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Old 02-26-2013
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Re: Halyards to cockpit?

I was a luddite for many years, sailing to places like Block Island and Shelter Island in an 18' catboat. My electronics consisted of a handheld VHF for a number of years. We did dead reckoning, using compass, paper chart and Eldridges and never failed to fetch the right passage coming back from BI in pea soup fog on a number of occasions. Never thought about lifelines or harnesses when I went forward to reef as the 14' gaff and 19' boom were swinging. That was part of the challenge.

Then we (the 2 of us) got older and got a 35' sloop with progressively more "stuff". Initially we had to go forward to reef the main, but we didn't worry about it until one time when we got caught in 45 kts for 45 minutes. I had a harness, but hadn't rigged the jacklines, so we rode it out with a fisherman's reef. The brand new sail had shed the lower full length batten and the telltales were shredded when we got back to safe harbor.

That was just an aberration, we thought, until we had to reef in a sustained 29 kt breeze coming back from Nantucket. The water in Nantucket Sound was quite choppy and the admiral was nervous, so I started the auxiliary as we luffed and I went forward to hook the tack and deal with the halyard and jiffy reefing. I was OK, but the admiral was uncomfortable. You know what that means.

We then had a rigger install single line reefing, with all lines, including main halyard, led inside the dodger. The sail was modified by adding Karver blocks at the reef tacks and clews and we installed a winch next to the companionway for needed mechanical advantage.

When all was said and done--and the bill paid--we are glad we did it. It is really comforting to stay in the cockpit when that squall blows up--except for those times when one of the lines loops around a mast winch (Murphy!). The cutout in the hem of the dodger has not been a problem with spray and the occasional green water, but that might be a consequence of the step-up on our coachroof.

The bottom line for us is safety and the single line reefing provides some of that. The other safety device is the below-deck autopilot that replaced an unreliable wheel pilot. If one of us has a fall or other injury, it's a reliable third crew member. When I occasionally single-hand, it is indispensable for steering the boat when preparing lines and fenders when coming up to a dock, particularly when confined to a channel.

So, we have more "toys", as some would call them, but they have become indispensable in our senior years. We had to wait a long time to afford them, but there is no question that they are important pieces of gear. We didn't think we needed any of this stuff when we were younger and accidents happened to other people.

The purists have their opinion, but if we had it to do over, we would have made these changes sooner.
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