Easy To Grab Rope Tail

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If we have a short rope tail, here’s a knot that gives us more to grab than the classic figure-eight stopper knot. The above is the sprit extension line on our J/109.

I have no idea what it’s called or where I learned it. Might be Boy Scouts 60 years ago. Anyway, it’s quick and easy to tie and stays put. Looks kind of salty, too.

Here’s the three step process:

And, yeah, I know our J/109 has terrible gel coat crazing. (Looks worse when I have not cleaned lately.) All the Tillotson Pearson boats do from that time. Bad batch of gel coat.

At least it doesn’t let water into the laminate because the first layers are vinylester.

Maybe one day we will fix it…probably not, doesn’t slow her down any.

Going Aloft Articles

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I went up the mast today to remove the fragile stuff from the top prior to unstepping. A highly recommended precaution if you don’t like paying for new wind instrument wands.

Phyllis and I had this down cold on our McCurdy and Rhodes 56, but it’s always a bit nerve wracking on a new-to-us boat with different gear and set up.

We took a bunch of photos of the new gear we are using for a two part article Matt and I are doing together on going aloft. Look for it over the winter.

Marking Port and Starboard Shrouds For Tune

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Adding to my last tip.

It’s pretty unlikely that the port and starboard shrouds are exactly the same length, so if we want to be able to duplicate mast tune in the spring we better not mix them up.

I used to put cardboard labels on, but they get soggy and fall off, so now I just tie a piece of light line with two knots for starboard and one for port. Works great.

I mark both, so if one gets removed, I still have the other.

Quiz

What mental trick do I use to remember which has one knot and which two, without having to write it down or find the photos above? Leave a comment.

Hint, it’s not the colour of the line, I just happened to have some red.

Preserving Mast Tune Hack

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I spent a lot of the summer getting the mast tune exactly the way I wanted it on our J/109. Now it’s time to decommission and I don’t want to lose that.

So I carefully measured the distance between the threaded studs in the turnbuckles for the shrouds and backstay.

To make this work you need accurate calipers, and digital ones make it way easier and faster.

Thanks to member Dick for this tip.

As to getting the tune right in the first place, we have four step-by-step instruction chapters on that.

Q&A Hydraulic In-Boom Roller Furling in Antartica

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Question

Very experienced member Matthieu Chauvel asked:

Does anyone have experience with hydraulic in-boom furling systems in below-freezing conditions (and/or proper heavy seas, 50 kts+)? Asking for owners of a yacht heading down to Antarctica that has what they (and the builder of course) say is quite a beefy, reliable custom system, but it hasn’t been tested in polar conditions yet.

Even night temperatures should remain well above the hydraulic fluid freezing point (call it -20 C with a little error margin) during the summer season, but maybe viscosity becomes a problem above that level? General ice build-up solutions and difficulty of sending crew forward while getting hosed down, at night, in towering waves already mentioned to them, but it would be nice to hear from people who have managed in that environment without problems, if any. 

Answer

Sorry, I don’t have much useful experience with hydraulic in-boom in extreme conditions. I was in the Arctic with one of those systems, but it did not get that cold.

The one thought I do have is that fisherfolk out of Atlantic Canada regularly work the waters of Hudson Strait in early winter, and so do Norwegian fisherfolk up as far as Svalbard, with hydraulics so it must be a solvable problem.

But, more importantly, if I were taking a boat into the high latitudes I would not have a complex system like that, particularly since the builder admits it has not been tested in those conditions.

I’m assuming this is a big boat, but even so I would go with slab reefing and then if worried about sending someone forward to the mast, bring the lines aft, although that would not be my choice. Instead, I would do good mast pulpits and a proper centreline jackline system.

I might also consider a Park Avenue boom, but that could also catch snow and ice, so maybe not.

If worried about loads on the reefing lines because of the boat size, I would install cross connected winches with coffee grinder pedestals. Two people can easily move a lot of line with a setup like that.

One could also add a hydraulic drive to the winches, but that adds risk and I would want to know the boat could be operated safely if the hydraulics failed.

Skip Novak has managed big boats fine in extreme conditions this way for decades and Phyllis and I had no trouble with slab on a 56-foot boat, including reefing and striking in 50-knot winds on one memorable occasion.

I would also say to your friend, if the boat is too big to handle with these simple systems, then add crew, probably professional.

We only have to look at what happened on Escape to see the dangers of a boat that is too big for the crew, and has complex systems, and that was not in the Drake Passage where conditions are likely to be far worse.

And I can’t tell you how scared I was of the automated rig on a big boat I went to Greenland on. If we had encountered 50 knots and big seas things would have almost certainly ended badly.

I do differ from Skip in one regard. I would add a storm trysail on its own track with its own halyard, so when expecting extreme conditions the main would come down and the trysail set. This, together with a storm jib set on an inner stay, is a rig that can take us to hell and back in safety.

If your friend decides to stick with in-boom, then I would strongly recommend this change. In fact, they could just motorsail to and from Antartica with this rig up, and be safe.

Matt, given your experience, I’m guessing I’m preaching to the choir, and I get that your friend won’t want to make all, or maybe any, of my recommended changes for one voyage, but maybe that just means he or she has the wrong boat for going to Antartica.

Anyway, thinking and writing about this was interesting.

Reefing Horn Hack

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Reefing horns are a nice simple way to secure the tack when reefed, but they can also foul the sail when hoisting. A PITA, particularly on boats with the halyard led aft to the cockpit.

This simple hack using a piece of fuel hose with the same ID as the horn OD, that I had in stock, solved the problem.

Transparent reinforced water hose would look nicer, but hey, the black matches the carbon sails that came with the boat!

John Kretschmer Reefs Downwind

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A few days after we published my article about the causes of the tragedy on Escape, I received this unsolicited email from John Kretschmer:

I am writing to commend you for your recent piece,”Lessons from a Tragedy at Sea.” It’s sober but hopefully enlightening to many. You are spot on.

The notion of coming up to reef the main, in a big boat especially, is madness and, simpy, bad seamanship.

We reef Quetzal exactly how you describe reefing Morgan’s Cloud, using the preventer to maintain boom control, easing off to about 100° apparent, and having a slippery track and cars, and stout gear for hoisting again.

I have completed 161 training passages aboard Quetzal in the last 19 years, which is kind of crazy, and logged more than 150,000 miles on this old girl in the process, and we have reefed off the wind every time. And I almost always have inexperienced crew, or at least crew new to Quetzal, so it’s not that this is a strategy reserved for master mariners.

John Kretschmer is one of the most experienced mariners of our time and always worth listening to. I think the most important part of the quote for most of us is “it’s not that this is a strategy reserved for master mariners”.

John went on to provide some tips on reefing off the wind with in-boom roller furling systems, which I will share in a future article.

Dead Ending Reefing Pennants

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Most people dead end reefing pennants round the boom with a bowline, but that’s hard to tie tight and even harder to untie after it’s been under load. And don’t even think about using a buntline hitch unless you want to use explosives to untie it.

There’s a better way: the humble timber hitch, finished off with a figure eight, as shown.

Quick to tie, and easy to untie no matter how hard it’s been loaded.

Not sure where I learned this—the sort of thing the great Rod Stephens would have come up with—but I have been terminating reefing pennants this way on all kinds of boats for some 50 years and have never had one fail on me.

Killer Dyneema Scissors

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I have been doing a bunch of splicing of single-braid Dyneema (AmSteel) lately—lots of storm preparation.

The stuff is seriously difficult to cut without making a mess of it, particularly when cutting single strands to taper the bury, but these scissors from D-Splicer do a lovely neat job and will even cut through a full 12mm with a single easy snip, even though mine are only meant to go to 10mm.

I have had a couple pairs of scissors that purport to be for Dyneema before, but these are way better. Highly recommended and worth every penny of their admittedly eye-watering price.

Sail Care Q&A

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Question

What’s the best way to pack and store sails? I am unable to fold the hank on sails properly on deck, in a blow, solo. So I somewhat stuff it in the bag. Then on a nice and calm day, I will dry them by hoisting, and try to fold it as neatly as I can (not very neatly), before putting it in the bag.

Should sails in general be folded? Folded in the same spot every time, or is it preferred to fold it differently every time? Do they need to be rinsed and dried?

Member Arne

Answer

People get really worked up about sail care, but as long as they are woven how you fold them is not that important, although folding is generally better than stuffing, but not a lot, as long as the bag is big enough that you don’t have to jump on it to get it to fit.

If it were me with hank on sails, I would get a couple of sausage bags made, like race sailors use, and then zip them into the bags prior to taking them off the headstay and stow like that without refolding. Any decent sailmaker will be able to make these for you.

The two things that really hurt sails (of all types) are UV (sunlight) and flapping (flogging), so the key to long life is to always cover them and not let them flap any more than you must.

When I was sailmaking I always rubbed my hands in glee when I saw customers hoisting their sails and letting them flap in the sun to dry them perfectly.

Damp is not much of a problem, although it can cause mildew, but better that than a lot of flapping or sun.

If the sails will be stored for a while, hosing the salt off, drying, and folding is worth it, but again, we want to minimize the flapping and sunlight.

Wichard Self-Locking Shackles

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We had the jib off, so I just replaced all the standard Harken shackles our new furler came with with Wichard self-locking ones.

We have been using these things for decades in places where wiring the shackle is not a good idea (spinnakers are expensive) and never had one back out on us. Highly recommended and really nicely made.

That said, on an offshore voyaging boat, I would add a drop of Loctite Blue.

You can see how they work in the closeup below.

Hack To Stop The Headstay Pumping

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On a lot of boats with a roller-furling foil, and particularly with no sail rolled on it, the headstay will start to pump once the wind gets up, sometimes to the point it gets quite alarming.

Not only that, all that pumping can do real damage to the rig if left long enough.

But there’s a hack that stops it every time, at least for a boat swinging to the wind on a mooring or anchor.

Set up a spinnaker halyard just forward of the headstay as shown in the shot above. That’s it? Yup.

I guess the halyard causes turbulence that breaks up the laminar flow on the headstay foil…or something.

Anyway, we have been doing this for years and it works.

Thanks to Deborah Shapiro and Rolf Bjelke, as I read the tip years ago in one of their excellent books.

Harken Bosun’s Chair

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I let my much-loved and venerable Hood Sails bosun’s chair go with her when we sold our McCurdy and Rhodes 56.

Just received this replacement from Harken. After a quick look over, I’m liking what I’m seeing a lot, but of course I will know more once I have used it and will share that in a two-part series on going aloft that Matt and I are working on.

What bosun’s chair do you have and how do you like it? Please leave a comment.

Note we are not talking climbing harnesses here, that’s a different piece of kit.

Brion Toss Splicing Wand

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I have owned this great tool for at least 25 years. I don’t use it that often, but when I do, it saves so much agro.

The photo to the right shows the way I was using it locked in a vice to Brummell splice 1/2″ Amsteel.

No way my little D-splicer was going to work to get 40 inches of tail threaded through.

Demo of In-Boom Furling

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My friend Hans, who advised me while I was writing the article on the tragedy aboard Escape, took me out on his Farr 56 for a demo of hoisting, reefing, and furling, using his in-boom automated mainsail-handling system.

Hans is an incredible resource, since he has owned boats with slab, in-mast, and in-boom furling, as well as being a deeply experienced ocean sailor, including countless trips to and from the Caribbean over decades, and five trans-Atlantics in the last few years—two with slab reefing, two with in-mast, one with in-boom.

I will be sharing his wisdom on all three systems and how to choose which is best for each of us, in an in-depth article.