Bossa Nova: Travels Of A Trailer Yacht

Mainsail Handling: Stack Pack and In-Boom Reefing

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The mainsail is a lovely thing when it's set and taking the wind, but it's awkward to handle when you drop your sails and it can be dangerous when you need to reef (reduce) sails in a blow. 

Not Bossa Nova, but a sister ship.

Bossa Nova has a heavyweight Kelly-Hanson mainsail with two reefs, which I judged are enough to handle 'most any conditions where I have any business sailing.  It's not large as sails go (as my sailboat is "not large as boats go"), but it's still an awkward lot of stiff sailcloth to mess with.
I tried several different methods of "taming the main" before I finally put up the money to get a Doyle Stack Pack, and I won't have a boat without one now.

Bossa Nova's Stack Pack

The Stack Pack (actually, this is a "Cradle Cover" that's separate from the sail) fits into the track slot on the top of the boom, and it stays in place when you're sailing.  It has integrated "lazyjacks," lines that lead up near the top of the mast and capture the sail when you lower it - then the cover zips over top of the sail, and a separate front piece zips on to protect the sail's luff (forward edge).  This makes mainsail handling as easy as it can be.

The sail flakes down into the Stack Pack.

This is the view from the end of the boom, with the sail laid out and the cover ready to zip up.  If I needed the sail - for instance, if I had an engine failure - it's ready to raise in moments; but it's nicely contained and it isn't flopping down around the boom to get into my way.


And, as you see here, it doesn't interfere in the least with sailing.
The red and blue lines on the sail, in this photo, are the reefing lines I installed into the boom.  It was more work to install them this way, but it's a lot neater than having them dangling off the side of the boom.
The mainsail of a boat like Bossa Nova has "reef points," grommets with heavy-enough reinforcements that they can serve as the bottom of the sail, on the luff (mast-side edge) and leech (back edge) of the sail.  If the wind gets too heavy, you can lower the head of the sail a few feet, and secure the sail to the boom by these reef points; shortening the sail this way makes the boat more manageable in higher winds.  Bossa Nova has two sets of reef points, enough for any conditions I have any business sailing in.  (She also has a roller-furling jib, which can be rolled up like an old-fashioned window shade for high winds - and for storage.)
Tying down the luff, right by the boom, is not the troublesome part.  It's the leech, out at the far end of the boom, that gives you trouble. Those reefing lines make it possible for me to draw down the leech grommets from right beside the mast.

Blue line is for first reef
Red line is for second reef

These lines and blocks are out at the end of the boom.  Each line is secured to a strap-eye, a U-shaped piece of steel that screws down onto the boom and gives me an eyelet for the line.  The lines loop up through the leech grommets and back into the blocks (pulleys) that are screwed onto this side of the boom; then I installed "exit plates" to give the lines a smooth entry into the inside of the boom.  The blue line is for the first reef, and it pulls down a grommet that's about 3 feet from the foot of the sail; the red line, for the second reef, goes to a grommet that's about 6 feet from the foot.  That second reef reduces the size of the sail to about 50% of its full size.


These cleats are at the forward end of the boom, and again each line leads to its own cleat.  (The hardware on the bottom of the boom is a spring boom-lift called a "Boomkicker." I used it last year, but I've found that a line from the boom-end to the masthead is really more practical.)
To reef in the mainsail, I loosen the "mainsheet" (a block-and-tackle that controls the boom, and keeps it at the correct angle to the wind) and go up to the mast.  I loosen the sail halyard and let the sail down until I can secure the luff grommet in place; then I hoist the head of the sail taut.  And then I pull the reefing line taut - very taut, very hard - and cleat it in place.  Back to the cockpit, now, and haul in the mainsheet to set the sail for the wind - which isn't pushing the boat over as hard, now, but it's giving me enough power to get up and go.

There is another thing I didn't mention, but that I use whenever I'm sailing downwind.  It's a "double main-sheet" system that keeps the boom from swinging over if the wind catches it from the other side - a mishap called an "accidental gybe," which can not only damage the boat but can crack an unwary sailor's skull.

Double main-sheets instead of a "traveler"

The "proper" mainsheet leads from the boom, at the top of this photo, to a heavy loop on the helm pedestal, at the bottom right.  It's a block and tackle with a cam-cleat on the bottom block, so it has plenty of power to pull in the sail.  It's fine for sailing upwind; but when you're running before the wind, it has to be let out a long way to get the sail out where it needs to be.
Now consider what would happen if a stray gust pushed the sail the other way.  That boom will swing over with all the power of the wind behind it, and SLAM over to the end of the sheet with enough force to break things.  (Including your head, if it's in the way!)
So I use a similar block-and-tackle, secured with a snap-shackle to a strong loop mounted to the track in the lower-left of this photo.  (I have an identical loop on the other side.)  When I get "off the wind," I use this "double mainsheet" as a gybe-preventer to keep the sail in place so it won't slam-gybe if the wind gets on the wrong side of the sail.  It's in easy reach for me to pull it taut, to adjust it to work with the mainsheet, or to unsnap it and switch sides if I'm going about.

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