Bigdamdork

Switching from Rope Luff to Slugs

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A preemptive "THANK YOU" again for all the advice.  I feel bad only sponging information right now, hopefully in a while I can contribute more.   

So I currently have a 50' tall mast on a 35' Schock with a rope luff and it takes A LOT of effort to get the main sail both up and down.  I mean I seriously have to crank freaking hard on a self-tailing Lewmar 46 and the whole time the line is squealing at me.  I'm not a weak guy but by the time the sail gets all the way up it's about 10 minutes of pretty heavy grinding.  I can only use the slower of the two speeds on the winch. 

I do not know how often previous owner serviced this boat and I read this week online about making sure the slot in the mast is cleaned with freshwater and soap from time to time. I also read about using some dry lubricant on the sail like Sailkote.  In addition making sure the blocks the main halyard runs through are serviced and not sticky.  I'll be doing all of this on the weekend to see if it helps. 

My question is this....even with everything serviced and in great condition is hoisting a rope luffed sail the "easiest" way to get a main sail up and down?  My 22' Macgregor has slugs and if I felt a sudden urge to shit my pants when the wind got a little crazy where I live I could just release the main and it would slide down easy. (I had sail stops so it didn't fly off the mast)   With this boat it takes me at least 5 minutes to wrestle the main down under the best conditions and if it's blowing hard I would prefer (for now because I'm a newbie wuss) to get the main down as quickly as possible.  

Will converting my main to slugs help me with this or does it just sound like my equipment needs servicing?  If I service everything is the difference negligible or is there a big difference between a rope luff in perfect condition and slugs?

Thanks again for any advice. 

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If anything, my slugged main seems to slide harder than my bolt rope main.  I think the slugs twist a bit and drag.

Perhaps your bolt rope is larger than it should be?

But 50' is pretty large for a loose luffed main.  Would be quite a handful if it got away from you while it was down.

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typically slugs, in my experience, are a lot harder to deal with than a bolt rope. The only exception is single handed when the slugs at least help keep the main from going all over the place and are worth the extra effort to get up and down. I would clean your slot (heh), the bolt rope, and maybe talk to your sailmaker. The most efficient system i've seen is, i believe, the Tides Marine system,. as far as friction and ease of installation,. That said, we removed it from our 109 as changing between race and cruising main was a bit of a chore compare to slides/bolt rope, and weight aloft (plastic track and metal slides).Ronstan has an interesting looking solution i might be tempted to experiment with on our Hobie 33, but my preference would be to just go back to the bolt rope. So, tl;dr, the bolt rope should really be one of the easier options...

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It’s possible the bolt rope, maybe just at the head, is too big a diameter for the mast slot

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You've got something wrong - a loose luff sail should go up easily, with just the weight of the sail resisting you. Are you hoisting with the sail luffing? Does the headboard slide fit properly?.Where does the main start dragging?  Tubular sail slides always jam coming down - their  only benefit is the luff is constrained. If you want that with good smooth operation up/down Tides Marine is your best option.

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There are lots of reasons a bolt rope might be difficult to raise or lower:

  • Wrong size rope
  • Rope has crept relative to the sail
  • Dirty track
  • Frayed luff

But there's no way that good slugs can possibly be more friction than a perfect luff rope, and generally, good slugs have far, far less friction.

So, what makes a good slug? Lips, of course. You want slugs with lips. Don't consider any lipless slugs for any application other than at your headboard. And, you want stainless steel bails on your lipped slugs.

Here's a look at stainless bails on lipped slugs.

Only on the head board and possibly at the tack just above the first reef, you would use one of these.

Of course, you'll need to talk to the sail maker who's going to do your conversion, but they'll know all about proper bails and lips, too.

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Headboard or batten ends may be too close to the bolt rope

If the boat is not head to wind there would be extra friction

Does the mast prebend match the luff curve on the sail?  Trying to pull a curve up a straight track would add friction

Has there been an extra layer of sail tape added over the bolt rope? 

The biggest bolt rope main sail I have experience with was an Inglis 47, that was a bitch to reef off the breeze but otherwise ok

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3 hours ago, Rushman said:

If the boat is not head to wind there would be extra friction

This is critical. The mainsheet and vang should be loose too, or else the sail tension will be placing tons of friction along the entire track. Your symptoms sound like these three conditions are not all in place. But if they are all in place, it should be pretty easy to identify what the problem is if you're systematic about it. You can confirm it's the masthead blocks, or at least something having to do with the halyard path, if the friction persists when you try to hoist a load up the mast that isn't the sail (like a bucket of water). In my experience the sheaves have to be extremely messed up in order for the situation to put up a fight with a winch. But in that situation it's also possible the halyard has jumped out of the sheave and is jamming between the blocks. That's a design problem that can crop up if the halyards have been downsized to take advantage of modern fibers and some slop has developed between the sheaves.

I don't care for large rope-luffed sails. The ability to drop a sail with slugs and capture the slugs in the track at the bottom of the hoist is substantial. The rope luff also typically requires somebody standing at the gooseneck to feed the rope into the track as it's being hoisted. Which reminds me...are you doing that that now? If the luff rope gets pinched in the groove as it's being hoisted, it will be very difficult to winch the sail up, and well-nigh impossible to get it down.

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If you find that all is good, the sheaves are not binding, rope is the right size and so on, you could go to a halyard with a 2:1 purchase. It makes lots of line in the cockpit but it should cut the hoisting effort in half.

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14 hours ago, Moonduster said:

Here's a look at stainless bails on lipped slugs.

 

*That's* not kinky. . .

 

It could be that your bolt rope has swelled over the years depending upon how old it is.  I would certainly clean the slot, and apply a dry lube (spray on teflon would work, avoid silicone) both to the slot and the bolt rope.  Other's suggestions for checking out sheaves are also spot on.  Also, be sure that the rope is being fully fed into the slot, and doesn't get fed half in/out.  That can also make raising quite tedious.

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As always excellent advice...thanks.  I have a micrometer on boar and I'll check the diameter of the rope, I really didn't think of that.  It's a bear to hoist a foot into it.  The luff doesn't look frayed or anything.  I'm picking up some dry lubricant today and I'll be out there this weekend and will give it a good cleaning and see if that doesn't help.  I've never owned a boat with a rope luff so it's all new to me.  Sounds like it shouldn't be a huge difference between slugs and rope so I'll address. 

It's pretty snug so I'm thinking it might be the wrong size rope in the sail.  I'll take some measurements and post some pictures this weekend. 

Thanks again! 

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1 hour ago, Bigdamdork said:

As always excellent advice...thanks.  I have a micrometer on boar and I'll check the diameter of the rope, I really didn't think of that.  It's a bear to hoist a foot into it.  The luff doesn't look frayed or anything.  I'm picking up some dry lubricant today and I'll be out there this weekend and will give it a good cleaning and see if that doesn't help.  I've never owned a boat with a rope luff so it's all new to me.  Sounds like it shouldn't be a huge difference between slugs and rope so I'll address. 

It's pretty snug so I'm thinking it might be the wrong size rope in the sail.  I'll take some measurements and post some pictures this weekend. 

Thanks again! 

you should barely recognize friction in the first foot....

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Regardless of your boltrope issues, your safer with slugs.  Particularly if you are shorthanded.

As has been stated above, in a panic situ, the ability to blow the main hal and move on to another urgent issue is very important.

  good luck !

 

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Friction in the first foot.... Head patch might be too thick too close to the bolt rope.

Can you move the halyard freely without the sail attached?

Photos would help

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have your sailmaker install Allslip slides by bainbridge problem solved

google them up

 

 

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19 hours ago, Rushman said:

Friction in the first foot.... Head patch might be too thick too close to the bolt rope.

Can you move the halyard freely without the sail attached?

Photos would help

Actually no.... I really didn't think about this the other day.  It requires a bit of tugging just to get the halyard up or down....I'll bet money (not that much) that the sheave at the top of the mast is probably sticky,  I'll be on the boat this weekend armed with some McLube and a sense of adventure as I'm going up to take a look at that sheave. 

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4 hours ago, Bigdamdork said:

Actually no.... I really didn't think about this the other day.  It requires a bit of tugging just to get the halyard up or down....I'll bet money (not that much) that the sheave at the top of the mast is probably sticky,  I'll be on the boat this weekend armed with some McLube and a sense of adventure as I'm going up to take a look at that sheave. 

Or the halyards are twisted inside the mast

Good luck

Start with the halyard and sheaves, once the halyard is moving freely then worry about the sail track friction

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36 minutes ago, Rushman said:

Or the halyards are twisted inside the mast

Good luck

Start with the halyard and sheaves, once the halyard is moving freely then worry about the sail track friction

You're absolutely right.  I forgot my golden rule of diagnosing problems which is start simple, then get complex. I know the previous owner hasn't been up the mast since in 2 1/2 years so it will be interesting to see what that sheave is like.   I'm assuming McLube is ok to lubricate sheaves? 

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2 minutes ago, Bigdamdork said:

You're absolutely right.  I forgot my golden rule of diagnosing problems which is start simple, then get complex. I know the previous owner hasn't been up the mast since in 2 1/2 years so it will be interesting to see what that sheave is like.   I'm assuming McLube is ok to lubricate sheaves? 

Yes but if the sheave is binding on the axle to that extent then you have a bigger problem than a lack of lubrication. In fact from what you describe I would think the rope would even slide over a frozen sheave more easily. Look for the halyard being stuck between the sheave and the side of the sheave box, or twisted with another, or somehow jammed. If it's not obvious shoot some pics. 

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I'd have a good look at the masthead sheave, looking for;

a deep-vee sheave (for wire), seized, acting like a cleat

a sheave that's lost its bearing / bush

a pin that's worn

a dry sheave that's been neglected.

Slugs will make sail-handling easier and you should fit a pin at the bottom of the track so that the slugs stay in.

Slugs should be spaced so that all reefing can be done without dropping any slugs out of the track.

When you're done, cut a candle to size to fit the track and place it in the track above the top slug.

It will lubricate the track every time you raise and lower the sail.

Let us know what you find.

Cheers

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I've never heard of needing to lube halyard sheaves.  Nor had a block that recommended anything other than fresh water rinse.  If your halyard doesn't move easily then you've got problem that mclube is not a solution to.

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I had a new main made a number of years ago and had this problem.  The Sailmakers installed the wrong size bolt rope.  And he measured the boat!  He replaced the bolt rope with the correct size and anybody could haul the main up by hand.  Only needed a winch to set tension.

 

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Really comes down to if you want the luff captured when hoisting and dropping. A 44’ Luff (stock Shock 35 P dimension) is a lot of loose luff short handed in a squall. It’s also a lot of luff for basic slides as noted above. Talk to a good sailmaker and consider a tides marine track setup. You will need some luff modifications, including a look at your reef setup. 

 

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So...........

I have a total of 18 posts.  No joke I literally thought about just deleting this profile and starting over in a few months because of how embarrassed I am what the problem was.  

Turns out two twists around the topping lift on the back of the boom causes a bit of friction at the top of the mast. I do have two sheaves locked up on my deck which is good to know and I'll address those but once I untwisted my main halyard from around the topping lift it was about 70% easier.  

This is so embarrassing.  I super appreciate all of the fantastic advice because it does give me a ton of great information to diagnose the problem in the future should it arise again but I feel pretty stupid because everyone spent time helping me with the problem.   

My friend Chuck who sails a Catalina 36 and really got me into sailing once said "It takes one oh shit to wipe out 10 atta boys."   I don't even have an atta boy yet.......  I'm not telling him about this........

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Keep the profile. This is not even registering on the dumb scale, of which I am the Curator. Next time you have friction you'll stand at the foot of the mast and saw both sides of the halyard back and forth a few times to determine if it's the halyard, or something else, and you'll already know what a properly-run halyard feels like.

Several boats ago, with the boat in the water, I drilled a hole directly through the bottom of the cabin floor, and convinced both myself and my father that the water squirting through the hole was coming from an unseen compartment in the hull that was filled with rainwater. Fortunately, this was over a decade before the internet was invented so there is no electronic record of this idiocy, anywhere.

Until now.

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20 hours ago, Bigdamdork said:

So...........

I have a total of 18 posts.  No joke I literally thought about just deleting this profile and starting over in a few months because of how embarrassed I am what the problem was.  

Turns out two twists around the topping lift on the back of the boom causes a bit of friction at the top of the mast. I do have two sheaves locked up on my deck which is good to know and I'll address those but once I untwisted my main halyard from around the topping lift it was about 70% easier.  

This is so embarrassing.  I super appreciate all of the fantastic advice because it does give me a ton of great information to diagnose the problem in the future should it arise again but I feel pretty stupid because everyone spent time helping me with the problem.   

My friend Chuck who sails a Catalina 36 and really got me into sailing once said "It takes one oh shit to wipe out 10 atta boys."   I don't even have an atta boy yet.......  I'm not telling him about this........

Big plus to this post for admitting what's going on. Remember up there where you said "start with the simple and move on to more complex?" Yeah, well, just about everyone on this thread forgot that too. Here's a good starting point for you - one that I have to remind myself of every time - if it seems harder than it should be, don't force it. Especially with a halyard - like you found the lines were twisted. or you could have caught a lazy jack. or a reefing line wasn't properly released or has an asshole. Gear is meant to make the job easy. If it seems out of sorts, it probably is. 

And keep posting. there's not much you can post that one of us hasn't done too.

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Weve all been there so don't worry about it! As an addition to the knowledge, a bit of an issue with older boats that have transitioned from wire halyards to dyneema is the wire sheave is V and not U shaped, eventually the halyard will crack the alloy sheave and jam. Usually at the worst possible time.

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Good outcome at no price, you have to be happy with that.

Thanks for the update.

Every time i step aboard a boat, I'm looking for the problems I had on the last one.

Never the same twice.

Cheers

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Thanks for the consideration everyone.  I grew up working on cars (mechanic Dad) and can literally change a clutch in a manual transmission but for some reason couldn't understand the physics of friction.....LOL.   The sail comes down pretty easy now but still need some tugging for the last 1/3.  We watched the local whale watching sailboat come in for the day and it sounded like he had slugs with a lazy jack and sail pack and it took probably 5 seconds for the sail to collapse inside the pack.

Needless to say my wife said "Get one of those" so I guess I'm going to start shopping.  I've been reading up on the advantages and disadvantages of a lazy jack system and I think the more I read the more I think it's what I would like as a beginning sailor as the wind can come up super fast in Avila......but that's another post. 

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1 hour ago, Bigdamdork said:

Thanks for the consideration everyone.  I grew up working on cars (mechanic Dad) and can literally change a clutch in a manual transmission but for some reason couldn't understand the physics of friction.....LOL.   The sail comes down pretty easy now but still need some tugging for the last 1/3.  We watched the local whale watching sailboat come in for the day and it sounded like he had slugs with a lazy jack and sail pack and it took probably 5 seconds for the sail to collapse inside the pack.

Needless to say my wife said "Get one of those" so I guess I'm going to start shopping.  I've been reading up on the advantages and disadvantages of a lazy jack system and I think the more I read the more I think it's what I would like as a beginning sailor as the wind can come up super fast in Avila......but that's another post. 

If you want it to slam down, tides marine track, update your sail for it, lazy jacks and the stack pack. 

If one of you can sew, you can save 30% by buying a kit on Sail Rite. For the pack that is. 

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4 hours ago, Raz'r said:

If you want it to slam down, tides marine track, update your sail for it, lazy jacks and the stack pack. 

If one of you can sew, you can save 30% by buying a kit on Sail Rite. For the pack that is. 

yep, on our Freedom 45, we have a Haarstick main refit with a doyle stackpack and tides marine track. slick as shit through a goose.

the only issue we have is that the full battens occasionally keep the cars from getting all the way down, but it's not too much hassle to get into the pack.

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Have Tides Marine slides and Dutchman flaking system. Works pretty well singlehanding with a 51 ft hoist main although I have to use the winch for the last third or so when working from the cockpit. Probably don't have the Dutchman halyard tension set up properly. But something you might consider. I always had a problem with lazy jacks snagging battens about halfway up. 

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