The DIY Track Cleaner Digs Deep into Groove


The simplest cleaning tool is a two-foot section of luff tape or prefabricated bolt rope. Place a grommet in each end, close to the tape but not so close that it can bind in the groove (3/16-inch clearance).

The diameter can be increased for more effective scrubbing by gluing fabric to the outside of the bolt rope (photo 3). We liked terry cloth for this, but Sunbrella slides better. Adhere with polyurethane caulk. Alternatively, the cloth can also be sewn in place.

Our DIY direct insertion cleaner (photos 1 and 2) is a bit fiddly to build and use, but it avoids having to remove sail slugs and open the mast gate.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Cut a piece of Sunbrella (old and floppy is best) 10 by 8 inches. Fold this along the 10-inch length and use polyurethane caulk to glue the edges together with a 1.25-inch overlap. The finished dimension is 10 by 4 inches.

2. Make two carriers from 1/8-inch thick aluminum or plastic 12 inches long. Drill holes in the ends for shackles and five more -inch holes for clamping with 3/16 x -inch pan head screws.

3. Clamp the Sunbrella strip between the carrier strips using the three center holes

4. Cut 2 strips of polyester sail cloth 1.5-inch x 8-inch. Punch two -inch holes on the center line, near the center, 1.25 inches apart.

5. Clamp the sailcloth strips in the carrier using the end clamping holes (not the shackle holes). Do not double the cloth, use only one hole at this time, and leave the nuts loose.

In Use

To use, remove the clamping bolts on the sailcloth strips, but do not remove them from the carriers. Double the strips and insert them into the groove as far as they will go. Continue by inserting all of the Sunbrella into the groove, doubling it like and accordion into the groove, prodding it with a kitchen fork (see photo page 16).

Once all of the Sunbrella is in the groove, pull the sailcloth strips tight with the carrier strips held tight against the mast. This will form a knot of cloth that cannot pull out of the groove. Realign the punched holes in the sail cloth with the carrier strip holes and insert clamping bolts. It is now ready to be hauled up and down the mast.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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