Friday, March 28, 2008

A storm, new reefing system and goodbye reefing hook

Have been establishing a slab reefing system for the new mainsail and have really enjoyed the design and creation of it all. In the process, I discovered that the reefing hook was not only hard to use, but dangerous because the forces on it were very lateral, and this wanted to bend the hook toward the stern. Bad combination, since that hook is the only bolt holding the boom into the gooseneck. If it snapped, you're screwed. In the photo, the small lines you see are my lazy jack lines just being messy on the now gone hook.

After posing a question on spartalk (such an amazing resource! Much of the reason I do this blog is out of gratitude to all the people more experienced than me who have shared their wisdom in places like sailnet and spartalk in hopes this blog may help others seeking answers), the Brion Toss site, I learned that reefing hooks are generally disfavored by riggers and that there are easier and better ways to deal with the tack.

I pulled out the reefing hook and replaced it with a standard hex head stainless bolt liberally covered in lanocote due to the aluminum surfaces it touches.

My new reefing system is pretty basic. I did a ton of research online and in books before settling on a pretty common system. Bill Seifert in his great book gave the advice to arrange a small block on the clew to prevent line chafe and provide mechanical advantage. He said, and I am sure it is true, that a line run through a cringle at the leech will chafe through in just a few hours of flogging in high winds. I used beautiful Lewmar 60mm synchro blocks attached to the cringle with a halyard shackle for strength and fit and ease of removal in a pinch. Will get pictures soon.

On the boom the first reef is led from an eye to the leech block down to the back of the boom around the sheave and forward out the front and back to a cleat. Very strong, and easy to use.

The second reef is taken from an eye up to the second reef cringle block and back down to a cheek block placed so the forces are pulling back on the sail to get good foot tension and then forward to a cleat on the boom. Also simple, strong and all on the starboard side.

The tack has pendants permanently hung and just long enough to be reached. When brought down, they secure to the cleat below the main halyard winch. The angles work well and the timing of release halyard from cleat, attach reefing tack line, adjust halyard with winch, and then cover reefing line with halyard, all works out well.

A note on my boom is that it is made out of heavy gauge aluminum and when I threaded the holes, there are about 3 threads worth of purchase. That should be enough for these largely lateral forces. All screws inserted with blue loctite for corrosion resistance and holding.

Now the storm story: While finishing the installation of the new boom hardware, I have the full sail up at the dock, making measurements and drilling and tapping holes for the hardware. Out of nowhere, a windstorm comes up and in no time we are getting 40 knot gusts. Maybe higher. Smith Island weather station nearby had 56 knot gusts. It was a fun test of my new reefing system!!! I finished installing everything with great difficulty, and then reefed her down right there at the dock, without the ability to spill wind from the sail because I couldn't let the boom out too far without hitting a neighboring boat. She reefed beautifully, with only hand strength, and in pretty nasty conditions. The wind blew so strong it was lifting my 200 pounds off the deck a little bit. I love that stuff.

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