Online Book:

Sail Handling Made Easy

Includes Free Introductory Chapter (scroll down).

Colin and John share their seamanship wisdom gained in a combined century of setting, reefing and striking sails on many different boats, and much of it in challenging conditions. Tips, techniques, gear, sail selection and how-to slideshows, it’s all here.

And, as usual with our Books, none of this is theory; all of the gear and techniques we write about are ones we use on our own boats every day.

Table of Contents:

Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often


Free Introductory Chapter Staying in the cockpit most of the time at sea and not getting out on deck often is not a good idea. John explains why and shares the benefits of participating in "deck sports".

Don’t Forget About The Sails

Our friends Kim and Erling use good sails, combined with careful tuning and trimming, to make some surprisingly fast passages.

These days, with all the focus on the latest whiz-bang gadgets, many sailors are forgetting to think about and spend money on their boat's primary means of locomotion. In this post we look at why spending time and money on good sails is vital. Not only is a boat that sails well more fun, it's also a lot safer.

How Much Sail Area?

So just how much sail area should a voyaging boat have and how should it be distributed? We examine those two issues in this question and answer chapter.

Reefing At The Mast


In this chapter we will cover in detail, complete with a slideshow illustrating each step, how we reef on "Morgan’s Cloud" and more specifically, how we reef when sailing downwind.

Reefing Questions and Answers

Reefing is one of those areas where the devil really is in the details. Over the years we have answered dozens of questions about reefing. In this chapter we highlight a few of those and provide our answers.

A Dangerous Myth about Reefing


There are probably more myths and downright wrong recommendations published about reefing than any other subject. In this chapter John exposes one of them and then goes on to explain how to do it right.

A Different View—Hank-On sails


It's rare these days to see a cruising boat with hank-on headsails. But are such sails only for the traditionalists stuck in the stone age of offshore sailing? Maybe not. Here is a convincing case for hank-on sails, at least on smaller boats.

Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling

Reducing friction always makes life easier

The old saying that ‘if a job is easy, you’ll do it’, is a good one that we have tried to bring to bear at all times when improving our Ovni 435 Pelerin. If the job’s difficult, you’ll delay it until it’s beyond inevitable and then it can become a hardship. And nowhere is that [...]

Making Life Easier—Storm Jib

Will it soon be time to go for the storm jib? A windy day, Ria de Muros

Once a year we like to entertain our neighbours by hoisting our storm jib whilst we’re alongside. Not much new to be learned from it, but it does force us to get it out of the bag and give it a thorough check over for any signs of chafe or other damage. We have a [...]

Light Weather Sails—Choosing What Is Right For You

Light genoa 3

One of the things we like most about the OVNI 435 is the well-stayed cutter rig. In light of experience aboard our previous boat we opted for a yankee (jib-topsail) rather than the standard roller genoa knowing that the yankee maintains its shape and drive far better when well rolled, and is stable and easy [...]

Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age

Bartels gennaker furling drum.

There was an interesting piece in a recent edition of French sailing magazine Voiles et Voiliers on gennaker furlers. These gears are very popular in France, and through their extensive use aboard racing multihulls and Vendee Globe boats have undergone real battlefield testing over the last ten years, to the extent that they must now [...]

Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!

A cruising sailboat with swept-back spreaders

We are all for many of the advances in sail handling systems that have appeared in recent years: roller furling, low stretch exotic fiber rope halyards, solid vangs, and clutches. All these and more have made sail handling on cruising boats easier and, in many cases, safer. However, every so often we see a trend [...]

Spinnakers—Not Getting In A Twist

Spinnaker bowsprit on OVNI 435

Whilst the rest of Northern Europe has been enduring yet another ghastly summer with high winds and inundations, the Western Isles of Scotland have had a memorably warm and sunny season, with long spells of light winds. And as a result we’ve used our new asymmetric spinnaker on a regular basis. You either love or [...]

Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable

Aluminum expedition sailboat Morgan's Cloud underway in front of an iceberg and mountain at Uummannaq, West Greenland.

Question: I’m refining the deck layout on the 41' voyaging boat I'm fitting out from bare hull. She will be sailed as a sloop, but fitted with an inner forestay for heavy weather. I am currently weighing the benefits of keeping that sail on a furling unit versus hanking it on to a removable stay. [...]

Lazyjacks—Mainsail Handling Made Easy


Other sailors are often surprised that Phyllis and I set, reef, and strike Morgan’s Cloud’s 600 square foot mainsail without resorting to complex gear like roller furling masts or booms. But actually, it’s pretty easy using the simple gear that we have installed and fine tuned over 22 years and well over 100,000 miles. The [...]

Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1


A head injury is a terrible event wherever you are, but at sea far from medical help it's even worse. Rigging a proper preventer is one of the surest ways to reduce the risk to you and your crew. In part 1 of this two part series we look at the risk and what constitutes a proper preventer.

Your Mainsail Is Your Friend


Many sailors have de-emphasized their mainsails, in some cases to the point where the main is the first sail to come down when the going gets tough and often does not even get set in the first place. This is a mistake and potentially dangerous.

Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks

A French Ovni 435 reaching under main and staysail in strong winds.

Colin draws on his decades of experience racing and cruising to share some tips and tricks that will make reaching and downwind sailing faster and more comfortable. Chapter FREE to view for three days.

Downwind Sailing—Poling Out

Running downwind with the pole out

Poling out the headsail to sail downwind can be intimidating, particularly offshore in big breeze, but Colin has a way to make it easy and safe.

Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm

Steering a properly balanced sailboat up wind is one of sailing's greatest pleasures.

There are few problems that detract more from the pleasure of sailing than a bad case of weather helm, a surprisingly common affliction. The good news is that this problem can be fixed.