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Gaff and boom on my new boat


Herschel Payne
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I launched my Weekender for the first time today. The boom was really low, but I found a way to get it to a comfortable height:

First don't raise the main sail all the way. Then get the gaff as high as possible and this raises the boom.

Does this sound right? Has anybody done the same thing? Am I missing something?

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The gaff will hold the sail up, and in the process hold up the boom.  So yeah, that works.  But when you lower the gaff, the boom will come down into the cockpit unless you add something like a topping lift.  Its a great addition, and is very easy to do.

There are a couple of ways to do it.  On my Weekender, I borrowed an idea from John Henry to use a plastic jam cleat to make a self-cleating version:

toplift%20005.jpg

But you don't have to get that fancy.  A lot of guys just make one that goes from the top of the mast to the aft end of the boom, and make it just long enough to hold the boom just about level so you can lower the mainsail without filling the cockpit with it.

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On small boats you constantly are tweaking the Peak halyard as conditions change.  Differing points of sail,  differing windstrengths....Not much mind you,  mostly an inch or two of trimming or easing.

Trim or ease in order to affect sail shape.

Basically you want to get the wrinkles out of the sail.

Heavier winds or heading upwind you want a flatter sail.  Lighter winds or down wind you typically want a fuller sail.

Tigtening halyard, peak halyard and outhaul all tend to flatten the sail and easing them tends to make the sail belly bigger.

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Thank you for all the answers. So far the boat has exceeded my expectations.

It motors well with a 55 thrust Minkota, plus it rows very decently. I built a rowing seat just aft of the seat box in the companion way and I can use the back of the boat to brace.

Not fast but it works and is a fun (for me) option.

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You do not want to support the boom with the topping lift while sailing.  You only want to have the topping lift taut when you drop the sail to keep the boom from dropping to the deck.

Using the peak halyard will become second nature and you will feel a dramatic difference when under sail by adjusting the tension on the peak.  If you have diagonal wrinkles in the main, you need to adjust the peak tension so that the main sail takes a smooth shape with no wrinkles across the diagonals.   Going down wind you will find that you will loosen the peak somewhat so that the main fills and has more power.  Going cross wind or up wind you will find that tightening the peak will flatten the sail giving you more power going on those points of sail.  If you keep the topping lift taut, the main will have a ridge running across it from the aft end of the boom to the top where the topping lift is creating a crease in the shape of the sail and the main sail will not function as well as it could nor will adjusting the peak halyard have much effect.  Under sail the topping lift should be slack so it doesn't interfere with the sail shape.

If your boom hangs too low when undersail, you may well have the mast at the wrong angle just as others have done.  That is easily corrected.  With the mast set at the correct angle the boom should hang with ample head clearance unless the main sail is not the dimensions as designed.

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  • 4 months later...

I use a topping lift which lets me get rid of the boom crutch while still at the boat ramp. Just have to remember to slack it or disconnect when sailing. Very handy also if you want to make a tent over the cockpit. I also use it to hoist a light when anchored at night.

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  • 1 month later...

I grew up sailing modern fiberglass boats, so it was a big change to learn how to sail a gaffer (a Tom Gilmer "Blue Moon" yawl.) I thought it would be more or less the same, and it is, but there are some significant differences.

I learned a lot by volunteering on a historic gaffer in my area (the "Christine" oyster boat), and watching/learning from her experienced captain, and I also found the Tom Cunliffe book "Hand, Reef, and Steer" very useful for learning and understanding the finer points of sailing a gaff rigged boat.

Highly recommended.

-- John

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  • 4 weeks later...

In really light wind you can help give the sail a little shape by supporting some of the boom weight with the topping lift. The solid wood boom on the Vacationer and I am sure on the Weekender are pretty heavy and flatten the sail in light air when you could use some fullness.

That's a pretty good idea.

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