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I went on an 18 ft sailboat and I saw that the only thing holding the boom in place was the halyard. When we were fiddling with the halayrd to attach the mainsail to the halyard, the boom fell on the cockpit.
Is it always the same on all cruising sailboats?
 

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On a small boat the halyard.mainsail sometimes is the only thing holding up the boom. In most cases the boat has a topping lift of some sort at a minimum. On a cruising boat they will have a topping lift and or rigid boom vang to support the mast. The bigger the boat the more need for boom support.
If you do a google search you will find many different options.
 

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For smaller boat's that's pretty typical.. you just need to get used to gently laying the boom down when you go to attach the halyard. It's OK but a proper topping lift will support the boom during the reefing operation, which is helpful but not necessary depending on boat/sail size. A topping lift does tend to chafe the leech of the mainsail over time.

Rigid vangs and boom kickers are available to provide that support, allowing you to forego a full time topping lift. On larger boats (say 30+) I think that's the way to go.
 
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If you have a boat that can reef the main you need a way to keep the boom in place. For reefing you will have to lower partially the main and if the boom is not kept in place, it will come down since there is nothing that can maintain it at his normal height.

As have already been said there are two ways that most of the time exist together on most cruising boats: boom vang and topping lift.

On a new boat the boomvang has enough power to do it alone but with time the spring loses power and starts to be not enough. Last year I had to change the boomvang spring on my 6 year's old boat. Now it works perfectly;)
 

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There are 4 common possibilities:
* Pigtail off of the backstay that can hold the boom up. This only holds the boom near the centerline of the boat. It is a cheap option and often the stock option.
* Two main halyards, one of which is lighter weight and used as a topping lift. The other is used to haul up the sail. Gives you a backup halyard should your main one fail.
* Topping lift that is fixed to the masthead and adjustable near the boom end. Or a completely fixed topping lift. This is a lighter option, especially if made with dyneema.
* Rigid vang, which has some sort of spring that pushes up on the boom when the vang is released.

All of them work pretty well and have different tradeoffs. My least favorite is the pig tail, if you forget about it and bear off to a beam reach or down wind you'll now be stuck with a boom near the centerline of the boat and which is pulling hard on your backstay.
 

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The small boats I sail sometimes have a plastic curved "spring" under the boom, brand name "Boomkicker". It will hold up a *lightweight* boom fairly well during rigging sails and reefing/unreefing. Don't know if this would work for you. It's similar to the rigid vang Alex W describes above, but on "my" boat has just the bowed part, nothing rigid.
 

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There are 4 common possibilities:
* Pigtail off of the backstay that can hold the boom up. This only holds the boom near the centerline of the boat. It is a cheap option and often the stock option.
That worked well for me and very simple to rig and operate. I would simply bring the main to center and clip it off to the line attached to the back stay.

(not my boat, sniped from online)

 

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Be careful if using vang to hold up boom on a bigger boat. When it gets bumpy the boom will oscillate up and down on it's spring. With time occillations will get greater and boom may hit you, dodger or bimini on a larger boat. Much safer to have topping lift. If you have roller furling boom with truly rigid vang ( fixed angle) vang may suffice.
my 2 cents
 

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My least favorite is the pig tail, if you forget about it and bear off to a beam reach or down wind you'll now be stuck with a boom near the centerline of the boat and which is pulling hard on your backstay.
My little boat has a split backstays with a cradle strung between them for the boom, kind of like a pigtail. The previous owner could not stress enough how crucial it was to remember to take it off before sailing! Sounded like it was personal experience...
 

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My little boat has a split backstays with a cradle strung between them for the boom, kind of like a pigtail. The previous owner could not stress enough how crucial it was to remember to take it off before sailing! Sounded like it was personal experience...
My standard mode of operation was to take off the main sail cover, attach the main halyard to the back end of the boom and remove the pigtail. I made it a habit, second nature so that didn't forget. I also had a little mental checklist of things to check before raising the main and that was the last thing on the list. It was an easy thing to remember for me as it was at eye level and I used a bright yellow line so that it was visible. to me it wasn't a big deal......then again I might have a different opinion had I forgot 1 time in a good blow!
 

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No one has mentioned another option for holding up the boom at anchor: a boom crutch. Hoisting the sail generally lifts the boom up off it, so removing it is simple. It also provides a piece of wood that might come in handy in some emergency situations. (Jury rudder/tiller/bumper board/splint for boom...) A boom crutch is obviously not helpful for reefing, but a spring-loaded rigid vang has worked for us since 1997 w/o replacing any springs, and we've done a reasonable bit of reefing when we've needed to.
 

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So when is the right time to cleat the topping lift? do you raise the mainsail, which then lifts the boom to the proper height, then attach the topping lift line to hold it in place?
 

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On small boats an additional option is a boom crutch. There are various ways to rig these but most are set up inj the cockpit and stand about the same hieght as the boom would be when properly rigged.
Before lowering the main, or slackening the halyard, the boom crutch is set in place and the boom lowered in to it as the halyard is slackened.
 

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So when is the right time to cleat the topping lift? do you raise the mainsail, which then lifts the boom to the proper height, then attach the topping lift line to hold it in place?
The topping lift need only support the boom a) when the sail is down, or b) when the wind is so light the weight of the boom drops the clew and 'closes' off the leech.

Under ordinary conditions the sail and the forces on it will support the boom, and the vang and sheet used to overcome that force to get the correct trim. Then the topping lift should be removed or completely slacked. It's common for an overtight topping lift to interfere with mainsail trim.
 

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No one has mentioned another option for holding up the boom at anchor: a boom crutch. Hoisting the sail generally lifts the boom up off it, so removing it is simple.
The oar on my '77 Rhodes 19 was a boom crutch. It was from the factory like this, had a cutout for the boom and a metal clip that secured it to the cockpit floor.
 

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So when is the right time to cleat the topping lift? do you raise the mainsail, which then lifts the boom to the proper height, then attach the topping lift line to hold it in place?
I don't adjust my topping lift on a regular basis.

It is adjusted normally adjusted to be a little bit longer than the leech of the main sail. This normal position keeps the boom off of my dodger but allows the leech of the main to lift the boom. That prevents the topping lift from affecting sail trim.

In very light air I might use trim the topping lift a little bit to force mainsail shape. When I get back to the marina I ease it back to it's normal position.

On your FJ there is very unlikely to be a topping lift. My 505 (also a racing dinghy) has no boom support when the mainsail is down. One could be added, but it is additional mast weight which is very undesirable on these light boats with very light rigs.

It's funny that I forgot about boom crutches in my original list, the boats that I teach (Blanchard Junior) on use them.
 
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