I Love My Boat But I Can Not Get the Sails Up

The boat is an 18 'gaff rigged schooner day sailor with a 4' dagger board for stability. Even with the dagger board down, she is still a tipsy craft. Getting the jib and the fore and aft gaff rigged sails up while tied to a dock is challenging and a two person job. Trying to do it gracefully while untethered is a 3 person job and is most entertaining to those watching. The main and fore sails have two halyard lines each [the lines or routes that lift the sail] and a topping lift to hold the end of the boom up so the other two lines do not have to lift that along with the sail. The two halyards need to go up at slightly different rates if everything is to go smoothly, and each is tied off separately to get the best sail set. Once the two sails are up, the jib goes up. It would much rather drop into the water and act as a sea anchor then go up. Little room and nothing good to hold onto is the jib challenge.

When I built the boat, I wanted to make everything as traditional as possible, to give it the old time classic traditional look. I was on a very thin budget so I made everything I could. I made almost all my rigging tackle, which were dead-eyes, a few pulley blocks, and wooden cleats. They looked classy and they worked.

The kiss method of rigging is to "keep it simple stupid". I started with a simple Bahamian lace to attach the sail to the mast. One long lace goes through the sail grommets, around the mast through the next grommet, around the mast, and so on lacing the sail to the mast. One of the two halyards is attached to the top of the sail next to the mast and let you pull the sail up. The lace needs to be loose enough to let you pull the sail up. Good, but the lace sometimes cinches the sail and it self to the mast and will not go up.

The next thought was mast hoops. I tried making them from different types of rope, splicing the ends together. None worked well. They all bound as they went up, but better than the lace. I had no luck making wood hoops. Next were barrel beads. These beads are shaped like little barrels strung together to make the hoop. The hoops are attached to the sail at the grommets. The hoops rolled up the mast on the beads when the sail is pulled up. A quick note about the shape of a gaff rigged sail. Its shape adds to the problem on getting it up.

A gaff sail has four sides. The bottom of the sail is the longest, and is attached to a boom that lets the sail keeps its shape at the bottom. The front of the sail is attached to the mast giving the sail a leading edge. The top of the sail is the shortest and has a boom on it to keep its shape. This is the gaff boom. The back of the sail is longer than the mast side of the sail. This configuration lets the boat have a larger sail with a shorter mast. The gaff boom holds up the top of the sail so that it can be higher than the mast.

The barrel bean mast hoops made a great improvement on lifting the sails. This was much better, but now I found that the forks or jaws of the gaff boom would bind if the boom was not kept horizontal. It was back to the drawing board. After changing the shape of the forks to give less drag and putting rollers at the inside of the jaws or forks, the gaff boom would roll up with much less effort. Better but now I found that the dead eyes (a dead eye is just a hole through a block of wood the rope slides through) the halyards went through at the top of the mast had way too much friction to let the sails go up as easy as they should.

On a gaff rig one halyard pulls the top of the sail next to the mast up and the other halyard is attached to the gaff boom at the top of the sail and keeps the boom horizontal so it will go up at the same time as the top of the sail next to the mast. Both need to be rolled up at the same time, but both do not go up at the same rate. Once the sail is up the gaff boom is adjusted to give a good sail set for the wind you have.

I made wood pulley blocks for the top of the mast tops. They look sharp, a little clunky, but they work. I can now get the sails up with much less effort and frustration. It still takes two to get them up. Now if the wind is right we put the sails up and sail away from the dock. If the wind is not with us, we motor out to open water, drop and set a anchor, attach a buoy, attach the bow of the boat and put up the sails. Then sail off from the buoy. On the way back we tie back up to our buoy, drop the sails and then pull up our buoy and anchor and motor back to the dock (in proper Bristol fashion).

Source by Daniel R Sprague

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