DIY: Replacing a Mainsheet Traveler

I love the fact that an old boat can give you as much sailing pleasure as an expensive new one. The only proviso for me is that the sail handling systems be absolutely top-notch. Replacing hardware like mainsheet travelers, genoa lead cars, boom vangs and lead blocks with new, low-friction gear will repay you many times over in ease of handling and improved efficiency.A case in point was a
Author:
Updated:
Original:

I love the fact that an old boat can give you as much sailing pleasure as an expensive new one. The only proviso for me is that the sail handling systems be absolutely top-notch. Replacing hardware like mainsheet travelers, genoa lead cars, boom vangs and lead blocks with new, low-friction gear will repay you many times over in ease of handling and improved efficiency.

A case in point was a friend’s elderly but sweet-sailing Lady Helmsman 39. With its narrow beam and tall fractional rig, this Swedish design sails like a witch and just loves going to windward. The corollary to the big rig is the fact that the mainsail needs frequent tending to get the old girl performing to her potential. The original traveler was, to put it kindly, past its best, and the owner just left it locked on the centerline. A new one would be the sort of upgrade that showed immediate results.

We decided to install a new Harken windward sheeting traveler, which has a mechanism that automatically opens and closes the leeward cleat during a tack. As you’re sailing upwind the leeward cleat stays open so you can pull the car up to or above the centerline, and when you tack the leeward cleat closes, the car stays put, and the new leeward cleat opens so you can pull the car above centerline.

We ordered a kit that came with a length of high-beam track with variable hole spacing, which promised to make installation a breeze. Here’s how it worked in practice.

travint1f

The original traveler is obviously due for replacement. For starters, there is only a 2:1 purchase on the traveler tackle, which is hardly adequate for the loads imposed by the big mainsail.

trav2intf

The plain-bearing blocks were worn and friction was an issue.

travint4

Tufnol blocks give away the age of the traveler system – late 1970s.

travint5

As always, getting the old fixtures off is the worst part of any deck gear upgrade.

travint6

The components of the Harken windward sheeting traveler: high beam track, a ball-bearing car, low-friction blocks and end stops.

travint7

We had to drill holes so we could bolt on the end stops, but apart from that, installation is about as easy as it gets.

travint8

The new bolts were larger than the old ones, so we had to slightly enlarge the holes from the old traveler.

travint9

This is what makes the high-beam track so easy to install—the bolts slide in from the end, and can be positioned over the existing holes.

travint10

We slide on the new car, and then position the track over the holes.

travint11

A thorough application of sealant around the holes and along the length of the track should stop water from getting in.

travint12

Now we just have to wiggle the fasteners around a little so they pop into their holes, and then the track will be in place. All we have to do is tighten up the nuts under the bridgedeck.

Related

03-200123_PM_MIAMI_31326_3065

U.S. Team Strikes Miami Gold

If there was ever a time for the U.S. Sailing Team, which has been experiencing a serious medal drought of late, to start peaking it would be now, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to begin in July. Luckily, it appears the team, which has won only three Olympic medals since 2004, ...read more

shutterstock_1466239997

Charter: the Greek Isles

If there’s one charter destination that’s impossible to tire of, it’s Greece. This Mediterranean jewel is simply so large, so varied and so special it’s impossible to relegate it to just a single checkbox on a list. This past year a group of friends and I chartered from Navigare ...read more

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