How to adjust your tackle

Adjusting your tackle                          download this article

Blocks and tackles, this time, and I might as well be honest about it. There is not a lot of MacPhail in this article, and a good deal of other people, so I’d like to start by acknowledging my main sources, which are useful in their own right.


Bitts & Bobs(tays)

Bowsprits and their Associated Fittings 

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Having laid the foundation in the last article, it is now time to do a more detailed review of some of the fittings that are associated with bowsprits. I’ll adopt here the same approach that will be used for the remainder of this series of articles, which runs roughly as follows. For items such as boat equipment, there are three necessary conditions for success. First, and most importantly, the part needs to be strong enough to perform its function for a satisfactory length of time, i.e. the “engineering” needs to be sorted out. In the area of traditional rigs, we’ll see that empiricism (trial and error) tends to hold sway over science at the moment. Secondly, because boats are fairly complex things, each component needs to be arranged so as not to interfere with others, or to be able to fulfill a secondary function, or to work together with others in a consistent fashion. In other words the practical aspects of the component need to be addressed. Thirdly, it has to look right in relation to its surroundings.

The End of Bowsprits

The End of Bowsprits

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It is time to wrap up the bowsprit end of things by reviewing stemhead and traveller arrangements.

A number of things tend to happen at the stemhead. Firstly, you need some sort of support or guide for the bowsprit. Secondly, except in the case of sloops like the Shrimper or Gypsy, there needs to be an attachment for a forestay.

Thirdly, provision is needed for running out anchor or mooring cables. Compared with the now “conventional” inboard rig of a Bermudan yacht, all these things are made more difficult by the inclusion of a bowsprit.

There are a number of good reasons for bringing traditional rigs and their associated fittings up to date, and for continuing to develop them. To start with, we use our boats differently from our predecessors in the sense that our sailing is constrained by the need to turn up to work at regular intervals, and the cost of marina berths or moorings. Secondly, the skills we deploy in using our boats tend to be different given the number of other boats, the ubiquitous auxiliary engine, the time we are able to devote to developing our skills and the restrictions naturally imposed by a family crew sailing for recreation. Thirdly, there is available to us a much better range of materials to consistent specifications, together with production and design techniques which allow new approaches to old problems to be tried. Finally, there is a developing aesthetic of what a “proper” boat should look like. All of this impacts on the design, usability, reliability and longevity of the equipment fitted to boats with traditional rigs.

Rigging Loads

Rigging Loads - or a tale of scientific progress?

In which your hero tries to work out the starting point for the design of rigs

Those of you not already acquainted with the work of Douglas Phillips-Birt could do worse than visit your nearest second-hand bookshop to rectify the situation. Written some 40 odd years ago, his books have inevitably dated, but still have a remarkably high nugget to dross ratio. For example “Masts are tricky things. It is not for nothing that Lloyd’s, which is ready to specify the scantlings of nearly every other part of a yacht, washes its hands of them altogether and plants the responsibility for their size and shape squarely on the designer’s shoulders; then, as a happy afterthought, advises him to fit lightning conductors. The advice is good; but it leaves the part between the lightning conductor and the step open to various interpretations. The fact that Lloyd’s, with its vast collection of data on wooden yachts, feels like this about masts, suggests that masts are perhaps a little beyond rational analysis.1” As true now as 45 years ago, though it is yachts as a whole which defy complete analysis, not just their masts. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those “various interpretations”. Depending on your viewpoint, it is either a triumph of experience over science, or.....