You’ve just motored out to a clear spot in the river and get ready to raise the mainsail. You hoist the head of the mainsail up the mast–and the halyard breaks free!
Now you are in a mess, as the halyard flails back and forth, five feet out of reach. Learn to sail like a pro when you use a simple, little-known technique that will keep this from ruining your sailing day!
Before you get underway, rig a simple halyard retrieval line for your mainsail and headsail halyards. That will allow you to haul the halyard down if it parts, or breaks loose when hoisting any sailboat sail. Follow these three easy steps:
Measure Your Mast and Headstay
Use small diameter, three-strand nylon or Dacron line. For the mainsail halyard, make the line length equal to the sailboat mast, plus enough to reach the base of the mast to tie it off to a cleat. For the headsail, make the line length equal to the headstay, plus enough to reach back to the cockpit and tie off to a cockpit boat cleat.
Splice an Eye Above the Halyard Shackle
Form a tight, small eye in each halyard just above the halyard shackle. Avoid the temptation to splice to the shackle, because the eye could slip off of the shackle when retrieving. Cover the bitter ends of your splice with three or four tight wraps of riggers tape. This will prevent the ends from fraying in the high winds at the head of the mast.
Hook a Block to the Stem-head at the Bow
Shackle a fairlead block to the stemhead (the fitting that the bottom of the headstay attaches to). Use one of the holes aft of the hole used by the headstay.
Test Your Mainsail and Headsail Retrieval Lines
Raise your mainsail on a a calm day in the slip or at the pier. Slack the retrieval line as you hoist the head of the mainsail. Some sailing skippers like to attach a small block to the base of the mast to run the mainsail retrieval line aft to the cockpit. You can also use the line to help haul the mainsail down after sailing.
Raise your Genoa or jib to the top of the sailboat mast. Feed the line through the block and aft back to the cockpit. Your headstay retrieval line can pull double-duty as “haul-down” line to help you lower the Genoa or jib.
Mark Your Cleat Spots on Each Retrieval Line
Make sure to keep each line slack so that it does not interfere with sail shape. Use a marker to show the “cleat off” spot on each retrieval line. That way, you know that your lines are set to the correct spot and ready to use in an instant.
Use these five easy tips to learn to sail better and with less effort. Boost your sailing skipper skills to the next level with these time and effort saving sailing tips–wherever in the world you choose to go sailing.