The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – November 2018
I enjoyed my Good Old Boat subscription when I had my O’Day 26, but I dropped my subscription last year as I bought a small trimaran (a 1992 Ostac Tramp) and noticed that Good Old Boat does not have many articles or advice about them — I couldn’t find but 6 articles on trimarans.
I know they haven’t been around as long as monohulls (in the modern sense, not the Polynesians) but they are becoming more popular and the modern fleet is approaching 50-60 years old now. Does Good Old Boat intend to include more write ups on multihulls?
–Wayne Holt, Pensacola Beach, Florida
Granted we don’t have many articles specific to trimarans. But we don’t have many articles specific to any single type of boat. We like to think that every issue of Good Old Boat has content that appeals to sailors in general, without regard to what they’re sailing, whether it’s on a trailer or a 40-foot trimaran. Doing plumbing or electrical work on a 1998 40-foot fiberglass monohull is going to involve many of the same considerations as doing the same work on a 22-foot woody from 1962. The story we had in the September issue on blind sailors we hope is of interest to all sighted sailors.
We’ll add that Drew Frye, a contributing editor, for a long time sailed a cat and recently sold it and bought his current boat, a tri (an F-24). And several months ago, we put the word out to all our boat reviewers to be on the lookout for good old multihulls to review.
We can’t promise multihull-specific content is on the way — 90% of our content comes from ideas pitched by freelancers — but I won’t shy away from any story because it has to do with multihulls. Quite the opposite. –Eds
We have owned our Hunter 310 about 4 years. There are no grab rails topsides. I can hold on to the life lines, but really need something on the cabin top, for safety. Over the weekend I went to the boat and stared at it for a while. Unfortunately, the way the boat is designed I don’t think I can add grab rails in the place I need them the most (between the mast and forestay), because there is a fiberglass headliner inside the boat. I seem to remember an article about installing grab rails in an old issue. Does anyone have any suggestions on a method? Should I glue them? Make pads with an integral fastener and glue the pads down? I would appreciate any suggestions. –Phil Mayleben, Hunter 310, Mad Hatter
We published a story in Good Old Boat recently on making grab rails (“Low-Cost Sturdy Handrails,” November, 2017), but not on installations that would help with your specific case. If any readers, especially Hunter 310 owners, think they have a suggestion to offer Phil, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE COCKPIT OR AT THE MAST?
Last month I put it to the readers about whether you make the trek forward to the mast to raise or reef the main? Or do you relish your ability to do both from the cockpit? Tell me why you do what you do. Would your set-up be different if you sailed a different boat, or sailed your current boat in different circumstances? Is the perceived safety of the cockpit over-stated? Before I present the results, let me correct a misstatement.
I wrote last month that Good Old Boat founders Karen Larson and Jerry Powlas prefer lines not be led aft and go forward aboard both their boats to raise and reef the main. This is only half true, so I’ll give Jerry the first word and then continue with some of the reader responses.
As concerns lines lead aft, Mystic (C&C 30) was designed as a coastal cruiser and club racer. She has moderate displacement for her length and a very stout simple masthead rig. She was built with no lines lead aft and did not have roller furling for something like half the 28 years we have owned her.
Our other boat, Sunflower (C&C Mega 30), is very lightly built, narrow enough to trailer without permits, and frighteningly tender. She has a bendy mast, highly swept spreaders, and a fractional rig. She was built with roller furling and no lines lead aft. We modified her rig by removing roller furling, adding a second forestay, and leading all mainsail control lines aft. So the crew must go to the bow to set or strike the jib or genoa, both of which are left hanked on to their forestays all the time.
The only modification we made to Mystic was to add roller furling, which costs her some speed when the genoa is partially reefed but allows us to manage the jib/genoa from the cockpit. To set, reef, or strike the main, the crew must go to the mast.
To evaluate any rig requires knowing how the boat is mainly used. Is she mainly raced or cruised? Does she have a full crew? Is she sailed by a couple or singlehanded? We don’t race, and we sail both boats as a couple.
As far as racing is concerned, I don’t think you can evaluate any decisions made by the owners of race boats in any context except racing. Sadly, there has been a tendency to design cruising boats so they mimic race boats. As for single-handed long-distance racing, where the single crew sleeps while the boat sails on with nobody on watch, there is no context I can think of for judging anything.
So we view our rigs from the viewpoint of a cruising couple sailing on the Great Lakes.
I think staying in the cockpit in rough weather is the single most important thing you can do to keep from falling overboard. I’m sure lines lead aft contribute to that. On the other hand, Karen dislikes (well, perhaps hates) lines lead aft. We were both disappointed to learn of her dislike after I redesigned Sunflower’s rigging to lead all mainsail control lines aft. She reasons that on Sunflower she still must go forward to deal with the headsails. This is true, but on that boat, by the time things get rough, we don’t have any headsails flying anyway.
My solution to all this has been to deal with very rough weather under bare poles powered by the engine. Yes, there have been times when the engine has failed, but the engines on both vessels are mostly reliable and with all sails struck there is no reason to leave the cockpit. In less-than-extreme weather, leaving the cockpit does not involve very much risk so either system works fine.
Mystic was designed early in the time of the IOR rule. She does not have some of the worst aspects of the IOR-based designs, like pinched ends, but she does have a small main and large foretriangle, which some reviewers criticize wherever they find that kind of rig. There might have been some logic to this criticism when the boats had hanked-on jibs, but a boat with a large foretriangle and a small main AND a roller furler is very manageable even without lines lead aft. We just roll in the jib/genoa according to how heavy the wind is. When the jib is rolled in all the way we are left with a small main, which can be carried in heavy weather without a reef.
I wish Karen liked lines lead aft. She does not, but we make do on Sunflower.
And now just a few of your excerpted thoughts…
I’ve got two very good old boats, a 1961 Seafarer Polaris 26 and a 1967 Cal 20. Both have halyards and other sail control lines at the mast. On the Cal 20, the clew reefing line is on the boom, forward. Bear in mind that I’m mostly day sailing, so conditions tend to be reasonable, but I’m also mostly doing it single-handed, so it’s more work. And the weather can surprise us, as all sailors know.
My theory is the standard one, it’s best to reduce complexity and friction. Less hardware; fewer turns. I also appreciate the traditional look on the Seafarer’s spruce mast with bronze cleats. I’m getting older (71 now) but I’m still able to hop around and deal with lines at the mast. There are ways to make going forward safe, tethers, granny bars, being careful.
I also have hanked-on jibs. Yeah, furling foresails are easy, and there are times when the wind has picked up when I’d be grateful to reduce sail with just a pull on a furling line, but the hanked-on sails never jam and their shape is whatever the sailmaker imparted. I remember my first experience with one on a charter vessel in the BVI. Just as we were entering a very narrow channel, the furling line jammed. I was about 15 seconds from deploying the rigging knife when we got it unjammed.
I have this theory that small boats get sailed a lot more than bigger ones. I also believe that sailing, like many other rewarding activities, isn’t really supposed to be effortless. Doing the physical work to make the boat go is part of the experience. When it becomes a matter of pushing buttons, we go from sailing to taking a sailboat ride. There is a big difference.
–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan
Good question. In this day of roller furling everything, and single-line mainsail reefing options from the cockpit, why would anyone go to the mast?
I built a 50-foot steel cutter (Roberts V495) and over the past few years have managed to sail her on most of the world’s oceans. Though she has lots of comforts built in, when it came to critical systems, I tried to keep it simple.
- furling systems on both foresails, as I trust them and know how to recognize/work around most common failure modes
- Selden battcars (exceptionally happy with their performance), three healthy slab reefs, and a stack pack-type mainsail cover tied into lazyjacks (I don’t trust in-mast furlers)
This plan gives us good flexibility, and the ability to reef on almost any point of sail without having to round up. We stayed away from in cockpit reefing for the main due to:
- the multitude of lines we’d have to bring back to the cockpit, cluttering the deck as well as the cockpit itself
- the length of the single-line furling lines involved (27-foot boom with a 72-foot mast makes for stupid-long lines)
- needing to see multiple hang-up points (the downside of lazy jacks ) when shaking out reefs without pointing into the wind.
I did install and do love big granny bars at the mast. These, combined with wide side decks and lots of handholds, make mast access pretty low-risk under most conditions. Once at the mast, snugged into the granny bars, dealing with the slab reefing is simple and reliable. Additionally, I added Dyneema loops on the tack reefing points that are easy to slide over the gooseneck reefing hooks. I also use Dyneema sleeves over the reefing lines feeding through the clew. These negate chafe and helps rookie crew to know when they’ve tightened the reefing line enough.
One sailor’s opinion!
–Norm Facey, Dream Catcher, currently in Trinidad
Editor note: Norm! You likely don’t remember me, but I’ve been aboard your beautiful boat, enjoyed wine and cheese aboard your boat, in La Paz, Mexico, 2015, shortly before you sailed off to cross the Pacific. You gave my family a tour of the cabin, all the amazing work you’d done. We were aboard Del Viento and left a couple weeks after Dream Catcher. I remember the crews of Auntie and Citla (not crossing) were there too. Fair winds!
I have perhaps an unusual reason for doing deck work outside of the cockpit. I am into my seventh decade and want to keep sailing forever, so I have a deliberate policy of moving forward to the mast and foredeck to keep me fit!
I bought my Tahitiana, Beatrice, 10 years ago after 30 years with my Lyle Hess-designed Serrafyn sistership. Beatrice is very seakindly and secure feeling with steel pulpit, rails, and granny bars. This setup has a major benefit in that it encourages unhurried physical movements which, as anyone of a certain vintage knows, can stave off pulled muscles, arthritis spasms, or slipped discs!
I’ve been extremely happy with her around my cruising patch of southern Tasmania, which can hand out the rough with the smooth. My latest exploit was 160NM of Southern Ocean to Port Davey and back. Beatrice really looked after me.
–Christian Wojtowicz, Tasmania
My 1985 Pearson 36-2 sailboat originally had only two lines running back to the starboard cockpit coaming: main sheet and main halyard. I am conducting a complete refit of my coachroof hardware, and not keeping the original layout. Naturally, I had to design the new running rigging layout before selecting hardware, so I gave this question a lot of consideration.
My current plan is to run 6 lines back to the starboard and port cockpit coamings (two x 3 clutches & two ST34 winches), allowing me primarily to raise/lower and trim the mainsail. From starboard to port:
- main halyard
- topping lift (provides backup in case of aft-stay breakage)
- main sheet
- asymmetric spinnaker halyard (provides backup in case of fore-stay breakage)
All reefing will be done at the mast where I have the original winches (one being replaced with a ST28 from the coach roof). Thus, the main halyard can alternatively be hauled at the mast. Roller-furled jib and hanked-on staysail halyards are also at the mast. All mast-terminated halyards are on the starboard side to ensure stand-on rights while someone is positioned on the windward side of the mast.
Somewhere I read that regular experience going to the mast makes for safer trips forward in critical conditions. And that those who always keep to the security of the cockpit will be much more afraid, unsteady, and at risk when inevitably forced to go forward due to tangled lines in the worst conditions.
–Ashley Wesch, Ottawa, Canada
I’m going through the decision process regarding granny bars right now. Mine is a 50-year-old Morgan 34 with very few changes made to it. I’ve had it for 10 years and I’m used to going to the mast for reefing and raising. But I’m seriously thinking of taking it across the Atlantic in the spring of 2020, so I’m looking into making it safer(?).
I started toying with a plan to lead all lines to the cockpit. The main obstacle to surmount is that the main halyard is wire/rope and fastened to a dedicated mast winch. The other consideration is all the times that something catches or sticks and has to be guided around the lazy jacks, negating any advantage of cockpit controls.
As far as granny bars, I determined that I have enough leftover tubes and fittings to install them, leaving only the bending to be outsourced. It’s probably the option I’ll go with.
My wife and I sail a non-racing good old boat, a C&C Corvette, built to the CCA Rule. We both serve equally as helmsman or crew. Like most cruising boats, we have a furling genoa, with the furling line led to the cockpit. The genoa is hoisted once and there is little or no need to bring that halyard aft.
Our main halyard winch is mast mounted with an all-wire halyard. As originally equipped, we left it that way for a few reasons:
- the winch makes it easy to hoist because you are standing and can use your legs to help drive if needed
- almost zero stretch in the halyard
- wear is less on the wire than rope
- wire does not hockle
- the brake can be partially released to control the take down, or full released for an immediate drop
The main is fitted with straps on the luff and the boom with horns. Using the brake to lower, once hooked on the horns, the take up is a couple of inches. The leech reef lines run to the forward end of the boom to a jam/horn cleat. Reefing takes less than a minute. Fewer blocks equals less friction for either the luff or the leech. Less friction means less power required to accomplish the task.
We do have a spinnaker halyard, staysail halyard, and topping lift led aft. However, they are raised at the mast and lowered from the cockpit. I have a clam cleat on the mast which I use for a temporary pair of hands. The sail is hoisted and the halyard placed in the clam cleat. When tension is taken on the halyard from the cockpit, the line pops out of the clam cleat and control is in the cockpit. On take down, the helmsman can control the rate of the drop from the cockpit while the crew gathers the sail.
As far as safety is concerned, we follow the adage to reef early. In heavy wind and larger seas, we wear a PFD going forward. In lighter air and flat water, not so much.
–Leo Reise, Windflower (hull 87)
It really depends on the boat. I like lines lead aft on a smaller boat, on which my weight will make a difference on the deck and thus stability is affected, even in calm weather. On a smaller boat, I’m also able to overcome increased friction with brute strength. And on a recent charter on a 45 catamaran, I found the increased friction made for rough handling in 35 knots of wind and I found myself on deck and on the sunroof frequently. Fortunately, my weight will never make a difference on one of those!
–Rob Barnes, Montreal, Quebec
On our Santana 22, we have all our lines in reach from the cockpit. We’ve only ever had an issue with the jib sheets, and only when they fouled on something forward of the mast. We often race with a crew of three and the crew is always busy with something. If we could set the whisker pole without going on the foredeck, we would. There are no lifelines on these boats for One Design racing and it gets a little tippy when the wind kicks up.
Our former boat, an Ericson 35, had mast-mounted halyards for jib, main and staysail, and there seemed to be a lot of running around to get the sails up and down. We had no roller furling for the tabernacle mast. Most skippers we know prefer the cockpit-led lines for short-handed sailing. Guests don’t always have the skill to be reliable crew. The safety of not having to leave the cockpit on journeys requiring sailing at night or far from shore makes the journey a lot more pleasant.
–Stefan Berlinski, Hamachi, Santa Cruz, California
I have most of my lines run to the cockpit on my O’Day 222. I sail on Lake Michigan and often single-hand. There is not much room or good footing on the cabin top. In choppy conditions, my small boat will move around sharply and can quickly lose its heading without someone at the helm. Swashbuckling about on the cabin top, wrestling the wind for control of a sail, can be a risky adventure.
A friend has a 32-foot, full-keel, world cruiser. His side decks are wide and the area around the mast is flat with lots of room and good footing. The boat has a gentle motion and will hold a heading for what seems like forever. I feel very secure in dealing with the sails on that cabin top.
As is often said, “your boat, your choice.”
I made the choice to keep lines at the mast. Our boat is a 1982 Cape Dory 33 and my reasons included:
- They were already there.
- I want all the lines needed to take in a reef in one place, so I did not want halyards aft and reef lines at the mast, for example.
- I’ve sailed boats with lines led aft that really had a lot of friction, making sailing generally harder for me and on the lines.
- The cockpit was already full of tailing lines from genoa and main sheets.
- I thought carefully early on after we got the boat and decided on a general philosophy of maintaining simplicity wherever possible. I like the thinking that says ‘be able to leave the dock within ten minutes’ after stowing your food and beverages.
On a different boat, say a center cockpit, or a different situation, say living aboard, I might take a different approach.
Thanks for keeping Good Old Boat a publication for folks who work on their own boats.
I find leading lines aft to the cockpit to not always be the best practice. I sail a CS27 in the Pacific Northwest and I do run some of my lines back to the cockpit, but they are the ones which run with the least amount of friction. I think each boater can determine this for themselves. In my case, the main halyard, topping lift, boom vang, and downhaul are run back. I have roller furling so don’t often use the foresail halyard.
I keep my reefing lines at the mast as I find they create too much friction in the system when leading them back. From a safety perspective, I heave-to before putting in a reef and that calms boat’s motion such that going forward is not as crazy as it seems when crashing through the waves.
Thanks for a great magazine!
–J.C. d’Almeida, Vancouver, British Columbia
I prefer to go forward and rigged my boat to do so. I think a sailor must have the equipment and experience to handle a trip to the mast in all conditions (this includes being secured with safety harness when forward to prevent an accidental ‘last man on board going over the rail and not getting back on.’)
It may seem that aft-led lines are safer, but this also increases the complexity in the cockpit when sailing and the maintenance loads when not.
I think it’s important to have a plan in mind before leaving the cockpit, not simply dashing forward to address something. Thinking through what you plan to do can help reduce the likelihood of even random accidents, such as slipping or tripping.
I think before embracing any fundamental change aboard that challenges the traditional way, it warrants asking questions. Why didn’t sailors of old lead lines to the cockpit? They certainly could have. I think the question prompts more questions than answers.
I think in the end, each situation is different. I own a 1949 classic offshore sailboat from Sweden, and lines led aft would mess up the traditional aspect of the boat.
I sailed a Coronado 15 for 8 years, and in that time also sailed a Hobie 16 and Hobie 18, an Expedition 14.5, and a C&C 26 as crew and helmsman for parts of a couple seasons. I consider myself a novice sailor.
–John Barry, Dundurn, Saskatchewan
I sail a junk-rigged Compac 19 and I don’t leave the cockpit to reef or add sail. In an afternoon of varying wind strengths, I will change sail footage a number of times without a second thought and little effort. I have six sail options with my seven-panel sail.
The junk rig has more than its share of ocean-crossing single-handed adherents, sailors like Blondie Hasler, who developed the western version of the rig, and Roger Taylor of Ming Ming and Ming Ming II fame. Of course, there was Sir Henry Pigott, who crossed oceans in his 20 ft boat in “carpet slippers.” Each of these sailors could sail from the safety a protected cabin hatch. That’s the beauty of a junk rig.
The bad rap on the junk rig derives from its reputation for not being able to sail close to the wind. While this is true of the early flat-sail junk rigs, most of today’s junk sails are built with ample camber and can sail to windward well, dependent on the boat of course. Junk rigs don’t seem to get put on fast boats, but I know of one boat in Norway that has earned respect on its racing circuit.
On our Morgan 382, Adavida, we raise and reef the main at the mast. We keep a dedicated tether there that we use when conditions warrant. The clew lines are run along the boom to a self-tailing one-speed winch on the boom. We have three reefs and have used them all underway.
I am not sure how I would run all the reefing lines to the cockpit, and doing so would certainly get messy. As long has I have a wind vane or auto pilot or another crew to take the helm, I prefer working at the mast. Simple reefing, with relatively short lines, and no mess atop the cabin and under foot. I have, on smaller boats, run jib halyards and down hauls to the cockpit, but now with roller furling, that is not so important.
To each his or her own.
–Terry Thatcher, Portland, Oregon