SAIL - - Cruising Under Sail - with Tom Cun­liffe


Looks un­tidy, huh? Maybe it does, but I’ve hoisted a lot of main­sails over the years. A few go up eas­ily. Many are a strug­gle. Some­times it’s about turn­ing blocks and nasty mast-tracks, but of­ten the prob­lem lies with mis­placed tidi­ness. All stack-packed mains and or­di­nary slab-reefers have reef­ing pen­nants. Some run sweetly in their blocks, oth­ers do not, but even with the best of them, when I heave up on the hal­yard only to find all the slack has been pulled through when the sail was stowed, my heart sinks. If there’s sin­gle-line reef­ing, I lose the will to live. Un­less the blocks, es­pe­cially in the boom ends, are per­fect and the rope new and supple, it’s go­ing to be a strug­gle wrestling the slack back out again. Leave the pen­nants as they are when the sail comes down, and it’ll make hoist­ing a breeze. Just tuck them away into the stowed main and drop them when it’s time to go again. The skip­per of the boat in the photo might have been a bit ti­dier, but he’ll have the last laugh.


Own­ers of high-free­board yachts best boarded via the stern su­gar-scoop like to back them into a slip, but the process can be fraught on a windy day or when there’s a cur­rent run­ning, espe- cially when you’re short­handed. This yacht is se­cured with all the usual lines, but a closer look shows that her skip­per has a trick to make his ar­rival eas­ier. The give­away is the light, white rope on the port quar­ter. It’s do­ing noth­ing now, but when the yacht came in it was the king­pin. Here’s the se­cret: ap­proach with lines ready and fend­ers on both sides so the neigh­bors needn’t worry if you don’t get it quite right. Pre­pare an ex­tra warp (the lit­tle white one) on the quar­ter, se­cured on board. Come in astern at good speed to re­tain con­trol. When you’re near the end of the road, whack the en­gine into for­ward gear to stop the boat. Your crew hops ashore with the white rope, takes up the slack and se­cures the line. The in­stant it’s on, start mo­tor­ing slow ahead against it. The boat is now un­der to­tal con­trol and you can ad­just her po­si­tion by steer­ing against the line. Keep the en­gine go­ing ahead while you run out your warps. When all’s as you want it, put her out of gear, slack off the magic line and pour the drinks.


Drop­ping a coil on deck so that its run­ning part is on top will al­ways help it to spool out cleanly. Flak­ing it in a fig­ure of eight can be even bet­ter. This al­lows the line to fall nat­u­rally rather than giv­ing each turn a half-twist to per­suade it to lie in the neat turns of a coil. Of­ten, how­ever, it’s enough just to dump it care­fully into a pile with the run­ning part on top. What­ever your pref­er­ence for a clean run, it’s crit­i­cal to take the bit­ter end clear of the ac­tion as shown here. If you leave it un­der­neath, you can bet it will get “sucked in” as the rope runs, cre­at­ing a se­ries of over­hand knots and award­ing you the sort of mess re­ferred to by chief petty of­fi­cers in the old Royal Navy as “a bunch of bas­tards.” s

Save your­self some bother and don’t pull the reef­ing lines through

Can you spot the magic line?

Make sure your lines can run freely by flak­ing them out first

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