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Disabling the Spindrift Sleeved Sail on the Water

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I've had a few situations now where I'm in unsteady waters and want to be able to switch my Spindrift 11N to rowing. I've added a topping lift (a simple single line from the top of the mast to the end of the boom) so that the boom doesn't drop into the boat when a release the halyard, but that's proving to be annoying still, since the lift is hard to adjust when there's a breeze and the boom is bouncing around. So now I'm thinking about adding a block to the top of the mast and running the topping lift down and cleating it off with the other control lines.


Part of the goal here is to be able to quickly get the sail out of the way and out of trouble when I need to be rowing. So my theory is that if I add the lift, and then, when necessary, pull the boom way up above my head (30˚ or 45˚ up, perhaps?) then the sail is free to flop and flap about (maybe with some mainsheet tension to keep it towards the back of the boat) but I'd be able to row out of trouble. Is that wrong? Am I liable to end up with a sort of parachute way up in the air knocking my boat around?


Last time I tried to bring the sail down while on the water, the zipper for the sleeve got stuck and then I was bouncing around, and then there was a pier wall, and that was a good 20 minutes of keeping Elsewhere off the wall and upright, pulling myself along to a dock. I'm wondering if a pullable toping lift in conjunction with some kind of line on the sleeve zipper pull would make it easier to get the sail down and out of the way in an emergency. I guess if I'm switching to oars for emergency purposes, I don't really care about getting the sail back up after I'm done rowing to a dock of some kind.


So I guess the question is: how do folks disable, significantly depower, or douse the sleeved Spindrift sail on the water? Do I have to switch to a lashed or rail configuration for the sail? Would raising the sail clew without the ability to mess too much with the other sail controls (with the exception of maybe loosening the halyard and whatever the reefing line can do) make a very tippy boat?


I guess I could also reach the outhaul and the attachment of the reefing line, usually. If I were to replace the bowline knots on their attachments to the boom with some kind of quicker-release knots or pins or something, I could let the whole sail fly free. Maybe add some way of bunching it up to the mast?

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I know Pete McCrary addresses some of these same issues in his Seabiscuit  thread. I have a Spindrift 10 and the discussions about how to lower and stow the sail while on the water has led me to explore an issue that I had not given much thought to.  I do want to keep the rig as simple as possible. Sometimes solutions bring their own problems.


My other boat is an EC22. I have sailed this boat for eight years with only oars and a paddle as auxiliary power.  A boat the size of a Spindrift you can use oars to pull yourself out of a tight spot, but a boat the size of a EC22 not so much.  On my EC22 the oars are there to move the boat when there is no wind and the paddle is there for the last couple of feet at the dock or the first couple of feet away from the dock. If I get myself and the boat into trouble neither the oars or paddle are going to be able to save me. I have to keep that in mind all the time I am sailing and especially when approaching shore. I have to work out a way to put my boat in a position where I can anchor or dock or negotiate a channel by sail alone.


I have carried that approach to sailing my Spindrift. So while I am thinking about some ideas to make the transition from sail to oar or paddle easier. I do not want those modifications to significantly detract from the joy of sailing the boat. Trusting to sail alone is risky, but relying too heavily on an auxiliary can also be risky. There is no correct answer for everyone. It depends on your boat, your skill, how much risk or inconvenience you want to deal with and the area and conditions you sail in. 


I am looking forward to getting my Spindrift out on the water and trying some ideas out and to following your thread.



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I believe that conversion of the sail for a laced luff is the solution to this very real problem.  See my postings at page 7 of my Seabiscuit (a Spindrift 10) at:

Although I’m selling Seabiscuit, I’m very satisfied with the inexpensive (< $300) modification to the sleeved luff.

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First of all, something weird happened, when Pete attached that photo. That boat is my friends Bella 10 Skiff.


Also, instead of a traditional block for your topping lift, I suggest using a Ronstan Shock.  They are simpler and less expensive than blocks.  I use them on

my small boat for the mainsheet “block”, and they work great.


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Changing the sail is a bit more than I'm able to do right now. Would probably require at least having a car to get to a sailmaker =D .


So for now, I've prototyped the attached on land. The bright yellow line runs up to the top of the mast and back down. I'll find a place to tie it off once I try it out on the water. The hope is that with the sail so high up, it won't be catching too much wind. Might need to loosen the outhaul. I might also add an additional line that runs across the sail from the sail number to the tack to take the bunched up sail in and keep it even more out of trouble.


All that is well and good, but I'm going to need to try it out on the water before I start adding stuff to the boat. I'll put it up, see how she rows with the sail up there. The idea here is to have a way to get it up and out of my way when I need to switch to rowing in a pinch. From what I've seen so far, it seems like the tension of the topping lift and the main working against each other keeps the boom from moving around too much.


Will report back once I've tried. Maybe I'll get a chance to dip in the water ahead of this hurricane coming our way...



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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, got to try it on the water yesterday. It was a pretty calm day (though that still means waves a-plenty), but a useful test nevertheless, I hope.




The sail definitely doesn't look pretty, but it's a pretty quick "I don't want to sail anymore!" transition.




I'm able to row pretty effectively with the sail up there, and the tension between the mainsheet and the "topping lift" keeps the boom tidy enough aft.


Loose the boom vang, drop the halyard, raise the topping lift (before the boom hits you on the head), loosen the outhaul if you remember, draw in and sit on the mainsheet, and row! Easy enough.


I'll set up a more permanent topping lift and probably either run it to the boom vang cleat (which I can't use when the topping lift is doing its thing, anyway), or throw a little hook or cleat on the side of the cleat set and add a few loops to the topping lift for "convenient" positions.


Any red flags?


I wonder if it's possible to get the boom completely vertical. I suspect the gooseneck won't be happy about it as it is now, but perhaps I might be able to adjust it a bit. As it is now, I was able to ghost along on a bit of a breeze when everything was pointed in the right direction. I'll want to check for sure next time there's more wind.

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I would worry about the wind catching your sail and turning it into a parachute.  Can you brail it and the boom up against the mast?

I know that area in Manhattan.   It's amazing to see you sailing out of that little harbor.  Good for you!

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I tried rowing my Spindrift with the sail and boom up over my head and I was not comfortable with the stability in any wind. I felt much better getting the sail down and out of the way. being able to easily remove the boom at the gooseneck was key. I acknowledge that it ain't pretty but for the few times I may want to lower the sail on the water it works for me.  I can work my legs to the forward side of the thwart and from there reach the zipper luff. I believe I am keeping my weight far enough aft that the boat still feels stable. One of Pete's ideas for making it easier to lower the sail while remaining aft would make it easier, but this works well enough for me as I am usually sailing to shallow water and just stepping our prior to lowering the sail.



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Oh that’s interesting! I hadn’t considered taking the boom down.


I have never been able to get the zipper unzipped in any kind of seamanlike way, even at the dock, so I might need to see about adding a zipper pull line of some kind if I go that route.

The waters around here are 6 to 8 to 60 feet with no beaches in sight, so stepping out isn’t really an option =]

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You might try some  McLube Sailkote on the zipper.  I replaced the clevis pin on the gooseneck with a quick release pin, which I hope does not release while I am sailing. I eased the outhaul if it has a lot of tension it makes installing the gooseneck difficult.  

1 hour ago, Aleksandr Pasechnik said:

seamanlike way,

I am not sure I am the one to assist with that


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Can confirm that at about 8 knots of wind, the hoisted boom and sail act as a rather uncomfortable parachute. So that idea is out.


I did reuse the little D-ring I was using to experiment with the topping lift into a sleeve zipper helper of sorts. Basically a loop of line that ties to the zipper puller and goes up to the mast head. I just ran it down to the front of the boat, but I'd probably put it through some redirects to end up somewhere near the daggerboard case. Made it much simpler to drop the sail (though I can't use the bottom sail attachment snap, and I will probably want to have some kind of additional stopper at the head of the sail to prevent it going off completely).




With the sail unzipped, it lowers quite nicely. I'll have to see how it behaves down on the water. I think between the sail unzipping and coming down and a topping lift keeping the boom from causing too much trouble, I should be able to tidily lash the sail to the boom and row. Maybe. Will experiment and report back.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Yup, confirmed that the zipper line works. Unzips the sail and lets it come down nicely. The reefing lines don’t work quite so well for lashing the sail, but I had read a suggestion in one of the posts here to use bungee and that worked great.


I’m probably going to run the loop of unzipping line down to the plate at the base of the mast and back to the block with the other lines. A simple ring should be enough to redirect the line, since the tension is minimal.


All that is also helped by having a topping lift (to keep the boom up over my head while rowing with the sail lowered and lashed), but that I have found can be static. If I really need to raise the end of the boom a bit, I can wrap the topping lift line around the end of the boom a couple of times.


Might experiment with some lazy jacks, too, though maybe that would be too much? =]

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13 hours ago, Aleksandr Pasechnik said:

All that is also helped by having a topping lift (to keep the boom up over my head while rowing with the sail lowered and lashed), but that I have found can be static. If I really need to raise the end of the boom a bit, I can wrap the topping lift line around the end of the boom a couple of times.


Might experiment with some lazy jacks, too, though maybe that would be too much? =]

If your topping lift comes down from the mast and goes through a cheek block, oposite the one for the outhaul, and then to a jamb cleat, it will be adjustable. On bigger boats a 2:1 system is used, but not needed on a Spindrift.


I think lazy jacks is getting carried away. But then I didn't use them on my 27 foot Renegade either.

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