The rigging bag.

My semi practical posts about rigging seem to have garnered a whole load of interest and feedback, that might be because for once i am writing about one of the 2 subjects that i know a little about.  This post in fact comes hard on the heels of the one subject i do know something about and that’s first aid and boat based medical problems… fact my niche specialty in the Whitebread race and beyond was to be the boat’s medic and rigger. It’s a hell of a long time since i have sat up in the forepeak of a maxi-yacht splicing up yet another large rope to wire splice or even scarier a rope/wire genoa sheet….don’t even go there !

So far i’ve briefly touched on some of the knowledge, skills and art of the rigger….the answer to the Shibari rigger question all those years ago was something like….”she-what ?” as i hadn’t a scoobie what the young ‘person” was talking about *.  Now of course that sort of knowledge is a mouse-click away and yes i guess it might be described as an ‘art’ form for a specialist rigger but no….never done that.   In this series we have looked at some possible rigging projects for Inanda and as Alan says “Galvanised wins” for that boat simply due to the cost and that i can do the job and it’s reliable.  I threw in some teaser questions about loads too and it was interesting to see a website where the tables were essentially the wrong way around.    I have interests across a broad range of rigging skills, boats are the first obvious one but i have also been a climber and had a good look at rope access skills and arborists techniques.  Just recently i was thinking about how to combine some of those to build myself a solo mast climbing rig so that i could work aloft on Inanda without assistance.  My problem there is that i don’t have, as far as i know, a single reliable connection near the top of the rig or a reliable gantline to work from. That’s all mainly because i haven’t seen the rig on the ground to ensure that i would be hanging off a reliable connection.  I know the principles of getting aloft solo and once i am there know how to make a belay and then lower-off.  In Inanda’s case i almost certainly do need a solo mast climbing rig because there aren’t any winches and that’s not so that somebody can haul me up the mast it’s so that someone can lower me safely using the drum of the winch for a friction-lower.


This series of posts then will be a mixed bag of odds-n-ends from the many aspects of the riggers art and with some practical projects thrown in too.   The actual riggers bag in the photograph and its accessory ditty bag were made for me as a birthday present many years ago at sea.  I think Al the engineer welded up the stainless steel hoops and Skipper Mal did the sewing….whatever, it was a great present and still with me 20 years down the line.  Right now i am chewing on all of the rigging jobs that i have got to do for Inanda, quite soon this year i must change 2 of the shrouds and all the halyards, i would really like to get the stick out as soon as possible so that i can do some of those jobs and set the mast up so that i can get aloft when i need to.  The job list is just increasing at the moment especially after having sailed the boat and struggled with some of its out of date systems.


I thought i might start the mixed bag today by talking about something really simple that i find i have been doing a lot and that is replacing mechanical fasteners and tensioners with simple lacings and lashings.  I would also like to introduce a current favourite piece of kit that will appear in Inanda’s new rigging : the low friction eye as an alternative to expensive blocks or less effective shackles.  My recent first use of one of these was aboard WABI”’ where i used one as a low friction lead-block in the anchoring system so that i could have the anchor warp aft and lead it along the deck to my bow fairlead.  On Inanda i am planning my first change to the bowsprit downhaul with a couple of these in the tensioning ‘tackle’ instead of expensive and heavier blocks.


The first practical work on Inanda’s rig that i did before i left was to replace the old and crusty shrouds lacings with new cordage….and that was after one bowsprit shroud broke in my hand as i was tensioning it.   This is a very simple job as it starts at one end with a sliding stopper knot and then runs up and down between the shroud eye and chainplate enough times to over-match the theoretical strength of the shroud. The lacing is then finished with half hitching around the vertical runs and then i should either tape or seize the tail to keep it from slipping.                 In this case we have to over-match a minimum breaking load for the wire of 17 Kn or 1120 Kg and my replacement was with 7 runs of 6mm braidline at around 800 kg breaking strength per run.     It could easily have been done with far less runs although 7 looked right and i can always reduce it, now the weakest part of that whole system is probably now the shackles.   Of note here i am kind-of replicating the function and appearance of traditional ships rigging made up with deadeyes and lacings.  Some say that it’s difficult to get enough tension in laced shrouds and although initially slightly more difficult than with bottle-screws it can be done and i will describe some techniques in future posts.

Inanda’s new shroud lacing….over spec or what ?


Tamar barge ‘Lynher’ with deadeyes and lacings.


If we take a look at Inanda’s close cousin at Newhaven we can see that she has a heavy chain bobstay tensioned by what looks to be a 2:1 tackle using heavy wooden cheeked blocks.  My new system in the pipeline for Inanda will be a soft but high-tech stay made up in an Aramid fibre with 2 of the Barton or Antal eyes replacing the blocks.  The idea being that i will be able to take up normal tension to hold the bowsprit end down with line that doesn’t need to move very far (unlike a sheet for example).  The main tension in the system will be taken up with by the jib luff on it’s tackle which will continue to use blocks and a handy-billy for now until i rig running backstays….then the tension in the jib luff will mainly be a function of load in the runners.  I will probably dispense with the fixed forestay as well just as this boat has done.   The advantage of these low friction eyes in this application is very low weight and very high simplicity and that the running parts of the system don’t have to move very far, the longest range of movement in the downhaul only need allow for pulling the bobstay up and out of the way of the anchor rode .


As shown before, essentially this system below but with eyes instead of blocks and high-tec line instead of heavy chain.

In the first actual post of the rigging bag series i will get down to some practical work with the specifications, design and build of the new running bobstay some lashings, lacings and first parts of Inanda’s rig jobs.


  1. For once, I actually understood that Steve — very much looking forward to this series of posts. Cheers.


  2. I am looking for a pre 1900 photo of what I hope will be a typical Riggers Bag. It would seem to me that the name has been stolen by the commercial world to sell bosh expensive tat. My interest comes by part of my Boy Cobs days when I spent a weekend on a tall ship on the Themes to gain my knots badge. I wish to write about it but have great risk of it being a mess and historical incorrect


    1. Most riggers used to make their own bag as did most tall ship sailors. That was often in the shape of a canvas bucket with a rope handle sown in. Mine is a slightly modern version made with a pair of stainless steel hoops and from a modern synthetic canvas like cloth. Lightweight cordura is a good choice as well.


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