The mainsail on Idris is in very good nick. I don’t think it’s original and probably isn’t quite the right size but it’s a good quality Jeckles sail. The method of reefing is by three slabs, taken in using simple hooks at the gooseneck for the luff and permanently rigged pennants at the leech. All fine so far then. Sadly though, all of the fittings that do the hauling and restraining duties on the boom are shit. They are the cheapest, most feeble budget plastic crap that you could imagine. On top of this, they are held on with puny self tapping screws and pop rivets which have clearly pulled free on multiple occasions already. This, to me, is not acceptable so I’ve taken the whole lot home to the workshop and spread it out on the floor to see how things can be improved.
The boom itself has been allowed to get fairly knocked about. The annodising has been grated away in several areas by contact with shrouds, shackles or the heads of unwary sailors. These areas have now corroded badly. There are also several areas of corrosion and damage where old reefing fittings have pulled free under load. I think the best I can do realistically is to clean up and paint any corroded areas, remove the remaining crap fittings, and bolt on something that’s actually up to the job. I make a habit of picking up any sturdy fittings I see going for peanuts on ebay and so already had some big tufnol cleats for the leach pennants. The original pennants had been secured at the outer end of the boom by simply tying them each to a stainless staple thing badly screwed to the aluminium with self tappers. This arrangement had corroded, worked loose and in one case fallen off altogether. I took the last two off.
I prefer this method of securing the pennants to the boom. Simply stitch in an eye at one end and loop it around the boom under the foot of the sail. It gives a completely flexible means of positioning one end and doesn’t put any undue twisting force on the boom.
The reefing lines can then be run up to the cringles on the leech, back down the other side of the sail to a cheek block on the boom and then along the length of the boom forward to a big cleat near the gooseneck. A big cleat is very, very important here. If you don’t think it is, and are worried about how it’s going to look, then clearly you haven’t had the misfortune of having to reduce sail quickly on your own in a blind panic yet.
My new cheek blocks were indeed new (for a change) but nothing special. No ball race carbon fibre racing items necessary here, just sturdy fittings with good, well positioned mounting holes. I fixed them in place using stainless rivet nuts set into the boom and m5 stainless bolts. They were also bedded in on a thick layer of polyurethane construction adhesive to keep the salt water out and minimize any electrolytic corrosion in later years. I found out with Macavity that if I set the cheek blocks about 10 inches aft of where the leech cringle would end up at the boom when pulled down, this gives a good degree of tension to the foot of the sail and keeps the lines from scrunching up the leech when in use. This is personal choice though and you might wish to experiment before deciding on a final mounting point.
That’s about it. The reefing horns at the gooseneck are fine so the only thing that could improve matters now is for the topping lift and main halyard to be run back to the cockpit for a quick single handed hoist when needed. I’m going to have to do this on the mooring at Poole though…. probably when it’s a bit warmer and dryer.