Are You Ready to Kludge Your Way Home?

A low-friction ring stands in for the broken sheave on a deck organizer.

The first use of the word kludge is attributed to Jackson W. Granholm in 1962, describing an ugly programming solution that was “an ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole.” While I’m all about doing things right the first time, I’ve made some ridiculous exceptions either to get out of a situation or to get home for dinner. Any construction based on what you have on hand is fair game, so long is it safe enough for the trip home and with the clear understanding that it will be fixed correctly before your next outing. In PS October 2018 we discussed a “Get Home Sailboat Tool Kit.” Here are a some ugly things you can do with it.

Broken Shackle

Beating up the Delaware Bay in a steady 15 knots with square chop the clew shackle on the self-tacking jib exploded. Judging from the remnants, I suspect it rotated and became cross loaded. I didn’t have the right shackle and knot or lashing won’t work because a tackle is connected to the clew.

Kludge. I always keep an assortment of Dyneema soft shackles hanging off the handle of my bag; they fit most sizes. We turned downwind to blanket the genoa and furled it enough to thread a temporary restraining line through the clew, just enough to stop the flogging. I then threaded a soft shackle through the clew and tackle and resumed sailing. With all the flapping, I would have dropped the pin of a regular shackle for sure.

Broken Block

Beating down the Chesapeake in a sustained 20 knots, our genoa lead block exploded, the result of a hidden crack in the stainless strap.

Kludge. A pair of climbing carabiners (WLL 1200 pounds) and a soft shackle (handy things!) made a workable block for the next week, until a replacement could be located. Why two carabiners, since one would have been strong enough? By placing two side-by-side, the radius of the turn is doubled and the rope slides much more easily, though still with considerably more friction then a ball bearing block. Also handy as temporary snatch blocks.

Low Friction Rings and Slings.

A deck organizer failed, preventing hoisting sails. Odds are you don’t have the correct block on hand.

Kludge. A few snatch blocks are handy (Garhauer blocks are quite economical). Failing that, with a few carabiners, slings, and low friction rings, you can rig something functional in minutes. In this case a sling attached to a lifting eye and a low friction ring made a serviceable turning block.

Failed Halyard

If not maintained, they can chafe and fail. More likely, you dropped the end and it flew out of reach, or a guest was helpful and pulled the halyard before the sail was attached. Don’t be embarrassed, because it has happened to all truthful sailors.

Kludge. ALWAYS have spare halyards. Some folks remove the toping lift when they get a rigid vang. They remove spinnaker halyards because they don’t have a chute. Your funeral. I once used lazyjack lines on a friends boat. Fortunately, they were Dyneema, quite strong, and reached high enough to hoist a double reefed main. One more reason to attach lazyjack lines strongly to the mast and not to the spreaders. 

Drew Frye is technical editor of Practical Sailor, he blogs at his website

Drew Frye
Drew Frye, Practical Sailor’s technical editor, has used his background in chemistry and engineering to help guide Practical Sailor toward some of the most important topics covered during the past 10 years. His in-depth reporting on everything from anchors to safety tethers to fuel additives have netted multiple awards from Boating Writers International. With more than three decades of experience as a refinery engineer and a sailor, he has a knack for discovering money-saving “home-brew” products or “hacks” that make boating affordable for almost anyone. He has conducted dozens of tests for Practical Sailor and published over 200 articles on sailing equipment. His rigorous testing has prompted the improvement and introduction of several marine products that might not exist without his input. His book “Rigging Modern Anchors” has won wide praise for introducing the use of modern materials and novel techniques to solve an array of anchoring challenges.