Some Simple Tricks to Tensioning Lashings


We’ve seen both turnbuckles and lashing, on matching boats nearly side by side. Why the difference in approach, since both designers are obviously comfortable with synthetic standing rigging?

Because a lashing cannot be tensioned efficiently by simply pulling on the end, turnbuckles are better for any rigging that requires substantial pretension, and where accuracy is important to rig tuning.

Lashings can be used to adjust the length or apply moderate pretension, but final tightening is better accomplished using screws of a turnbuckle. To achieve maximum shroud pretension with a lashing requires using some creative measures.

Tighten the leeward shrouds while sailing in a moderate breeze while the windward shroud is loaded up.

Attach the lashing tail to a halyard and winch it tight.

Use a temporary shroud in parallel to create the tension while you tighten the lashing.

Tie a line to the lashing tail, lead it through a turning block and back to a winch that can be used for tensioning. Then apply a string of tight half hitches to lock the lashing. This is similar to the method used on square riggers.

Another tensioning trick involves shroud tensioners. Instead of fully tightening a shroud with a turnbuckle, the shrouds are only lightly snugged. For final tensioning, the shroud is pulled aft using a block and tackle (4:1 to 8:1 purchase) with one end fixed on deck about 4-8 feet aft of the chain plate and the other end attached to the shroud about 3-4 feet off the deck. This method is common for tensioning the shrouds on folding catamarans, which need tension relieved when they are not sailing.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. 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