Reefing while solo

  • July 29, 2015 12:27 PM
    Message # 3456781
    Deleted user

    My rig is the pretty basic setup with the original staysail boom and loose-footed staysail, boom end sheeting for the main, and the main has jiffy reefing lines. There is only a topping lift, and no vang. The only lines lead into the cockpit are the sheets. I don't have any plans on changing the rigging anytime soon, so although I appreciate the offer, I don't need suggestions on how to change my rigging by eliminating the staysail boom, shortening the main boom and making the sail smaller, getting a vang, adding a traveller, etc., etc., etc.

    What I do need is advise on is the steps on how to reef the main when you are by yourself.

    I usually end up going out by myself and would like some feedback on the proper sequence of events.

    How I would do it is:

    steer into the wind until the main luffs

    release the main sheet

    bring up the boom with the topping lift (or should I secure it in the boom crutch?)

    release the halyard and bring the main down until the first reef cringle on the tack can be hooked on the reef hook

    take tension back onto main until vertical line appear in the luff of the sail

    Release the outhaul a bit so the sail can move

    Pull in jiffy reefing lines until clew is down, tie off line to cleat

    tie up reef points, only bundling the sail, not around the boom

    tighten up outhaul

    release the topping lift

    harden the main sheet

    Does that sounds about right?

    Thanks for any feedback,


  • July 30, 2015 8:03 AM
    Reply # 3457700 on 3456781

    Ahoy Stephen,

    My rig is identical and my reefing procedure is similar.  Here are my differences:

    I seldom steer up into the wind.  I simply pull in the main sheet to a close reach position.  If I'm already close hauled or close reaching then the main will just remain as is.

    My topping lift remains as is. 

    I lower the halyard to bring the cringle down to the hook, plus a few more inches, and secure it.  Note:  I also have cleats on both sides of the mast at the appropriate positions with a line attached and ready to pass through the cringle.  I will use this line about 50% of the time - instead of the hooks.

    I haul out the clew.  I have sheet stoppers/rope clutches, plus winches, plus cleats,

    I rehoist the sail. 

    Tie in the gaskets/reef ties.

    Add a safety lashing around the boom, through the clew cringle.

    resheet the main.

    In most cases, I never changed course.

    IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am set up to reef equally on either side. It is way easier to reef from the windward position.  There is a little more spaghetti hanging around but this can easily be controlled and dealt with.

    Good luck,

  • July 31, 2015 12:18 AM
    Reply # 3458615 on 3456781

    I certainly cannot add or disagree with messrs King or Rhines , but here is how we (I) do it first fire up engine 2nd head up and set AP 3rd go to mast lower main (halyard is marked) then pull reef line ( on our set up the reef line becomes the out haul) do the tighten up on main , and that's it !

    Last modified: July 31, 2015 12:18 AM | Anonymous member
  • July 31, 2015 11:22 AM
    Reply # 3459633 on 3456781

    I use a standard approach to slab reefing. I've found that getting the sail down to the first reef is possible in just about any point of sail from broad reach to close hauled. The second reef point needs to be beam or closer to the wind because of the friction of the sail on the shrouds. I've also found that simply pulling on the reefing line through a turning block is not enough to get the clew all the way down. I've tried many different techniques like dumping the traveler, raising the topping lift, easing the mainsheet, etc. I once had a friend help me pull on the line and that did the trick. The clew was down enough to flatten the sail and secure the sail ties. Without that extra power the clew will not come down far enough for me.

    Now that I've realized this issue, I've decided to redo the reefing so I can winch the lines on the boom. I'm also going to setup for both sides so I can reef on the windward side, which is safer and easier. This will require a winch on either side with rope clutches to free the winch in case I want to manage the outhaul or topping lift. 

    As far as steering the boat; If you don't have the wind vane working, good luck to you. Without it, I cannot imagine single handing in anything beyond 15 knots.

    Last modified: July 31, 2015 11:24 AM | Anonymous member
  • July 31, 2015 1:50 PM
    Reply # 3459833 on 3456781
    Deleted user

    When solo I keep one reef in the main at all times.  Not worth the risk to get caught with too much power and not enough crew.  With a cutter rig and a furling headsail it's easy enough to sail in most conditions with one reef in the main.  If it it gets brisk I go to the staysail and the main only.  If I need even less cloth then I can take in another reef in the main but it will really be blowing at that point.

    If I was soloing long distances I would shake out the one reef in light conditions but a bigger challenge is poling out the headsail solo, etc.

  • August 20, 2016 6:08 AM
    Reply # 4202028 on 3456781

    So, I'm no expert but, just sailed my boat right after purchase and had to do Point Conception in this unfamiliar beast. I got caught in some 25+kt wind. I did put in my second reef before it got too windy but, I had only played with the reef On my 25ft McGregor swing keel once or twice and, had just put in the first reef on the Westsail a couple days before to help balance the tiller out. 

      As you might imagine, it was a little hairy putting that reef in just a little too late, of course. I almost pulled the whole reefing line out trying to get the back end of the sail to come down tight as I thought it should. After going to the leeward side to fix that, the sail came down proper, though I couldn't get it as tight(close to the boom) as I though it should be. So, I'm close hauled as I can be to keep the main super soft, double reefed and, still taking a huge amount of water over the rail and, plenty made it into the cockpit, too. That's when I found out that the steering is beautiful on this boat. I let go of the tiller and, she bounced gracefully from 30° to about 50° and just tracked. I didn't touch the tiller for almost 12 hours. 

      So, I'm doing the jiffy reef thing. Just so I don't have to tie the sail to the reef points. That will save my hands and, after having to figure the whole thing out on the fly, just yanking and pulling to get those reefs good and tight to the boom was exhausting.

  • August 26, 2016 5:47 PM
    Reply # 4212684 on 3456781

    Aloha Norman,

       When reefing slack the mainsheet. Think of it as raising the boom to the clew rather than trying to pull it down to the boom. A lot easier on you and the sail.

       Happy sailing,   Lee