The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:


  • Sail Care Q&A


    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


    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Wichard Self-Locking Shackles

    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Hack To Stop The Headstay Pumping

    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Harken Bosun’s Chair

    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Brion Toss Splicing Wand

    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Demo of In-Boom Furling

    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.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Backstay Adjusters & Fractional Rigs

    With fractional rigs we are way more interested in how much pumping the adjuster down has shortened the backstay and bent the mast than we are the reading on the pressure gauge (within reason). That’s why the marked batten.

    Click on images to enlarge

    Share your thoughts>

    Be the first to comment

  • Reaving Halyards

    You see people taping messenger lines to halyards, but that can lead to tears when the messenger comes off inside the mast.

    So way better to put a flemish eye, sometimes known as a reaving eye, in the bitter end of all halyards and internal reefing lines.

    The key to success is that the eye should have no bigger diameter than the rope, so a normal splice does not work.

    Or, if you suck at rope work as much as I do, get a good rigger to do it for you.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Whip Before Cut

    When shortening a line, it’s way easier if we put on two sailmakers whippings and then cut the line between them. Whipping how-to. (Scroll down to #6)

    Share your thoughts>

    Be the first to comment

  • Great Borescope

    How we knew what the problem is in our mast way out of sight:

    Black and white messenger is for the main halyard. Deflection is clear. Sheave to left.

    Make sure you get this one with the longer focal length.

    Share your thoughts>


  • Our Season Saved

    or at least extended by installing spectra chafe sleeve. Love the stuff. More here.

    Not a permanent fix. That will take unstepping and some very tricky work.

    Share your thoughts>

    Be the first to comment

  • Stupid Mast Errors

    After just three day sails our main halyard is mangled. Turns out @sparcraft jammed the wiring conduit right up under the sheave on our brand new mast so it deflects the halyard and chafes it. Looked like end of season. We were gutted. No way to fix without unstep, but see next tip.

    Share your thoughts>