J40 Solent Stay

Solent stay made using Dynex Dux, custom thimble Tball top, OBB Multipass thimbles bottom, 4:1 purchase, held to the deck with custom loop and fastpin. When in use a 4:1 winch driven purchase will tension the stay, which will support a jib on bronze hanks. When not deployed, the fastpin makes removing the stay quick, and the integrated leash lets the crew lash the stay tight to the mastbase.

Harken Furling Tips and Tricks

Harken furling has been my defacto choice for furling genoas and jibs, and generally they’re super easy to install.  There are a few tips and tricks I’ve accumulated over the years that make it a bit easier to be efficient during the build, and there’s recently been a run on fixing DIY furlers that highlighted a few steps in the process that people seem to neglect.  See below for some pics to help you through assembling your Harken furling unit.

Before you’ve cut foils or made a headstay,  first look around the rig and see if the ends of the headstay are appropriate for the furler.  In the above picture, there is no toggle at the bottom of the stay, and instead there is a highly alarming twisted single plate with an offset pin to raise the height of the furling drum.  Link plates in general are a bad idea for furling, as they tend to twist, but this is a single plate which has somehow managed not to tear apart. Toggles are far, far cheaper than rigs!Above you can see a link plate which has started to twist due to torsion from furling and sailing with reefed sails. Eventually one plate will break, followed by the other.

When looking at existing gear, it’s important to not only check for things like toggles, but make sure they’re working properly. The above mast had a jaw/jaw toggle installed overlapped (not inside) the masthead toggle, which had led to cracks in the toggle.  Replaced with a eye to jaw toggle, which seats properly between the plates on the masthead toggle.

When making the connections between foils, I like to use the box that came with the furler to hold the adhesive, tools and all the small parts (some of which are very small indeed!) This lets you work quickly, as you can just slide all the necessary bits along the headstay as you go.  The box catches any small parts you might drop, and can be used to elevate the foils when assembling stubborn connections.  The single biggest mistake I’ve seen in Harken furlers gone wrong is not using enough sealant in the joints.  In the photo above you can see that I’ve used the syringe to apply enough 5200 until it comes out the fastener port.  Harkens joints are designed to have 3 levels of connection; first the mechanical joint formed by the shape of the connector inside the foil, second the fastener holding the foil to the connector, and lastly the bond between all the parts formed by the sealant.  It’s far, far better to have too much sealant, and to hit the furler with an acetone rag, than to have too little and have the below picture in your sailing season!

The furler in the above image was a DIY unit 1, which had 2 foils come apart while sailing reefed.  Luckily the owner was able to get the sail down without much damage.  When I went to trouble shoot, I found that the connector barely had any adhesive on it, and the fasteners had none.  Apparently the install was done on a cold day, so the adhesive wasn’t making it very far into the joint.  I’ve also watched a DIY install use only a tiny amount of adhesive in each screw hole, as the owner “wanted to save the tube of loctite for something else”  I’m guessing that  the “something else” turned out to be fixing the furler later in the season!


Harken MkIV’s are stupid-easy to put together, but one slightly tricky area is in getting the connector wedges seated properly.  In the above photo you can see the wedge, which is slid into place along with the connector.  To make sure it stays in it’s proper place, hold it down with your thumb until the connector slides into place.  You can also see the giant glob of 5200 which is coming out of the foil. This is a good thing!  I like to finish off the install by wiping down the foils after the furler is stowed on the mast.  There is some variation in tolerances on Harken furling, so if you’re facing a stiff connector, I usually chill the connectors in a cooler, or heat the foils, to gain a little extra play in assembly.



Naturally, you’ve chosen an incredibly cold day to assemble the furler.  The adhesive that seals the connector in place is an incredibly important part of the joints between furler foils.  In cold weather, both 5200 and Loctite cure slowly, so to ensure the bond kicks off and that the adhesive flows properly around the joint, I always heat up the joint after assembly with a propane torch. It doesn’t take much heat, so just move the torch over the joint until the foil is barely hot to the touch. Too much torch and you can melt the plastic bushings or spacers inside the connector.  If you’re using Loctite as in the above picture,  I like to line up the connector in place, then hit it with the torch BEFORE installing the screw for the first connection. That way you can tug on the connector to see how much heat it takes to set the Loctite.  Also in the above image; always keep the Loctite bottle upside down when it’s cold, as this makes it easier to apply. Alternatively you can keep it warm in a pocket, but the obvious risks apply!

When putting the foils together, I like to leave the plastic wrapping in place,  pulling it away from each end. This protects the foils from damage to the anodizing caused by dragging the foils. When the furler is fully assembled and attached to the mast, now it’s time to remove the plastic packing.  All you need is a knife, held upside down in the furler track. Instead of moving the knife and possibly scratching the anodizing, just pull the plastic to the knife instead, so the plastic unzips around the blade.  If you”re tantalizing the furler mast up, I’ll actually leave the plastic on until the headstay is installed, then while aloft I’ll slide the plastic off onto a knife.  This leaves the plastic in place until the last moment, protecting the foils while you’re hauling the furler aloft, and lets you feel a bit like Errol Flynn, which is a nice way to end a project.


Harken Traveler Fixes

There are few worse things to see while racing than something like the above image: seeing the traveler car floating above the track (or more likely flailing around the cockpit trying to reduce the crews number of teeth) is low on the list of good ways to end a day.

Flying Traveler Syndrome (FTS) is caused by the bearings departing the car, which means there is nothing holding the car to the track.  This will be made abundantly clear by the bearings, which are now bouncing and rolling around in the cockpit,  getting stuck in drains and tripping the crew.  The bearings usually escape due to the failure of a plastic end cap on the traveler car. 


These caps are original equipment to your Harken traveler car, and actually hold up pretty well considering the loads and use they experience. The plastic gets brittle in the sun over years, and more importantly gets beat up every time you sail.  You can think of the bearings not littering your cockpit as a “thank-you” from the traveler for all those times it’s slammed across the track in a heavy air gybe.

Well, now what? Usually this means day over, call the rigger.  However, theres a great trick I learned years ago from a smart friend.  A piece of wooden dowel rod in the same diameter as the ball bearings can act as an emergency bearing to hold the car to the track, at least until you can replace the bearings and end caps properly.  If you want something a little nicer, CYR can provide a pair of Delrin or Torlon emergency slider bearings that you can install on the water to get you through the day. Held in place with cotter pins, you can install these in minutes on the water after pulling the end caps off, and will let you keep racing until you can complete the repair.

More details to come as we make a few batches of these, but it’s cheap and light insurance against losing a day on the water.

For the complete fix of the traveler car, the easiest way to get the bearings back in place is to replace the end caps, and install the bearings (how many? Check Harken.com) using a bearing loader, and then sliding the car off the loader onto the track.  However,  in many situations this requires taking the track off the boat to give enough clearance to install the car.  Depending on access and time, it’s often easier to slid the end caps onto the track from the end, then attach one to the car, and fit the bearings in from the side.  If you’ve ever attempted this, you’ll know it’s far easier to describe than to do, as the bearings are quite slippery and the more bearings you load into the car, the more bearings there are to escape.  The labor saving trick here is to use shaving cream to hold the bearings in place while loading.

The shave cream has just the right density to keep everything in place until you can get the end caps on, and gives the back of the boat a wonderful lime smell to relax the afterguard after the trying ordeal with the traveler car.

At this point in the repair, you’re probably cursing boats, both Harken brothers, and the “sphere” shape, so what can you do to ensure you’re never seeing this part of the boat again?  To save this hassle in the future, replace the plastic caps with metal ones. Harken has a great parts replacement program, and for between $90 and $105 (from small boat to big boat) you can get a pair of caps that will never break, and you can go back to ignoring the moving bits in the traveler forever. 

Epoxy plugs for mounting hardware in cored decks

Yacht decks are typically composed of layers, with the top and bottom layers being paint or gelcoat over a fiberglass skin, and the thicker inner layer being core. The core thickens the deck to increase stiffness, generally using a low density material to keep the resulting sandwich lightweight.  These core materials are typically not designed to be wet, so any water intrusion is bad news.  A wet core in a fiberglass structure gets softer and can delaminate from the fiberglass skins. The result is a soft feeling deck, which can make the boat slower as it flexes and lead to further structural issues like fiberglass cracking and failure.

The culprit behind wet decks is often improperly installed hardware.  If the deck feels soft, it’s usually near a piece of gear that was installed in a hurry.  If non through bolted fasteners like self tapping screws are used,  the hardware will loosen over time. Similarly, inappropriate backing plates and or washers under the deck mean the deck will crush over time, loosening the hardware as well. Once the hardware is loose, water finds it’s way in and softens to core.  Poor or no sealant is another issue, as hardware needs a sealant beeding to keep water out.  Something flexible like a polysulfide or rubber is best, as it keeps a tight seal even if the hardware isn’t installed perfectly tight.

So.  Assuming the hardware is installed correctly, and the proper sealant used, what else can one do to keep a deck intact?  The goal being to first keep water up on deck where it belongs, you can also ensure that if water does make it’s way under deck gear, it won’t reach the core.  I like to surround each fastener with epoxy where it goes through the deck, so that any water around the screw isn’t allowed to get to the core.

Here is a quick walk through on how the core was sealed on a 1970 Shields deck, while installing a 2:1 jib sheet system.

 The hardware in this case is a Harken cam cleat with an angled riser to get the sheet led to the trimmer at a comfortable angle.  You can see I’ve done a quick mask around the area,  as there will be several glues and sealants used, which we want to avoid having to clean out of gelcoat.  The holes are drilled, in this case at an angle to match the cleat riser.The next step is to drill a much larger hole partially through the deck.  This larger hole is going to determine the size of the epoxy plugs that surround the screws. In this case I used a 3/8″ bit to surroud #10 (or 3/16″) screws.  When drilling the oversize hole, go through the top skin of fiberglass and the core only; don’t drill through the bottom skin.  This lets us have a solid layer of skin on the bottom, to better support the backing plate.  

The epoxy plugs work best if they’re larger than the top hole in the deck. This means that the cured epoxy will make a small flange under the top layer of the deck, holding it in place. To make this work I use a small bit in a drill, held at an angle, to “till” the core out of the deck around the hole. When complete, the void under the deck will be around 3/4″ around. This ensures both plenty of epoxy surrounding the screw, and that the plug won’t pull out of otherwise move from the hole. I’ve also heard of people using a angled allen key to scrape the hole out, but I find the drill faster. Caveat: you must be extremely steady with the drill, to avoid going through the bottom skin of the deck, or carving up the top skin. After I’ve done the routing out of the hole, I like to wash the hole and surrounding area with acetone. Give it plenty of time to dry.

Here is the underside of the deck.  I’ve taped over the bottom of each hole with two layers of masking tape, after washing the area with acetone to ensure a good tape bond.  You really, REALLY, want the tape to hold here. If it doesn’t, you’ll be happily injecting epoxy through deck, right into the cockpit or cabin, probably on top of the owners bunk or a brand new sail or something. 

All that work, and the actual epoxy part of the job takes about 5 seconds!  I think West 610 is the best for this purpose, but for smaller jobs will often use the Loctite 5 minute self mixing epoxy. Both are far easier than mixing epoxy and loading a syringe.  It’s best to fill the bottom of each hole, move on to the next one and then come back and top it off, as there is typically some soaking of epoxy into the core, which shows up as the epoxy settling.  Once this is done, double check the seals on the bottom of the deck and walk away.  Really, go tune the rig or something, as this will take time to set.
Is it set? Really? Are you sure? Tune the rig again if not 100% convinced.  Once it’s set, I will drill the holes for the hardware again.  Once the holes are in place, test the fit again. Once happy with fit, I like to use a countersink bit on the holes, to make a small depression in the surface of the deck. This void will fill up with sealant, giving a better seal than simply a micron thick layer between the hardware and deck.  Depending on the part I’ll sometimes use the countersink bit on the bottom of the hardware as well, to make a raised dome of sealant to similarly keep water up and out of the hole.

Once the holes are drilled, and the tape removed from the bottom of the deck, add your

sealant. I really like butyl rubber best, but for some fittings-like this angled cleat riser-it’s not the best fit. In this case, it’s because the bottom of the riser has open voids to make it lighter, which means there isn’t a lot of surface area for butyl to spread. For this I used Sika 291, which is pretty good as an all around bedding compound.  When installed bedded hardware, tighten the screws only just enough to get the part touching the deck, and then let it cure.  Have you tuned the rig yet? Why not do it again?  Once the sealant is cured, you can tighten the machine screws down all the way. This gives you a thicker patch of sealant. If you go to full tightness right away, the sealant can be thin, or squeezed out entirely.  I never use sealant on the bottom of the deck;  if water does find it’s way in, I woudl rather have it dripping out of a screw hole (alerting someone to the leak) than trapped inside the deck

.And we’re done.  The cleats installed, and this boat can make it through another 40 years with the same deck!

July Rigging Photo Grabbag

July is Mac month, and CYR is getting to the end of it’s best July yet!  Lots of cool articles and how-to guides to write once things settle down, but in the meantime here is a selection of quick images from the camera memory card

Marlow Furler 50

As spin and code sail furlers continue to take over my desk, I’ve been spending a ton of time with drive lines. Normally one would just use a poly double braid, but the poly doesn’t have great grip or abrasion resistance, so it was pretty exciting to find Marlow Furler 50. It’s a Vectra/Poly blend with a polypropylene core. The cover braid gives it a great grip on hands and furler drums, while the vectran makes it fairly tough. The polypro core does nothing but keep the rope round, and is removed in the area of the splice. The splice ends up very clean, with no bumps to slow down the furl.

It also makes an excellent continuous control line for things like backstay controls, vangs etc. Here it is on our boat as a continuous double ended backstay line. The nice thing about have it continuous is that when you’re going downwind, you just release the line entirely, and the line goes tight once the backstay is way off, giving you a quick way to get the rig forward.

Dyneema durability

Pulled one of our Shields traveler lines out for a quick test to answer a customers question: but how will it be in 4 years?

Our traveler lines actually have 5 seasons and change on them, but figure it would still be interesting to break test one and see how it did.

They are 1/8″ Endura 12, originally rated for 2100lbs break. They see pretty mild loads, but to break it down, if we assume we rarely race over 25kts (last weekend excepted!) and that the mainsheet load in that condition is 1180lbs, and we assume traveler load is 20% of sheet load, we get 236lbs. That seems about right, as we’ve got 4:1 controls and it’s rarely very hard to pull. I’d say most of the time we get more like 70-100lbs on the car. Obviously shock loads from gybes would exceed these numbers, but the line was still pretty safely specced. Condition was pretty good since all the leads were fair and the end terminations were over smooth pins. There was some chafe in the middle from where it would run over the non skid deck, but it was minor.

Rope broke at 1384lbs, so retained 65% of it’s strenght after 5+ years. Pretty good I’d say, as thats about the time I’d recommend replacing it anyway.

Great stuff Dyneema!

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Final: Bury Splice vs Brummel Splice

For the final it was no surprise to see the bury splice and the brummel splice.  The previous rounds saw knots, specialty splices and things done purposefully wrong, so these should be the top end.

The bury splice, again, is the tapered tail of 72x rope diameter, inserted into the rope to form an eye, and stitched to keep the splice intact under no/low loads. The brummel is the same, but with an interlocking weave instead of the stitch.

Well, as you can see it was the bury splice that walked away the winner, besting the brummel which lost at 2958lbs. This is 134% of rated strength for 1/8″ Endura 12, so pretty happy with the result. If you read the semi finals, you’ll get some explanation of why it’s so far above rated, but it’s nice to know CYR splicing is beating the numbers we use for specifying rope.

Based on the result,  you might ask why we don’t use the bury splice as standard, instead the brummel is the default for sheets and halyards.  The reason is the brummel is faster, and has a locking mechanism which can be verified and can’t possible wear out or be removed.  At the numbers seen in this and other tests, it’s always broken above rated for good quality lines, so I can use rated strength when speccing with no concerns about strength.

For the full series of tests:

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Bracket: Quarterfinal Rd 1 Skiff Knot vs Bury Splice

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Bracket: Quarterfinal Rd 2: Loop vs Short Bury Splice

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Bracket: Quarterfinal Rd 3: Bowline vs Sliding Sling Splice

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Bracket: Quarterfinal Rd 4 Soft Shackle vs Brummel Splice

1/8″ Dyneema Break Test Bracket: Semi Final 1 Full Bury Splice vs Short Bury

1/8″ Dyneema break test bracket Semi Final 2: Brummel Splice vs Sliding Splice

That concludes the break testing for now, if you have suggestions or requests for similar tests feel free to get in touch with me at kristian@chicagoyachtrigging.com

1/8″ Dyneema break test bracket Semi Final 2: Brummel Splice vs Sliding Splice

This was a neat one, on the left we have a sliding splice. The sliding splice (aka whoopie sling, aka adjuster, aka hiking strap splice) is a splice in which the tail is extra long, and left outside the body of the rope.  This makes a handle you can use to change the dimensions of the eye.  Quite handy for adjustable length lines, and for making something adjustable in the field. We use this for things like hiking straps, backstay gross tunes, topping lifts etc.  It’s quite handy, but I really had no idea how strong it would be. Since theres a large disruption in the braid where the tail exits, the rope should experience going from half load to full load all in one area, making it weaker. I’ve always treated this as a 50% loss to be safe.

On the right side is the most sold splice at CYR, the brummel splice with full bury. This is a brummel splice to lock the eye closed at low loads, with a 72 diameter bury.  We assume the brummel weakens the line a bit, but treat this as about 85% of rated strength when speccing line. Since we use a 5:1 safety factor for most things, it’s still a very solid choice.

Neat! The sliding splice turned out to be stronger than expected, still breaking above rated for the line.  The big caveat here is that this was new line, which had been loaded up only once before. I expect the strength loss will accelerate as time goes on.