SailNet Community

SailNet Community (
-   Gear & Maintenance (
-   -   Retrieving Main Halyard from top of Mast? (

CapnSantiago 04-07-2008 03:48 PM

Retrieving Main Halyard from top of Mast?
Okay, I’m embarrassed but…went out for my first sail of the season after working most every winter weekend on the boat. Everything went great, light (5-10-15 knots) wind, clear/sunny skies, 70’s, cruising around for about 5 hours. Coming back to the slip about ready to lower the sails and “pop” I look up and see the mainsail shackle has let loose of the main and it slacks and begins to fall. I had already started the motor so I just rounded up and lowered the sail and motored on in. At the slip I notice the main halyard/shackle remains at the top of the mast and the shackle is open. I’m wondering, did it fail, or did I fail to properly fasten it…well, it’s an “over-center” design with a “pull pin” similar to what you see on a snap shackle (sorry, I don’t know all the terminology here)…it held for 4-5 hours, why did it suddenly let loose. Well, it was evening/dinner time so off to the cabin to take care of that and slept on it overnight. I have a bosun’s chair (never been used), but no line to climb…the tail of the main halyard is run through mast so no exposed line to ride (probably wouldn’t be to smart to rely on the shackle/knot at the head for tension anyway)…the headsail is on a roller furling, so unless I want to dismantle all that I can’t use the headsail halyard…not too fond of heights anyway, so I can I do this from the deck?.

Next morning made a run to Home Depot and got 3-10’ sections of ¾” rigid EMT (I was going to use PVC, but an in-store test proved the PVC too flexible) with connectors, duck taped a bent coat hanger to it and went “air fishing” for my halyard. Actually touched the halyard/shackle a couple of times but didn’t hook it and between the 30’ height, weight of pipe (it’s bending and twisting under its own weight…especially at the connectors which I had drilled through for a more secure connection), wind, and gentle rocking boat it was quite difficult to control. A neighbor suggests a net or something to snag it. I have some fishnet for a storage hammock I haven’t yet installed so I cut a wad of it and attach it to the pole. I got it up there again (no jokes please) and brushed it a couple of times before the wind caught it and bent it way over until it bent and broke and fell into the open slip beside me (I made sure it fell that way, if any, instead of onto the boat the other side of me…I hope my slip neighbor doesn’t read this). So, 20’ of the pole and the fishnet were sacrificed to the lake gods and I called it quite.

So now for the question(s)…How do I get my main halyard back down? Why did the shackle let go? Is the shackle I have the proper hardware for the halyard? How do I keep this from ever happening again?

At a previous lake they had a pole with ladder rungs along side the dock for climbing and retrieving for this very scenario. At my marina they have a pole for mast stepping with winches but I do not believe they are for public use. So, short of paying marina service fro retrieving my halyard what are my options? I know an inspection of the shackle after retrieval will be required to answer some of the questions. To assure this doesn’t happen again I could tie a retrieving line to it but don’t really want that flogging around. Alternatively I could tie some weight to it to overcome the counterbalanced weight of the line…I wonder how much weight it would take?

erps 04-07-2008 03:55 PM

Do you have a head sail you can drop and go up on that halyard?

Stillraining 04-07-2008 04:03 PM

Like Ray said....If you trust you jib halyard...unfurl and drop your jib and ascend using your chair ( If its not fractional rigged ) sounds like your using the wrong shackle...should not be a snap shackle..

sailortjk1 04-07-2008 04:26 PM

I would like previously sugessted, simply unfurl and drop the Genny and go up after it. Its not that difficult to do.
But, didn't Alex have a way of doing this with out going up?
Seems I remember this question coming up before.

L02314564 04-07-2008 05:14 PM

I got this from Sail, Cruising Tips - October 2005. Hope it helps. I used a Coat Hanger for the stiff line mentioned in the article with great success. Good Luck

Halyard retrieval

Losing a halyard up the mast is always a big pain in the rear, but if the mast in question has a spare halyard on it, there’s a good chance you can bring the lost halyard back to the deck without leaving the deck yourself. Take a spare line, preferably an older one that is slightly stiff from a little too much exposure to salt and sun, and make a noose with a slip knot at the end of it. Then take your spare halyard’s snapshackle and clasp the shackle around the standing part of your retrieval line just below the noose you made (the slip knot must be big enough that it does not slide through the snapshackle). The noose should be opened as wide as possible without going limp.
Next use the spare halyard to hoist the noose aloft into close proximity with the end of the lost halyard. By twitching your end of the spare halyard and the retrieval line with a bit of creative body English, you should eventually be able to get the noose around the end of the lost halyard. Then all you need do is yank on the retrieval line to close the noose. Pull the retrieval line back down to the deck and both the spare halyard and the lost halyard will come down with it.

SV Other Woman
1976 Catalina 27 # 2684

ronsunni 04-07-2008 05:31 PM

You might be able to use your topping lift to go up the mast.

btrayfors 04-07-2008 05:41 PM

Faced with the same problem on my Catalina 22 some years ago, I solved it by using the jib halyard. I tied a spare line to the the shackle of the jib halyard and belayed the line. Then, using the jib halyard as it passed through the sheave atop the mast, and came down the aft side, I stood on the cabin top and began whipping the jib halyard in circles.

Took only about 5 minutes before I had snagged the shackle on the main halyard; then, it was a simple matter to untie the spare line I'd tied to the jib halyard, and pull the main halyard down using the jib halyard.

Actually wrote a little piece about this for my yacht club :-)


Stillraining 04-07-2008 05:48 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Heres a picture of a proper main sail Head board shackle.

sailingdog 04-07-2008 06:07 PM

On several of the boats I have sailed on, including mine... whoever loses the halyard up the mast has to recover it... and they have to buy a round for the rest of the boat's crew.

CapnSantiago 04-07-2008 07:02 PM

Thanks for the alternative suggestions. This will fill in some of the above questions.

It is a masthead rig not fractional.
The headsail is rigged with a roller furling that I would have to dismantle to use the halyard.
I do not have a topping lift...I have a Hi/Lo Reefer (yes, I know..and it says it in big red letters on the side of the boom) in-boom roller for the main.
My shackle (as came with the boat) does not look like the Head Board Shackle picture looks more like a snap shackle with the plunger pin (maybe I can get the PO that installed the wrong shackle to go up and get it...although I didn't know enough to know it was wrong...all this time I just thought it was more "convenient"...the crew I had that day didn't drink, but I sure did especially after this special event)

So I guess I'll be dismantling the headsail roller furling (can I get some help with how to do that?...I'm sure I can get it apart/down, but are there any tricks to reinstalling/adjusting it?) one way or another. I like and understand the concept of the "twitchy noose/spare line" concept since it keeps me from going up there. Although with my in-boom furler the mainsail luff runs in a track that stands off the mast 3-4" and stops short of the top of the mast 6-12" so the two (headsail & mainsail halyards) don't meet up...maybe I can use the concept and make something work.

So thanks for the input so far, but I'm still open to more if it keeps my feet on the deck.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 05:39 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.1.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
(c) LLC 2000-2012

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome