Chain Messenger

A handy technique for rereeving lost halyardsBy Ann HoffnerWith our Peterson 44, Oddly Enough, snug in a slip in Darwin, Australia, we stripped the gear off her deck before flying home for an extended visit. I bought three small bales of light polypropylene line and rigged messenger lines so I could rereeve the halyards when we returned. But I was distracted by the
Author:
Updated:
Original:

A handy technique for rereeving lost halyards

By Ann Hoffner

0806SS-Halyard1

With our Peterson 44, Oddly Enough, snug in a slip in Darwin, Australia, we stripped the gear off her deck before flying home for an extended visit. I bought three small bales of light polypropylene line and rigged messenger lines so I could rereeve the halyards when we returned. But I was distracted by the impending flight home and lost several messengers up the mast because I didn’t sew their ends securely to their halyards before hauling the halyards down.

Six months later, my first night back on board, I woke with an awful feeling. Exactly how many messengers had I lost? If it was all four, we had a problem. Without mast steps, how would I climb to the top of the mast? It was with great relief that I stuck my head out at daylight and saw the messengers for the main and spare halyards running up the mast.

0806SS-Halyard2

Before leaving the boat I had washed the lines in tubs of fresh water and fabric softener (to help soak out the salt as well as soften them) and stored them in the saloon so they’d stay soft and clean. I ran the main and spare halyards up on their messengers, dug the bosun’s chair out of the rope locker, and tied a few basic tools to the pockets. Then I looked for a special tool I had made for the express purpose of rereeving lost halyards.

0806SS-Halyard3

When we first bought Oddly Enough I spent many hours at the masthead in the bosun’s chair, tied off to the spare halyard crane, trying to stuff messenger lines with various small, heavy objects tied to them over the masthead sheaves so I could run all new internal halyards. Once I tried a pyramidal fishing weight, but it jammed in the masthead box and I had to pull the sheaves before I could remove it.
By trial and error I came up with a system that makes things easier. My special tool is a length of 1/8-inch parachute cord, twice the height of the mast plus 10 feet extra for handling. The cord is relatively expensive, but it makes a good messenger line because it knots easily and is flexible and durable. To one end of the line I have sewed 2 feet of window-sash chain, which is densely linked and heavy for its length. The cord is stored on a plastic electrical-wire spool, with the chain wrapped on last. Before wrapping the cord onto the spool, I leave the bitter end protruding a foot or so. This makes it easy to secure it temporarily to several loops of whipping twine, which are sewn through the end of a new halyard.

0806SS-Halyard4

The sash chain is tied off to the bosun’s chair, and the crew on deck holds the spool, making sure the parachute cord feeds off smoothly as the rigging crew ascends the mast. Once at the masthead, I take several loops of the parachute cord loosely around my wrist to carry the weight of the chain before untying it from the chair. Then I feed the end of the chain over the sheave for the missing halyard. After about 8 inches goes over, the weight of the chain will take the rest, so be prepared to control its fall. The chain helps the line run a straight path inside the mast.

Before letting the chain drop, have the deck crew mark the cord at the height of the correct halyard exit. Then ease the cord down over the sheave until the mark reaches the masthead. At this point, the chain should be opposite the halyard exit. The crew on deck should have a magnet on an extendable stalk; these are available at auto-parts stores and are also handy for retrieving dropped items from bilges. The deck crew can reach in with the magnet and fish the chain out the exit. The halyard is then made fast to the end of the cord and can be pulled over the masthead sheave and finally out the exit.

0806SS-Halyard5

I use sash chain because it is narrow and heavy. Any chain attractive to a magnet will do, but open links tend to kink up and jam, and if the chain is too light it will hang up inside the mast. I store the spool in the ready-to-run position in case a halyard breaks or is otherwise lost at sea. If you’re stepping your mast, make sure at least one external halyard is rigged to start you up the mast if you don’t have steps.
If more than one halyard needs rereeving, sew a loop in the bitter end of each one that needs to go up the mast. Then the deck crew can retie the messenger line to the next halyard, and the chain can be sent back up on a spare halyard.

0806SS-Halyard6

Ann Hoffner and Tom Bailey are currently cruising in the Indian Ocean.

Related

IDECsport_180919_106-2048

IDEC Tri Breaks Tea Route Record

Francis Joyon and his crew aboard the maxi-tri IDEC Sport have set a new record for the “tea route” from Hong Kong to London of just 31 days, 23 hours, 36 minutes. In doing so they bested the previous record set by Italian skipper, Giovanni Soldini aboard the trimaran Maserati ...read more

DawnRileyforSAILmagazine

An Interview with Sailor Dawn Riley

The 2019 sailing documentary Maiden received rave reviews as a human-interest story that featured excellent racing footage and the heartfelt recollections of an all-female team led by then 25-year-old Briton Tracy Edwards. During the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World race, ...read more

IMG_9978

Charter: More for Your Money

Though summer may not be when you typically think of escaping to a tropical island, it could, in fact, be the perfect time for a charter holiday. Despite popular perception, the Caribbean isn’t hot as Hades during summer. In fact, the highs vary by only about 8 degrees F ...read more

Riley-and-Elayna,-Sailing-La-Vagabonde

Sailing in the YouTube Era

At the risk of both dating myself and being accused of gross hyperbole, I will say this: it was a bit like 1964 when the Beatles first landed in New York. What I’m referring to is last fall’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Playing the role of the Beatles were not one, but two ...read more

Bill-Hatfield-copy-1024x665

Cruising: Solo Circumnavigators

There seems to be no age limit for solo-circumnavigators. Not so long ago we had Californian Jeff Hartjoy set a record for the oldest American to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted, at the age of 70. A few months ago, 77-year-old Briton Jeanne Socrates became the ...read more

bookrev

Book Review: One-Pot Wonders

James Barber Harbour Publishing, $14.95 I’ll bet a filet mignon against a can of Dinty Moore that almost every cruising cook has read and discarded a goodly number of seagoing recipe books. Some are so simple as to be insulting. Others require too many exotic and perishable ...read more

_DSC7508

A Great Lakes Sailor Rediscovers Cruising

It had been seven years since I’d taken my Westsail 32, Antares, out for more than an afternoon day sail. Such is the reality when taking care of an elderly parent. However, a year ago my dad passed away at the age of 100, and after we sold the family home, I found myself living ...read more