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Furling Gear
Rig Tuning
Sail Control
Winch Servicing
Mainsheet Upgrades
Tiller-to-Wheel Conversions
Wheel Steering Maintenance
Installing Hardware on
Aluminum Spars
Going Aloft
Sailboat Rigging
- Table of Contents -
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- Cable cutters
- Vise grips
- Hacksaw
- Needle nose pliers
- Pop rivet tool
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Wrench set
- Measuring tape
- Rigging tape
- Rags and solvent
Sail handling takes on new meaning with the
installation of a furling system, the perfect
solution for single-handed sailors or
undercrewed boats. Besides simplifying sail
handling, a furling system offers the
convenience of reducing sail from the safety of
the cockpit: you won't have to go forward to
change sails. Hoist the #1 or #2 genoa once
and if you're a cruiser, you will probably leave
it up for the season or until it's in need of
Furling systems are available for
trailerables up to 30m-plus (100') yachts.
Trailerable owners have a choice of either the
Flexible Furler from CDI, a time-proven system
produced since 1979, or Harken's new 00
unit. Both models feature a one-piece flexible
extrusion that is easily coiled for storing yet
rigid when hoisted and prevents damage to the
unit when raising or lowering the mast. For
larger boats, there are a wide range of units
available for both racers and cruisers.
The main differences in furling systems are
largely in design and mechanics. When
shopping for a furling system, you need to
consider: extrusion, drum and bearing designs;
ease of installation if planning to do it yourself;
and price, especially if on a strict budget.
The two types of extrusions are round and
airfoil (oval). The latter have less windage but
tend to furl unevenly and loudly, producing a
"Pfallup" sound when furling; round extrusions
offer smooth furling without oscillation. Twin
grooves provide racers with fast sail changes
and when cruising are useful for flying twin
headsails. Few cruisers will use more than one
groove, opting to leave one sail on all season.
Except for Furlex, all furlers slide over the
existing forestay. (Furlex comes with a new
forestay.) On many units, the turnbuckle also
fits inside the drum so there's no need to cut
the forestay and attach a new toggle.
Drums are either fixed or split. If you
mostly cruise but enjoy club racing, consider a
furling system with a split drum. Just remove the
drum, tack the headsail on deck and the furler
converts to a racing foil.
Bearings prevent wire chafe, reduce noise
and corrosion and when properly set up, offer
friction-free furling. A back-to-basics furler, like
the lower-priced Simplicite furler, has no ball
bearings or moving parts: the drum and upper
washer ride on self-lubricating, graphite
bushings. Moving up the scale, Furlex has
stainless steel bearings, while Harken, Hood
and Schaefer units use Torlon, a hardened
plastic. These are all virtually maintenance-free
bearings. A regular rinse with freshwater (more
often for saltwater users) followed by a Teflon
or moisture-displacing lubricant is all that's
required. Ultra Furl units have a grease nipple
on the drum. Profurl is the only system with
Furling Gear
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
completely maintenance-free, greased and
sealed carbon-steel bearings, a bonus in
saltwater. If bearings do corrode, however,
the unit must be returned to the supplier.
Because of the sealed bearings, Pro Furl
systems are stiffer to roll.
Extrusion sections are joined together in
myriad ways. Joints and bearings inserted into
each foil section are held in place with a
combination of springs, rivets, screws and
glue. The exception is Ultra Furl: interlocking
staggered joints slide together in minutes
without any tools whatsoever. The assembly of
extrusion joints and bushings greatly affects
installation time and ease. The least desirable
are pop rivets that require a pop rivet tool and
must be drilled out if disassembling is
necessary. Inserts and bearings also keep
extrusions centered on the forestay and double
as bushings between the stay and aluminum
extrusion to reduce friction. Furlex has a full-
length interior plastic sleeve to prevent
extrusions from touching the stainless steel
forestay, thus reducing the possibility of
A note about prices.The more
technological enhancements and features, the
higher the price. Swivels and bearings all add
to the cost as do independent upper and lower
swivels that provide better sail shape when
reefing. Packaged units may also cost more:
Furlex and Schaefer come in a kit complete
with everything you need plus the furling line,
halyard lead blocks (Furlex), Sta-Lok terminal
(Schaefer), locking adhesive and stanchion
lead blocks for the furling line (Furlex). Other
units require purchasing such components as
required. Sailmakers often offer the best deals
on all-inclusive packages (furler and sail
Sizing is based on diameter of the forestay
wire or boat length. When your boat spans
two sizes, select the one with the largest drum
diameter; the smaller drum probably won't
hold sufficient control line. When you are
ready to purchase, the supplier will need to
know one or more of the following: forestay
wire size; turnbuckle diameter; and boat length
Options include link plates, prefeeder and
furling control line (included with Hood, Furlex
and Schaefer). Available in two sizes, short and
long, link plates raise the furling drum off the
deck. The long plate places the drum at pulpit
height, about 45cm (18") higher. Concerned
with sacrificing performance, few boaters opt for
link plates but the benefits are many: easy
turnbuckle inspection and adjustment; easy
access to anchors and less possible damage to
the drum should the heel kick up; and for
cruisers, better visibility under the genoa and
less chafe of the foot on the pulpit. Standard on
some units, a prefeeder should allow hoisting the
sail from the cockpit without going forward.
Depending on the design, luff tapes may still
snag and require feeding from the bow. Furling
control lines are usually polyester braid, 6mm
(1/4") in diameter. Often the line on the drum is
decored, giving a flatter, more compact coil.
While most owners opt to have their supplier
install the furler, many systems are easily
owner installed. Do it yourself and you'll save
about $300. Installation should take about four
hours, depending on: whether you need to
Comparison of Jib Furling Systems
Boat/Wire Size Race/Cruise Extrusion Joint Assembly Bearings Drum Prefeeder Warranty List Price
CDI 3mm-8mm C 2/Airfoil One-piece Delrin Fixed None Lifetime $599+
Furlex 4mm-14mm R/C 2/Airfoil Connection springs Stainless steel Split Std 5 years $1,420+
Harken 00 22' R/C 2/Round One-piece Torlon Split None 7 years $895+
Harken 28'-80' R/C 2/Airfoil Screws Torlon Split Std 7 years $1,495+
Hood Seafurl LD 25'-80' C 2/Round Rivets Stainless steel/Delrin Fixed Opt 5 years $1,090+
Hood Seafurl SL 8mm,11mm C 2/Round Rivets Torlon Fixed Opt 5 years $1,195+
Profurl 6mm-25mm R/C 2/Round/airfoil Set screws Carbon steel Fixed/split Std 5 years $1,582+
Schaefer 3mm-14mm R/C 2/Round Rivets Torlon Split None 5 years $1,390+
Simplicite 20'-42' C 1/Round NA None Fixed None Lifetime $495+
Ultra Furl 20'-50' C 2/Round Staggered extrusions Stainless Steel Fixed Std 5 years $1,370+
Note: Prices are approximate and in Canadian funds.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
To make a perfectly straight cut on
aluminum extrusions, wrap a piece of
paper around the foil, overlap the ends,
match the upper or cutting top edges and
hold in place with masking tape. Mark the
cutting line with a pen or pencil.
replace the existing forestay or turnbuckle; cut
and splice the wire if installing link plates;
your level of expertise; and the possibility of a
chance visit from Murphy. Don't be
bamboozled by manufacturer's literature
declaring quick one-hour set ups; experience
suggests otherwise. Any installation that
requires cutting the forestay and splicing it in
the drum to a Norseman or Sta-Lok fitting is
time consuming. When rod is involved, which
must be cut and reheaded, requires the
services of a rigger.
Most installations require removing the
forestay from a stepped mast (keel or deck).
Before doing so, first run one or two jib
halyards forward and tie to a tack fitting on
deck, mooring cleat or other secure fitting. (Do
not attach with a snap shackle if the halyard
end is so equipped.) To lower the forestay, go
aloft in a bosun's chair and fasten a spare jib
or spinnaker halyard to the upper toggle, then
lower. Once on shore, unpack the furler,
check all pieces against the equipment list and
carefully place on plastic or newspaper. If you
need to cut the forestay or if using a new
forestay, check the installation manual
carefully. Remember: measure twice, cut once.
Tension the forestay then measure, wrap wire
with rigging tape to prevent unraveling and cut
through the tape using a hacksaw. In both
cases, you'll need to add a swage, Norseman
or Sta-Lok fitting. The latter two are easily
owner installed; a swaged fitting requires the
services of a professional
Some systems are installed
without detaching the forestay.
Simply slip the masthead stop
around the forestay, attach a
tape measure, genoa halyard
and messenger line to this stop
(use masking tape), and hoist it
to the upper toggle or swage.
Check that the tape measure is
without kinks, then take a
reading. Subtract allowances
for a turnbuckle, lower swivel
and other hardware as outlined
in the installation manual.
Beginning with the uppermost
piece, slip hardware over the
forestay, followed by the
extrusion sections in the correct
order (top first). To take up the
weight of the lower drum, use a
spare halyard (if you have
one) attached to the drum's
tack fitting and hoist into
Regardless of the installation method, you
will need to cut one extrusion (usually the bottom
of the top extrusion) to the correct length. Double
check all measurements before cutting the foil.
Wrap a scrap of paper around the extrusion so
the the ends overlap and top or cutting edge is
perfectly matched, then tape ends. With a pen
Optional link plates raise the drum off the deck
reducing sail chafe and simplify anchoring.


Position the forward lead block so the control line exits at 90 degrees
to the forestay.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
or pencil, mark the edge and cut with a sharp
hacksaw. File or sand the cut edge smooth with
emery cloth. Assemble the furler, carefully
following the instructions. To prevent screws
holding extrusion joints and bearings from
backing out, bed each in Loctite or similar
locking adhesive before fastening. Wipe up
excess adhesive with acetone. Once all
components are assembled on the forestay,
reattach it to the mast and tack fitting then
tension the turnbuckle. This demands lots of extra
hands to support the weight and prevent
extrusions from bending; do not attempt this in
strong winds.
Wind the furling control line around the
drum. As a rule of thumb, this line measures the
length of the boat plus the foot of the sail. One
exception, the Hood Sea Furl LD, has a
continuous furling line: furling in one direction
and unfurling in the opposite. Lines travel down
each side of the boat, requiring twice the length
plus additional lead blocks. Lead the control line
aft to the cockpit. Use lead blocks attached to
stanchions or mount stand-up blocks (blocks with
springs) to the rail or padeyes on deck. On
boats under 10.5m (35'), it's not necessary to
lead the line to a spinnaker or main halyard
winch, although it's an advantage in a blow.
Do a dry run at the dock to ensure all pieces
are assembled correctly before hoisting the sail.
Now hoist the sail on a windless day, walk
down the dock and using binoculars, have a
crewmember slowly furl the unit while you
inspect what's happening at masthead. If there's
any friction when furling or you see the halyard
wrapping around the forestay, STOP
immediately. Do not put the furling line around a
winch and pull it or you risk breaking the
forestay or extrusions. Check your manual to
ensure correct positioning of the halyard swivel
and angle of the jib halyard (see
Converting a headsail to furling involves
removing hanks, resizing, rebuilding the tack
and head patches and installing new luff tape.
To improve sail shape, some sailmakers
recommend adding a contoured foam luff tape.
A topic of much debate, this tape is designed to
reduce draft (flatten the sail) when reefed,
especially with used sails that are generally
fuller. Standard on sails for boats over 9m (30'),
it adds about $1 per foot of luff length to the
conversion bill. On smaller boats, try using the
sail without tape; if it doesn't roll well, then invest
in the foam tape.
As sailcloth has no ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors
and will breakdown in sunlight, the leech and
foot must be protected. It takes from two to five
years depending on the quality of the original
cloth, before UV rots Dacron. You have two
options: a UV-treated Dacron or acrylic strip.
Dacron is lighter and being of a similar material,
also gives additional reinforcement. Acrylic
stretches more and comes in a wide range of
colors. These strips measure about 45cm (18")
wide and are sewn on leech. Both cost less than
$6 per foot. A protective sleeve made of acrylic
is another option. Fitted with a full-length zipper
it slides over the furled sail; these tend to flap in
the wind causing excessive vibration. The
average cost to recut, add standard luff tape
and a UV cover on a genoa that fits a 8.1m-
(27') boat is about $500.
Furling systems are simple to operate. To unfurl,
release the control line while pulling the genoa
sheet. Keep tension on both lines to prevent
overriding turns on the drum. To furl the sail,
release the jib sheet, keep light tension on the
line and pull in the control line. When using the
furler for reefing, luff up, ease the sheet while
maintaining tension and pull the control line.
When the desired amount of sail is furled,
securely cleat the line. If furling is difficult, try
easing halyard tension but not too much as to
affect sail shape. Move the genoa sheet leads
forward to maintain correct foot and luff tension.
Albeit sails designed for reefing are cut
flatter than a genoa with hanks, reefing
compromises both sail performance and
durability. It's difficult to match one sail to a
broad range of wind conditions. A light weather
sail reefed in strong winds, for example, quickly
lose its shape. A mid-range #2 genoa gives
much better performance when partially furled
and better sail shape than a #1, without
sacrificing a lot of area. When reefing, try
matching sail area to wind conditions up to a
#3 (100%), depending on the boat. A better
solution is to install an inner forestay for working
and storm jibs (see Sailboat Rigging in FALL '95
To prevent the sail from unfurling when
stored on the furler, take a few extra turns on the
furling line so the sheet wraps around the sail
several times. It's also advisable to tie a
separate line around the sail and secure the
drum with a line fastened to the rail or a cleat. If
the control line is accidentally released, the sail
cannot unfurl. When the furler is not in use, it's
recommended you slacken the halyard to reduce
luff tension.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Troubleshooting Furling
Operating difficulties with furlers are generally
caused by improper or incomplete installation
and sail fit. In most cases, problems are caused
by one or more of the following: halyard wrap;
insufficient or excessive headstay tension;
halyard tension; furling line jamming; and dirt or
salt in bearings (except units with sealed
Halyard wrap is when the halyard wraps
around the forestay
when furling. It's
caused by either
incorrect positioning
of the halyard
swivel, which is
controlled by sail luff
length, or wrong
halyard angle.
When the upper
swivel sits is too far
down from the
sheave the halyard
wraps around the
forestay. The
distance varies with
each model. Check
installation manual
for the exact height.
To correct a low
swivel, attach a wire
pennant to the head
or tack of each sail
used on the furler.
When attaching to
the tack, the
pennant must not put
the bottom of the
sail below the
feeder. Halyard
wrap is also caused
by the angle between the halyard and the
forestay. As many halyards exit directly below
the forestay, both run parallel to each other. To
operate effectively, the halyard angle must be
canted slightly aft between 5 and 10 degrees,
depending on the furler. If the angle is less,
you'll need a halyard restrainer ($30) to "pull
back" the halyard. This small block attaches to
the front of the mast, about 10.1cm (4") below
the sheave box. After exiting the sheave, the
halyard passes through this block increasing the
angle of attack on the forestay. Another option is
to mount a sheave box just below the masthead
and relead the jib halyard. This takes longer but
gives a more direct lead. Profurl units have
Wrapstop, an anti-wrap device that prevents the
halyard swivel from rotating regardless of the
tension or angle and also keeps the spinnaker
halyard (which is higher than the jib) clear of the
swivel. Ultra Furl has an integral halyard fitting
to eliminate halyard wrap.
Insufficient forestay tension and excessive
sag result in rough furling that creates a "Pfullup"
sound. If your boat is not equipped with a
backstay adjuster, you'll need to install one to
maintain tension while furling. If the mast hooks
after tightening the backstay, release it and
loosen the
mainsheet, vang
and shrouds if
necessary, take up
on the forestay, then
retension the rig.
If there is
tremendous force on
the control line
when furling, you
probably have too
much halyard
tension, especially if
you just tightened
the backstay. To
check, simply easy
off slightly on the
halyard and furl.
After adjusting,
check placement of
the halyard swivel.
Halyard tension has
no control over luff
sag with a foil
system; use the
backstay instead.
When the
furling line does not
exit at the correct
angle, you will get
overriding turns on
the drum, causing the drum to jam before the
sail completely unfurls. Place the forward lead
block so the control line exits at about 90
degrees to the forestay (see Installation). Furlex
and Ultra Furl have an adjustable line feeder
that lets you set the angle of the control line to
the forestay.
Dirt and salt accumulation inside exposed
bearings cause abrasion and premature
wearing. Regularly clean bearings then spray
with a moisture-displacing lubricant. It's good
practice to carry spares of extrusion joining
screws, springs, shackles and other parts that
have a tendency to land on deck when you least
expect it.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
A restrainer (across)
repositions the
halyard aft of the
forestay and wire
head pennant raises
swivel height. Profurl's
Wrapstop (top)
prevents halyard wrap
and jamming of
spinnaker or spare
Mast tuning is extremely important to the
handling of a boat under sail, and safety
of those on-board. A properly tuned mast
contributes significantly to the boat's
performance and is less likely to fail or
To fully comprehend rig tuning, you
need to understand a few basic
principles. All masts can only lean or bend in
two ways: either forward-and-aft or sideways.
The goal is to set up a rig so the mast is as
straight as possible when sailing in moderate
wind conditions and to also achieve an
acceptable helm balance. To this end, mast
tuning is divided into two components: lateral
tuning and rake.
Lateral tuning involves getting the mast to
stand straight without leaning or bending
sideways. Side lean, or the amount a mast tilts
to leeward, is caused by improper tuning. A
mast leaning to leeward increases heeling
which induces weather helm. Since most boats
have too much weather helm in a breeze, it's
important to minimize lateral side lean with the
correct rig tension. Sideways
bend is usually caused by
too loose or stretchy upper
shrouds. As the wind
increases, the shroud
tension required to hold the
mast up also increases. With
more tension comes more
stretch and more side bend.
With the mast now out of
column comes the risk of
damage or complete failure.
Correct lateral tuning also
prevents the mast
from buckling or
pumping sideways.
Rake is the tilt
of the mast in the fore-and-
aft direction. Headstay length
primarily controls the amount of
rake. A mast standing perfectly
plumb in the boat has no rake. Moving the mast
shifts the entire sail plan and, in turn, affects the
helm balance. Raking the mast aft increases
weather helm (and reduces lee helm) and vice
versa. The amount of rake is dependent on your
boat type and local sailing conditions. Ideally,
you need to find a setting that gives good helm
balance through a broad range of conditions.
Ask other owners and your sailmaker for input.
Mast bend refers to the amount the mast is
bent aft from a straight column. It controls the
overall fullness of the mainsail, particularly the
upper two-thirds of the main, and is adjusted by
backstay tension. Boats without adjustable
backstays can add bend by moving the mast aft
at the step or forward at the partners.
The following step-by-step instructions are
for tuning a single-spreader masthead rig that is
deck or keel stepped. Some of this information
is based on the North Cruising Course manual
published by North Sails.
Step 1
Center the spar. First, ease the backstay to
a low load and lightly hand-tighten the
upper shrouds. Attach a metal tape
measure to the main halyard
(provided the sheave is in the
center of
hoist to
the top.
Measure the
distance to the gunwale on each side. Adjust
the uppers until the mast is equidistant from both
gunwales. On keel-stepped masts also check
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628

Rig Tuning
Rig Tuning
that clearance at the mast partners is equal on
both sides. Remove the side wedges or chocks
and measure from the spar at deck level to
either rail. Since some boats may be a little lop-
sided, there is no foolproof way to get the spar
straight. Combining both checks reduces the
chance of error. When the mast is laterally
straight, replace the deck wedges to hold it
securely in place.
Step 2
Tighten the uppers to eliminate lean
and bend. Tension both uppers equally,
counting the number of turns on the turnbuckle
as you tighten. Make as tight as you are
comfortable with; final adjustments will be made
on the water.
Step 3
Get the rig straight. On a single-spreader
rig, begining with loose lower shrouds and
working on opposite sides, tighten each shroud
until the spar is straight.
Sight up the mainsail luff groove and
eyeball the alignment. To tension-test the rig,
stand directly behind the mast and pull each
shroud beginning with the uppers, followed by
the intermediates (if equipped) then single or
forward lowers. Working side to side, "play"
the shrouds and listen for the "tune." The uppers
should be the tightest, followed by the
intermediates, then the single or forward lowers.
Save the final tuning for the sailing test. On
double lowers (fore and aft), the aft lower
should be barely slack. It acts as a preventer,
limiting mast bend when the breeze freshens.
Now, tighten the headstay until snug.
Step 4
Fore-and-aft tuning. This involves both rake
and mast bend. To measure rake, set the
adjustable backstay (if equipped) to the normal
sailing load and hang a plumb bob from the
main halyard. Check the amount of rake at the
boom. Another method is to attach a tape
measure to the jib halyard and hoist to the top.
Measure the distance to the tackfitting. This
provides an accurate head stay length to
compare with other boats. Make sure the boat
is level on its designed waterline. Try to find an
average setting that induces weather helm in
light air and decreases it in heavy air. Adjust
the double lowers if you change the mast rake.
Step 5
Mast bend. Tensioning the backstay increases
mast bend. The amount of bend to use depends
on your mainsail, the wind and sea conditions,
and is only limited by the structural design of the
spar. Before determining if the bend is sufficient,
go for a test sail. When additional mast bend is
required, adjust the step position or deck
wedges on keel-stepped masts. This involves
forcing the mast forward at the partners (deck
level) or moving the butt of the mast aft while
fixed at the partners. With deck-stepped masts,
you will need to shim the tabernacle or mast
butt. Adjust the double lowers when changing
mast bend.
Select a medium-air day and sailing upwind,
tack back and forth. Check the tension on the
leeward upper shroud and tighten the slack if
necessary. Tack and check the other upper.
Count the number of turns and tension both
uppers equally. Adjust lower shrouds, as
needed, to prevent buckling. When sailing in a
moderate breeze (20 degree angle of heel is a
Rig adjustments under sail: 1. Uppers too slack 2. Lowers too tight 3. Uppers and lowers too slack 4.
Uppers and lowers too tight 5. Lowers too slack
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Lateral tuning:
getting the spar to stand straight athwartships.
adjusting the forward or aft lean or tilt of the spar to control helm balance.
adjusting and controlling the fore and aft bend or curvature of the mast to
change mainsail shape.
Weather helm:
the rudder helm at a positive angle to the boat's heading. Some sailmakers
recommend 3 to 5 degrees of weather helm when sailing upwind and zero
when reaching.
Headstay sag:
the distance the forestay is pulled aft by sheet tension measured from a straight
line between the tack and genoa head fitting.
good rule), the leeward upper should be just
snug, without slack, but not tight. Continue
sailing and check the lowers. Tighten the
leeward lower then tack to check your results.
The spar should be straight with 20 degrees of
heel. Use the mast luff groove as a sight line. If
the lowers are too loose, the mast will sag at
the spreader when under load.
Check the headstay sag. The amount of
sag increases exponentially with the wind and
pulling the sail tighter with the sheet forces the
headstay aft. Tensioning the backstay tightens
the forestay and reduces headstay sag;
decreasing sag flattens the genoa and improves
upwind performance in heavy air. About 7.6
cm (3") of sag in a 15-knot breeze is
acceptable. Maximum headstay tension should
be about 16% of the wire's breaking strength.
On a boat equipped with 5 mm (3/16") wire
with a breaking strength of 2,115 kg (4,700
pounds), for example, the headstay tension is
around 337.5 kg (750 pounds). If your boat is
not equipped with an adjustable backstay, wait
for a breeze and tighten the headstay until sag
cannot be reduced by further tightening. This
should provide an average setting that gives
your genoa an acceptable shape under a wide
range of conditions.(Better yet, install a
backstay adjuster.)
Tensioning the backstay also increases
mast bend which flattens the mainsail. When
bending the mast with an adjustable backstay,
make sure the lowers are not under load and
affecting the setting; adjust lowers if necessary.
The forward lowers double as a babystay and
can be tightened so that the mast bends slightly
forward at the spreaders. If you are unable to
flatten a deep mainsail in a moderate breeze,
consider either increasing mast bend or
recutting the mainsail. If you decide to change
the bend, do this at the dock.
With tuning completed, replace the cotter
pins with new ones. Use stainless steel pins and
open to a minimum of 30 degrees, then wrap
all exposed pins and turnbuckles with rigging
If you sail shorthanded, lazy jacks help to
control and harness the mainsail when dousing
or reefing just release the halyard and the
sail flakes on top of the boom. Fully adjustable,
they also double as a backup topping lift when
Pre-packaged kits are available but you
can easily make your own. All you need is
.6cm (1/4") diameter line of the required
length, eyestraps, swivel blocks or rings (both
optional), two cleats and two or three
fairleads. Leading down from two blocks or
eyestraps on either side of the mast are two
control lines. Intersecting each line are two or
three lines that wrap under the boom to
form a cradle. These joining lines are
tied directly to the control lines or
fastened to small stainless steel
rings or swivel blocks. The
"jacks" are double-ended,
passing through fairleads
mounted on the underside of
the boom, then attached to
the control line on the
opposite side. The bitter
end fastens to a cleat
mounted on the boom.
you can
run the
control lines
down either
side of the
mast to a
cleat(s) at
or mast step.
hoisting, let off the lazy jacks and once the
main is set, take up the excess line leaving a
bit of slack. Watch carefully that the
mainsailbattens clear the lazy jacks. Keeping
the boat head to weather will help. To douse,
release the mainsheet, take up the topping lift
and tighten the lazy jacks.
Lazy jacks have a tendency to chafe
mainsail seams. Slackening them when
underway, especially when sailing off the
wind, will reduce chafe.
Boats equipped with furling systems often
compromise sail shape and
performance for
convenience when
using the system for
suggest furling a
large genoa to
at least 60% of
its total area.
This means that
a 135% reefs to
a 90% jib. But
when you furl
even the best-cut
sail, you end up with
a fuller shape with
little control over luff
and sheet tension. A
better solution is to install a
removable inner forestay.
Working or storm jibs are hanked
on this stay when needed. When not
required, it stows neatly out of the way.
Installation requires a length of stainless
steel wire, two terminal ends, mast fitting,
swivel block and extra halyard, two fiddle
blocks and line, heavy duty deck padeye and
backing plate plus additional reinforcing as
necessary (see below).
Have a metal fabricator fashion a stainless
steel mast fitting, bent to the shape of your
mast, with holes for attaching the halyard block
and stay. A wide base fitting will evenly
distribute the loads around the mast. It may
Sail Control
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
look bulky,
but it works
better than a hook-in T
terminal fitted into a backing plate
that may stress the wire if not
perfectly aligned. To equalize the
increased loading on the mast,
install the inner stay just below the
upper shrouds on masthead rigs or
at the same height as the running
backstays. If it's located well
below the masthead, you may
need to add running backstays
to counteract the load. The stay
should run as parallel as possible
to the forestay: the distance off at
the mast measured between the two
stays should be equal at deck level.
This is not always possible; more
often, the stay mounts .6m (2') below
the masthead and .9m (30") from the
fore-stay on deck. Measure and cut the
stay, remembering to subtract the length of
the terminal fittings and lower block and
tackle, allowing a .8m (32") span between
blocks. The lower block on the four-part tackle
needs a snap shackle that fastens to the deck
padeye. When not in use, the inner stay should
stow neatly against the base of the mast or
clips on the rail. You'll have to experiment to
get the stay length just right. The lower block is
also fitted with a cam cleat or you can run the
standing end aft to a cleat near the cockpit.
Terminate the ends of the rigging wire with
swage fittings (requires services of a
professional rigger) or bolt-on Norseman or
Sta-Lok terminals that are easily assembled by
Attach the block and tackle to the stay, draw it
down to the deck and determine where to
mount the heavy duty padeye. The inner stay
puts tremendous force on fiberglass decks that
may lift if not properly reinforced. Strengthen
decks with a stainless steel or aluminum
backing plate mounted directly underneath the
padeye. If the deck still lifts when under load,
you'll need to assemble a tie rod
or wire that attaches to a padeye mounted to a
block glassed to the hull.
To use, furl the genoa, hank the jib on
to the stay. Run jib sheets through lead blocks
that are positioned farther forward to obtain
the correct foot and leech tension. You may
have to recut your jib to fit the new stay. Don't
be too concerned about the raised clew a
higher foot improves visibility and keeps the
sail out of the water when heeling.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Cotton rags
- Degreaser
- Light machine oil
- Winch grease
To ensure that winches function effectively and
safely, dismantle, clean and lubricate them at
least once a season. Under heavy use, such
as racing, saltwater cruising or charter
service, winches should be cleaned three or
more times a year. Cleaning minimizes
friction, reduces corrosion and offers a great
chance to inspect for worn orbroken parts.
Before performing any winch
maintenance, obtain a service manual from
your dealer or contact the manufacturer for
one. If the winch is old and you're unable to
acquire a manual for it, sketch the
disassembly, noting each separate piece, as
you take the winch apart. Winch
manufacturers also offer service kits
containing spare circlips, pawls, springs and
other parts that may be lost during
The following disassembly instructions
provide general guidelines for cleaning and
greasing winches sized for a 8.1m (27') boat.
Instructions marked "NST" are for a Lewmar
single-speed #8 winch; ST refers to an
Andersen 28 ST, a two-speed self-tailing
winch. Winch disassembly procedures vary
with the model and manufacturer. Refer to
your manual before beginning.
A note about grease: Always use
a specially formulated winch grease
when lubricating winches, never a
general-purpose marine grease.
Step 1
Lay rags, newspaper or plastic on
the deck to provide a clean
working area. If the winch is spar-
mounted, tape a bucket directly
underneath to catch parts.
Step 2
NST: Remove the circlip using a
small slot screwdriver and lightly
pry up one edge in a circular
lifting slightly outward.
ST: Remove screw(s) on top of the
drum or unscrew the top cap. Some
older models have a slotted lock
screw on top which must be removed
prior to removing the 5cm (2")
diameter indented lock ring.
Winch Servicing
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Lewmar #8, a typical single-speed winch.

Top cap
Roller bearing
Step 3
NST: Remove the cover plate and lift the drum
away from the base. Watch for bearings that
could fall out. If the drum refuses to budge,
dont force it. The pawls could be catching the
drum, you have not removed all fasteners or
the winch is corroded. Where corrosion is the
problem, call a rigger to finish the job.
ST: Lift and remove the self-tailing arm, holding
it with your thumb so that it doesn't drop
overboard. Remove the drum.
Step 4
NST: Hold each spring by its pawl (located in
drum) and remove.
ST: Insert a winch handle and remove the
main spindle (drive shaft) while turning the
gear wheel and ratchet gear.
Step 5
NST: Remove drum roller bearings. Pull out the
retaining key and remove the spindle.
ST: Remove the ratchet gear. Remove the shaft,
turning and tilting to lift it off the center base.
Remove the gear wheel. To release the roller
bearing, carefully insert a small screwdriver
between the bearing and base.
Step 6
ST: Remove balls with a small screwdriver. Do
not remove the plastic ring above the balls.
Remove lower pawls and springs.
Step 7
Clean all parts with a degreaser. Use a
toothbrush dipped in a degreaser to
clean gear teeth and pawl traps or ball
track inside the drum. Let dry.
Step 8
Inspect components for wear and tear
and replace any damaged parts, such
as pawls with rounded edges, worn
springs, broken bearings, worn
spacers or worn drive nuts. Look for
cracked bases, housings or drums.
Step 9
Lightly grease the drive shaft and all
gear teeth, bushings, roller bearings,
shafts, balls, pawls and springs. Use a
soft brush (small glue brush) and a dab
of winch grease. Do not grease pawls
or springs. Instead, lubricate them with
light machine oil. Use the grease
sparingly; too much only collects dirt
and induces friction.
Step 10
Reassemble in reverse order. Be careful to
align the pawls and springs correctly. When
sliding the drum on, you may need to squeeze
the pawls. Self-tailing arms must be correctly
aligned to the sheet angle. When everything is
reassembled, rotate the drum. It should spin
effortlessly and you should hear the distinct
telltale click of the pawls.
Schematic of the Andersen 28 ST.

Self-tailing arm
Drive Shaft
Roller bearing
Gear wheel
Ratchet gear

DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
- Assorted
- Drill and bits
- Wrenches or
socket set
- Sealant
By Thomas Fogh
Upgrading a mainsheet
travellersystem is one of
the easiest and most
improvements that you
can make to your boat.
A properly functioning traveller adjusts easily
to optimize sail trim for speed and keep the
helm in balance, particularly in gusty wind
conditions. If the person who trims the traveller
on your boat finds it difficult or uncomfortable
to handle,then you are a candidate for a
traveller upgrade.
When it comes to upgrading a traveller,
its important to look at the performance
advantages of an efficient traveller system.
The most obvious benefits are ease of sail trim
and helm balance. When youre sailing short-
handed or with non-sailors or family, the crew
can make regular adjustments to a properly
set up traveller, for optimum performance,
rather than leaving it in one position.
A very basic system consists of a track,
car, two adjustable track stops and track
ends. Adding control lines routed through
blocks and cam cleats reduces friction and
can increase the purchase from 2:1 to 6:1,
depending on the setup. Newer high-
performance systems have windward-sheeting
traveller cars. Such cars have integral cleats
mounted on the cars so they can be pulled to
windward without requiring the leeward
control line to be released.
Upgrades can consist of simply adding a
few blocks to an existing system at a cost of
$10 to $75. Many production boats come
factory equipped with a system that is
adequate for light winds, but as the wind
increases, the effort required to trim a traveller
can be an exhausting workout for some crew.
Traveller controls should be powerful enough
to move the car easily under all loads and be
located where the helmsperson or crew can
operate them conveniently.
Quick and inexpensive improvements
include: installing a spring (smaller boats) or a
stand-up toggle (larger boats) to hold the
mainsheet block in an upright position;
mounting fairleads on cleats to help cleating
and uncleating at sharper angles; or leading
control lines under the dodger to cam cleats
(Figure 1). You can improve basic systems
with the addition of a new car and end stops
designed for a continuous-line system (Figure
2). If your boat is equipped with such a system
and remote cleating, adding swivel cam cleats
will facilitate cleating from practically
anywhere in the cockpit. Should you decide to
remove the old track and install an entirely new
system, you have the option of adding all the
above features, depending on the setup.
6:1, depending on the setup. Newer high-
performance systems have windward-sheeting
traveller cars. Such cars have integral cleats
mounted on the cars so they can be pulled to
windward without requiring the leeward
control line to be released.
Upgrades can consist of simply adding a
few blocks to an existing system at a cost of
$10 to $75. Many production boats come
factory equipped with a system that is
Mainsheet Upgrades
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Where the traveler in mounted on the cabin top, lead the
control lines under the dodger to cam cleats
mounted on one side. For travelers mounted behind the
helmsperson, lead the control lines forward, along the
cockpit seat backs to cam cleats on each side.

Figure 1
adequate for light winds, but as the wind
increases, the effort required to trim a
traveller can be an exhausting workout for
some crew. Traveller controls should be
powerful enough to move the car easily
under all loads and be located where the
helmsperson or crew can operate them
Quick and inexpensive improvements
include: installing a spring (smaller
boats) or a stand-up toggle (larger
boats) to hold the mainsheet block in
an upright position; mounting
fairleads on cleats to help
cleating and uncleating at
sharper angles; or leading
control lines under the dodger
to cam cleats (Figure 1). You
can improve basic systems with
the addition of a new car and
end stops designed for a
continuous-line system (Figure
2). If your boat is equipped
with such a system and remote cleating,
adding swivel cam cleats will facilitate cleating
from practically anywhere in the cockpit.
Should you decide to remove the old track and
install an entirely new system, you have the
option of adding all the above features,
depending on the setup.
There are three basic ways to mount a
traveller: on the cabin house, behind the
helmsperson (aft mounted) and in the cockpit.
For cabin house-mounted travellers, the remote
cleating setup (Figure 1) is one that is
commonly used. Such systems usually do not
allow the helmsperson to trim the traveller; this
setup requires a crewmember to be in charge
of traveller adjustments. The control line is
usually lead to the aft edge of the cabin house;
however, this makes trimming difficult for
people sitting on the rail. By installing swivel
cam cleats the traveller can be adjusted from
various positions in the cockpit.
An aft-mounted traveller, where the
traveller is behind the tiller or wheel, is not as
popular these days as it once was. There are
two options here for increased performance.
The first is to move the entire system forward, if
possible. If this is not desirable, then consider
remote cleating, where the control lines lead
forward along the cockpit seat backs to a cleat
that is within reach of the helmsperson or
mainsheet trimmer. Having a continuous-line
system allows the leeward side to be uncleated
so the traveller is easily pulled to windward,
when necessary.
Cockpit traveller systems are the most
common type for smaller boats. Some models
have cleats mounted on the traveller cars. This
setup can be difficult to uncleat when the crew
is sitting on the windward (high) side. A more
common solution is to lead the control lines
vertically up from the car to a turning block and
cam cleat mounted on each side of the cockpit
seat back. (Figure 3). This allows the crew or

A continuous-line system with a 3:1 purchase
improves performance and handling.
In a cockpit system, control lines lead vertically up from the
car to turning blocks and cam cleats mounted on each side of
the cockpit seat back.
Figure 3
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Figure 2
helmsperson to trim the traveller while sitting on
the high side without having to reach in tograb
the line or struggle to cleat it. Mounting control-
line cleats correctly is critical. If theyre not
angled correctly, the operator may have to
lean in to release the control line, or cleat it
with a foot. Do a dry run and execute all
maneuvers before drilling fastener holes.
When you install a completely new
traveller system, the track you select will
depend on the size of your boat and
configuration of the deck and cabin house.
Most pre-drilled travellers use 10.1cm (4) hole
spacing on the track, allowing you to use the
original holes drilled in the deck for your old
traveller. (European track and boats have
marginally wider hole spacing.) Installation
involves simply removing the old track, bolting
the new one to the deck and bedding the
fasteners in a marine-grade polysulfide sealant.
Various screwdrivers, a drill and bits, and
wrenches or a socket set are the only tools
youll require.
Some pre-1985 tracks (Nicro-Fico and
others), dont fit this standard hole pattern. If
you cannot find a track with a similar bolt
pattern, you have two options: Fill the holes
with epoxy and redrill, or purchase a sliding-
bolt track. Sliding-bolt tracks from Lewmar
Marine have no visible fasteners; instead, the
bolt heads slide in a groove on the underside
of the track. This lets you retrofit a new track
using any bolt-hole pattern without having to
match the original fastener holes. Bent tracks or
ones with compound curves can be easily
custom-ordered from your dealer.
There are numerous ways of setting up a
new traveller. Once you select the desired track
and placement, factor in the number and
physical strength of your crew and their
personal preferences, then set some priorities
following basic principles: 1) the line must lead
to the person trimming the traveller; 2) there
must be enough purchase to allow the mainsail
to be trimmed while sailing to windward,
especially in heavy air, without undue strain on
the trimmer; 3) proper-size blocks and line must
be used to minimize friction and maximize
purchase (check with your dealer or the
traveller manufacturer). When you purchase
traveller components, follow this simple rule: the
bigger the block, the smaller the line, the easier
a traveller system operates.
There are few upgrades on a boat that are
as inexpensive, simple and rewarding as
improving a mainsheet traveller and line
controls. While these are typical traveller
installations, use them as a starting point. The
type of sailing you do and the setup of your
boat will determine which installation is best
suited to your needs. No matter what traveller
you choose, the end result is always the same
a properly functioning traveller will save you
time and muscle-power on the water.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Continous-line traveller with adjustable control line cleats can be fitted for purchases up to 6:1.

Figure 4
By Kim Weeks
- Drill
- Assorted drill bits
including 1/16 and
- Jigsaw
- Hacksaw
- Socket or box wrenches
- Screwdrivers
- Cable cutters
- Polysulfide sealant
- 19mm (3/4) plywood
- 38mm (1-1/2)
mahogany wood
- Fiberglass cloth and
epoxy resin
- #30 Motor oil
- Teflon grease
A pedestal steering system is well suited to
boats with mid-ship and aft cockpits with
inboard or transom-hung rudders. The benefits
of wheel steering are many: more cockpit
room, a perfect location for mounting a
compass or instruments, and a place or two to
hold your drinks. Add a foldaway cockpit table
to extend your galley area and now youve
really streamlined the appearance and function
of the cockpit.
The first step in a tiller-to-wheel conversion
is to consult with the steering manufacturer
and/or your boatyard for advice, such as the
type of steering system to use and the location
of the wheel. The manufacturer has likely
already encountered someone whos
undertaken this project and can make specific
recommendations to you. Edson, for example,
has more than 2,200 installation drawings for
stock boats available free of charge. If youre
building a custom boat, Edson will send you a
complete proposal and steering data for a
nominal fee if provided with construction
drawings. Plan on spending eight to 10 hours
on homework before beginning the installation.
Types of Steering Systems
Because there are several different types of
steering systems, weve highlighted a couple of
the more popular wire and geared systems
here. To be sure youre considering the right
system for your boat, again, contact the
manufacturer or the boats builder.
Wire steering systems, including radial
drive, quadrant and pull-pull conduit, are ideal
for most production boats with raked or vertical
rudderposts (Figure 1). Wire systems are
economical, easily adjusted and maintained at
sea, and ideal for boats where there may be
some obstructions, such as tanks between the
steering system and the rudder post, or even
an obstruction as large as a bunk or lazarette.
These systems can withstand severe steering
strains and shock, and replacement parts are
readily available.
Typical direct-drive geared systems are
easily installed and provide a closer direct
linkage to the rudder theres really no
compromise when converting from tiller steering
to a geared pedestal steering system in terms of
the feel at the helm. Steering sensitivity is
enhanced because of the gear ratio and direct
link from wheel to rudder (i.e., there is no cable
involved, as in wire steering). There are several
types of geared systems, such as rack-and-
pinion, worm gear and Edsons new CD-i
Tiller-to-Wheel Conversions.
A mid-position steerer installation using a radial
drive wheel and pull-pull conduit. The cables lead
directly from the pedestal idler to the drive wheel
mounted on the rudderpost.
Figure 1

DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
A wheel-steered boat really is much easier to drive without sacrificing
the feel at the helm. Heres how to select, install and maintain
a steering system.
(Figure 2). (Worm gear systems have no
feedback.) Geared systems are easily
maintained and are extremely
strong and durable since
theyre made of
bronze and
stainless steel.
Wheel Location
There are three basic cockpit locations for the
wheel: aft, mid-cockpit and forward.
Offering a classic look, the wheel aft
places the steering gear directly over the
rudder post, such as with rack-and-pinion or
worm gear steering mechanisms (Figure 3).
This location is typically seen on catboats,
schooners, ketches or Friendship sloops. An
alternative is to mount the wheel aft on a
pedestal. This offers an efficient layout for
racing sailboats since the helmsman (or
helmswoman) can clearly see the entire length
of the boat. Make sure to check the height of
the primary helmsman and the space between
the back of the cockpit and the back of the
pedestal. You dont want heads banging into
backstays and too-little leg room. Also, make
sure that the instruments will be clearly visible
to all who need them.
In a mid-cockpit installation (Figure 1),
the helmsman sits where he or she can see
more of the sails since (s)hell be at a beamier
spot on the boat and thus sitting farther out.
The backstay and lack of space behind the
pedestal cease to be concerns; however,
winch and cleat location is important since the
crew and helmsman may need access to the
same area in the cockpit. A cockpit table can
usually be added also.
Ideal for shorthanded situations, the
forward steerer installation (Figure 4) gives
the helmsman some weather protection from
the dodger and easy access to the sheets,
winches, instruments and the cabin below. This
location keeps all cockpit activity aft of the
helm. However, a pedestal guard is a
necessity. If the boat rolls when a crewmember
is exiting the cabin, a pedestal guard offers
them a secure handhold, other than the wheel,
instrument pod or compass; it also eliminates
entanglement of sheets in the wheel.
The best place to mount the wheel is right
where youd be seated (or standing) when
using the tiller, since your boat was likely
An aft-mounted rack-and-pinion steerer for
inboard rudders mounts the wheel close to the
rudderpost and takes up less than one-third of
the cockpit space of a tiller. The teak-decked
housing covers the steering gear and provides a
seat for the helmsman.
Figure 3
Ideal for shorthanded situations, the forward
steerer installation gives the helmsman easy
access to the sheets, winches, instruments and the
cabin below E

DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Figure 2
Edsons CD-i (Compact Drive Integrated) system
uses a simple, direct linkage from the wheel to an
inboard- (shown) or transom-mounted rudder.

Figure 4
designed for you to be there anyway. A
minimum distance of 45cm (18) is
recommended from the wheel rim to the aft
edge of the cockpit sole.
After youve decided where you think the
wheel will go, take the time
to build a model wheel and pedestal: a 2 x
4 shaft made from a broomstick handle, and
a cardboard or plywood cutout of the wheel
will do the job. Move your model around the
cockpit, placing it in the locations mentioned
above. Can you access the instrument data?
Does it interfere with the mainsheet or genoa
winches? Are the engine controls within close
reach? Will gas lines or tanks be obstructed? Is
there enough room under the cockpit floor to
mount sheaves, sheave brackets and radial
drive or quadrant? Check out each location
and take as many notes as you can youll
be surprised at what works and what doesnt
in terms of wheel location and your specific
The Bottom Line
A typical radial drive system costs from
US$1,200 to US$1,500 for the basic system,
which includes a wheel brake. Geared systems
range from US$800 to US$2,500 depending
on the system. Add-ons and accessories
increase the cost, but can make your new
pedestal steerer more useful.
Installation varies from simple to
complicated, depending on the type of boat
and steerer. Installing a steerer on a boat with
an outboard rudder is straightforward and
takes about one day. Boats with inboard
rudders are more complex the installation
involves routing the pedestal control cables,
mounting the quadrant onto the rudderpost,
installing a stuffing box, custom machining or
fiberglass work.
While this type of installation may certainly
be accomplished by a skilled do-it-
yourselfer, practical
experience plays a key
role in the expediency
and efficiency of an
installation. The cost
for a professional
installation will vary by
boatyard and/or installer, as well as by the
boat. Once the yard or installer has taken a
look at your boat and spoken with the
manufacturer, a firm estimate can easily be
General Installation
The installation information below provides
some general guidelines concerning the
installation process. Because each boat is
different, weve highlighted installation
procedures for the most common type of
pedestal steerers. Refer to the instructions
included with your steering system for complete
installation details.
Wire Steering Installation
A typical chain-and-wire pedestal steering
system includes the following items: pedestal,
steering wheel, chain-and-wire rope assembly,
pedestal idler or conduit bracket, radial drive
wheel or quadrant, sheaves, two wire take-up
eyes, pedestal mounting bolts, wire rope
clamps and, if necessary, a stuffing box.
Once youve received your new pedestal
steerer, lay out all the equipment and
familiarize yourself with the system by
arranging the parts as closely as possible to
the order of assembly. Read through all the
installation instructions included in your kit.
Youll save yourself a lot of time and
aggravation if you read them and get your
questions answered now.
Carefully place the pedestal in its intended
place and ensure it meets all your objectives.
Once the pedestal location has been finalized,
drill a pilot hole at the center of the four
pedestal bolt holes using the
supplied template. This hole will mark the
pedestal location under the cockpit floor. The
pedestal should be supported or reinforced. To
do this, simply install a piece of 19mm (3/4)
plywood under the cockpit floor (Figure 5)
with epoxy glue.If your boats rudder is
equipped with a stuffing box, the pedestal
steerer may be installed
with the boat
in the water.
If the
When the boat is unattended, always
secure the wheel with a line or the
pedestal brake. A free-wheeling system
may cause damage to the rudder stops.
On many boats, the cockpit floor will require reinforcing with a 61cm (2')
square of 19mm (3/4") plywood at the pedestal.
Figure 5
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
rudderpost enters through a fiberglass tube
from the hull to the cockpit sole, a portion of
the tube must be removed to expose the
rudderpost for the installation of the quadrant
or radial drive wheel. Where to cut is
determined by the location of the quadrant or
drive wheel, and the size of the idler sheaves.
To make sure no water enters the boat through
this tube, a stuffing box should be installed on
the rudderpost. To do this, the boat will have
to be hauled out and the rudder dropped.
Now you install the idler (Figure 6).
With the pedestal bolts, secure the idler in
position beneath the pedestal and temporarily
adjust the angle of the dler sheaves. The idler
and sheaves must be securely bolted to
wooden supports bonded to the hull or cockpit
floor with fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin.
Next, the quadrant or drive wheel is
installed in two halves on the rudderpost at the
appropriate height. The chain-and-wire
assembly is led across the sprocket in the
pedestal, down through the cockpit floor and
around the idler and/or sheaves, then around
the quadrant or drive wheel. To
align the idler and the quadrant
or radial drive wheel, youll
need to raise or lower
the quadrant or drive
wheel on the rudderpost
as well as adjust the angle
of the idler sheaves. Cable
tension is then adjusted
using two wire take-up
A steerer using a
quadrant or radial
drive must
incorporate rudder
stops. These stops will pick up
any load the rudder may place
on the system when the rudder is
hardover. They must be installed to
prevent the rudder from hitting the hull
or the roller chain adapters and
damaging the sprocket. It must be
located so that the stop on the radial
drive squarely hits the other stops.
Edson supplies a reinforced rubber
piece that will greatly reduce shock
load. Always take care to tighten the
brake when not in use to prevent
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
A wheel steering system should have a
provision for emergency steering. A good,
easy way is to leave the existing rudderhead
in place and attach the original tiller when you
need backup steering. The original tiller may
need to be shortened to allow the arm to
swing past the new pedestal. Another option is
to modify the top of the rudderpost: the tiller
attaches to either round tubing or square stock
that slides over the rudderpost and is thru-
bolted. You and your crew should be as
familiar with rigging the emergency tiller as
with man-overboard drills its a safety
exercise that should be practiced frequently.
To mount the idler, drill four 14mm (9/16") holes through
the cockpit floor using the pilot hole for alignment, cut a
12.7cm (5") diameter opening in the center and bolt the
idler to the floor.

Figure 6
freewheeling (likewise, dont reverse at speed
and let go of the wheel). The rudder could
slam against the stops, which might cause
damage to the rudder or steerer. Blocks of
wood should be glassed in place and
must hit squarely and as low as possible
on the stop. (Figure 7)shows an
example of an ideal arrangement.
Geared System
Geared steering
systems are
installed much the
same way, except
instead of connecting the
steering mechanism to the rudderpost
with chain, wire and sheaves, the connection
is either a direct link of the steering gear to
the rudderpost or through a tiller arm/drag
link arrangement (Figure 2). Pedestal
placement planning should also be carefully
carried out and the same stuffing box
guidelines for wire steering also apply.
When designing a steerer that uses
an aft-mounted rack-and-pinion or
worm gear system, ensure that the
helmsmans seat will cover and protect
the steering gear as well as allow easy
access for inspection and maintenance
(Figure 3).
With your new pedestal steering in
place, maximize its use. How about a
leather wheel cover? Youll be able to
grip the wheel tightly, no matter how
wet and salty it becomes. A binnacle
compass, instrument pods and a radar
display housing can position your
electronics where you need them most
close to the helmsman. A teak table
and drink holders can make your new
pedestal even more enjoyable. Pedestal-
mounted engine controls allow you to
stand during
are not only
designed to
boating, but
to offer
flexibility in
layout for a clean and
efficient cockpit.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
The optional compass pedestal offers a secure
handhold and makes it easy to add instruments,
a teak cockpit table, drinkholders or a storage

The ideal rudder stop mounting uses a tiller arm to keep
the stops independent of the steering system.
Figure 7

Wire systems
1 Check the condition and tension of the
wire and oil it lightly. Place five tissues
(i.e. Kleenex) in the palm of your hand,
squirt #30-weight motor oil (or similar) on
the tissues then slide them along the wire.
Any broken or hooked strands will snag
on the tissue, and the wire must be
replaced. Replace the wire after 5 years
and, if in good condition, keep it
onboard as a spare.
2 Oil the chain with #30-weight motor oil.
3 Maintain the steering wire tension. When
you feel a bit of play in the steering, its
time for an inspection. Adjust by
tightening the take-up eyes on the
quadrant or drive wheel. With the wheel
locked in place (tie off or use the pedestal
brake), you should not be able to move
the quadrant or drive wheel by hand.
4 After adjusting the cables, rotate the
wheel slowly from stop to stop. If it
doesnt turn smoothly, the chain and
sprocket require servicing.
5 Grease pull-pull cables monthly with
Teflon grease.
Geared systems
6 Check frequently for any wear on the
parts and lubricate all bearings, gears
and linkages well with lithium or other
heavy-duty machine-grade grease. Once
or twice a season, check that all
connections and linkages are secure.
7 Inspect the universal joints for play and, if
necessary, repack with grease to prevent
wear and corrosion.
8 Check for play in the worm gear or
between the pinion and gear. Do this with
the rudder centered and held rigid.
All Systems
9 No matter what kind of steering system
you have, annually inspect and lubricate with
Teflon grease the pedestal shaft bearing and
other moving parts.
10Regularly check all screws, nuts, bolts,
clevis or cotter pins that are part of the
steering system or pedestal accessories
for tightness and wear.
11Check that all sheaves are securely
bolted and well oiled.
12Check that there is no movement between
the quadrant and the rudderpost.
13Set aside a day and inspect the system
while under full load. If you see anything
bend, hear anything creak or note any
other indication that theres a problem,
youve got the rest of the day to try to sort
it out.
14Inspect the condition of the emergency
tiller and make sure it fits the rudderhead
and operates properly.
15Check the rudderpost tube for any signs
of separation from the hull.
16At each haulout, carefully inspect the
rudderpost bearings for wear or cracking.
17Check the stuffing box for leaks.
Wheel Steering
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
On a new boat, inspect the steering system at least once a year. Its a good idea to
prepare a maintenance log, noting the component, type of lubricant, frequency of
service, description of work (i.e. Inspect, Adjust, Lubricate or Replace) and
date. Heres a brief look at the key maintenance areas.
- Drill and bits
- Tap set
- Club hammer
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Pop rivet gun and rivets
- Cutting oil
- Tapping fluid
There will come a time when youll need to
install an electronics bracket, an exit box for
an added halyard or an eye strap for lazy
jacks. Installing hardware on aluminum spars is
easy with the proper tools and some basic
skills. DIY spent a morning with Dan Klacko,
owner of Klacko Spars (905/825-0015),
custom spar builders and metal fabricators in
Oakville, Ont., who shared some (but not all)
of his techniques for installing hardware on
aluminum spars.
Before every hardware installation, you
must first determine the type of fasteners to use.
Since were not all skilled welders, well focus
only on mechanical fasteners.
Stainless-steel bolts and machine screws or
monel rivets are the preferred fasteners for
installing mast hardware. Normally, bolts with
locking nuts are used to fasten hardware that is
mounted on opposite sides, such as shroud
tangs or a bail. (Note: Thru-bolting requires a
compression tube or the mast may compress
and collapse.)
Machine screws are used exclusively by
custom mast builders to fasten most hardware.
More time-consuming to install than rivets, they
require drilling an undersize hole, then using a
tap drill to make a threaded hole for the screw.
Screws are identified by the size and number
of threads. A No. 10-24 screw, for example,
denotes a screw with a maximum diameter of
10 (.190) and 24 threads per inch. Look for
National Fine (NF) screws; the finer the thread,
the better the holding power.
Its recommended to use pop rivets only
when the spar is too thin to tap for threaded
fasteners or to install a conduit (see Wiring
Refit). Rivets come in aluminum, monel and
stainless steel. Aluminum rivets are cheap, not
very strong and often have steel shanks that
quickly corrode, weakening the rivet and the
surrounding metal. Stainless-steel rivets are the
best choice if you cant find monel (available at
your local rigger), which offer superior
corrosion-resistance and strength. Using pop
rivets makes quick work of any installation
simply drill and pop in a rivet.
A properly installed rivet can equal the
holding power of a machine screw but you
cant tighten it. A loose rivet must be drilled out
and replaced. Ditto if you want to service or
replace a piece of hardware. Unlike rivets,
machine screws are easily removed and
reinstalled if you need to remove the
hardware. And repairing a threaded hole is
simple. If the threads are stripped or
overloading results in a screw that cant be
tightened, you can easily drill and tap to the
next size screw.
How Many Holes are Too
Contrary to popular belief, drilling lots of holes
in your mast has little effect on its structural
integrity provided the mast is PROPERLY
designed and loaded for your boat.
In the 30 years that Klacko has been
building, repairing and replacing spars, he has
never known of a mast to fail from an
overabundance of drilled holes. Mast failure
usually happens because a mast is flexing too
much, the section is too small for the boat, its
not properly rigged or a chainplate, clevis pin
Installing Hardware
on Aluminum Spars
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
A pro reveals the secrets to successful drilling, screwing
and tapping.
or other critical fitting fails. Removing material for items
like an exit box also tends to weaken a mast, but usually
wont cause collapse provided its properly designed
for your boat. Rather improper installation such as
cutting holes with square corners can cause stress
cracks that migrate from the opening, possibly resulting in
How many drilled holes are too many? There are still
many older-style masts in use today with sections that are
spliced vertically and horizontally, then fastened together
with hundreds of rivets. Such a mast for a 25-footer may
have more than 800 rivets. Drilling a series of holes in a
line for mast steps or around the base for turning blocks
creates little or no risk of cracking or breaking
provided the mast is correctly loaded. The only
exceptions are free-standing, unstayed masts (i.e.
Nonsuch and Freedom). Constant mast flexing forms
cracks around drilled fittings, particularly around the
base. After a few failures, builders now use clamp-on
fittings on this style of mast.
Installing Hardware
As mechanical fastening is best, were only providing the
instructions for machine screw attachment. Riveting is
straightforward, provided you invest in a quality rivet tool
and drill the hole just large enough for a tight fit. Before
starting on your mast, we suggest you practice your
tapping techniques on some scrap metal. Lay the fitting
on the mast and mark the holes to be drilled (Figure 1).
When installing fittings on opposite sides use a paper or
metal sleeve as a guide, wrap it around the mast so it
overlaps (Figure 2), align the top edges and draw a
line. Use a center punch, whacked hard with a hammer, to make a small dimple to seat your drill
bit (Figure 3). Drill a pilot hole with a variable-speed drill and sharp bit (Figure 4). Apply lots
of cutting oil (best), soapy water or
candle wax to lubricate and cool the
bit. Now drill a hole of the correct
size for the tap (refer to Figure 5
for drill size). Larger holes may
require drilling two undersize holes
before selecting the proper size bit.
Tapping the threads is easily
done with a tap wrench and tap
(Figure 6). (To save money,
purchase the wrench separately and
the taps as needed.) Place a drop of
tapping fluid on the tap bit, then
center it in the hole. Hold the tap
straight or your screw will go in on
an angle. Turn the wrench a quarter
turn, then turn it back just a little, turn
beyond the first cut and turn back.
This breaks off the metal chips that
youve cut, which cause the tap to
bind in the hole and break. Continue
turning and backing off until youve
cut to the depth required. Use lots of
cutting oil and go slow or youll
Figure 5
The following table lists the most common screw sizes,
the preferred tap drill and alternative bit in inches.
Screw Threads Tap Substitute
Size per inch Drill bit*
No. 6 32 NC 36 7/64
No. 8 32 NC 29 9/64
No. 8 36 NF 29 9/64
No. 10 24 NC 25 5/32
No. 10 32 NF 21 5/32
No. 12 24 NC 16 11/64
No. 12 28 NF 14 NA
1/4 20 NC 7 13/64
1/4 28 NF 3 7/32
*If you dont have the correct numbered drill bit, you can
substitute the bit listed without compromise.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Most newer masts are designed with an
internal conduit for wires that is built into the
extrusion, either a channel (Figure 8) or a
protruding knob into which split PVC pipe
(Figure 9) slides.
The primary reason to confine wiring in a
conduit is to eliminate noise wire chafe
isnt usually a concern unless you have wire-
rope halyards or lots of internal halyards. On
masts without a conduit, you can stop the
wire slapping by adding some sort of
cushioning. A simple remedy is to purchase
pre-slit, foam water pipe insulation, available
at hardware stores, slip it over the wires, push
it up to the masthead (or as high as possible),
and tape the bottom so it doesnt slide down.
Alternatively, take a sheet of flexible
Styrofoam rolled into a tube and stuff it inside
the mast.
Masts not equipped with a wiring conduit
can be retrofitted, but not easily and only with
the mast unrigged. A professional rigger
charges about $200 or more but you can do
the job yourself. Use plastic conduit or PVC
Schedule 40 pipe of about 12mm (1/2) ID,
or larger if your mast has lots of wires. Use
1.5m (5) lengths and join with a coupling
(whipping will eventually break the longer 3m
(10) lengths). Lay the conduit alongside the
mast on the track side where there are no
openings or drilled fittings. Mark the
placement of each coupling, then drill two
holes through each one and the mast for
3/16 rivets. Use aluminum rivets with
aluminum mandrels this is critical or youll
get corrosion.
Slide the conduit inside the mast, being
careful not to snag the halyards. Make some
wire hooks, bent to a 90 angle to hold the
conduit in place. Dab some sealant on the
holes, then, starting at the bottom, rivet the
conduit to the mast. It may be necessary to
drill additional holes beside the conduit to
hold it in place with your hooks as you drill the
conduit. Drill exit holes through the mast and
conduit for spreader and steaming lights, and
the external leads. Starting at the top, snake
the wires through the conduit. Its a good idea
to also drop some messenger lines in the event
you need to add wires later. Seal the exit
holes with sealant.
break the tap. Always wear safety glasses when working on
Aluminum and stainless steel are dissimilar metals and
masts that arent protected from moisture begin to corrode
quickly, particularly in saltwater. (Freshwater boaters are not
exempt, corrosion just takes longer.) To prevent moisture
collecting and corroding aluminum, you need to insulate the
hardware and fasteners from the spar with a gasket of some
Popular practice in the 70s and early 80s was to use a
rubber gasket or electrical tape. These products actually
trapped moisture and helped accelerate corroding of the
aluminum. Instead, bed the fitting and fasteners in sealant,
which fills in the gaps and stays pliable so it moves with the
flexing of the mast without breaking the seal and allowing
water to enter. Klacko recommends using polyurethane
sealant (i.e. 3M 5200) or silicone, which allows easier
removal of the fitting. Be sure to put a dab of sealant on
fastener threads and under rivet flanges before installing.
Mounting hardware with sealant gaskets is rarely done on a
stock mast. Check your mast and remove and bed any
hardware thats without. If youre not doing the work yourself,
youll need to specify when contracting a rigger.
When cutting an opening for a halyard, be sure to round
the corners (Figure 7). Square edges can form a crack in
that area. Although most masts use an exit or sheave box, its
actually not necessary to install any hardware here. Sheave
boxes are rarely used now as they put too much restriction on
halyards. Let halyards exit directly though the cutout; for wire-
rope halyards, add a stainless-steel cover plate.
Wiring Refit
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Story Paul Shard, photos by
Sheryl Shard
Going up the mast is one of the most daunting
jobs for many sailors. In fact, say the words
"going aloft" and suddenly a crew, especially
one with acrophobia, comes up with lame
excuses such as, "You're lighter than I am so it
makes sense that I pull you up." Certainly there
are elements of danger in going three or more
stories above a boat deck, but as with sailing,
you can minimize your risks by taking
Going up the mast may look dangerous,
but can be quite safe if you take the necessary
safety precautions.
It can truly be
more dangerous
not to go aloft if it
means missing a
problem that could
cause the mast to
drop while
"What you
can't see, can't
hurt you," doesn't
apply to your
rigging and
masthead. I
always go aloft
before a passage
and at the beginning of each season to check
out all the mast rigging and fittings. In this case,
I'm trying to prevent going aloft to fix something
at sea, which is much more dangerous. I'll
inspect allplaces where wires touch spreaders
or exit the mast for signs of fatigue, look for
chafe on halyards, check standing rigging
swages or end fittings and spreader bases for
wear. At the masthead, I check the fittings,
Windex and lights. Any potential problems or
suspicious parts should be addressed in the
calm water of the marina or anchorage.
Prevention is the best kind of insurance.
Using a Bosun's Chair
The most common method of going aloft is to
rig a bosun's chair to a halyard that connects to
a winch and have a crew member (or crew
members) hoist the person aloft. The only
special equipment needed is the bosun's chair
itself. These can be as simple as a wooden
plank or made of fabric and dressed up with
side pockets and detachable pouches. A good
bosun's chair should feel secure and be
The key to going up safely is
preparing your equipment and
crew before you start. First, choose
a halyard that you have complete
confidence in; you'll be putting
more strain on it than it normally
gets in regular usage. Check that
the route aloft is clear. If you go up
the back side of the mast you'll
likely choose a main halyard since
it will put you aft of the masthead
when you reach the top. If you
have lazy jacks, reposition the
main halyard outside these so you
don't get entangled. If you have an
electric windlass with a rope
gypsy, you can probably rig a block at the base
of the mast to run the halyard forward to this
winch. Check that the line won't snag and
enters the winch at a fair angle to prevent
overwraps. A second
snatch block to the toe
rail could be used to
correct any
misalignment but this
adds friction. Test out a
tie-off for the winch. A
normal self-tailing winch
should not be trusted to
hold the line. Instead,
while winching,
periodically make fast
the line to a horn cleat
(don't use a cam or jam
Going Aloft
Two transatlantic sailors offer safe
ways to prepare your equipment and
crew for the trip up the mast.
Safety line made of 12mm (1/2") line and
eye spliced to a spring-loaded carabiner
wraps around mast and fastens to D-ring
on safety harness.
The author preparing to go aloft in
a bosun's chair.
Adding a couple of
folding mast steps
gives a higher perch
and a secure foothold
at the top.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
cleat or halyard stopper) or handrail on deck.
This provides a safety point if the line should slip
off the winch.
To attach the bosun's chair to the halyard
use a bowline or buntline hitch, locking pin
shackle or spring-locking carabiner never
trust a snap-shackle to take the load.
When I go aloft I don a safety harness that
is secured to a safety lanyard or can be
fastened to a spare halyard. When I get above
the first spreaders, I loop the lanyard around the
mast. This is refastened when I pass the upper
spreaders, but it means I can only fall a fraction
of the mast height in the event the bosun's chair
or halyard fails. It also means I won't swing
wildly away from the mast if the boat starts
Now prepare the tools you'll need for the
work aloft. Collect all now and save the
embarrassment of describing the tool to a
helper when you're 15m (50') in the air. I
prepare a canvas bag for tools and attach it to
the bosun's chair so it's within easy reach. For
heavy tools, such as a rechargeable drill, attach
6mm (1/4") safety lanyards to prevent crashing
on deck. If I plan to work aloft for a while (i.e.
adding a new fitting), I tie messenger lines on
the heaviest tools and hoist as needed. [Ed
Also attach messenger lines to the chair to hoist
or lower extra tools or parts as needed by the
person in the chair.]
With everything in place, review the
procedures with the crew operating the winch.
Make sure they understand what you need and
how to do it safely. If using a mechanical
winch, plan on an extremely fit individual or
two to winch you aloft. On our boat, Sheryl
winches me up, but I help by shinning up the
mast where I can. Don't forget to review how to
lower the chair have only two turns on the
winch drum and play
out the halyard
smoothly without
jerking, taking care to
prevent winch
One last check
that you have all the
tools and they are
safely secured for the
trip aloft, one last
look at the halyard
attachment to the
chair and up you go! Check that the chair is
reasonably comfortable as you first take your
weight on it. Winchers must closely monitor the
halyard and person going aloft, slowly hoisting
as instructed. When the person aloft reaches the
proper height, securely tie-off the halyard. The
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628
Regardless of what device you use to
go aloft, wear tie-up shoes and long
pants to avoid skin cuts and abrasions.
Deck hands should never stand on deck
beneath a person working aloft. The
"sky is falling" could be a hammer.
For good measure, tie all hooks with
#4 cord to secure the connection.
If you are purchasing an electric
windlass in the near future, consider how
it could be used to get someone aloft.
This could be the reason you've been
waiting for to get that "shinny" new
Consider adding two mast steps
about 1.5m (5') down from the
masthead. These are a great help while
working aloft. Folding ones won't snag
anything and offer low windage when
not in use.
Capt. Al's Mast Ladder
slides up the mainsail
track or slot to the
masthead. You'll gain
better control if you
place your feet pigeon-
toed in the flexible
Person going up
climbs mast steps
while deck crew
tightens safety
line attached to
bosun's chair.
Without the
chair, rigging
access is limited.
deck crew should move light footed about the
deck motion is magnified at the masthead
and should keep well clear of the "falling" zone
under the chair.
Other Options
Good climbing options for short-handed crews
or singlehanders are permanent mast steps,
installed all or part of the way up, or a
temporary ladder. For safety, both of these
devices must be used with a bosun's chair or
safety harness attached to a spare halyard.
(This also allows the climber to swing out to
check spreader fittings.) The deck crew keeps
pace with the climber, snubbing up the halyard
as needed. Add a safety lanyard to hold the
climber close to the mast, freeing hands for
Mast ladders with flexible steps come in a
variety of styles. Hoisted by the main halyard,
these slide up the mainsail track or slot. All
ladders require dropping the mainsail and
depending on the height of the gate, may
require removal of mast slides as well. [Ed
Since testing Capt. Al's Mast Ladder in DIY
1997-#1, we've discovered that the key to stop
swinging and gain complete control is to climb
with your feet turned in.]
Mountaineering gear is available that lets
you climb aloft yourself. One device I have
seen is the Topclimber. Similar to mountain-
climbing ascenders, it has attachments for the
feet that allow the climber to ascend a taut
Another mountaineering-related gadget is
the Mast Lift, a mechanical winch that's hoisted
to the masthead and secured. It has a
continuous loop line that runs from the winch,
down through a block on deck (it must be setup
for the particular mast height). Sitting in a
bosun's chair, the climber pulls the line and this
drives the winch at the masthead. A pull of up
to 14kg (30lb) force is all it takes but the
climber must pull nearly six times the mast
height of line. For a 13.5m (45') mast, that
means 81m (270') of line. Costing around
U.S.$1,200, it's certainly more expensive than
a bosun's chair, but it may be worth it for
Take photos of the masthead, light
assemblies, spreader bases and all other
fittings before raising the mast, or take a
trip aloft with your camera. This helps you
plan and prepare the tools and parts
needed for the job before you go aloft.
Solo sailor Louis de Boer uses Mast Lift to go aloft.
DIY boat owner 2001 1-888-658-2628