Reefing the Mainsail on Your Cruising Sailboat – A Quick Tutorial

Reefing the Mainsail on Your Cruising Sailboat – A Quick Tutorial

Every sailor at one time or another will need to reef the mainsail. Done right, and assuming your boat is well rigged for reefing, the exercise will result in a more balanced boat in windier conditions.

There are several reefing designs like slab reefing (using a Jiffy Reef type system) and on the more modern boats crewed yacht charters many are coming with in-mast or in-boom mainsails. To reef these types of systems it is simply a matter of cranking in the mainsail inside the mast or boom until the desired amount is left. These are easy and efficient but typically the sail shape is not as good particularly in in-mast systems since batons are not an option.

The majority of cruisers though have the traditional and time tested slab reefing. Below are a few simple points in helping you with a successful reef of your mainsail.

1.    The mainsail should first be eased by releasing the mainsheet slowly. Make sure all the wind is spilled from the sail and the boom being supported by the topping lift. Also make sure the boom vang is eased and there is not tension on it. Some boats have solid boom vangs that hold up the boom instead of a topping lift, however.

2.    Next, uncleat the main halyard and ease the sail down until the reef point you want is at boom level. Different boats have different number of reef points. Some have only one and others have two or three. The luff reef cringle is then pulled down by hooking it in a ram’s horn on the mast. Some boats have reef lines that can be pulled and cleated for the correct tension.

3.    The leech reef line should then be adjusted pulling the leech cringle tightly to the aft of the boom. The topping lift can now be released and the mainsail trimmed and the boom vang retightened.

4.    You’ll now have a “slab” of sail that you’ll need to tidy up by rolling and tying up with light line or sail ties run through the reefing cringles along the reefing line in the sail. Some sailors don’t worry about the extra sail laying about but most tend to like getting it out of the way to prevent damage.

It is always good seamanship to reef in port if you know the wind is warranting it. It’s easier and safer in a controlled, docked position but with practice and if done correctly, there’s no need to fear putting a reef in out on the water.

Taking the Leap Into Sailboat Cruising

The moment I decided to go sailboat cruising stands out clearly in my mind. I was standing on a Southern California bluff staring out at the Pacific Ocean, still a little bit in shock. It was the afternoon of my father’s funeral; he had died young at 63, after a brief and losing battle with cancer.

I was 29 years old, and had acquired many of my father’s Type A traits. Following his example, I had propelled myself along the rail tracks of the American Dream of professional accomplishment and material acquisition. My husband, Dan, and I owned a very busy and successful contracting company. I enjoyed the work a lot.

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