The racket block is one of the most recent innovations in the world of line-handling blocks. The most common use of a ratchet block is on smaller racing boats, where you are adjusting a spinnaker sheet or mainsheet by hand, without using a cleat. Uses on larger boats include running a line through a ratchet block when releasing the control line on a headsail furler, and for traveler control lines and genoa lead adjusters. In a search for the best ratchet block, Practical Sailor tested four ratchet blocks with on/off switches; three ratchet blocks with auto-sensing that will automatically flip the ratcheting on or off; and one ratchet block that has both an on/off switch and an automatic sensor. The head-to-head ratchet block comparison included products from top marine hardware makers Selden, Wichard, Ronstan, Holt Allen and Harken.
Over the years, I’ve heard various timeframes for when to replace standing rigging, but I’ve never seen any empirical data to back up those recommendations. It would be very informative to know from a metallurgical/metal failure point of view estimated lifespans of the average wire used for standing rigging.
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.
The nylon three-strand dock lines used for this test had weathered significantly, and chafed noticeably where the lines exited chocks and made contact with cleats. We put these lines under increasing tension in laboratory conditions and tested them to destruction. Our test shows that even when the effects of chafe were eliminated, up to 75-percent of the original tensile strength in our sample ropes was lost. These findings fly in the face of the conventional rhetoric that views nylon as such a strong material that one should always opt for thinner line due to its better elastic effect. To the contrary, within reason, this overly springy, rubberband-like function is a foe rather than a friend. We left the lab realizing the importance of taking a close look at dock lines and other nylon-line applications, noting the last time they had been replaced and why tropical storms and noreasters take such a heavy toll. A new set of dock lines is cheap insurance, and money well spent.
On the 4th of September 2015, Andrew Ashman was killed during an accidental jibe, when the boom delivered a fatal injury to the base of his neck. The boat, CV21 Ichor Coal, had been running in strong conditions, and yawing allowed the wind to get on the wrong side of the mainsail, as occasionally happens. A preventer was rigged, but a strop securing a low friction ring turning block near the bow failed, allowing the boom to cross the cockpit unrestrained. On such highly engineered boats, how did this happen?