Skipper’s Tip, 6/6/2011

Dousing the Main

In the great days of sail, every precaution was taken to secure the yards before the men were sent out on them to furl or reef sails. We can learn by their example when dousing the mainsail. With one person ready at the mast to haul down on the luff, head up, luffing the sail, then release the halyard. Lowering the sail to the boom should just take seconds, and during this time everyone else stands clear of the swinging boom and shaking sail. As soon as the sail is down, pull the mainsheet in tight and cleat it. Only then, with the boom safely secured, should the crew be sent to the cabin top to furl the sail and make it fast with sail ties. Trying to secure the sail on the boom as it is being lowered, while the boom is still loose, is a dangerous and unseamanlike practice.

By Tony Johnson, Tradewinds Instructor

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2 Responses to Skipper’s Tip, 6/6/2011

  1. shellie says:

    This may be a dumb question stemming from my lack of experience… but why not just sheet in the main before lowering the sail? Is there a specific reason to leave the main sheet loose while lowering?

    • TW-Matt says:

      A loose mainsheet gives the helmsman some room for error. If your main is sheeted in tight, you have to steer directly into the wind with no room for course changes. Also, if the boom-vang or main-sheet are tight, you are tightening the leech of the sail. This would be pulling the sail slides at an angle away from the mast instead of letting them fall freely down the track. On many boats, you’ll have a very hard time lowering the sail at all if either of these adjustments are tight.

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