As with any big ticket item, choosing a new mainsail involves a number of choices, each of which are driven by an equally diverse list of factors to consider, from the type of boat (cruising, racing sailboat), and area sailed (inshore waters, coastal waters, or bluewater), to the type of sailor you are (performance-oriented hard charger or weekend warrior). Practical Sailor offers a step-by-step rundown of the available options and the selection process our testers experienced when we shopped for a new mainsail for our Chesapeake Bay test boat. While the decisions will vary, the exercise can serve as a template for any sailor looking to upgrade a mainsail.
Making spare winch handles is a simple job for a competent metal worker. This I discovered because our Norlin designed Scampi, Windhover, has eight winches, all of which were manufactured before the world standardized on the 11/6" winch handle lug size. Since Windhover's 9/16" size handles are difficult to obtain and impossible to find at discount I went to Frank "Red' Grobelch, a superb metalsmith/welder of Waukegan, Illinois with some ideas for making up some spares for me. I'm so pleased with the results that I'd recommend the project to any reader who is a competent metal worker or has a friend who is. Even if you can use and buy standard 11/16" size handles, your mental state when clumsy Uncle Fred drops a handle overboard will be far more buoyant if you know you can easily replace the lost handle in your own shop.
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.
A wildly flailing boom is one of the most dangerous objects aboard a sailboat. If you could completely control the boom at anchor and under power, and while raising, lowering, and reefing the sail you'd avoid worry, save energy and be much safer. For this reason, many serious cruising boats have traditionally carried permanent boom gallows. They usually take the form of metal pillars bridg ed across the top by a wooden cross member. Bolted to the deck at the aft end of the cockpit or on the aft deck itself, they serve several functions: holding the boom firmly when the sail is down; catching the boom easily as the sail is lowered; and, perhaps most importantly, keeping the boom steady during reefing operations.
On my Catalina 22 I have a tiller tender which has served me well for many years — and it didn't cost a cent. On top of the tiller are two pieces of 3/8" x 3/4" hardwood about 5" long. The two pieces are drilled horizontally, at the joint line, about 2" from the end to accommodate a 3" length of split neoprene which has an inside diameter slightly less than the diameter of the braided line which runs to the coamings. Two holes drilled vertically near the ends are used to fasten the device to the tiller.
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.
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.