What's wrong with green?

625Question: I've got these old bits and would like to get them shiny. Is there an easy way?

Answer. No. You can get cleaners - often containing a weak solution of phosphoric acid or similar - which can remove a surprising amount of crud, but which also have an interesting effect on surrounding paintwork and wood. So you have to take the fitting off. Having taken the fitting off, you may be as well off doing the job by mechanical means - ie wire brushes, abrasives, and polishes.

How not to coat the inside of a plate case

622Like a fool, I hadn't done much to protect the inside of the plate case on Microwave before building it into the boat. So a softwood bung was shaped to fit into the slot with the intention of filling the case with wood preservative and letting it soak in. But the bung wasn't a perfect fit, so I needed something to plug the gaps. Aha! Raid the children's desk, and borrow the Blu-tak. This was grouted around the case, which was then filled with preservative. And then it was lunchtime. Guess what? Wood preservative dissolves Blu-tak . If you are clumsy like me, you may have noticed the effect of a pint of beer on the floor from time to time. Now try a gallon of wood preservative

A shocking solution

628I have discovered, about thirty years too late, that if you secure a length of shock cord to the end of the furling line so that when the sail is unfurled the line is under mild tension, it is very much less likely to misbehave. The length of shock cord needs to be judiciously judged in that: (a) you want to have the end of the braided line itself adjacent to the cockpit, so as to grab it and roll the sail, when it is in use, and (b) the tension must be enough to stop the line misbehaving, but not such as to start rolling the sail in light conditions. Mine is a Size 4 gear and I would think thinner shock cord would suit for correspondingly smaller sizes.

639There isn't any rigorous guide, but the figures currently provided by Davey run as follows:

Size 1 50 sq. ft/ 5 sq. m
Size 2 100 sq. ft/ 10 sq. m
Size 3 200 sq. ft/ 20 sq. m
Size 4 350 sq. ft/ 35 sq. m

If you are in any doubt as to sizing, going up a size is highly recommended.

The Luff Wire

It is not simply a question of removing the hanks and fitting the gear. Please check with a sailmaker that the luff wire is going to be stiff enough to work, because if it is not, the lower part of the sail will furl leaving a baggy mess higher up. In demanding conditions, this upper part will at best send you sideways, and at worst shred, so wrecking the sail.

The size of the wire depends on the length of the luff - the longer it is the stiffer the wire needs to be - and the sail area. It is best to consult with your sailmaker. For example, James Lawrence Sailmakers in Brightlingsea reckon that up to the size 3 gear 1x19 wire will usually suffice, but for larger sails, they will sometimes use a stiffer wire such as Norselay. Stiffer wires make the sail harder to stow when it is off the furling gear, but without them, you may not be able to furl the sail in anything other than perfect conditions.

Arrangements at the Upper End

A few points are worth noting here. Firstly, install the top swivel so that rainwater cannot enter the swivel. Over a period of time, this can emulsify the grease and corrode the bearings.

Secondly, except on size 1s, you need to prevent the halyard turning instead of the swivel, particularly if you are using 3-strand rope. A good way to do this is to have the halyard arranged such that it starts at one side of the mast, through a single block attached to the top swivel, and then through a block on the other side of the mast down to the deck. Apart from the helpfulness of having a 2:1 purchase for your halyard, as the top swivel is hoisted into position, the two parts of the tackle become more widely separated in a sort of V shape, and this helps to keep the swivel swivelling. You will get all manner of problems if you use a single and a single and becket block all arranged in a line.

Another thing that can happen is that the pins in the swivel can catch on the fore/jibstay as you furl or unfurl the sail. This usually causes the vocabulary of the crew to be extended in an undesirable direction. One solution is to cut the protruding ends of the pins off, perhaps making a slot for a screwdriver so you can undo them later. Another is to fit a disc of about 4/100 mm diameter to the upper part of the swivel which keeps the stay away from the furling gear.

Arrangements at the lower end.

The heart of the matter is keeping control of the furling line. In an ideal world, you keep tension on both the furling line and the foresail sheet as you furl and unfurl the sail. In the real world, it is all too easy to get a snarl-up of the furling line. Things you can do to help are:

  • Try to keep the drum more or less upright. This is easy enough if it is mounted to a fixed part of the boat like the stemhead, but can be more of a problem if the gear is fitted to a traveller. Classic Marine have devised a version of a bowsprit traveller which uses a pair of plates to locate the gear, instead of the more usual hook. As long as there is tension on the traveller outhaul, the drum stays upright.
  • If that doesn't work, you can fix a disc below the drum with 3 or 4 guide rods to form a sort of cage which helps keep the line on the drum.
    As for the furling line itself, its length will vary with the deck layout and the number of turns required to furl the sail, so general guidance can't be offered. But it is better to use braided line rather than 3-strand and to use the largest diameter line which will fit happily on the drum.


To dismantle the swivels, remove the screw which goes sideways into the drum/swivel, and then unscrew the bearing assembly from the drum/upper part of the swivel. All threads are right handed.
Thick waterproof grease is the best for packing the bearings. Avoid thin lubricants like penetrating oils, because they can be displaced by water, which in turn will corrode the bearings. Much to some people's horror, the bearings are steel - not stainless. In practice, they last up to 10 years and are easily and cheaply replaceable with standard bicycle bearings. When to repack with grease? Unless you can sense a graunching or dry sound, it is best to leave well alone.