Sailboat rigging and sails

Tall ship with sailors up in the rigging

Contact me.

This page updated: September 2012

Fittings and Hardware
Lifelines (life-lines)
Reefing and Furling
Sail Plans


Boat types:
  • "Sloop": single mast slightly forward of amidships; mainsail behind mast, jibsail in front.
  • "Cutter": single mast further aft than in sloop; mainsail behind mast, two sails in front.
  • "Catboat": single mast near bow; mainsail behind mast, no sail in front.
  • "Ketch": two masts; main mast (taller) is forward, mizzen mast (smaller) is aft but in front of wheel, mizzensail is large.
  • "Yawl": two masts; main mast (taller) is forward, mizzen mast (smaller) is aft and aft of wheel, mizzensail is small.
  • "Schooner": two masts; main mast (taller) is aft, foremast is smaller.

"Fractional rig": headstay does not attach to top of mast, but below it by 1/8 or so. Tensioning the backstay bends the mast, tightening the headstay and giving a better leading edge to the jib. Maybe also gives more draft in mainsail. Other kind of rig is "masthead rig": all stays attach to top of mast.

"Modern Rigs" article by Duncan Kent in 6/2004 issue of Sail magazine

Mainsail shapes/rigs/types (not so sure of these):
  • "Jib-headed" (aka "Marconi" or "Bermuda").
    Typical mostly-triangular mainsail; one boom; one end of boom and leading edge of mainsail attached to mast.
  • "Square".
  • "Gaff".
    4-sided mainsail; two booms; top boom is shorter; one end of each boom and leading edge of mainsail attached to mast.
  • "Junk".
    Boom at top of 4-sided mainsail; boom attached to mast several feet from end of boom.
    SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Finding Beauty in a Junk"
    The Cheap Page's "Junk Sail Tutorial"
  • "Lateen".
    Mostly-triangular mainsail; two booms; one end of each boom attached together; booms attached to mast about 20% from common end.
  • "Sliding Gunter".
  • "Lug".
  • "Wishbone".
    Similar to Marconi, but boom is two parallel pieces, one on each side of mainsail (as on a windsurfer).

  • Main:
    • Mainsail: can be loose-footed (only tack and clew attached to boom) or have foot attached to track on boom.
    • Storm trysail: usually has a separate track on mast, and is loose-footed and sheeted to the boom. Will be flown with main doused and boom lashed to gallows.
  • Mizzen:
    • Mizzen sail: can be loose-footed (only tack and clew attached to boom) or have foot attached to track on boom.
    • Mizzen staysail.
  • Head:
    • Jib: luff is hanked or tracked or rolled onto headstay.
      Size typically 70% to 100% of fore-triangle.
    • Storm jib: luff is hanked or tracked or rolled onto headstay.
      Size typically 40% to 60% of fore-triangle.
    • Genoa: luff is hanked or tracked or rolled onto headstay.
      Size typically 110% to 140% of fore-triangle.
      Usually, sheets are led outside the shrouds.
    • Drifter: a genoa but with same cloth as a spinnaker ?
    • Solent: jib-like sail with luff hanked or tracked or rolled on inner headstay which is inches aft of the main headstay.
      Often set up to be self-tacking.
    • Staysail: luff is hanked or tracked or rolled onto cutter stay.
      Foot may be loose or attached to a boom (club-footed).
    • Symmetrical spinnaker: large lightweight-cloth foresail with head attached to mast, sheets to two clews, no tack, pole from one clew to mast.
      Used from beam reach to downwind points of sail.
    • Asymmetrical spinnaker (AKA "cruising chute"): large lightweight-cloth foresail with head attached to mast, sheet to clew, tack to fitting at bow, no pole.
      Used on downwind points of sail.
    • Gennaker: shaped mostly like a symmetrical spinnaker, and same cloth, but luff is hanked or tracked or rolled onto headstay like a jib.
    • Blooper: companion to spinnaker, hangs in front of and below spinnaker, same cloth as a spinnaker.

Rigging measurements (casual definitions, and only a few of the parameters):
  • "I": deck to top of mast.
  • "P": luff of mainsail.
  • "J": mast to forestay attachment at bow.
  • "E": foot of mainsail.
Go to Performance Yacht Systems and click on "Rig Dimensions"

Fittings and Hardware

Types of wire fittings:
  • Swaged.
    Tube goes over wire, then machine-pressed, by a rigger.
    Wire can't be shortened by small amount: have to cut off fitting and apply new one.

  • Swageless (clamped cone).
    Norseman, STA-LOK, Suncor Stainless (best ?), Electroline, Nirosta, Hayn Hi-Mod.
    Tube goes over wire, cone goes inside strands, head is screwed onto tube.
    Can be assembled by hand; somewhat re-usable; wire can be shortened by small amounts; can be opened for inspection.
    Use anti-seize to prevent galling.

  • Pressed collars (compression sleeve ?).
    Talurit, Nicopress.
    Tube goes over wire, wire loops around thimble and back into tube, tube is pressed on.

  • Splices.
    Old style, usually on 7x7 wire.

  • Cable clamps / bulldog clips (U-bolts).
    Temporary, emergency only.

  • Don't swaddle/bundle up metal joints (such as ends of spreaders); want air and water circulation. If you do cover them to avoid chafe/snagging, leave the bottom open.

  • Cotter pins: bend ends far enough apart so the pin doesn't fall out (but not into a loop, so you can pull them in an emergency), and put dabs of silicone caulk on the ends (so they don't snag anything).

  • Manufacturers say: don't use cheap hand-swaging tools to make rigging swages; use machine-swaging on rigging. I'm not sure if this is said to avoid liability, because of the variability of hand swages, or because machine-swaging gives a different shape or size or a longer grip or uses more pressure or gives a "roll swage".

From Ivars on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
Most rigging failures occur at the end terminals. If you are a new owner, it would be good to use one of the dye kits (even homemade) to check for cracks or other defects at the terminals. Random wholesale replacement by calendar can be a costly waste.

From Alan Porte in issue 2001 #2 of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
To do dye-testing:
  1. Dissolve blue food coloring dye in WD-40.
  2. Clean the metal surface.
  3. Paint the mixture onto the surface.
  4. Let the mixture "cure" for a few minutes.
  5. Rub the surface with a dry cloth.
  6. Liquid should evaporate; dye should be visible in cracks.
  7. Examine with a magnifying glass.

From Terry on CruisersForum 4/2008:
> Is STA-LOK better/stronger/more durable than a properly machine-swaged rig ?

I have done a ton of research on this as part of my boat-buying process. Several very experienced riggers have told me the same basic thing: They have never seen a rigging failure at a STA-LOK or Norseman fitting. They have seen many failures of swaged terminals. 99% of failures occur in the wire at the terminal fitting.

Swaged fittings are simply not as strong and they are prone to cracking. Practical Sailor tested various fittings and gave the actual lbs of pressure it took to generate a failure. The swaged fittings were the weakest of all.
From Peter O. on CruisersForum 4/2008:
The wire almost never breaks except at the swages. Initially swages may be stronger than Norseman/StaLok, but all are stronger than the wire so it makes little difference. The problem with swages is internal corrosion that can cause them to fail without warning. External appearance is not a good indication of condition of swages. Destructive testing is the only way to be sure of swages but then you've destroyed the fittings.

From Stephen Heineke on The Cape Dory Board 2003:
In the Casey/Hackler book Sensible Cruising, they seem to be not too fond of swage fittings. They say, "We strongly recommend that if you replace some of the standing rigging, you do not use swage fittings. They may give excellent service, but are only as good as the operator and the equipment that was used to install them. Far too often they fail unexpectedly. A better option is one of the mechanical end fittings, either STA-LOKs or Norseman. These you can install yourself and if you do it properly they are virtually 100% secure."

Several people told me they used swages at the top ends of wires and STA-LOKs at the bottom ends. That doesn't make much sense to me. I guess you save weight at the top. But I doubt you save much or any money (cost of STA-LOK fitting versus having a shop do a swage, unless you can do a really good swage yourself). And now fixing or replacing your standing rigging requires two "technologies": swaging and STA-LOKing. Why not do both ends the same way ?

Question I asked:
> My boat has STA-LOKs with Imperial-sized wires
> (3/16", 1/4", etc). I need to replace wires,
> but here in Grenada they have only metric wire
> (6 MM, 7 MM, etc). Is there any problem with keeping
> the STA-LOKs and (slightly) changing the wire sizes ?

From Jeff at
"STA-LOK uses the same body for metric as well as imperial sized wires. 7 mm and 9/32" use the same body and wedge. 6 mm and 1/4" use the same body but have different wedges."

3/16" and 1/4" have no interchangeable metric wedges; must use imperial wedges for those sizes.

Another question I asked:
> Put anti-seize on the threads when assembling STA-LOK fittings ?

From Paul Harrison at Sta-Lok Terminals Inc:

All of our fittings for 5/16" wire and above leave our factory having been assembled with some TefGel anti-seize compound in them, the reason we do this is that the threads do get loaded up when the fitting is being terminated on the wire. Stainless Steel is quite a soft metal so this helps lubricate the threads to stop them seizing or galling.
Now some people use Loctite (not the high-strength ones) as, one, it lubricates the threads when terminating them on the wire and, two, it locks the threads. The only problem with this is, if too much is used then it can be very difficult to get the fittings apart and they may need heating to do this.

Consensus seems to be: fill STA-LOK fitting with sealant (polysulfide) when assembling, to keep saltwater out. Mine were filled at both ends of the wire, top and bottom, so I did that again when replacing the wire. The one old bottom fitting I found that did not have caulk in it was full of rust.

My experience replacing my STA-LOK'd standing rigging 9/2011:
Parts of STA-LOK, in order: main body of wire, nut/collet, wedge, former, fitting body/terminal.

What I did:
  1. Checked the turnbuckle to see if the new wire should be longer, shorter or same length as old wire.
  2. Took the wire down.
  3. Unscrewed the bodies/terminals of the fittings from each end. Former stays embedded inside fitting body/terminal
  4. Laid old and new wires next to each other on dock, made any adjustment desired, and marked cut-point on new wire. Used tape-measure and recorded lengths of old and new wires.
  5. Used Dremel with cutting-wheel to cut new wire. Made cut as straight and clean as possible. Cut other end of the wire-length too, if needed to make it clean and straight.
  6. Used Dremel to cut fittings off old wire, cutting as close as possible to STA-LOK nut/collet.
  7. Screwed body/terminal back together with nut/collet, backed it out 1/8" or so, and put onto vise with body/terminal downward. Then used a punch/bluntnail and a sledgehammer to tap the wire-and-wedge down out of the nut/collet. Each time the wire-and-wedge moved down, unscrewed the fitting a little more to make room to go further.
  8. Cleaned old caulk out of fitting's body/terminal and nut/collet.
  9. Extracted the segment of wire out of the wire-and-wedge, so I could re-use the wedge. Tricky; lots of of tapping and fiddling and prying. Often damaged the wedge a little.
  10. Put end of new wire length in vise, with bare end standing up. Filed end of wire to make it clean and even and no sharp edges.
  11. Slid nut/collet down onto wire.
  12. Inserted wedge onto end of wire, wide end upward, core strands inside wedge and projecting out 1/8" past end of wedge. (The instruction sheet shows you having to unlay 2" to 3" of the end of the wire to get the wedge on, but for 1/4" wire I found only the slightest opening of the tip of the wire strands was necessary; for 3/16" wire I did have to unlay about 2".) A clean cut and clean wire-end makes this easier. I found it easy on 1/4" wire and hard on 3/16" wire.
  13. Used pliers to crimp wire strand ends around wedge end, so they pointed inward a bit.
  14. Adjusted wedge as needed, so core strands projected out 1/8" past end of wedge again.
  15. Arranged outer wires around wedge so they were evenly spaced and none was stuck in the crack in the wedge.
  16. Put blob of caulk on top of wire end. I used 3M101 polysulfide caulk.
  17. I didn't put any anti-seize on the threads.
  18. Put fitting body/terminal on top of wire end, slid fitting body/terminal down and nut/collet up, and hand-screwed them together. Caulk oozed out. Tightened very hard with big wrenches. I held the wire and nut/collet steady and rotated the fitting body/terminal to tighten.
  19. Cleaned up excess caulk.
  20. Put the wire up.

You can try to recover the old wedge for re-use, but it's not easy. I got the wire out of the inside of it the same way I got the wire-and-wedge out of the nut/collet: used a punch/bluntnail and sledgehammer to tap the wire toward the wide end of the wedge. But it's hard because the wire is gripped tightly, the wedge is narrow, and the wire bundle is narrow. I also used a big screwdriver to pry the wedge open. Probably a good idea to buy a couple of new wedges even if you plan to re-use the old wedges; you might mangle a couple of the old wedges.

Someone told me: you can re-use the old wedge even if it's broken into two pieces. But if more pieces than that, must use new wedge. I used new wedges on the big, important wires, and re-used wedges on the smaller wires.

After doing all of my fittings, I came to realize that there were no formers in any of them ! I had thought the formers were just jammed deep inside and and stuck. The fittings seem to work fine without formers in them.

Maybe should replace longest or most important or most damaged wires first, in case you mismeasured and run out of new wire before doing the last wire ?

Some people say you need an extremely precise cut with a hacksaw to make the wire end even; I found that Dremel and filing worked fine. Some people put Tef-Gel or Loctite on the threads; I think polysulfide caulk squirting out is good enough to lubricate and seal them. Some people say don't tighten the fittings too much; I tightened them about as hard as I could with big wrenches.

9/2012 on Grenada, a cruiser found a rigging shop on the island supplying and installing the wrong brand of cones into STA-LOK fittings, possibly leading to disastrous rigging failures later. They're putting in Norseman or some other N-name cones. Very bad, and you can't tell by looking at the assembled fitting afterward. [A few days later, the rigging shop came back and disputed that, but the lesson stands:] So if someone else is doing the work for you, you might want to supervise a little.

Rigging hardware:
  • Big blocks should be bolted together, not riveted, so you can service them.

  • Turnbuckles: stainless steel gets crevice corrosion in the hidden threads; use forged-bronze.

Deck hardware:
  • From "A Manual Of Singlehanded Sailing" by Tony Meisel:
    Best to have halyard winches and cleats mounted on deck at base of mast, not on mast. This avoids weakening the mast, keeps your personal CG lower in heavy weather, allows using the winches for other purposes.

  • Metal bolt through fiberglass:
    To avoid cracking the fiberglass, put metal washers (3x the bolt diameter) under the head and the nut, put semi-hard washers under the metal washers, and have the bolt go through plastic tubing.

From Allan Edie on Cruising World message board:
Re: Bedding stanchions: I have never found that bedding compounds work well - they get squeezed too thin during installation, and eventually leak when the fitting works when loaded. I have now bedded the stanchions on our Ericson 32 by gasketting them with 1/8 solid neoprene rubber. I made the holes for the bolts a little small, and used bolts with a smooth shaft near the head so that the rubber would seal on the bolt. Once tightened down, these proved absolutely sealed, and they will not work loose, and do not depend on bonding to the glass or the fitting. If I were to do it again, I would see if I could get some silicone rubber in sheet form rather than neoprene as it might prove more durable in the long run.

From Rodd C. on Cruising World message board:
Every time I bed something I use a drill and a countersink from Woodworkers Supply. I countersink just a little on each bolt hole so that the silicone (or polysulfide) creates a gasket around the bolt as you tighten the stanchion. The silicone is forced to make a gasket and fill the countersunk void. By countersinking through the layer of gel coat you also prevent crazing and cracking of the gel coat. ...

Rope clutches test article in 4/15/2001 issue of Practical Sailor.
SailNet - Don Casey's "Getting a Grip" (handrails)

Winch specifications:
  • Number of speeds.
  • Power ratio at each speed.
  • Self-tailing ?
  • Drum material (stainless best).
  • Drum diameter (bigger better for gripping rope).
  • Rope abrasion.

Winch power:
  • Want human arm to have to exert 20 lbs of force at most.
  • Winch power ratio == (handle length / drum radius) *? gear ratio.
  • Winch power is reduced by: friction in mechanism, friction of rope against itself, rope slippage against drum.
  • Power requirements (highest to lowest):
    1. Jib sheets.
    2. Spinnaker sheets and mainsheet.
    3. Halyards, topping lift, boom vang, etc.
  • Jib sheet load (lbs) == sail area (sqft) * apparent wind (kn) 2 *? .00431

BoatU.S.'s "Which Winch?"
Winch article in Practical Sailor's 8/15/2000 issue.
SailNet - Tom Wood's "It's Winch Servicing Time"

Good prices: Australian Yacht Winch Co

Servicing winches, from Glen on Cruising World message board:
... I cut a hole the size of the drum base in a cardboard box and slip it over the winch to catch pieces as I disassemble the winch. ...

From Bob Young on The Live-Aboard List:
... most winches I have worked on use a snap-ring. This ring is mostly concealed in a concentric slot cut into the central shaft of the winch near the top. If you look into the top of the winch, around the handle socket, you should be able to see the tapered or wedge-shaped end of the ring. With a small screwdriver it can be pried out of the slot and then the rest of the ring will follow quite easily. After that, the winch drum assembly just lifts off the shaft, although it may take some effort if the grease is old and congealed.

From Bob Fitzgerald on The Live-Aboard List:
A few words of caution ... from personal experience. The plate under the snap ring will be free to go wherever it wants to when you pull the drum assembly off. It sinks ... The pawls and springs may not be held captive in the drum and are capable of subsonic flight - range is about 4 feet ... they sink too.

  • A good sign that a winch needs maintenance is when turning it gives muted clicks instead of loud metal clicks.

  • Never put less than 3 wraps of line on a self-tailing winch; you want the drum, not the self-tailer, to take the load.

Highland Rigging and Stainless

Lifelines (life-lines)

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Inspecting and Replacing Lifelines"
"On Deck: A Look at Lifelines and Stanchions" article by Jan Mundy in issue 2002 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine

Covered wire versus uncovered wire versus rope:
  • Vinyl-covered wire is comfortable to lean against, but yellows and cracks, and hides wire corrosion.

  •'s "Life Line Connections" says "... replace the life lines with Spectra line. It is about the same cost as the stainless steel we've used in the past, a lot lighter, and not subject to corrosion like stainless steel wire."

  • From Peter Linwick on Cruising World message board:
    Uncovered lifelines are the only way to go. You can see what condition they are in at all times. Easy to clean ... With uncoated you can use a larger diameter wire thus greater safety factor. Makes total sense to me. Use 1x19 rigging wire grade 316.

  • From Russell on Cruising World message board:
    (Assuming the stanchions permit it) why not use one of the synthetic, low-stretch fiber ropes instead of wire rope? You can get the same strength for less price. The diameter will be larger, but is that bad in a lifeline? Other advantages are (a) easier to splice and attach, (b) feels better under hand, (c) no corrosion, in contrast to any stainless, and (d) you can take them to a laundromat and wash them if they get dirty. I know that wire has the least stretch, but is the inch or so difference going to matter in this application?

  • From Erik Hammarlund on Cruising World message board:
    UV damage [on rope] is harder to see than wire corrosion; also you have a larger safety margin with wire, and wire won't easily get abraded through by a sheet/pole/dock/etc while rope is vulnerable to that.

  • Rope: gets dirty quickly, abrades, and degrades in UV.

  • Thick bare SS wire lifelines: can be used as emergency stays/shrouds.

  • Bare wire lifelines: hard on hands and sails.

  • From article by Tom Zydler in Ocean Voyager 2001 from Ocean Navigator magazine:
    Use 7x7 3/16" SS 316 wire, covered with clear outdoor-grade PVC water tubing.

From Phil Sherwood on The Live-Aboard List:
I just replaced my rusted-out vinyl-covered lifelines with Amsteel, a low-stretch 12-braid line from Samson (it used to be called Spectron 12). It's rated the same breaking strength as steel and is a lot lighter. It does have to be replaced more frequently, though, as it's more susceptible to UV degradation than steel -- the manufacturer recommends replacing every three years, I think, so I don't know that there are appreciable cost savings in the long run.

Amsteel is low-stretch, but I did realize after putting on the first piece or two that you do have to pre-stretch it pretty hard, or you're apt to use up all the threads on the tension adjuster/turnbuckle. I prestretched simply by making one end fast at the bow, running a length aft to a primary winch, cranking away, and leaving it for a while. Once stretched, exactly where to make that second eye splice became much less of an issue.

I really like the way Amsteel looks -- it's gray in color and is thus not a strong visual element. I found it quite easy to work with -- doing the eyesplices and lockstitching was very easy. The only performance issue I've noticed is that while it is also very chafe-resistant stuff, my jib sheets were imposing a noticeable amount of wear on the upper line in a couple of places after only a few days of sailing. So I got a length of clear plastic tubing, split it, and put it on the upper lifelines where the jib sheets rub at different points of sail. I need to think of something better, though, because the tubing tends to get kind of wrinkled and will yellow and look very ugly in not too much time. At about 20 cents a meter at one of the local ferreterias, it's not exactly a huge expense -- it's just not an elegant solution. Next time of course, I could slip the tubing over the line before making the second eye splice. That would alleviate the wrinkling, but not the inelegance. Would love to hear others' ideas on an elegant retrofit.

You'll want to think through your lifeline hardware to be sure you can attach the ends and adjust the tension, and have a look at your stanchions, to be sure the line you choose will pass through OK. I was able to use most of my existing fittings plus a few bits and pieces I scrounged at one of the used marine stores in Seattle, and some pieces I had fabricated that basically look like elongated D shapes with threaded studs attached. Johnson has the same part in its catalog, which is available on line. I just made eye splices in each end and attached the eye splices to the hardware with simple cow hitches. I also added small bits of leather to protect the end opposite the D ring end from chafing unduly against the little hardware bit (can't think of what its proper name is) that attaches to the tab on the stanchion with a clevis pin and circlip.

From Devera Grashuis on the Morgan mailing list: sells industrial tubing that goes over the life line - the tubing is colored white and also adds diameter to the line so it doesn't cut into you when leaning on it. It sure is cheaper than replacing discolored life lines.


Mostly summarized from "The Right Line for the Job" article by Evans Starzinger in 7/2001 issue of Sail magazine and running rigging article in 9/2001 issue of Practical Sailor:
Rope elements:
  • Fiber type.
  • Construction type.
  • Coatings (for UV protection, increase wet strength, reduce internal abrasion, etc).
Fiber types:
  • Natural (manila, etc): weaker; wears faster; shrinks.
  • Polyamide (Nylon, etc): elastic; used for anchor rode; less chafe-resistant than Dacron.
  • Olefin (polypropylene, etc): slippery and hard to knot or splice; chafes easily; polypropylene floats.
  • Polyester (Dacron, etc): general-purpose; "typical" running rigging; more chafe-resistant than Nylon.
  • High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (HMWPE; Spectra, Dyneema, Amsteel, etc): high-strength; low-stretch; expensive; knots can slip; knots weaken.
  • Aramid (Kevlar, Nomex, Technora, etc): high-strength; low-stretch; expensive; knots can slip; knots weaken.
  • Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP; Vectran, etc): high-strength; low-stretch; expensive; knots can slip; knots weaken.
Construction types:
  • Plain-laid / hawser-laid / 3-strand: three strands twisted together. More elastic; easy to splice; cheaper.
  • Braided / single-braid / plaited: more than three strands twisted together. Better resists kinking when around a winch; more flexible.
  • Balanced double-braid: braided cover over braided core, both of same fiber, each carrying half of the load. Hard to splice; more expensive.
  • Core-loaded double-braid: braided cover over braided core, different fibers, core carries most of the load.
  • Parallel core: braided cover over straight core. More fibers = stronger; straight = less stretch.

Rope qualities for various applications:
  • Halyards: low-stretch, low-weight.
  • Sheets: moderate-stretch (to absorb shock loads), moderate-weight.
  • Dock lines and anchor rode: high-stretch, any weight.

Wire halyards versus rope:
  • Wire gets work-hardened where it bends over the top of the mast.
  • Wire chafes the masthead sheaves.
  • There is a slight weight savings with rope.
  • Splicing rope is easier.
  • Rope can be switched end-for-end.
  • Rope doesn't make as much noise against mast when at anchor.
  • Rope doesn't score the mast/spars when it chafes against them.
  • Rope stretches.
  • Wire is more resistant to chafe. And modern synthetic rope can be affected by the heat produced by chafe.
  • Wire costs a little more initially, but it lasts much longer.

What I found when I replaced my wire halyards 8/2001:
Books by Nigel Calder and Don Casey strongly recommend SS 316 wire because it is most corrosion-resistant.

Most stores sell SS 304 because it is stronger and doesn't work-harden as much as 316.

I was able to order 316 through a rigger.

But rust spots are appearing on my 316 halyards about a year later !

SailNet - Don Casey's "Here's the Rub" (chafe guards)
Perma Buoy Chafe Guards

Derived from webbing article in 9/2001 issue of Practical Sailor:
  • Tubular webbing is stronger than flat webbing.
  • Attachment hardware should not edge-load the webbing. Want straight edge slightly wider than the webbing.
  • Good knot for webbing: Water knot.


SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Upgrading Your Mainsail System"

Mainsail-storage systems:
Dutchman versus Lazy-jacks (aids to mainsail storage and hoisting):
Both Dutchman and lazy jacks make it easier to reef the mainsail, by controlling the extra folds of sailcloth.

Dutchman uses one set of lines going up through several sets of holes in the mainsail.
Lazy-jacks uses two sets of lines going up alongside the mainsail.

Dutchman better:
  • Less weight.
  • Less chafe.
  • Less windage (if you leave lazy-jacks hoisted while sailing).
  • Less visible.
  • Won't snag battens.
  • No adjustment/operation needed.
  • Guides sail into flaked position; lazy-jacks require user to do flaking.
Lazy-jacks better:
  • No modifications to sails. (But maybe Dutchman just uses the reef points ?)
  • Easier to repair.
  • Dutchman holes could weaken sail or change shape slightly ? (But maybe Dutchman just uses the reef points ?)
  • Cheaper.
  • Stronger / better for heavy sails.
  • Want ones that pull forward to gooseneck after sail is hoisted or furled.

From Don on Cruising World message board:
If you're considering a lazy jack system which requires having to drill hardware into your mast and boom, consider sending your sail to the makers of the Dutchman Sail Flaking System. It works better than lazy jacks, eliminates the need for reef points when reefing, and the whole system is part of the sail, not the mast and boom. You don't have to make any modifications of equipment except replace your topping lift. I was skeptical until I tried it and will never own a boat without one.

From BobG on Cruising World message board:
Having used (and liked) the Dutchman system on 2 boats, here are my thoughts on how to rig it.

1. NEVER USE MONOFILAMENT line, as it will cause excessive wear on the sail and everything else it comes in contact with. Instead, use very thin braided Dacron.

2. These lines must be attached to the topping lift in such a way as to hang vertically - diagonally - down, where they are attached to the tabs at the foot of the sail (right above the boom, not on the boom). They should be roved thru the eyelets your sailmaker built into the sail.

3. Tension: They should not cause the sail to become distorted or constrained on any point of sail, therefore a small amount of slack is necessary when attaching to the tabs.


Assuming the topping lift is a braided line, attach the light Dacron using a marlin spike. Spread the topping lift with the marlin spike and insert the light dacron thru the hole, about an inch and a half. Lay this little tail against the topping lift and whip it there with strong whipping thread. Tape the result.

The zippered pockets are where you store the excess line. Insert the lower end of the dacron lines thru the top of the little hole in the tab found in each pocket. Leave it loose for the moment. Raise your mainsail. When it is up, adjust the length of each dacron line and knot it (a simple slip knot will do) so that the knot stops the excess line from pulling up thru the tab. Fold the excess line into the pocket and zip it up. You'll probably want to make minor adjustments in the length of the lines as you see how the sail sets on each point of sail. The slip knots make this easy.

From Ron Rogers on The Live-Aboard List:
I have friends who I have observed having trouble getting their Dutchman fitted main down in a blow. To be fair, two things: the Dutchman must be installed perfectly and the vessel must stay into the wind for raising or lowering the main. Now I know that's what everybody tries to do, but sometimes the wind does not cooperate. Finally, I installed lazy-jacks on my Crealock 37 with a fully-battened main and Battcars. IMHO, this was a more forgiving system. At some point you have to deal with tidying-up the main or closing a zipper and that means getting out of the cockpit.

A question: what type of wires are being offered by Dutchman or the rigger for your boat? People who used vinyl covered wires had more problems getting the main down. Having said all the foregoing, the Dutchman with zipper pack is hard to beat when you are back in your slip or on your mooring lying to the wind.

  • Best lazy-jacks are EZ-Jacks (maybe E-Z-JAX ?).

  • "Homemade Lazy Jack System" article (lines from leech to rings around topping lift) by David Bell in Dec 2000 issue of Practical Sailor.

  • Mack Sails' Mack Pack

  • Attach the upper end of the lazy jacks to the lower spreaders, instead of the mast, to reduce fouling on battens.

Lazy-jack installation, from Al Hatch on Cruising World message board:
... On the Mast. Attach them to a small padeye or eye strap anywhere from spreader height to midway between the spreaders and the masthead.

Advantages/disadvantages of height - the higher you go the higher you have to hoist the sail before the top couple of battens clear the lines. Until these battens clear there is always the chance they will catch under the down lines.

The higher you go the sooner the jacks catch the sail as it's descending and less of the sail will tend to flop over the jacks.

On the boom you want to attach the first line about 1/4-1/3 the boom length aft of the gooseneck then space the next two evenly over the boom with the last jack line no more than 3/4 the length of the boom from the gooseneck.

I usually look to see where the bulk of the sail is and space the jacks on the boom as needed.

At this point go look at some boats with Lazy Jacks on them to see how they are rigged. ...

From Todd Dunn on Cruising World message board:
Lazy jacks are really easy to make. Make the top attachment about 1/8 of the length of your mast above the mid-point of the mast. All there is to it after that is splicing in a few blocks. I made mine last winter in about 2 hours for a cost of $45.

If in doubt about the locations of the attachments just look at a boat with installed Lazy Jacks.

From Duane on Cruising World message board:
I would recommend that any [lazy-jack] system you install, homemade or commercial, be able to be drawn back to the mast so that you can raise the main without entanglement. My three-point Harken system did not have this ability and in 25+ it was extremely difficult to raise. The idea of timing the raise just as the battens center in the jacks does not work at 100,000 cycles/sec. I modified mine so that it could be retracted to the top most batten using a single pull line.

Make your own lazy-jacks article by Guy Stevens in July/August 2001 issue of Good Old Boat magazine

Mainsail track systems:
Tides Marine "Strong" system

From Rick Emerson on Yacht-L mailing list:
We have slugs made with some high density plastic. Compared to the old wire hoop and Delrin slug design, these slugs work like a charm. I can raise the main almost completely without grinding on the halyard winch, something that was out of the question with the old main. Additionally, we had problems with the slugs; the plastic collar covering the wire wore through, leaving the wire to grind against the boom or mast.


Surveying rigging, from Eva Holman via "The Complete Rigger's Apprentice" by Brion Toss:
  • If it is fastened, it will try to undo itself.

  • If it touches something, it will try to chafe itself or that other something to death.

  • If it is slack, it will try to snag something.

  • If it is metal, it will try to corrode itself or its neighbor.

Stanchions tested in Dec 2000 issue of Practical Sailor
Matella stanchions articles in July/August 2001 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
"On Deck: A Look at Lifelines and Stanchions" article by Jan Mundy in issue 2002 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine

Matella (866-matella) stanchions are solid aluminum (not tube) and bases are milled (not cast) for high strength.

Backing plate should be 2-3 times the area of the stanchion base.

Stopping rolling in a rolly anchorage:
Flopper stopper, from Gary Elder:
Some thoughts in no particular order: Like you, I have read several articles about them and like the idea, but for them to be really effective, they must be very large and used on both sides of the boat.

If you use the orange 'mushroom' shaped ones that the retailers sell, you will need about 8 on each side of the boat - the more the better.

My local West Marine store has sold 1 set in the last 5 years - to a new boater who was told by a boat salesman that he would need them when he takes his 20 ft fishing boat offshore. They don't seem to be popular with cruisers, or weekenders.

The 'single piece' types (one on each side of the boat) need to be huge to do a good job, and you need a place on the boat to store them when you are underway.

I have never been in an anchorage where I have seen any kind of flopper stopper in use, but I have seen people use riding sails and flat mizzens trimmed to turn the boat into the swell.

Flopper stopper, from John Dunsmoor:
Yes to flopper stoppers, they work great. But less so on your boat [Gulfstar 44], too beamy, too much initial stability.

We used to tie our inflatable to the end of the boom swung out, did the same thing. I have also used a 5 gallon bucket on each side, one on the end of the boom and the other on the end of the whisker pole, did the same thing. Saw a bucket made with a flap in the bottom with a weight, and it worked very well. Just something to break the roll.

From George Gondor on The Live-Aboard List:
[Re: painting an aluminum mast:]

... the rigger suggested to sand it and treat it with Tectyl 151A which is an anticorrosive product made by Valvoline. Apparently it is widely used here in Australia for this purpose, and according to the rigger and also confirmed by Valvoline itself requires little further maintenance. It is a transparent liquid, and bonds to the aluminium. It looks reasonably good and also is very easy to apply.

SailNet - Mark Matthews "Standing Rigging Basics"
SailNet - Mark Matthews "Replacing Your Standing Rigging"
Brion Toss
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Quick Rig And Deck Check"
Seaworthy's "Inspecting Your Boat's Mast and Rigging"
Maggie Ross's "The Care and Maintenance of Canvas Products"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "The Art and Science of Fendering"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Leading Sail Control Lines Aft"

Dwyer Aluminum Mast Co

Good book: "The Complete Rigger's Apprentice" by Brion Toss.
Covers knots, splices, tools, rigs, common rig problems, tips and tricks.
A little vague on directions and drawings for some of the splices.
Very little about sails.

From "Mainsheet Makeovers" article by Brion Toss in 9/2003 issue of Sail magazine:
Mainsheet problems:
  • Old blocks can have excessive friction.
  • Line too large for the block causes excess friction.
  • Twists in sheet (because blocks swivel) cause friction.
  • Twists in sheet (because of coiling) cause friction.

From WG Nokes on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
It really is not difficult to do a re-rigging yourself. Explore buying full spools of wire, even if the quantity is excessive. Frequently the full-spool price is enough lower than the cut length price that you can save. Hayne, STA-LOK and Norseman are all easily assembled. If you cut one wire too short, add a toggle or two. Change one wire at a time, and matching length becomes easy. Remember, as wires take an initial set and as they wear, they actually become slightly longer; either make sure you have enough takeup room in your turnbuckles or cut about 1/4" shorter than the old wire.

Installing STA-LOK fittings: S/V Mahalo

See my Sailing Techniques page.

Reefing and Furling

Reefing Types (mostly from "Safety Preparations for Cruising" by Jeremy R. Hood):
  • Hanked-on (or bolt-rope into head-foil): replace sail with a smaller one.
    Have to carry and store many sails, and dangerous work to switch sails.

  • Roller-furling: no extrusion along headstay, sail has a wire luff and wraps around that, not the headstay.
    Can't partially reef; all-or-nothing; a furling system, not a reefing system.

  • Roller-reefing: extrusion along headstay, sail wraps around headstay.
    Sail and reefing gear are permanently located in exposed area, bad sail shape, hard to remove sail completely, probably need separate stay for storm jib, adds weight, shape becomes fuller (not flatter) as you reef.

  • Traditional: reef points tied to boom, and take heavy load.

  • Jiffy: cringles at tack and clew take the load, hook at tack and line to clew, reef points are just to gather up extra material.

  • Single-line: like Jiffy, but with one line tensioning both the tack and clew.

  • Roller-furling:
    • Vertical in-mast: mechanism inside specially-designed mast.
      Hard to clear jam or repair roller, requires battenless sail, adds weight.
    • Vertical aft-mast: sail furls around a stay behind the mast.
      Poor sail shape because of sag, requires battenless sail, adds weight.
    • Vertical retrofitted in-mast: mechanism inside extrusion attached to mast.
      Requires battenless sail, adds weight.
    • Horizontal / boom: mechanism more accessible, CE of sail is lower, but very thick boom, bad sail shape, adds weight, adds drag when raising sail.
      • Wind around outside of boom: complicates boom vang and gooseneck.
      • In-boom.

Roller-furling in general:
Bill Fastiggi's "Understanding Roller Furling Systems"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Installing Roller Furling"
Article by Dan Spurr in March/April 2002 issue of Good Old Boat magazine

From Bill Fastiggi's "Understanding Roller Furling Systems":
There are three different styles of roller furling:
  • "Wire luff": removable swivel drum at the deck that attaches behind the forestay, a headsail with a wire luff (no hanks or luff tape), and a head swivel that attaches to the top of the sail and to the halyard. Low-cost, but can't reef, and headstay sags.
  • "Internal halyard": goes over the existing forestay, but does not use the jib halyard, no head swivel. It has an internal halyard that slides down one groove of the system, while the luff of the sail slides up the second groove. Low cost, no halyard wraps, but hard to change sail.
  • "Head swivel": a lower drum, metal extrusions, and a ball bearing head swivel attached to jib halyard. Most expensive, best performance.

From Gary Elder:
> How do you like the roller-furling, especially
> on the main ? I know the convenience is terrific,
> but the main furling in particular seems like a big
> critical mechanism that can jam in a number of ways.

We added a jib furler to the 34 we had in CA; it was like adding a crew member. Furlers were already on the jib and main of our present boat when we purchased it, and I am very happy with them both. The main furler is actually smaller than the jib furler, but the mainsail is smaller than the jib, so that makes sense. Some main furlers are prone to jamming if the boom is not at the correct angle relative to mast, but usually it's just a matter of learning how to operate whichever model one has. Most older furling mains have no battens, but do have a hollow leach instead of a convex roach, which reduces their drive, but everything is a compromise. It seems that the more birthdays we have, the more these labor saving devices appeal to us. If you have ever tried to wrestle with a flailing jib in deteriorating conditions while being thrown about the deck of a 40 footer, you will appreciate roller furling everything. I even have a couple of small winches in the cockpit to help with the furlers ... And I use them. Ten years ago I would not have needed them.

> And it adds weight and windage.

Yes it does, and in some cases it adds ugliness. The aftermarket behind the mast furlers in no way add beauty, but they are among the most trouble free furlers available ... Even more compromise.

> But I've already found that the toughest part
> of single-handed sailing is
> flaking the sails at the end of the day.
> Being able to just roll them up
> is very nice.

"Very nice" may be an understatement. I know people in their 70's who probably would not be sailing if it were not for roller furling.

If roller-furling, roll sails in/out at least once a week to keep the bearings from freezing up.

Any roller-furling difficulty/stiffness should be investigated; it may be an impending jam.

People disagree about whether it is okay to use a winch on a roller-furling line; lots of force could damage the furling mechanism or break the line. A bigger furler drum might help.

Roller-furling foresails:
Hanked or bolt-rope-into-head-foil (instead of roller-furled) foresails are:
Cheaper; simpler; more reliable; easier to repair; easier to change; lighter; have less windage; tend to point a little closer to wind.
But: A roller-furled jib is a major convenience.

BoatU.S.'s "Roller Furling and Reefing"
Brion Toss's "How to Keep Your Jib Furler Alive"
"Going Hankless" article by Carol Hasse in 11/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine
Article by Nick Bailey in issue 2003 #2 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
Installing and maintaining jib-furler article by Brion Toss in 2/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine
Headsail roller-furlers article in 2/1/2004 issue of Practical Sailor

From Leslie King on Cruising World message board:
Re: Sail Conversion To Roller-Furling:

3 steps in conversion; only pay for what you need.

There are three steps in converting an existing sail: installing a luff tape (mandatory), a foam or "rope a la North" luff (may or may not worth doing; the foam seems to compress over time and lose whatever effectiveness it might have started with, the rope supposedly does not compress but may not be any more effective), and a suncover (may or may not be worth doing on a used sail; it is a hassle, but not an enormous one, to drop and fold the sail to keep it out of the sun).


I've sailed more than 20,000 miles with 4 different sails on 3 different furlers. 2 were made to furl; 2 were converted. The made-to-furls were a lot better.

The best rig I've found is about a 110% jib, with the clew placed so you can move the lead car forward as you furl, and a set of line adjust lead cars (asking my girl crew to go out on the low side deck in the middle of the night to move the car forward won me no brownie points).

Oh, new mantra: backstay tension, backstay tension, lots of backstay tension ... (It's a lot easier to get a straw to twirl around a straight piece of wire rather than a curved one.)

And put a ratchet block somewhere in the furling line to put drag on the furling line so it will wrap neatly and with even tension onto the drum. I have a little Harken ratchet block with a cam cleat on it to hold the furling line; I don't use any other cleat. The furling line is long enough to reach to a vacant winch, but 90% of the time I just pull by hand on a 48 foot luff sail.

Good luck. I'm sure you will really like your furler. I can't imagine going back.

From Fred Cook (President, Schaefer Marine Inc.) on Cal mailing list:
Roller Furlers were originally designed to completely furl the sail. You can reef some of the systems, but there are several limitations.

First the furler foils must have the ability to resist the torque. Several systems have light airfoil shaped extrusions which do not have much torsional strength. The Profurl and our Schaefer systems have more rounded, heavier wall sections that have much better ability to resist torsional loads.

Second, the sail needs to be designed with additional reinforcement on the leach and foot at the ideal "reef point" as the sail is rolled up.

Third, you will need to be able to relocate the jib sheet lead forward as you reef the sail. If you leave the lead in the same location you will end up far more on the foot of the sail than the leach. This lead change can be done with "towable" cars or with a second car and sheet system.

From Kevin Tisdall on Cal mailing list:
... A big problem with roller reefing is what to do if you've reefed down and now need to remove the sail to put up a storm sail. ATN makes a thing called a Gale Sail for this purpose. You roll up the genoa and the Gale Sail attaches with a sleeve around the rolled sail. I got one and it works well except attaching it is not easy and you're in the worst place you can be when it's rough and windy - all the way up on the bow. ...
From Leslie King on Cruising World message board:
I carried a Gale Sail for 10,000 miles and never used it.

I can see one use for a Gale Sail: if you sail regularly in a place with steady high winds, say the Caribbean in winter, you might wrap it on when you set off to save wear on your main furling sail and expect to carry it the whole of your passage.

But in any other kind of coastal or frontal winds, the idea of furling down to some point, then when it gets really violent dragging a bag to the bow, getting wet, and fumbling around maybe losing control of a halyard, all the while going slow, seems ludicrous to me. Especially since in 6 or 8 hours usually the worst will be past and you'll have to take it off.

From article by Brion Toss in 2/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine:
  • Best to install a new jib-stay when installing a furler.

  • Many boats have the wrong diameter of jib-stay, more often too large than too small.

  • Large drum gives more leverage for easier furling, but this is less important than reducing friction in the bearings. Want large, efficient bearings.

  • Tight jib-stay will make furling easier.

  • Most brands of furlers mix SS screws or rivets and aluminum foils: use something to isolate them and prevent galling and corrosion.

  • Use thread adhesive to prevent fasteners from working loose.

  • Want bearings that are maintenance-free. Torlon is good; just needs rinse with fresh water. Exposed SS needs rinsing, and occasional WD-40 (solvent) followed by grease.

  • Improper assembly turns a good furler into a very bad one.

  • Urge to use a winch to pull the furling line usually means something's wrong.

  • From Brion Toss, about brands of roller jib-furlers (although he is not in favor of them):
    "I would rank Schaefer first, Harken a close second, Furlex third, and Profurl a distant fourth"

  • Roller-furling is bad in a hurricane or heavy weather: the jib is exposed on the bow.

  • Roller-furling encourages you to leave the sail hoisted forever, and thus you never inspect the top parts of it for chafe/damage.

  • Roller-furling headsail should have foam in the middle of the luff, so it rolls tightly without stretching sail.

  • See headsail-furler reviews in Practical Sailor's 1999 Gear-Buying Guide.

  • Paraphrased from talk by Carol Hasse:
    If you have a roller-furled headsail, the webbing at the head and clew should be covered with UV protection when it is furled; many aren't.

  • The UV protection cloth should be black (best) or blue (okay) Sunbrella-type, but not UV-coated white sacrificial Dacron.

  • Hanked-on sail easier to handle with "SailClip" ($40).
    But I don't think you'd want to store the sail with the SailClip on it: puts hard edges in with sail, leaves aluminum in contact with hanks.
    From Dean Grudzinski, maker of SailClip:
    "You can get or make a cover for your Sailclip to cover any sharp edges. It's recommended that you coat the aluminum slide with wax where it comes in contact with any hanks. It's recommended that you don't store your sails loaded on a Sailclip."

From Jim Zedalis on the Morgan mailing list 3/2007:
I can only comment on the Spin-Tec. I have one and find it very robust and trouble-free. It's so simple in design and well-constructed that I predict that will last decades.

From Normandie Fischer on World-Cruising mailing list:
We bought Spin-Tec for both our jib/genoa and staysail. We love the simplicity and the unconditional money-back lifetime guarantee.

From halekai36 on SailNet 1/2008:
Here's the list and my take on the ones I've owned.

Hood - Served me well, always worked, but had minor corrosion issues. (this was not the single line model)

Furlex 200S - Served me well, and always worked, but had some small plastic pieces that broke like the lower bearing cover for the swivel.

Schaefer 2100 - Served me well, always worked, zero problems.

CDI - Numerous problems upgraded to the Furlex listed above.

Hyde - Worked, but of questionable quality, esoteric, and now defunct.

Pro-Furl 32 - Served me well, always worked, zero problems but company tough to deal with (parts).

Harken MK-IV - Installed last spring and working flawlessly but the line that comes with it sucks!

So in short I'd recommend a Harken, Furlex or Schaefer. I personally feel the Schaefer is the most robustly built but it's also the most expensive unit of the three. That being said the Harken MK-IV, I feel, currently offers the most bang for the buck and I like the "over turnbuckle" design.

Contact for Spin-Tec Furler: G. M. Woodley at, 530-320-3460.

Roller-furling mainsails:
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Boom Furling Revolution"
SailNet - Al Cameron's "Boom It Yourself" (installing a boom furling system)
In-boom furling article by Jeremy McGeary in 10/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine
In-boom furling articles in 9/2001 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
In-boom furling article in 10/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor

From SG on Cruising World message board:
... in the mast roller furling main. ...

The mechanism itself jammed about three to four times over their ownership -- but never so that the sail couldn't, with some horsing around, finally be furled enough to get in.


The sails have to be cut much flatter, with much stiffer and heavier cloth than you would otherwise need in order to avoid fluttering (without battens) and maintain furlability. ...


As for performance: I think the boat suffers quite a bit because of the requirements of vertical furling. ...

From DeeB on Cruising World message board:
I have made 3 offshore trips on boats with different systems (1) a standard in-mast on a Beneteau 44 and (2) an add-on system on a Whitby 42. I saw no difference in the operation and reliability of either, however, both experienced some jamming of the sail on reefing and the in-mast system reefing line tended to jump the drum or jam unless the other person knows how much tension to apply to the opposing line. I believe that both systems cause some changes to the boats stability and this is probably especially true in the (2) system due to the rectangular metal box that attaches to the aft side of the mast ... Obviously you lose some advantages offered by a fully battened main as far as sail characteristics with the trade off of all handling from the safety of the cockpit. ...

From Steve Dashew, about roller-furling mainsails:
For efficient sailing, I do not like them as there are always compromises to be made with sail shape. For passaging, this doesn't make a lot of sense to me as you don't handle the main that much in the context of the voyage. And, properly set up, slab reefing is always going to be as fast, and often faster than in the mast or in the boom systems. However, for day sailing, especially where you have a boom that is high off the deck and difficult to deal with, the various furling systems perhaps make sense - as long as you are prepared to pay the very high performance, center of gravity, and cash penalties.

From Van on Cruising World message board:
... My Pearson came with in-mast furling by Hood. If I had my choice I'd prefer regular slugs on a track but I'm not willing to invest in replacing the system. The convenience in furling/reefing is offset by the maddening banshee howling with every quartering wind. ...

From DonR on Cruising World message board:
Having installed the Profurl in-boom unit I can strongly recommend against it, not because it doesn't work, but because the cast components used are not up to any serious sailing (our first breakage was in <13 knots) and the warranty/after-sales service from Profurl is worthless. If you are prepared to have all the cast components re-manufactured at your expense you can wind up with a good system. ...

From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
... My primary reason for not buying an in-mast furling system is the total inability to maintain proper sail shape when reefed for long periods of time due to creep down the rolled sail over time. My second most primary reason is the shortened sail life from concentrating the loads at the point where a partially reefed sail emerges from the slot. Potential for failure comes next, then weight aloft, and cost last.

Are there other reasons? One of the biggest problems with in-mast furling is that you are totally hopeless when the system really fails. On one BB I read the story of a fellow whose system had locked up after being reefed for days in heavy air. They had tried everything they could to free it and finally with conditions deteriorating and taking repetitive knockdowns, they actually cut away the exposed portion of the sail along the mast. To me two-line reefing is too fast, easy and reliable to consider in-mast furling in its current state of development. ...

Vertical furling (in-mast or behind-mast) tends to spoil airflow over leading edge of mainsail, prevents use of battens, and means that weight of mainsail is always aloft.

In-boom furling:
From Don Richards on World-Cruising mailing list 9/2009:
We have a Schaeffer system on our 47' Catalina (pacific crossing 2008). I would recommend this system although I found the support to be limited away from the US. The leisurefurl system is the one that we most encounter on other yachts and have heard nothing but praise from owners. When we circumnavigated on our 42' Catalina we had a Profurl system and I am afraid I have nothing good to say about the unit or the support from the company. If I was installing one again I would probably go with the leisurefurl.
From David Mackintosh on World-Cruising mailing list:
DONT ... i too really fancy one but i dont have one BUT i have surveyed about 10/12 Owners of boats that have them. I am sure you know how much sailors like talking about their boats NOT it would seem if they have a furling boom - the last boat owner i asked it was only after about 30 mins and me asking for the fifth time tell me about your roller boom did his partner eventually get into the topic ...

I did try an older first gen furling boom on a 38 foot Prout cat and it was a total disaster but that was 15 or so years ago. The boom is only one part of a roller furling boom solution; the sail seems to be critical and is nothing like a traditional mainsail in cut and shape it must be made to fit the boom following the boom makers instructions to the letter; too many sailmakers seem to have a 'we know what we are doing attitude'. Then you MUST have a way of holding the boom at a precise angle +/- 1 degree unfortunately this angle is not the angle that the boom need to be when sailing. Seems to me a roller boom it is the most expensive sail cover ever with as many if not actually more problems as it solves.

Go for a full battened main with a Strong/Tides Marine or the Ronstan car system and a stack pack cradle cover and can i suggest Doyle Sailmakers too and go for one of the cruising laminates if you want the best performing sails. IF money is not the issue how can it bee if you are considering a roller furling boom :-) a Spectra laminate and if the cost of that makes you go GULP a Pentax one.

IF you really want to go roller furling boom go for the Lesurefurl one and make sure your sailmaker has built a few sails FOLLOWING the 50 pages of sailmaker's instructions that Leisurefurl provide. Still get a laminate sail.

i am told by 'my' sailmaker here in the UK that Liesurefurl booms are the business and that 99% of the issues are operator error ... sadly i am not convinced as yet. I do know that IF i bought a boom and sail from him it would work well as he is that sort of guy who would not see me unhappy with 'his' product' BUT the boat is in the Caribbean 4000 miles away so he is out of the picture really. So i suppose if you want to go down the furling route find a sailmaker that is committed to giving you a totally snag free solution and of course a superbly cut 'performing' sail IF he says i will give you a superb solution and you will be totally satisfied with it - see if he will put his money where his mouth is and take payment once you are completely satisfied - then you are taking no risks.
From Bryan Genez on World-Cruising mailing list:
I have a friend who has been full-time cruising with his wife for the past five years, and just completed a circumnavigation. He has a Leisure Furl and wouldn't have anything else. Another friend, who has just begun cruising with his wife has a Schaefer Boom furler, and also is happy, though he thought the learning curve was a bit long.

It's vitally important to remember the boom furler is part of a system. That system usually includes a rigid vang, because the boom must be at a precise angle to the mast to properly roll the sail. Often, it includes a backstay tensioning device, to bend the mast and give the sail the proper shape. The easiest and most expensive way to satisfy those two needs is with hydraulics, but that can be difficult to add to an existing boat. The main is specifically cut for the boom, with more full-length battens than a normal main, as the battens determine the proper reef points; the batten is located at the bottom of the roller when you shorten sail. Many also find an electric or hydraulic winch is helpful for hoisting and lowering the main.

Bottom line is that the boom furler represents less than half the total cost of the new mainsail system. I believe it's a great improvement. It's been tested and it works. But if you only do half the job, you will not be happy.
From Tom Jeremiason on World-Cruising mailing list:
We have a Catalina 470 in the San Francisco Bay and plan to start our circumnavigation in the Summer of 2010.

We ordered our boat brand-new with a Leisure Furl Boom. We have sailed our boat in up to 45 mph winds. Here is my read on the product:

The Good:
The sail is easily handled by one person.
The sail is easy to reef, even while traveling down wind.
The furling boom allows traditional horizontal battens (six in our sail).
The large boom allows storage for extra battens.
The Leisure Furl Boom has an adjustable Boom Vang.

The Bad:
The boom is heavy and should have a boom brake attached.
There is a specific boom angle needed to furl the boom, but this can easily be achieved by marking the topping lift and tensioning it as needed.
The boom requires a little expertise, so casual crew probably shouldn't use it.

After sailing this product for three years we would buy it again.
From Gordon Hanson on World-Cruising mailing list:
I have two friends with high-end boats with Leisure Furl that like it. My opinion differs: It is convenient for inshore, OK for coastal, but I would never put it on an offshore boat. I know a prominent PNW sailmaker who will not build sails for in-boom or in-mast furling systems, saying they don't belong offshore.

I have sailed to Mexico with in-mast furling, and on various in-mast furling systems in SF Bay. I sailed 10,000 nm from SF-Mexico-HI-Canada-SF on a high-end 46 foot cutter with a Leisure Furl. My problems with it are:

- you have to have everything PERFECT for it to work. We had 4 different "experts" adjust, recut sails and coddle it over 7 months, and it never worked adequately for us.

- you have to be into the wind with the boom inside the lifelines to furl.

- we could not get a flat sail when reefed. With a 3rd reef equivalent in, we had a really pot-bellied sail, no matter what we tried. We went through a 3-day gale followed by a 1-day storm with 55 knots and high seas, and had to reef the day before, knowing that we would be unable to reef for the duration. Luckily we were running off, so the pot-belly was OK. If we had to forereach we would have been screwed.

- We had dacron sails, which are bulky and cause shape problems. Mylar (read: thin) sails help a lot.

- Bad sail cut or wrong boom angle, when furling, makes the sail run aft or forward on the mandrel and jam at the mast. Start over again.

- If you jam an in-mast furler, you are stuck. I know of one cruiser who had to go up the mast in advance of a storm to cut the main off the mast. In-boom furlers are better in that respect in that you can drop it and tie to the boom.

Just my opinion. As I said, others love it.
From Dick Maddock on World-Cruising mailing list:
I have had a Leisure Furl system on a C&C 48 for ten years now. Once it is set up properly with a hydraulic boom vang set to the right angle, it is totally problem-free. Can't recommend it any more highly.

From "Modern Cruising Under Sail" by Don Dodds:
"Upwind performance is dependent on headstay sag."

Sail Plans

Single jib/genoa (sloop-rig) versus 2 headsails (cutter-rig):
Sloop better:
  • Easier to handle (especially tacking).
  • Less chafe when tacking.
  • Less cluttered deck.
  • Less hardware to maintain.
  • Less windage.
Cutter better:
  • More sail area on a reach.
  • More flexible.
  • Puts CE lower and further aft when reefed.
  • Doesn't require trip all the way to the bow in bad weather to change.
  • Don't need multiple jib sizes.
  • Inner forestay is backup for headstay.
  • Less stress on mast in heavy weather, because inner forestay attaches lower than headstay.
Cutter rig article by Larry Pardey in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
SailNet - John Kretschmer's "Double Headstays - Double Headsails"

One mast (sloop) versus two masts (ketch/yawl):
One mast better:
  • Less cluttered deck, cockpit and cabin.
  • Less hardware to maintain.
  • Less windage (goes to weather better).
  • Mizzen is in spoiled/turbulent air when sailing upwind; mizzen spoils air for mainsail when sailing downwind.
  • Better visibility from helm (if mizzen-mast would be forward of helm).
  • Fewer sails to carry.
  • Fewer sails to adjust while sailing.
  • No mizzen boom to interfere with wind-vane steering.
Two masts better:
  • More flexible (more sail combinations possible).
  • Each sail is smaller (easier to handle, cheaper).
  • Masts are shorter (good for bridges).
  • Booms are shorter (safer, easier to handle).
  • Less force on main mast, and stresses on hull spread over more points.
  • Sail's center of effort is lower.
  • Less reefing (just drop a sail instead).
  • Mizzen masthead is good place to mount RADAR, wind generator, etc.
  • Can use mizzen as a "riding" sail at anchor.
  • More redundancy.
  • Increased power on a reach.
From Dennis Fria of Mustang Island Yachts:
... it has been my experience that the ketch is just so much easier to handle than a big sloop that I'll NEVER have anything but!! Big sails are a drag!! They take a lot of energy to winch up, and a lot of energy to trim. Don't forget about reefing, too! I find that a long boom makes reefing and even flaking (when stowing at the end of the day) very difficult. Remember, I'm a little guy, so reaching all the way to the end of the boom while standing on the cabin top or the companionway hatch is really a stretch, and frequently that's the only way to do that, as the damned Bimini is always in the way! My short little boom is almost a pleasure! And the arc that a long boom swings at the end is HUGE! You'd better have that thing under control before you get out to the end or you're going overboard when it swings accidentally!

The other thing that you'll hear from us dedicated ketch-drivers is the balance. It's so darn easy, to us there's just no other way to balance a boat! I frequently find myself driving the boat with the big genny and the mizzen only! No main! And the boat is actually quite fast that way!

Under heavy airs, a smaller headsail and the mizzen drives the boat really well and she stays up on her feet.

My biggest fear when I first started sailing this boat was, could I handle the complexity of having 2 masts?? That is really a myth! That mizzen is almost self-tacking! When I tack I reach behind me (center cockpit) and harden up the sheet, then prepare the jib sheets and swing the helm over. The mizzen takes care of itself and all I have to do is tack the headsail! Now, my mizzen is about the size of a Hobie 16 main! So you can see just how easy it really is!

As for performance to windward, who cares!! I'm not racing, anyway! The reality is that the boat drives almost to windward as well as any of my friends' sloops and cutters! The only boats that I really notice the difference is the go-fast guys, like the J-boats. They REALLY point! ...

From David Bevan's "The Circumnavigator's Handbook":
It is SOP for new sailors to prepare their boats as if they were going to sail around the Horn. "Bullet Proof" and other expressions are used at the sailmaker when ordering sails.

Well, the truth is: Put your money in light-air sails. They cost less, take up less space in the sail locker and you will use them a lot. Spinnakers are the best thing you could imagine on a cruising yacht. Once over the initial learning curve, they are easy to use and are definitely the most comfortable sail to be under. Here's why. With traditional downwind rigs in light air, you have a headsail or two poled out or are running wing on wing with a preventer on the boom. In light conditions, the swell literally rolls the wind right out of the sails, which reverses the force on the sail causing it to invert with a bang. This process is repeated a second later when the boat rolls the other way. This causes a lot of wear and tear on the sails as well as goose-necks, blocks, lines, brains and other assorted bits.

Now compare this with a spinnaker. Foremost, it has more sail area than any combination of working sails ever will. All that sail contains a huge mass of air which creates inertia. That is, that huge volume doesn't want to be flung from side to side too much. That along with the additional velocity of the boat moving at a higher rate of speed means less rolling, which any serious cruiser will tell you is a very desirable thing.

But wait, there's more. For cruisers it is common to take the main down completely, since this moves the center of effort far forward and allows for easier steerage, which means that a lot of the time even a wind vane can steer the boat. So the only sail aloft is this great bag of nylon which for the most part is totally silent. It is hard to beat cruising along at near hull speed on a flat ocean, the boat hardly rolling and the only sound is the water rushing past. Once you've done it you will never leave port without a spinnaker on board.

Full-length battens (in main and mizzen):'s "Full Battened Mainsails"

Paraphrased from talk by Carol Hasse:
Full-length battens help control flogging, and ensure sail will set well all of its life.

But Bob Hogin of Hogin Sails disagrees; says sail takes shape of battens instead of natural shape, and full battens make it much harder to hoist/douse sail.

SailNet - Brian Hancock's "Mainsail Details" says use full battens on top half of sail and mostly-full on bottom half, and adds that they ease mainsail handling.

Summarized from "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard:
Full-length battens give:
  • Increased sail life.
  • Better sail shape.
  • Better reefing (put reef points just below battens).
  • Easier dousing.

Full-length battens give best performance to windward.

Loose-footed mainsail:
From Rick Emerson on Yacht-L mailing list:
We have a loose footed main with slugs for the luff. We also have a single full batten at the top and three tapered battens of more or less conventional length below that. The sail shape is easier to control and we've definitely added to the boats overall speed and performance. The sail can still be reefed as before and in all other respects is no harder to live with. The one downside is the ability to tune the sails means that you do need to know what tweaks to apply (e.g., easing or hardening the outhaul) when. But after a little over 1000 miles of sailing, the main's a win.

From Mike Robinson on Yacht-L mailing list:
I've been using a loose-footed main for three years now, in everything up to 35 kts true and have had absolutely no problems with it. I use a dacron strop faced with velcro instead of a slug and a 4:1 internal Spectron12 outhaul instead of the original wire.

Everything works perfectly and the ability to control shape of the bottom third of the sail is much improved.

From Bill Wallace on Yacht-L mailing list:
1. Any money saved in not having slugs and bolt rope on the foot should be spent in making the clew very much stronger. The loads there are some big.

2. It seemed to be proved a long time ago, in the open classes, that a loose-footed main was not as fast to windward as one with foot attached to boom. End plate effect of the shelf is big. You never saw an America's Cup boat - 12 meter or modern - or a 5.5 Meter or darn near any successful ocean racer with a loose footed main, and for good reason.

From Suzy O'Keefe on Yacht-L mailing list:
Though I haven't had much more than 600 miles with a loose footed main, it was all to weather and I can say there was one substantial difference. The vessel's pointing ability was greatly worsened. This was a mast-furler type and the foot just couldn't be tightened enough to point any higher than 40 degrees apparent ... that made for a very long trip.

Club-footed jib:
"The Club-Footed Jib" by Donald Launer in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine

Club-footed jib is self-tacking, gives you a built-in whisker pole for downwind sailing, needs only one jib sheet.
But it clutters up the foredeck with more hardware.

Can have jib lazy-jacks and jib down-haul.

Want boom mounted on a pedestal aft of the forestay.

SailNet - Brian Hancock's "Mainsail Details"
SailNet - John Kretschmer's "Optimizing Your Downwind Performance"
SailNet - Brian Hancock's "Using the Asymmetrical Spinnaker"
UK Sailmakers' "Encyclopedia of Sails"
Mack Sails
SailNet - Brian Hancock's "Using Storm Sails"
Steve Dashew's "'End-Plating' the Main and Mizzen"


Mainsail article by Carol Hasse in 9/2002 issue of Cruising World magazine

From "Assessing and Preventing UV Damage" article by Dan Neri in 5/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine:
  • Thinner fibers degrade faster than thicker fibers. Sail fabric is woven with two different thicknesses of fibers. Dernier is measure of thread weight; higher is heavier.

  • To test sail fiber integrity, lightly scrape surface with dull metal object, such as head of a key, edge of a spoon, or dull side of knife blade. If fibers are good, fabric will become shiny and smooth. If fibers are bad, surface will fuzz up or slough off.

  • To test exposed stitching integrity, scrape it with a thumbnail. If the thread scrapes right off, it's bad.

  • As sail cover ages, it degrades and lets UV through. 2-ply cover or foil inner liner is better.

  • Polyester sail thread degrades; heavy V-138 thread is best. But may not be possible to use it on light fabric: gives puckered seams, and big needle-holes and strong thread may elongate the holes and lead to tearing.

  • Sail fabric weights are ounces per "sailmakers yard": 27 x 36 inches.

  • Liquid-plastic seam coating on stitching: protects from chafe, but doesn't protect from UV.

From article by Zora and David Aikin in issue 1999 #4 of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
Deciding if a sail is worth cleaning or saving:
  • Determine if there's any resin left in the cloth: Pick a bad spot, poke a sailmaker's needle in, and listen for a "pop" as the fibers separate. No "pop" is bad. Keep pushing the needle in. If you must push hard, that's good.

  • Fold the fabric and press down on the fold, then try to tear it along the fold. If you can tear it, the sail is worthless.

  • Look at the general sail shape; if it's badly stretched or whole panels need replacement, the sail probably is not worth saving.

Difference between old and new sails:
From JeffR on Cruising World message board:
When I bought my boat, with its 15 year old blown out sails, I went crazy trying to make sense out of all the sail trim books I read. None of this great advice worked no matter how hard I tried.

I bought a new set of sails and all of a sudden it all worked just like the experts said it was supposed to.

I really could shift gears, WoW!

Now that my main has 3 seasons on it, I noticed it is getting just a little harder to make it do all those things it used to do. And the genoa with 2 race seasons on it doesn't point as high as it used to.

The only bad part about buying new sails is it makes you realize just how bad a bad sail can be. They make very good (but expensive) drop cloths.

From Don E. on Cruising World message board:
"Just put a new main on my Mac 25. The difference is like night and day."

From Ian of Windfall on Cruising World message board:
[Re: replacing 9-10 year old mainsail that looks okay:] "Went through the same change, and all I can say is do it."

How to specify/choose new sails:
"New Sail Blues" article by Bill Sandifer in July/August 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Want number or some identifier on mainsail, so others can identify/hail you.

Typical sailcloth weights for 40-foot boat:
  • Mainsail: 7 oz Dacron.
  • Storm trisail: 9 oz Dacron.
  • Jib: 7 oz Dacron.
  • Storm jib: 9 oz Dacron.
  • Spinnaker: 1 oz nylon.

In email from Neil Pryde:
For cruising on a Gulfstar 44: mainsail 9.4 oz, genoa maybe 8 oz, jib maybe 9.4 oz.

Sail costs:
From "New Sail Blues" article by Bill Sandifer in July/August 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine:
New Dacron 125% roller-furling genoa from USA lofts for 31-foot boat costs $1500.

For 31-foot boat in 1999, from AndyL on Cruising World message board:
... We avoided the big lofts in China such as Hood or North because they tend to be expensive and concentrate on racing performance with mylar and kevlar, whereas we wanted the usual dacron.

The other lofts in China are Neil Pryde, Lee Sails, Sails East and UK Sailmakers. Actually in USA, unless you want to visit a loft and see your sail being made, then probably it will be cut and stitched in one of the China lofts - most all their business is North America or Australia.

The genoa we wanted was the biggest possible that could fit on the boat, but strong enough (6 oz) not to blow out in the first 20-knot gust. I still prefer a hanked on foresail which I can stow below when I am not on board, and for me is simple and reliable, but not easy to reef in a hurry. After contacting Neil Pryde and Sails East and learning how to measure up, quotations came in with slightly different ideas about overlap. I asked both to visit my boat and measure by themselves to make sure it would be the biggest possible sail. They both said my measurement was wrong, NP coming back with quote for 165% overlap @ US$1,410 and SE for 150% overlap @ $1,250. So some hard bargaining and I ordered from NP at $1,040, just over 25% discount which I thought was reasonable.

... The old main had a nice shape, but was falling apart, badly worn out round the batten pockets and the head and clew. So how much? $641 for 6.5 oz dacron. I thought that seemed very reasonable and ordered the sail and cover together for $769. Despite that SE did the measuring, the sail arrived too long on the foot and with too much roach so that it hit the backstay. The roach is more pronounced since the top two battens are full battens. It also had oversized claws which did not fit the old tracks on the spars. I gave them the claws from the old sail and they re-cut the sail and fitted them.

I could not be more pleased and the difference sailing is astonishing. The boat is much more lively and drives into head seas with a lot more power and less leeway. I thought well worth it, less than $2,000 for a new wardrobe. ...

From Tim on Cruising World message board 1/2001:
The price range in new sail quotes can be huge.

My sail purchase / shopping happened last fall, during the America's Cup Challenger Series. I found that the local Annapolis lofts really did not seem all that interested in my business. The same loft that a friend of mine told me had fallen all over themselves the previous year to give him the best price, was the highest in my case, with no inclination at all, they'd be willing to negotiate. Take it or leave it, was the definite attitude. This year, things may be a bit different, again ...

The sails I eventually bought (Rolly Tasker via National Sails) were fully half the price of the highest quote I'd received and 30% less than the closest non-Tasker sails. I was completely willing to and expected to pay a premium to a local loft for excellent personal service and attention. When it wasn't forthcoming, I bought the Tasker sails and am glad I did.

While shopping, I received quotes from three Local/National lofts and two mail order lofts carrying Tasker's sails. The difference in price between the two mail order lofts was 12% on the exact same Tasker sails! The difference between the lowest bid and highest was over $3,000 on a main and 135 roller furling genoa.

It has since come to my attention that Bacon and Associates are also an outlet for Rolly Tasker Sails. If you consider or eventually choose to buy Tasker's Sails, I highly recommend getting quotes from at least two Tasker outlets. Bacon and Associates are known for their excellent service and have an outstanding reputation, as well.

If I were to do it again, I'd probably still take the same attitude. I am always willing to pay a little extra to get good service. It sometimes makes all the difference in the world. But, as a friend of mine told me: "Sails are almost a commodity, now. The cloths are the same, the computers design the cuts, make the cuts and help line up the sewing. The only major difference in quality is going to be whether someone skimped on the sewing, or on service. If you don't get the service anyway, you may as well buy mail order and save the money."

Which is exactly what happened. Ironically, I got the best service from mail order, too.

From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
I ordered a new set of three sails from Lee in Hong Kong. Took them about two weeks from receipt of cashiers check to shipping the sails. I got a main, mizzen and jib for a 42' ketch for $2700.

From Craig Cook on Cruising World message board:
Many of the production boats have sails available from the factory at a pretty decent price.

Re: our local loft: As far as I'm concerned, they are too busy, make too much money or need an attitude adjustment. As much as I like to keep $$ local, I won't go back. On the other hand, JSI (SailNet) in Florida provided all the information I could ask for, gave guidance, and had great prices ... all with a top-notch, fall-over-themselves customer service attitude. We got our drifter from them.

Same with Minney's in California. They deal in new and used sails, with a 100% money back guarantee.

From H E on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list, 5/2002:
I just purchased a new, full-battened main [for Gulfstar 43 ketch] from UK. This is a strong sail, 9.3 oz, three reefs, leech line with metal stops at every reef, massive corner reinforcements, two draft lines, it's primo. ... I paid $1,600. For the same sail North wanted $2,700, Sobstad $2,400 and Quantum about $2,000. Cruising Direct was $1,500 but wouldn't do full battens, triple reef or the extra reinforcements I wanted.

From Dave McCampbell on SSCA discussion boards 10/2004:
... on buying new sails. I just had mine built and delivered by Supersails in Ft Lauderdale. We are preparing for long-term cruising, and even though it was a long arduous expensive experience it was worth it. I did my homework over almost 4 months, and even though cost is a big consideration, decided to use a quality local loft that specializes in blue water sails. Along with 6 well-recommended others, I checked out both Lee and Hong Kong Sails. Lee was considerably more expensive than Hong Kong but both have considerable hidden costs including shipping, customs and agent fees. You should check these costs out carefully if you are dealing directly with any overseas loft. With all costs considered, Hong Kong was only 15 percent less than Supersailmakers. Also neither can ship full-length battens, hardware and advice is a problem, and neither can use the better cloths. I would highly recommend having the sailmaker visit your boat and do the measurements if you want a perfect fit the first time. There are also myriad decisions to be made if you want to optomize the performance. That all comes together during the measurement process on your boat. Do your homework on sailcloth quality. It's not just the US name manufacturer that counts, especially if you need to use your sails frequently and expect them to hold their shape past 3-5 years. You can get the best quality sail cloth for not a big increase in cost. Pay close attention to what the loft offers in the way of sun and chafe protection. This is really important for cruising sails. ...

From Terry Sargent on SSCA discussion boards 10/2004:
I have owned two sets of LEE sails over the past 24 years ownership on my Fuji 32. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND them ... great quality, reasonable price, and excellent staff assistance prior to purchase to ensure you get it all right. The loft has moved from Hong Kong to mainland China but the quality hasn't suffered.

Helen is the lady to deal with ... she's been in the business for many years.

Used sail brokerages are useful for jibs and spinnakers, but it is hard to buy/sell mainsails because they have to match so well with hardware locations on the mast and boom.

From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
... I would never buy new sails; it would cost around $8000 for my boat and I can get almost new sails modified to my needs from a place like Minnies for about $1500. There are a number of huge resellers that get new and slightly used sails and have literally thousands in their inventory.

I took a used club-footed jib sail, pole and deck attachment to Ft. Lauderdale in 5/2002 and tried to sell them. Only one sail loft in town is buying used sails any more, and they offered me $50 for a sail with a 12-foot foot and 40-foot luff (in great condition except for a few repaired punctures) ! Sailorman said we might be able to get $250 from someone for sail, pole and attachment.

Used and new sails:
Atlantic Sail Traders
Bacon and Associates
Minney's Yacht Surplus
Pineapple Sails
Porpoise Sailing Services
Sail Exchange
The Sail Warehouse
Second Wind Sails
Shore Sails
Somerset Sails
Staaf Sails

New sails:
Cruising Direct Sails
Lee Sails
National Sail Supply
Sabre Sails

From Ivars on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
About putting used racing sails on a cruising boat:

[Racing sail has no foam in luff for better shape when furled.] Your high-tech sail probably didn't have a UV cover either. The UV cover causes the edges of the sail (luff and foot) to build up more thickness leaving the sailcloth in the mid sections to roll up looser. When this loosely rolled cloth is put under a load (as in reefed) the load pulls out the cloth and stretches causing the roll to become tighter. The foam luff is there to provide bulk as the sail rolls up causing the roll to be firm and distribute the load evenly along the roll. Sails without the foam luff lose their shape quickly because of uneven distribution of load along the luff when the sail is reefed. It is easy to see, just unroll a few sails without the foam luff and check the luff, it always will be baggy and stretched even on an otherwise new-looking sail.

You need to be careful in using your high-tech sail reefed because it is not designed to be used reefed. A racing sail has compound curves in the luff which do not spread the load equally along the luff while reefed and is not built to take loads while reefed. Laminated cloth also does not like to be stressed randomly as it breaks down the adhesive / laminations resulting in an early departure of the sail. The shape / performance of a racing sail will be quickly lost if you use it reefed. A roller furling jib is cut with much less shape to roll more evenly and to better distribute the loads while reefed. Any sail can be used on a furler as long as it is all in or all out; things happen to a sail only while it is used reefed / partially furled.

Also, laminated sails don't do so well while being stored on furlers. It's not the furler that is the problem, but the water/moisture that gets trapped in the rolls. Most laminated sails have some component of mylar or some other impervious membrane that keeps the sail from breathing / fully drying out while furled. The trapped moisture will cause the sail to mildrew and grow other crud detracting from the appearance of the sail. Woven cloth (Dacron) breathes readily and is most suitable for a furling sail. A laminated furling sail is better protected by a zippered cover as it prevents rain from finding its way into the rolls and getting trapped.

From Jack Malloy at Second Wind Sails:
> How can I search your site for sails with
> wire-in-luff roller-furling (old Schaefer
> roller-furling) ?
> If a sail has a wire in the luff, does that
> automatically mean the wire can be used for furling ?

If a sail has a Schaefer RF Wire, it will be noted in the description. A wire luff is something else entirely. We don't see too many Schaefer RF Wires anymore and I don't think we have one in stock at the present time. Any sail can be converted for $90 to $140 depending on the sail. You lose 2" to 3" along the luff edge so take that into consideration.

> Does "conversion to RF wire" involve just
> stitching a thick wire into the luff ?
> Is a normal wire luff not thick enough
> to roller furl with ? Or do you have to
> change the curve of the luff to convert
> the sail to RF wire ?

A conversion to RF wire involves stitching a heavy wire into the sail luff for the express purpose of roller furling. A wire luff is a thin wire installed in the luff to prevent luff stretch and is not adequate for furling. A sail with a wire luff will also have hanks or else just fly free. In all cases the cut of the luff is the same.

My experience:
I bought a new mainsail 3/2009 from Lee Sails. The sail has 35-foot luff and 14-foot foot and the fabric is 8.6-ounce Dacron. 3/8" wire in the luff for old-style Schaefer wire-in-luff roller-furling. No battens, no reef-points, no roach, no headboard, no sail-bag. Sun-protection strip of Sunbrella along the leech.

Cost was $1235, including shipping to USVI, 10% discount for off-season order, 3% extra to Lee Sails for using a credit card, and another 3% charge by my credit card company for doing a foreign transaction. (Cost at North Sails in Fajardo PR would have been $1500 plus shipping, and local USVI sailmaker would have been $1800+.)

First impressions: sail came on time, everything looks great, triple-stitched on many seams, workmanship looks good. Specified no sail-bag, but it came in one anyway. I think maybe I should have asked about heavier fabric; I worried that the 8.6 would be too stiff to roll, but it rolls fine, and I assume heavier would be more durable. Lee Sails did a great job !

From Ray Millard:
Re: winding a line around a furled sail to keep it from banging against the mast:

One thought on the line to prevent banging against the mast. I found on my new furling headsail that some nylon lines tied, even tightly, around the furled sail will cause/show chafe fairly quickly. That is, begin to chafe the sailcloth or Sunbrella anti UV cover. I have found that using a flat sail tie, i.e. nylon or Dacron tubing, seems to minimize or avoid the chafe on the sail. I keep such ties on the furled main in Monterey in the winter due to gusty winds which have managed to "unfurl" headsails and mains on occasion.


Summarized from "The Complete Rigger's Apprentice" by Brion Toss:
General rules:
  • The tightest wires are tuned to at most 25% of the wire's strength.

  • No wire should ever be slack.

  • Longer wires should be tighter than shorter wires, because they stretch more.

  • Keep mast straight, except for bending the head aft a little if desired.

Tuning steps:
  1. Static tuning:

    1. Rough cut: use turnbuckles to take slack out of shrouds and stays and get mast plumb.

    2. Actual tuning, using a gauge, and looking up mast to make sure it is straight:

      1. Tighten lowers, a little at a time, to 10-12% of maximum wire strength.

      2. Tighten intermediates, a little at a time, to 12-15% of maximum wire strength.

      3. Tighten uppers, a little at a time, to 15-20% of maximum wire strength.

      4. Make forestay about as tight as the intermediates.

      5. Make jibstay and backstay about as tight as the uppers.

  2. Dynamic tuning:

    1. Go sailing when conditions are strong enough to heel boat 15-20 degrees.

    2. Sail on various points of sail to work all wires a bit.

    3. Go to beam or close reach, and look at lee shrouds. Remove any slack. Tack and do same on other side. Tack back and check again. Then check mast straightness, to see if head falls off to weather. Fix by loosening lowers and/or tightening uppers.

    4. Sight up the jibstay. If too much sag, tighten backstay.

Summarized from Loos PT-2 tension gauge manual:
  • Forestay: about 15% of breaking strength of the wire.

  • Backstay:
    • Adjust to keep mast straight.
    • Generally less than forestay tension.

  • Shrouds:
    • Leeward shrouds should not go slack when close-hauled in brisk breeze.
    • Generally 10-12% of breaking strength of wire.
    • Maybe more tension in uppers than lowers.
    • If spreader is swept back, uppers may be 20% of breaking strength.

  • Never exceed 25% of the wire's breaking strength.

  • Slack rig is more punishing on hull, spar and wire than properly adjusted tight rig: movement, chafe, shock loading.

  • Use gauge each time instead of marking positions on turnbuckles, because wire stretches over time.

Basing everything on wire's breaking strength bothers me:
  • What if someone has increased wire diameters on your rig ? The spars and chainplates and hull probably weren't upgraded.

  • What if your rigging wire was oversized to begin with ? My ketch has a 45-foot (from deck) main mast stepped on deck, with one 3/16" shroud and three 1/4" shrouds on each side. I think this is an excess of wire. [Others say it definitely is not.]

  • How can you tell if a wire is 302/304 stainless steel or 316 stainless steel ? Their breaking strengths differ by 15%.

  • My boat has an (original) forestay, and an (added later) roller-furled jib with a wire in the luff. Should both be tensioned to X% of their breaking strengths ? Or (my guess) should their total tension add up to X% of the (original) forestay breaking strength ?

  • If you have a split (in the middle) backstay, should each wire that reaches deck have 1/2 of desired tension, so single upper wire is at correct tension ?

From Gary Elder:
I wouldn't approach tuning from a "breaking strength of wire" angle.

Somewhere there must be a rigging shop or a rigger who has the rig tuning specs for YOUR boat model. Those specs should include wire size (diameter) and tension. That is all you need. You don't need to concern yourself with what type of stainless the wire is made of.

On a previous boat, a 34 footer, I increased all the standing rig wire size to the next larger size. I tuned it to the original tension specs on the advice of my local rigging shop. It worked great.

Re: split backstay:
When an inverted 'v' is tensioned equally, the sum of those two tensions is not necessarily equal to the tension on the single wire at the top of the 'v'. The more obtuse the angle at the 'v', the more tension there is at the chainplates. Some split backstays have some kind of device at the 'v' that equalizes the tension on each leg of the 'v'. If possible, I would measure the tension on the single backstay and let an equalizing device divide the tension between the two legs.

Again, I believe that it is best to base rig tension on boat manufacturer specs rather than on wire strength specs. The only wire issue to be concerned with, assuming that you purchase 'marine rated wire', and you use the same sizes, is whether to use 302/304 or 316 and that is strictly a corrosion resistance issue. You aren't going to break either type.

From John Dunsmoor:
The point is to support the mast. Shrouds turn lateral force into compression. This is the point. A mast has no strength laterally, zip. But a mast section has tremendous strength in compression. Now, conservation of energy, every pound of compression means an equal and opposite force pulling up on your chainplates, which is attempting to compress, squeeze the beam of the vessel. That is the reason that you have this system of bulkheads, mast, compression post, chainplates and keel. This is a system, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

So the point is to keep the mast up, keep the lateral forces under control and at the same time do this with the minimum amount of compression.

So worrying about percentage of strength of wire is superfluous. You could simply crank down on the turnbuckles to the point of driving the mast through the bottom of the boat, without even going sailing.

The fact is especially the lower shrouds, will probably go slack on the lee side of the vessel. Uppers because they have more stretch, should stay fairly tight. Backstays are a method of putting tension on the mast; many times a vessel will adjust the backstay in such a way to put a rearward bend in the mast. When you look around you will see vessels with adjustable backstays. One reason to bend the mast is to flatten the mainsail. You can pull the belly out of the main this way.

Backstay tension keeps the mast out of equilibrium, in tension, so that it will not pump. ...

A good cruising method is go sailing with good wind and little seas, some place protected. While the vessel has a good deal of pressure close-hauled, lay on your back looking straight up the mast. On starboard tack it would be straight. Then switch tacks and look again. Adjust accordingly.

Headstay, backstay is a balance. Watch your luff, your headstay under pressure, if there is more than three inches of curve, measured from the chord then you probably would like a some more tension on the backstay, forestay combination.

Intermediate forestay, same goes here, make sure you have balance. Some boats have running backstays. Believe me, if you do not have balance you can break a mast. Remember, a mast is designed for compression, not lateral stress.

From Ray Thackeray on WorldCruising mailing list:
I have found the best way is to loosen all shrouds and stays, and apply tension to the masthead(s) - basically, start at the uppers and work your way down. Look up the sticks to see if they are straight and in column, and if they are, that's a good start. You don't need a lot of tension on the stays and shrouds, but enough so that they are not loose and floppy. You can buy tension meters, but my experience is that they don't really impart much information, just look for "hand tight when you swing on the wires".

Then tighten the lowers, again so that the wire feels hand tight when you pull it, not like a guitar string. Look up the mast(s) again and check they are still in column.

When you go sailing, with stainless steel rigging, as long as they are not loose and floppy on the leeward side, you're all set. But they will definitely feel slacker on the leeward side when heeled over. If the wires are drum tight over the entire rig on either point of sail, then you know you have set things up with too much tension.

The bottom line, and ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE - is the mast straight and in column while under sail? If so, and as long as you are not driving the stick through the keel through overtightening, you're all set.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is.

Stainless steel wire strengths:
MaterialConstructionDiameterBreaking Strength (lbs)
302/3041 x 191/8"2,100
302/3047 x 71/8"1,700
302/3047 x 191/8"1,760
302/3041 x 193/16"4,700
302/3047 x 73/16"3,600
302/3047 x 193/16"3,700
302/3041 x 191/4"8,200
302/3047 x 71/4"6,100
302/3047 x 191/4"6,400
302/3041 x 195/16"12,500
302/3047 x 75/16"9,000
302/3047 x 195/16"9,000
302/3041 x 193/8"17,500
302/3047 x 73/8"12,000
302/3047 x 193/8"12,000
3161 x 191/8"1,780
3161 x 193/16"4,000
3161 x 191/4"6,900
3161 x 195/16"10,600
3161 x 193/8"14,800

Summarized from article by Van Markos in 6/2005 issue of Sail magazine:
If mast bends when rig is tightened:
  1. Balance boat at rest; allow for your weight if it's a small boat.
  2. Set mast rake angle as desired.
  3. Loosen rigging.
  4. Tighten rigging from bottom up, using mast bend to tell which side is too tight.
  5. Under close-hauled sail, tighten lee shrouds until looseness is just removed, noting number of turns.
  6. Tack. If mast is straight, tighten lee shroud same number of turns. If not straight, repeat until straight on both tacks.

If top of mast always bends, need bigger top shrouds.