Friday, 19 June 2009

Reefer is the Wrong Word.

Last night SWMBO and I went to the harbour for some tinker-time. I hauled along the MOB pole, but the real goal was getting the reefing lines right.

Last season we put the reefing lines in, but only used them once. There were a number of occasions where to put a reef in the sail would have been the prudent thing to do, but the lines worked so poorly for us that we just didn’t bother.

Putting a reef in your mainsail does the same thing for the boat as putting a smaller jib up. It reduces the area of the sail that is exposed to the wind. If you go out sailing, say to Barrie, at night, in a storm, fearing what the high winds are going to do to you, a reef should be high on your to-do list.

Since there is less sail area up, the boat won’t heel as much, which means you will have better control of your course. It also means that if something does go wrong you have less sail to bring down, and less force to fight with the wind pushing the boat around.

A reef is supposed to be simple to put in, once the boat is properly rigged. On our boat, the reefing line goes from an attachment on the boom, up to a grommet at the back of the mainsail, then back down to a block on the boom. From that block, the line goes forward to another block at the front of the sail, then up through a second grommet at the front of the sail, and then down to the deck, coming back to the cockpit through the deck organizer and cleats that hold all our halyards.

When its time to put a reef in the sail, you release the halyard cleat, and let it out while pulling in on the reefing line. This gathers the bottom of the sail in around the boom, while sliding the top of the sail down the mast. Once the sail is lowered to the desired reefing point, some small shoelace sized line is used to secure the extra sail material to the boom, preventing it from catching the wind. You'll never guess what knot you use for this... yup a Reef Knot. Iris has 2 reefing points in her racing mainsail and one in her cruising mainsail making it possible for us to reduce our sail area from calm day full sail, to borderline weather reduced sail, to extreme weather tiny sail.

Basically a good reefing system converts our 2 mainsails into five different sizes. Combine this with our 5 choices of foresail, and we have a very versatile arrangement.

The trouble we had with our reefing lines last year were twofold. First they were incorrectly installed, and weren’t tested until needed. That was my fault. The second problem was that the blocks attached to the boom were too far forward for the sail to be properly positions when reefed. To remedy that we drilled new holes in the boom and moved the aft block further back on the boom by about a foot. I just eyeballed it, but when we tested reefing the sail in our slip, it looked a lot better, and everything worked really well.

Now we need some heavy weather to go test it. Next on the list will have to be installing the MOB pole.


  1. Whats an MOB pole? JLA

  2. A Man Overboard pole - its a marker to return to if someone falls off the boat. The MOB is to try and swim to the pole, and the boat will sail to it to recover them.


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