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:
Publish date:

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

arc18-3981

Stories from the Cruisers of the ARC

Each December, the docks at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia are abuzz as the fleet of the ARC—the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers—arrives to much fanfare. No matter what time of day or night, the staff of the World Cruising Club, organizers of the 33-year-old rally, are there to ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com A sign from outside the box  Rev counters on modern engines are driven electronically from a terminal on the alternator. If all is well, as soon as the engine fires up the revs will read true. If, ...read more

emSelf-tacking-jib

Ask Sail: Are Self-trackers Worth It?

Q: I’m seeing more and more self-tacking jibs out on the water (and in the pages of SAIL) these days. I can’t help thinking these boats are all hopelessly underpowered, especially off the wind, when compared to boats with even slightly overlapping headsails. But I could be ...read more

01-LEAD-hose-leak-CREDIT-BoatUS

Know how: Is Your Bilge Pump up to the Job?

Without much reflection, I recently replaced my broken bilge pump with a slightly larger model. After all, I thought, surely an 800 gallon-per-hour (gph) pump will outperform the previous 500gph unit? Well, yes, but that’s no reason to feel much safer, as I soon discovered. The ...read more

190314-viddy

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A Source of Hope

The tagline for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is "serious sailing, serious fun." However, for the inhabitants of St. Maarten, the event is more than just a festival of great music and some of the best sailing around. Local blogger Angie Soeffker explains the impact the race ...read more

SPOTX-1500x1500_front

Gear: SPOT-X Satellite

Hits the SPOT The SPOT-X two-way satellite messenger is an economical way of staying connected to the outside world via text or e-mail when you’re at sea. As well as the messaging service, it has a distress function that not only alerts authorities if you’re in trouble, but lets ...read more

_8105684

A Kid’s Take on the Northwest Passage

Going North—and West Crack! Crunch! I woke with a start to the sound of ice scraping the hull of our 60ft sailboat, Dogbark. In a drowsy daze, I hobbled out of the small cabin I was sharing with my little sister. As I emerged into the cockpit, I swiveled my head, searching for ...read more