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 Devils 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.

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. Its 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 theres 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.

Darrell Nicholson
Darrell Nicholson is Director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division and the editor of Practical Sailor. A lifelong thalassophile, he grew up sailing everything from El Toro dinghies to classic Morgans on Miami's Biscayne Bay. In the early 90s, he left a newspaper job to sail an old gaff-rigged ketch across the Pacific and has been writing about boats and the sea ever since. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at darrellnicholson.com.


  1. I’d love more detail plus photos and diagrams to illustrate how these various halyard quieting options work.
    I don’t know how many sleepless nights I’ve had, at anchor, when the wind picks up and halyards start slapping the mast.
    My normal practice is to use a short length of line to pull the halyard away from the mast by tieing it to the related side stay. This causes the halyard to exit the masthead block at a sideways angle and likely doesn’t do it any good either!
    I will certainly try the halyard tensioning option as this seems like a simple solution.
    Paul van de Bospoort
    Pearson 303 Sun Dance II

  2. Before turning in I lead halyards out to the lifelines, pass them twice around the lifeline, and then clip the shackle around the halyard itself (not the lifeline). If you clip directly to the lifeline, all night long youwill hear ‘click, click click’ as the shackle wobbles back and forth, hitting the stanchion, again and again. ‘But not too much tension, otherwise the lifeline itself gets unhappy. For the main boom, the gallows works great. For the stay sail club boom on a track, move the track stops to lock it to one side, then tension to the opposite side with a short piece of line.

    Tayana 37 Sans Souci