PS Advisor February 15, 2004 Issue

PS Advisor: 02/15/04

Mainsail Streaks
I have my first new boat—a 24-footer—with new sails, the works. Is there a way, when running before the wind, to keep the leeward shroud from marking up the backside of my mainsail? There's a long streak there already.

-Frank V.
Miami, FL


On most boats, it's not possible to keep the mainsail from contacting the shroud. This is particularly true on boats with spreaders that are swept far aft. The shrouds do leave streaks, but worse, they wear the sail, especially on the stitching.

Streaks like that are mostly just dirt, and can usually be removed with a mild soap solution and a soft brush. The chafe problem is a bit trickier. In the old days, baggy wrinkle reduced the wear, and helped with two other problems—keeping lazy sailors busy and making good use of old line.

Today a good boom vang, whose real purpose is to help shape the sail, will tend to minimize the amount of sail that's in contact with the shroud, by making the belly of the sail flatter (the wildly popular Vang Diet).

When cruising, you can combine the downward pull of the vang with the opposing pulls of mainsheet and a preventer led forward, to keep the main in one place, just off the shroud. Don't forget to release that preventer before jibing.

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Leech Lines
I would like to know when it is appropriate to adjust the leech line on my roller-furling genoa. I find that I never touch it—I just keep it tied where it is. Should I be making frequent adjustments?

-Dan Frazier
Via e-mail


Ideally, wind should flow cleanly off the trailing edge of a sail, but inevitable there are vortices that increase with wind strength, setting up a flutter in the leech that needs to be controlled with the leech line. If you never adjust yours, it's likely that you either experience that fluttering in moderate to strong winds, or, alternatively, a slight (or maybe not so slight) curl or cup in your leech in light air.

The leech line should be tight enough to keep the leech from flapping in the breeze, but not so tight that it creates a curl or a cup in the leech.

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Brush Cleaning
Do I really need to buy those expensive brushes to do a little varnish work? And how do I clean one when I'm finished? They're too expensive to discard.

-Steve Brody
Via e-mail


Varnish can be successful applied with any brush—bristle or foam. For little touch-ups, throw-away foam brushes are great.

We know not how badgers feel about this, but the advantages of the expensive brush are (1) they hold more varnish, and (2) they're better for spreading the varnish. With any varnish job, the secrets are cleanliness and speed, meaning quickly spread it well, move on, and let the varnish flatten out. (Look back for sags.)

The best brush for your touchiest job is one you've used and cleaned a couple of times. We've had the best luck cleaning brushes by letting the brush soak overnight in thinner or brush cleaner, then in fresh cleaner the next day, then overnight in a solution of strong soap (or detergent) and water. Next comes a vigorous wash in that soap and water, and repeated rinsings. Wrap and tape the bristles and ferrule in a clean rag, squeeze out excess moisture, and hang it up to air-dry. Shake it out thoroughly to remove any broken bristles and dust, and you'll have a super-clean brush.

Makes foam brushes sound pretty good, doesn't it?

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