PS Advisor December 2018 Issue

A Sure Way to Secure the Boom

When the wind really blows, the pleasant chiming of a marina takes on a different character. Above the howling of the wind is the “Devil’s Tattoo,” the racket of one hundred poorly-secured halyards hammering against aluminum. Booms creak from side-to-side, and some pound against stays. Workers are distracted and anyone living aboard wishes his neighbors had taken a few small steps to preserve the peace, not to mention their rig.

A brace line opposite the sheet holds the boom steady. In gale conditions, the booms should be secured at deck level, preferably with sails removed.

The damage is largely invisible. Other than telltale marks on the mast and the occasional line chafed on the spreaders, the harm is the slow fatigue-to-rope type and minor wear on goose necks, traveler cars, blocks, masthead pulleys, and dozens of shackles.

Here are some of the more common ways to reduce this wear and tear.

Boom Gallows: Boom gallows are a great solution for offshore boats, but are rare on cruising boats, and don’t suit many coastal craft. The boom crutch, often removable, is the small-boat equivalent

Pendant to Backstay: This limits the movement but does not eliminate it. It also can harm the backstay.

Twin Mainsheets: Creating a perfect triangle, twin mainsheets hold the boom in securely. It’s convenient if you have a twin mainsheet system.

Brace Line: Like the twin mainsheet, a triangle is created (see photo). Simply attach a fixed-length line from the boom-end to a fitting near the rail. Then center the traveler and tighten the mainsheet against the topping lift and brace. It can be removed while sailing, or simply clipped up to the boom end.

Securing Halyards

Countless methods work for securing halyards, but there are three principles that must be observed if it is going to stay quiet when the wind is up.

Separation. The halyards must be separated from the mast by at least two feet or the stretch will allow contact in high winds. So long as the load is taken off the head of the sail, the halyard does not need to be detached from the sail to accomplish this—although this is often preferable on the dock. It should not be possible for sail to be lifted by the tension (or wind). The halyard can be led under a reefing hook, under a mast-mounted winch, or the headboard secured with a length of line.

Firm Tension. Only firm tension, at least 50 pounds and preferably light winch tension, can prevent the halyard from oscillating though a very wide arc.

No Bungee Cords. The problem with bungees is that firm tension is impossible to apply because they stretch. They seem fine in 10 knots, but fail utterly in real wind. All lines used to deflect halyards must have low stretch.

Few sailors hang out in marinas when the wind really blows. We do, since there’s often gear to be tested in full conditions. Visit your boat during the next blow, see how she moves in the slip, and secure your boom and halyards. Your reward will be reduced wear, more trustworthy rigging and the unspoken gratitude of your neighbors.

Drew Frye is technical editor for Practical Sailor and author of Rigging Modern Anchors (Seaworthy Publications). He also blogs at his website www.blogspot.saildelmarva.com.

Comments (6)

The boom IS centered. It is a catamaran and it has a long traveler. With a short traveler taking it to the opposite side works, centering the boom. We intentionally leave the boom off-center so that it is not over the cockpit stairs.

Many possible solutions. I've used a different combination on every boat I have owned. What is vital is to reduce wear.

Posted by: Drew Frye | December 8, 2018 4:28 PM    Report this comment

Bungees are fine, think outside the box and use a longer one and double or triple it up. If you're pulling against a stay, leave the doubled or tripled loop around the line, and hook ends on the stainless. It will be kinder to the line.

If you have a fitting like a spinnaker bale on the mast you can flip the halyard toward the opposite side of the mast and tighten the line tight against the fitting, creating a semi wrap around the front of the mast. Or move the halyard shackle to the opposite side of the boat and tighten it against the mast. Or install padded/protected halyard hooks part way out the spreaders to tighten the lines away from the mast.

Posted by: KMan | December 8, 2018 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Bungees are fine, think outside the box and use a longer one and double or triple it up. If you're pulling against a stay, leave the doubled or tripled loop around the line, and hook ends on the stainless. It will be kinder to the line.

If you have a fitting like a spinnaker bale on the mast you can flip the halyard toward the opposite side of the mast and tighten the line tight against the fitting, creating a semi wrap around the front of the mast. Or move the halyard shackle to the opposite side of the boat and tighten it against the mast. Or install padded/protected halyard hooks part way out the spreaders to tighten the lines away from the mast.

Posted by: KMan | December 8, 2018 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Keep it simple. If a wood boom crutch can't readily be installed in and just aft the cockpit consider placing 2 pieces of wood extending from the toenail to the boom with suitable protectors and a cross piece just under the boom. Such a simple device is widely used every sailboats are found. Costs maybe $20/25 and an hour's time.

Keep it simple.

Posted by: Piberman | December 8, 2018 10:40 AM    Report this comment

"Brace Line:... a triangle is created (see photo). ... Then center the traveler ..." Looking at the photo it is clear that THE TRAVELER is NOT CENTERED. It has been moved to on side in order to create tension against the fixed length boom-end line that has been 'attached to a fitting on the other side'.

Posted by: PJ | December 8, 2018 9:53 AM    Report this comment

A boom crutch works great on big boats, too, as long as there's a place to put it. Make a triangle with the main sheet and crank it down tight. Then ease the topping lift and walk the halyards to mid-boom. Keep everything loose and away from the mast and it will lazily flop around without chafe, music, or drama.


svbrightwater dot wordpress dot com/2014/02/22/boom-crutch/

Posted by: Capt. Phil | December 8, 2018 9:48 AM    Report this comment

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