Sea Trails #1, what worked, what didn’t

After 15 months of hard work, head scratching, glueing, sanding and glueing some more, I finally launched Shackleton.  I imagined this culminating act to be euphoric in nature, heavenly choirs singing above my head and a feeling of immense satisfaction settling over me like a warm blanket.  Instead what I felt was frustration, confusion and dumb stupor of thought. OK, it wasn’t quite that bad.  But, it was anything but simple.  I believe it can become simple…but I’m not there yet.

DSC02776The front mast support was built too narrow, preventing me to step the mast with the boom, yard and sail still in the support.  I need to remake this part and widen it 2″ – 3″. Notice me leaning against it, to keep it from falling off the boat with my lower body.  This needs to be fixed.  I also need a longer halyard; notice how high it is up the mast (totally my mistake, I cut it too short).

DSC02780Floating level on her lines…this makes the builder very happy.  DSC02791Sail up, one reef in place (don’t have nettles yet).  Reboarding strap dragging off port side of vessel (Howard, aren’t you happy seeing those reboarding lines?)  Loose reefing lines dangling off the back of the boom.  But, I’m sailing…yes, I’m sailing.DSC02805Limited downhaul movement, but sailing.  DSC02792DSC02819Hat blown off, raising the rudder before I hit bottom.  Center board already raised (the 2:1 line lift works excellent for the CB).

Immediate problems:

  1. Lake was too small…felt a little trapped.
  2. Wind was too high…around 18 mph gusting over 20 mph.
  3. No lazy jacks.  The up & down process of sail, yard & boom was like a circus act.
  4. Continuous reefing equalled continuous frustration.
  5. Reefing lines were all over the place like spaghetti wrapping around my head.
  6. Downhaul was too short.
  7. Traveler was too long.

Immediate appreciations:

  1. Shackleton floated level on her lines.
  2. She felt stable.
  3. She felt quite stiff.
  4. Wet storage in BH 7-8 worked well to toss miscellaneous items.
  5. Long tongue on trailer proved essential (good call Simeon)
  6. Ergonomics were comfortable.


Through driveway sailing (mocking everything up in the driveway), I learned several things. There are a lot of initial problems that need to be overcome.  I’ll take one at a time:

  1. If you don’t have lazy jacks, the whole ensemble becomes entirely unmanageable.  Things come crashing down into the cockpit with lines going everywhere.  I knew this had to be fixed.  Since sea trials #1, I have rigged up lazy jacks.  The entire process of raising and lowering the sail now becomes very manageable, even might I say enjoyable.  The lazy jacks also allow you to drop the sail out on the water and still motor around with the sail being completely out of the way and stowed safely over head.  I can’t say enough about the importance of lazy jacks.
  2. I need some way to hold the sail & boom from drifting forward.  I rigged up a snotter line that wrapped around the mast.  This helped stabilize the sail immensely.
  3. There were just too many lines…mainly the reefing lines.  And, anytime you make an adjustment to the halyard or downhaul, all those reefing lines need to be readjusted.  It was a constant head ache and needed to be simplified.  Also, there was too much resistance in the lines to function as advertised.  The sail didn’t reef quickly or shake out quickly.  I had to apply significant pressure to coax the lines loose.  It was just all wrong.  After staring at the problem for over 2 hours and regretting all the hardware I purchased to make it work, there was only one solution…get it off.  Get it all off.  Clear the slate so my mind could come up with a quicker and simpler solution.  Here’s what I came up with.

DSC00470I remembered reading a comment from Phil McCowin on the Scamp blog about a simpler way to reef.  He referenced kite boarding and how they rig the sail to the lines.  This reminded me of the same system used to rig stunt kites.  If this works, it will be the simplest, fastest way to reef known to mankind on planet earth.  You simply tie a figure 8 knot in each fore & aft reefing cringle.  Three along the luff & three along the leach side of the sail.DSC00472Slip the lark’s head knot over the figure 8 knot.  Tighten the lark’s head around the figure 8 knot and your done.  The lark’s head knot is fastened to each end of the boom.  This line should be much smaller in diameter than the line used to tie the figure 8 knot.  Now you can adjust your downhaul and halyard all day long without ever needing to re-tension all those reefing lines.  I can’t wait to test this new system.  Tying in and shacking out a reef should be very simple and fast utilizing this system.  Time will tell.

4.  I hadn’t yet wrapped the spars to protect them from rubbing and banging against each other.  Many have used leather to protect the spars.  I was concerned about getting the leather tight and preventing slippage with tapered spars, so I settled on a simpler, lazier solution (remember, I’m a Ham n Egger).

DSC00468I have no idea if this will work…but I’ll sure let you know.

DSC00469I first wrapped the spars with bandage wrap.  This stuff sticks amazingly well to itself.  The purpose of the wrap is to add cushioning.  I then wrapped electricians tape over the bandage wrapping.  The nice thing about electricians tape is that you can add a little tension for a nice secure wrap.  DSC00416This seems to provide both protection and a nice cushion for the spars.  It will be very easy to add a little more tape as needed.

I’ll really looking forward to trying out these tweaks during sea trials #2.


7 thoughts on “Sea Trails #1, what worked, what didn’t

  1. Yippie! Congrats! Didn’t think you were launching until tomorrow – nice surprise this evening. It will be rewarding to work out the little glitches – enjoy! — Dave

  2. Nice to see you on the water! Now comes the sorting out process…

    I guess I just don’t understand your original continuous reefing line setup. On any reefing setup, the tack & clew are fixed in place and uphaul/halyard adjustment shouldn’t affect them. Same thing for the slack other two lines.

    I’ll be interested to see how the new setup works. Don’t throw away those reefing lines and hardware yet! The problem I see is that you have to have the boom end in an aft position, at least mid-cabin, to physically man-handle the luff cringles with your proposed plan. Not an issue when at the dock or in light wind at sea. In a blow, single handed, then you will see the advantage of the reefing line run aft along the boom. It’s less of a problem on the clew end, but in a blow I’d still rather do the aft setup from mid-boom, rather than boom end. When underway, as soon as you grab the boom end and pull it inboard, you are off sailing and have maybe 1-2 seconds before you are overpowered and have to get go. Reefing under way, solo, is probably best done dropping the whole rig into the lazy-jacks, and your lap if you’ve slacked the jacks, and are safely sitting down to mitigate the ensuing rolling of the craft when the sail is down.

    FYI, I have three individual reef line forward, and two aft. I eliminated the third reef aft line on the clew and went with a reefing hook attached to the boom with a short line at the appropriate spot. Seemed to work well when I tried underway reefing pre-R2AK, and also during R2AK Stage 1.

    As you may have surmised, even when solo, I try to reef simply by slacking the downhaul, and then the halyard by the appropriate amount, cranking down the new luff/leech cringles, raising the halyard, and resetting the downhaul. I’ll have the tiller tamed using my bungee cord method and try to get it all done fast enough to keep forward motion on the boat. If I blow it a bit and the sail fills enough to prevent me from peaking the sail sufficiently, then I’ll fall off and gather way, then round up into the wind and finish the job. May sure the downhaul is slacked well off before peaking the sail. Getting the downhaul re-set is always the last step and easy to do, even with a full sail. Tying in the nettles may or may not happen immediately, depending on the conditions. With two aboard, reefing/un-reefing is a delight.

    As to the “snotter”, it needs to be led around the mast at a position above the normal boom height so the boom will hang when the halyard is loosened, as well as be prevented from going forward. My eye-strap for the “snotter” is on the aft side of the mast and 29″ above the top of the mast partner.

    Yes, lazy-jacks are essential!

    Your thinking on the spar wrapping is a good solution to find the final ideal location for the protection. You’ll probably soon find a horrible mess from the black electricians tape oozing everywhere and staining sail and spars. Mineral spirits should remove it. Don’t ask me how I know… Time honored leather grips well, even on a tapered spar. I don’t feel that has ever been an issue. It also looks oh so salty and proper.

    Hope some of this helps with your thinking process as you fine tune your set up. Really looking forward to seeing & sailing with you later this summer.


  3. Yet another comment on the Figure-8/Lark’s Head issue. Remember that when reefed, you need a significant (45 degrees???) forward pull on the tack ones and a significant aft pull on the clew ones. This will keep the proper tension along the fore/aft length of the foot of the sail. Maybe this can be accomplished by varying the length of the Lark’s Head hitch from the boom???

    Also, it seems to me that the Lark’s Head may be easily jammed and hard to release when you go to shake out the reef after it’s been under a lot of tension.


  4. Regarding your forward mast crutch… Rather than rework the whole thing and have a more ungainly structure in place, perhaps just drill a 1/2″ hole on the far port side and use it to anchor both ends of a suitable length thickish bungee and hang the bundle above the cabin top when setting up the mast. You would probably still need to shove the bundle to port when you step the mast, but with the aft end still secured to its crutch, then everything is under control.

    Since Noddy’s forward support is removed when I step the mast, I use a bungee loop fastened to the cabin top downhaul eye-strap for that purpose.

    Back to reefing… Here’s a link to a shot by Patrick Downs: Noddy charging under two reefs early in the R2AK Strait crossing.

    This was just before we shook out the next reef. Notice the forward and aft bundles on the boom (under bungees) of excess red 2nd reef lines behind my crewman’s (Denny) head 🙂 Green lines are the 1st reef ones. Yes, there can be a real collection of lines along the boom. I also have permanent shock cord lines from Duckworks used for sail-tying the stowed yard/boom bundle.


  5. Thanks guys for all the suggestions, comments and compliments. Simeon, lots of good information in your comments. I’ll let you know how sea trials #2 turn out. I’m sure that my boom will be riddled with holes before the perfect set up is obtained. I’m just glad to be in the water…now I can eternally tweak and refine. I already very excited to get out again and let the learning continue.

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