the halyard hockelled inside the mast below the sheave, we could not get the sail down. We were able to work it out but it took an hour and we had time and sea room. I realize that it was not that one instance that caused the hockel but the build up over the course of a season. It is not something I would want to have to deal with offshore or ever again for that matter.

Stephen Narron

Any great description or picts showing just what you did?

“One more chafe detail: In our case, because we and Hall Spars put a lot of time into designing the main halyard masthead sheave box.”

Would love to know your exact solutions here!!

Stephen Narron

Thank You! Merry Christmas! It’s the DETAILS, your so full of common sense, you’re scary. Thanks!

Richard Hudson

Hi John,

Well-explained recommendations. It was interesting to learn about J-Locks and Dyneema chafe sleeves.

Like Eric and Hans, I moved away from using the simple, reliable, bowline to attach sheets to headsails due to bowlines hanging up on rigging wires.

In my case, it was headsail sheets hanging up on headstays while tacking or gybing. My staysail schooner has three headstays, and the clews of the jib and fore-staysail drag across the stays aft of them. Sheets tied to the clews with bowlines tend to hang up when dragging across the stay.

I use lanyards of thin rope passed multiple times between (eye-spliced) sheets and the clew ring. The ends of the lanyard are tied with a double sheet bend and the tails of the double sheet bend are stitched (I don’t remove the sheets from the sails often). Picture here, . It doesn’t seem to matter whether I use one lanyard for both sheets, or one lanyard for each sheet–the headsails don’t hang up as often on the stays when tacking or gybing.

I don’t think a soft shackle instead of the lanyard would work in my case, as the soft shackle would have more bulk to hang up on the stay than the lanyard does. I also would be worried about a soft shackle occasionally coming undone when dragged across a stay.

Eye splices and lanyards for attaching sheets are definitely more work than the simple, reliable, bowline, but can be useful to work around boat-specific issues.


Richard Hudson

Hi John,

Thanks for the suggestion.

I gave some thought to Hans’ solution, and don’t think it would work quite as well as lanyards for avoiding sheets getting hung up on stays during tacks. As I envision Hans’ solution, the sheets are attached to the loop by the ends of the sheets being passed thru their own eye splices. This passing thru eye splices creates a bigger ‘bump’ (which would seem more likely to hang up when being dragged across a stay during a tack), than a lanyard of several turns of thin rope thru the eye splices would.



Hi Richard,
I don’t have a picture of my solution at hand, but it is not as you think it is. The sheets are not cowhitched individually, that indeed would create a big bump. Instead, I fashioned a dyneema loop which runs trough the sheet’s eyesplices, in effect connecting them for good. I then cowhitch this loop to the sail’s clew. As the dyneema loop is made of 10 mm material, more than adequate, and needs no stopper knot, there are absolutely no protrusions, all sleek, no chance at all to catch a wire, no chance to shake itself loose or become undone. Sheets are 12mm.

Richard Hudson

Hi Hans,

Thanks for that clarification. Now I understand better.
That does sound like it would work very well.


Philip Wilkie


If I may use up my dumb question allowance for 2017 all in one go; why are you so adamant about no stopper knots in the bitter end of the sheet lines? Here in Australia it seems this is standard practice, and one definitely taught in the RYC courses here.

I’ve tried searching the MC site for your reasoning without success, and I am very curious to understand.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Like you say in your article on knots, I think hard before putting a stopper knot in something. Halyards I always have them as I consider losing a halyard up the mast to be a higher possibility and the knot would always allow the sail to come down anyways except for a spinnaker. I do keep a stopper knot in the mainsheet to just prevent the boom from hitting the shrouds assuming the traveler is centered. On jibsheets, I have gone back and forth. The chance of needing to let the jib fly ahead of the headstay seems really low but not nonexistant while the mess of losing a sheet without realizing it is there too. With all of these lines, it is a balancing act to make them easy to run but also stowed well enough that they can’t end up over the side at night without you noticing and make a mess of your prop (I wonder how some of the line cutters do on high modulus lines?).

I have had to blow off a sheet a handful of times. With mains/foresails/mizzens, a stopper knot has never been an issue as everything is basically against the shrouds at that point. I have actually let a jib go ahead of the headstay once to depower downwind for a few moments when I really didn’t have another option but needing this extra bit of sheet seems like a really rare occurrence.

Having a loop in the bitter end of a sheet is particularly worrying to me as it is likely to hook on something and drag it into a block or cause a real mess of a line. Just like never moving your feet once you start hauling in a line, it is a low but unnecessary risk to me.




About chafe of the main halyard in the sheave at mast head, it could be an advantage of in mast furling that is found on many blue water cruisers like Hallberg Rassy, Discovery, Amel, Oysters …. some of them also have in line spreaders.

I know that John is sceptical about in mast furling but it does have some advantages (and drawbacks)

Have a good xmas.


Alain Côté

Hi John,

Back on Dec. 23, about installing Dyneema chafe sleeves on halyards, you wrote: “Milked the sleeve good and tight over the halyard to make sure there was no slack and to shrink the sleeve to tightly fit the halyard”. I dont follow what you mean about “shrinking” the sleeve. Is there any application of heat involved? What causes the sleeve to shrink?




Hi all,
I’m about to repaint a 22M mast and associated boom, vang and spiny pole from a 49 foot yacht, Any tips as what to take off and what to leave on please?
I have removed the obvious, but am wondering about: head box, sheaves at the head and lower down, cleats, clutches, winches, fair-leads, blocks, goose necks, the boot, spreader bases, shroud ball sockets, steaming and deck lights, bolts, radar bracket, shackles, decals, sail tracks, Spiny pole track, etc.
I have never before drilled out rivets nor put them back on, but am doing the work at a helpful and skilled yard.
Any views would be most welcome please.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Antony,
The below was written recently for another venue. I have little experience with rivets and, I suspect, most painters would tape them which has, to my mind, problematic longer-term issues. It has been my observation that rivets are used to save money and where the mast wall may be too thin for threaded machine screws. If the mast is old enough to paint it is old enough to have everything taken apart, inspected, cleaned and returned using TefGel and plastic sheeting between fixture and mast (or whatever is appropriate for sheaves etc.).
You may not need a complete mast painting. We have postponed mast painting and solved many cosmetic and corrosion problems by going after problematic areas: mostly corrosion around fittings and where paint is lifting off the metal. We thoroughly clean and prepare the area, prime it and then patch-paint it. This has worked well, provided protection and our amateur paint work is un-noticeable beyond a few feet which works for us. Our mast is pushing 20 years and its life has not been easy. There does come a time, though…
With regard to mast painting, properly done, all the hardware comes off and is not taped. Many painters will only want to tape fittings. If taped, it is inevitable that the paint will start to fail at the tape/fitting paint line which will be exposed. If the painter is removing hardware, a large part the job estimate must take in the fact that most masts have never had their fasteners removed, coated with anti-seize (TefGel) and refitted with plastic between the fitting and the mast. This removal of corroded fittings can be a huge job (and a large part of the estimate) when all ss/alum connections are corroded, which, from the painter’s experience, is likely to be the case. This is also not a job you want anyone else to do as damage to the mast is easy and workers are likely to attack the job with heavier duty (read quick) approaches. (Ps. A great winter project for those whose mast is available is to remove all fittings and ant-seize them and return with plastic sheeting.) Use this opportunity to check out and remove the sheaves. When painting give thought to the messenger lines not being lost, or the workers undoing them, and to their orientation with any through mast rods/bolts that may have been removed. You do not want a halyard on the wrong side of one of those when re-stepped.
The paint job is easy if all comes apart without problem (use plenty of plastic bags and label everything) and if you can convince the paint shop that all hardware will come off easily, you will save yourself a bundle: better yet, strip the mast yourself.
After the painting, if paint has migrated into the threaded holes, run a tap through before replacing the machine screw. This allows the TefGel to get to the metal and makes for a far finer cut into the paint making less likely the paint will start to lift there years down the line.
This is one job where, for sure, where the devil is in the details.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Kevin Dreese

Really enjoying all the detailed articles and explanations. Really demystifying a lot of things I had questions about. Not sure if this question fits here or in the buying an offshore boat section but have you (or could you) write an article about an idea deck layout with specifics?

Similar to the Adventure 40 articles it would be great to see, based on your experience, what the layout should like from stem to stern including standing rigging, running rigging, how to reduce friction and chafe, winch size, type and placement for short handed or solo crews. I think the anchoring articles covered that topic really well, and I could apply a lot of it.

However, when looking at boats to buy and refit it’s hard to know what to do with all the approaches, opinions and choices with deck gear and layout that others have done. I like the simple, reliable, easy to understand approaches you use. I would love an article or book with your straight talk, no BS, choices laid out that I could apply. Kind of like a deck setup template based on your philosophy as a good starting point. Even just a detailed walk through of Morgan Clouds deck with the choices you made would do it, and a prospective buyer would get a great explanation.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
It is close to the time to turn my mainsail halyard end for end. My usual way is to just cut away the splice and use a buntline hitch, but this is a high modulus line (Liros line, dyneema).
I am curious about how much the line strength will be degraded by using a buntline hitch. I am also curious about the knot’s integrity with issues like creeping (I plan to sew the tail secure). I am pretty unfamiliar with knot tying in HM line.
I appreciate all thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
Thanks for your response.
I eyeballed the article looking, but missed those specific comments
The halyard shows no signs of needing turning end to end, so I will just leave it as is, especially as riggers I have talked with balk at splicing old used line.
My best, Dick

James Evans

Soft shackles not secure. Check out “10 second soft shackles” on YouTube: about the 5 minute mark. I use one of these on my mooring- that’s how secure it is.

Dick Stevenson

Hi James,
I have no access to video: can you elaborate?: safe, not safe, caveats. If you use on your mooring it sounds like you consider them safe. Thanks, Dick

Rob Gill

Hi John et al,

An old post but this seems like the best place to ask some questions please on: rigging for a spinnaker halyard on our 47 foot sloop.

After 9 years our single rove 12mm spinnaker halyard (white with grey fleck in photo) that we use to hoist our furling Code 0 has chafed through the outer sheath, close to where it exits the mast. The reason for the chafe needs some investigation, but I’m sure the outer polyester sheath has suffered from our harsh NZ UV. I might be able to add a Dyneema sheath to the halyard where it exits the mast, however it may not be the best solution.

The sailmaker supplied 12 mm halyard appears to have a Kevlar core (being a brownish colour), whereas I thought it was made from Dyneema. I am concerned given comments on Kevlar this may give way, especially if the sun has been on it for some time.

So I am considering doubling the spinnaker halyard, but wondering what the best practice might be for rigging this, and then terminating the halyard at the masthead. At the moment the halyard exits the mast and goes up and out to a reinforced masthead plate where we have a single high load Harken racing block (see picture, best I have sorry).

Thinking about redeploying this single block (no becket), and attaching it to the head of the Code 0, then buying a new high load masthead block with becket, to neatly terminate the halyard.

One downside will be the extra rope coiled in the cockpit when hoisted, but with the upside being the reduced loads on the halyard to achieve optimum luff tension. Also the existing rope is quite stiff – our first mate finds it difficult to pull through the cockpit jam cleat as I “bounce” the halyard up at the mast. She also finds it harder to coil.

But I do wonder about a doubled halyard twisting around itself and being unable to be lowered easily offshore, say with a blow coming – would I need to try and separate the masthead block and masthead termination?

Anything I may have missed from someone’s experience or other viewpoint, positive or negative?

Many thanks in anticipation.

Bonnie Lass rigcheck 280921  (10) Large.jpeg
Rob Gill

Thanks John, I was a bit shocked to find Kevlar inside the sheathing having remembered your warning from earlier rigging articles.

MAFFIOLI POWERGRIP 78 reviews well online – not readily available in NZ though sadly.