Ever since some ancient mariner broke a toe tripping over the killick stowed in the bow of his curragh, sailors have sought to solve the mysteries of ground tackle stowage. The solutions have been endless, and as a rule compromises. A significant portion of the interior volume of a 19th century warship was given over to the storage of anchor rode. Even aboard modern boats, the search for the proper stowage of several anchors and chain, plus hundreds of feet of sometimes slimy nylon anchor line, is one that occupies both designers and boat owners. Two "modern inventions" — the anchor well, and the bow roller — have greatly eased many of the problems of ground tackle stowage. But even these developments vary greatly in quality and design, some creating more problems than they solve.
Researching an upcoming article on the effects of various cleaning chemicals on ropes, our testers scrubbed and machine-washed mountains of nylon and polyester rope of every description. Samples ranged from three-strand dock line encrusted in marine life to brand-new polyester double-braid line. Our testing for that article continues, but we want to report one immediate finding relevant to any sailor who is wondering how to deal with old or dirty lines. Fully 70 percent of our test samples, including new and used line from New England Ropes (NER) and Samson Ropes, experienced failure of pre-spliced eyes; the buried portion of the core worked its way out of the main line and into the eye, where it carried zero load. In some cases, these failures were scarcely visible, while in others, the tail was exposed.
Practical Sailor tested more than a dozen bullet blocks (sized 40 to 45 millimeters) from eight marinedeck hardware manufacturers: Barton, Garhauer, Harken, Karver, Holt, Ronstan, Schaefer, and Selden Mast. The units tested were ball-bearing and roller-bearing designs, and the growing trend toward more composite material and less metal construction was evident among the products. Blocks were loaded to 200 pounds-well within the safe working load for the test blocks-and testers measured the amount of force required to move a line in a closed loop set up. Once the efficiency test was complete, the blocks were subjected to an aerated saline bath to gauge corrosion and oxidation tendencies. Weight, price, safe working load, cheek material, and attachments were also evaluated.
With some modification to our bench-test jig, we were able to place two blocks in opposition to each other, attach them via a closed loop of ultra low-stretch line and place the system in tension. The load-inducing mechanism was a vertical capstan Ideal anchor windlass capable of incrementally adding tension to the mix. A Dillon AP dynamometer was placed in series with the tension-creating tackle, and during each test, the load on the closed loop was closely monitored.
Beyond the text and photos contained in a sailboat manufacturing company’s brochures, and the words of a dealer or salesperson, and absent an understanding of yacht design, discerning the actual capabilities of today’s production boats is a major task. Gone are the days of Herreschoff et. al., when the conventional wisdom held that a long, deep keel was the best method of producing good tracking, displacement produced a seakindly ride, and performance (straightforward speed) was a simple matter of adding sail area. Prior to the age of fiberglass, most yachts used similar raw materials (wood and metal), and construction methods, so those variables were not generally a consideration.
Take a cursory glance at a new 35-footer and you might easily conclude that, except for cosmetic changes, the boat is essentially unchanged from those that made their debut in 1995. But that is not the case. In contemporary designs, modifications to deck layouts, the design of creature comforts, and boathandling systems, all reflect the market's desire for easy use, as evinced by below-deck sheeting systems (X Yachts), electrically controlled stern platforms (C&C), and removable traveler systems (Etap), for instance.
There's no perfect solution to boom furling. It's not an easy bit of engineering. Still, all the systems on the market continue to mature. Schaefer's new offering looks like a good bet for medium-sized boats.
The systems used to attach a mainsail to its mast have come a long way since the time of hoops and parrels, and the variety of options now available for retrofitting plays to the advantage of the consumer.
Unless the boat was equipped with two headstays, which adds considerable windage, the headsail change drill meant releasing the lowest hanks on the headsail in use, tacking down the new sail, hanking it on below the head-sail already up, taking a deep breath, letting the jib halyard run, then going like mad to get the hanks open on the old jib, all the time listening to the skipper scream to hurry up.
On most trailerable boats, when the mast is stowed for travel it is lashed to the bow pulpit and stern rail with no support at all in the middle.