What the sprit did next.

The second post in the spring refit series regarding the sprit-boom conversion on WABI”’

In early March i used the last few days of a brief spell of good weather to get out on the water, have a reset myself and do some basic sea trials with the sprit conversion, the anchoring system and so on.

The days were lovely once the early morning chill and valley mist dissipated, not that the cold mattered too much as i was toasty warm inside the boat with the charcoal stove going.  I haven’t managed to run the stove right through the night yet although i can attest to it still being scorching hot at 0300 when i went topside for a pee and stuck my bum against it…almost gave myself a ‘Hampshire heaters’ brand on my butt !

The temperature plummeted at night as is to be expected this time of year but now and autumn are still my favourite times of year out on the water.  This time of year there are hardly any sailing boats or motor boats around so i never shared an anchorage except for a few minutes out in Jennycliff bay.   On the first day of my trip i actually left the yard at night on the tide because that was the best timing and then made some distance down the river with just a bit of moon on the water.  My first anchoring spot was on a straight section of the Tamar somewhere to the north of Halton quay.

The next morning i had frost on the deck until the sun came over the high ground to my east.  Standing in the warm air of the hatch and watching the surface mist stream down the river  i could hear the pull and knock of a set of oars as one of the Tamar gigs, it was the ladies boat, came down the river on their regular training run.


Jennycliff bay later in the day.


One oddity i noted was out in Plymouth sound later that morning.  I had thought to do a quick coastal passage down to Fowey on the light easterly and then run back when the wind went back into the west. When I got down to the sound though and out over the bridge, looking at the western entrance to Plymouth sound rather put me off….waves breaking strongly over the western end of the breakwater and a distinct hard horizon line of standing waves all the way across to Penlee which was also breaking. Even inside the breakwater it was choppy, despite there being very little wind.  Rather than nmotor-sailing out through breaking water I ghosted over to Jennycliff and anchored under the cliffs there.   While it was good to be out under sail again it was still a higher priority to work through details from the endless job list.

The work of the trip was threefold : sail with the sprit booms and work out how to reef them, anchor from aft a few times to work out the details of that idea, and lastly to get some video footage on the river.    Well….when i say work…. but someone has to do it, right ?.

At this stage i’m happy with both the function of the sprits and with the mizzen mast in it’s new position aft.  In the generally light weather i had it was difficult to determine how much the balance of the boat has changed by moving some 40% of it’s sail area aft a few inches.  The liberty tends to have lee helm in light winds and then weather helm once the boat powers up.  I couldn’t tell any difference in the light weather and only had about 10 minutes of windward work in enough wind to put the gear under full load.  For sure she then develops weather helm and it might be that she will need a reef in the mizzen earlier than before or the board back a little while reaching.   Whatever….it hasn’t had a catastrophic effect on the trim and balance.

Aft, the mizzen sprit does have the effect i was looking for : that of clearing the cockpit ‘air space’ at shoulder to head height.  The mizzen sail is actually in the same position as it was but never seems to be in my way like the old mizzen boom used to be. Stowing the sail is slightly different now as i am using the old stack-pack bag without it’s battens as a conventional sail cover.  To stow the sail i have to first unclip the clew from the sprit, bag the sail and then clip the clew back in.  It seems best to lash the sail bundle in it’s bag up to the sprit . I thought i would have to then top up the sprit and sail with the new topping lift but haven’t had to do so as it’s really the mast end only that would be in the way and it just isn’t.

As i write, the mains’l bag is off being repaired so i’m not sure about the stowed position yet.  I know it will need to be on the same side and near to the stove chimney so i’ll have to be careful with that.  As it is right now the whole sail and sprit bundle seems to want to stow laying on the cabin top which is good because it reduces windage at anchor.  The mains’l is the main power source in the cat-ketch rig and i’m glad to say that the sail seems to set well.  I have dropped the height of the tack and clew anyway to get the sprit angle looking right and then the main sail shape for depth and leech control becomes the snotter tackle.  The wooden sprit does flex a bit and takes up a curve with the belly of the sail pressed against it , that doesn’t seem to be a problem so far although the way i have built it might cause more sail chafe long term.

Clew end (mains’l) with cheek block for the clew pennant.



On the sprits my main work during the trip was to design and build the reefing system and i was initially working with the plan of adding a conventional slab reefing system that would allow reefing from the cockpit.  For those that have seen it my plan was based on ‘Carlita’s’ similar rig in the video from the first post.

While i did set that up, with a conventional cheek block near the clew end and one near the mast end and then turning/lead blocks to run the reef pennants aft i didn’t like it right from the start. It meant adding some 8 new blocks and 4 new lines which i thought was un-necasarily complex and fussy.  Although i ran back into the river that evening in a nice breeze messing about with the first reef i actually found a different solution during the afternoon while at anchor and messing about with the mizzen.

Mast end, sprit turning block and first reef jam cleat.


At anchor that day in Jennycliff the morning had started with not much wind but quite a bit of slop in the sound.  Towards mid-day the wind got up enough such that WABI”’ was sheering , dipping and rolling a bit which made the work just that bit more difficult.  I did what i usually do in that situation which is hoist the mizzen as a riding sail.  It helps considerably with the sheering about and quietens any roll.  My normal practice is to use the mizzen reefed in that situation, as i hadn’t set up a system for reefing it and didn’t want to start adding gear and lines i reefed using a much simpler technique.  I searched through my rigging bag and found some dyneema strops and a Wichard hook.  By re-tying the strop shorter and into the hook i created a short clew strop.  All i had to do was slack off the mizzen snotter, drop the halyard and then clip in the new clew.  The tack is on a hook anyway.  It was simple and it worked, the only new problem that the technique creates is the bunt of the sail , which, without the stack-pack and lazy jacks needed tying up out of the way.  At some point both sails will need reef nettles but that’s a small job.

Later that evening, back at anchor in the Lyhner, i measured up for a similar strop for the first reef of the mains’l.  Ideally it would need to be just long enough to clip into the existing eyebolt that takes the clew.  I had plenty of cordage but couldn’t rustle up a second hook from the bits bag.  To reef the main just using a strop at the clew and a downhaul at the tack will work because i can heave to, drop the sail enough and sheet the sprit down enough such that i can grab the leech of the sail and hitch the strop to the reefing eye.  I find i can do that while standing in the companionway which is a very secure position.  The more difficult end of the mains’l reefing process is dealing with the tack and that can be done as a purchase/downhaul with the pennant rove through the reef tack eye and brought aft.  I get tension in the luff using a tack downhaul anyway so i would just be adding one more line running back to the cockpit.

Mizzen snotter tackle….had to mess around with this a few times


At the end of the sailing trials with the sprits i was still enthusiastic about the whole concept : enough to start thinking about having a new mainsail made shaped specifically to fly with a sprit boom.  Having moved the mizzen aft and brought the mains’l tack down nearly a foot i clearly have space at the top of the rig and at the back for more sail area.  I have discussed a new sail with the local sailmaker and i might go ahead with that although not immediately.  The cost of a new sail is about twice what i was expecting for a small sail and hugely more expensive if i had it made in red (tanbark) cloth. I want to leave it a while until i have done a full load test anyway and to be sure that i am going to continue with the rig as it is and not move on to the next stage which would be a canoe yawl.  That would need new everything and needs a lot more work yet.  If i do go with new sails as a cat-ketch as she is now then she would stay as that long term.

I might yet build sprit 3 which will be a second, slightly longer mains’l sprit and make some alterations to the lengths at each end.  The second sprit might also be rounded a bit more on the sail chafing edge but also have a glass wrap for additional strength.  There are a couple of other detail changes such as moving the snotter tackle mounting position on the sprit : it needs to be top mounted and not cheek mounted.

Anchoring and sprit 4.

I have talked about my new anchoring technique which is mainly about being able to deploy and retrieve my anchor from the cockpit rather than having to go forward very awkwardly and work in the bow well.  I anchored and up-anchored several times during the trip to try different methods of getting the rode back to the cockpit before having to heave it in.   Initially deploying the anchor is simplicity itself.  To anchor the boat all i have to do is uncleat the rode at 2 points : cleats on the side deck and aft, and chuck the anchor over the side from the cockpit.  With the rode running from the bow fairlead back along the side deck i then adjust the length from the cockpit.

Retrieval isn’t quite as slick and simple yet as i first have to get a bight of the rode back to the cockpit and that needs a bit more work yet. I tried a couple of different ideas that iv’e been working with : one of them utilising a low friction eye rove over the warp and a line on that to bring the warp aft.   That hasn’t worked perfectly yet.   I have also been experimenting with all-warp anchoring and using my old kedge warp off my old Frances….at 14mm and in 8 plait it is over-spec (boat can be anchored on 10mm warp) and has quite high inherent friction on the deck, over the pilot boat styled fairlead and over the bow.  The additional friction makes it more difficult to heave up to the anchor which i do partially before then retrieving the anchor aft.  I’m likely just to invest in a new lower friction and thinner weighted warp (12 mm) and may go back to having a short chain leader in the system.

The current state of the project is making a neater and more secure stowage for the anchor and warp aft in the cockpit. I had a hunt around various arborists and climbers sites to see if i could find an ideal rugged rope bag for the warp but can’t find anything quite right.  Right now i’m messing about with a couple of different semi-rigid rope buckets made from found materials.    Unfortunately i didn’t get a picture of the most recent one which is showing promise.  My good friend Mark has promised me a sewing machine and making a custom anchor warp bag would be a good first project.

What i have got the materials for is some wooden slats to go on the cockpit sole so that the pit can drain properly….the drain hole in the back of the cockpit being obscured and obstructed slightly by the current temporary warp bag.

The anchoring set-up i used for the first trip was just the 7kg Manson and only 75 meters of 14mm warp.  As i write i have just been taking each of my anchors apart and making up 2 new anchor/rode combinations.  One will live in the cockpit, most likely the lighter Rocna and the heavier Manson is stowed below in the central bilge.  Literally hours before this post was due to be scheduled i just finished making  the anchoring bowsprit as i got the various stainless steel parts but haven’t had a chance to fit them.


So, as part of the same project i also removed the pilot boat style fairlead off the bow, in fact i had to destroy it to get it off as the Sikaflex bond was clearly a lot stronger than the ply/epoxy and kevlar fairlead itself.  I have been kicking around the idea of casting a new one and researching how to cast the shape in aluminium.  That’s something that i would still like to have a go at but i am now working on a completely different set-up at the bow.  The new arrangement for anchoring and mooring will be completely different however and my plan is to write and photograph a quick update in the Friday 5 minute blog at the end of the month.

The old fairlead.


What i am working on right now is the final details of a short bowsprit for WABI”’ which will primarily be set up to mount the anchoring and mooring gear but does introduce the possibility of flying a small jib which is said to improve the Liberty in upwind sailing.

On the bench today.


It looks kind of back to front as it’s the ‘short’ stubby end to the left of the blue box , representing the bow, that is the working end.  The butt end has to go all the way back to the mast to mount.  The odd looking woodwork is my first attempt at a mounting system that spans/bridges the mast slot.   As always with my first attempt at anything it’s heavy and clunky and i have already made a pattern for a much nicer mounting which is just about to go off for fabricating in stainless steel.  The update on that is that i have just got the stainless steel parts back and hope to get the whole thing on as this post goes live.

Work with the new drill.   Drilling out the angled slot for the anchoring sheaves.


The pattern/model for the mast mount for the butt end of the bowsprit.


Hot off the polisher.


I have kept the outboard end both as wide as possible to just fit into the slot in the bow and deep enough such that it won’t have a stay and can take the new anchoring/mooring gear.  The anchor rode will actually run over 2 sheaves in a slot through the bowsprit and will have an eyebolt/eye-nut combination mounted each side for mooring strops.  I did a quick check with the eyebolt and some 12mm line….even doubled as a bight the 12 mil line will go through the eye.   My new mooring strops will be plain ended anhhow.  The anchor rode will run over 2 delrin sheaves inside the bowsprit and then through a fairlead slighty further back on the bowsprit and will then lead down the side deck.  That should take out all of the friction problems i had with the experimental fairlead.

The next job, literally, is to take the whole thing down to the yard and fit everything, i will have to cut a large-ish hole below the bowsprit which will be my access point to run a bolt up through the deck moulding….that will need a little cover as well.

I have tried to work out the outside length of the bowsprit such that i could carry the tack of a jib there and with it’s luff running inside the forward angled pulpit.  The jib wouldn’t be very tall and most likely will be set flying on a stiff luff. Also as i write i am looking at some secondhand jibs that might fit the slot.  A member of the HLMOA suggests that the jib from a National 18 dinghy might do the job so one of those is on the watch loist.

Bow well, the bowsprit will sit in the slot in the bow and be thru-bolted there, the butt end will mount at the forward face of the mast.  The face that i have got to make a larger access hole is the short forward face just below the bow channel. That keeps all the cleats free.


If all goes well, by the end of ‘post’ day i will have a complete anchoring system again and at least one anchor will be stowed in my new stowage bin aft.

Right at the end of today’s post i would just like to offer a brief apology and explanation : i started this project and it’s post at the same time, that’s over a month ago, as i write.  Iv’e already edited several times because the project has moved along fairly quickly.  My main reason for working that way this month was to give myself a short breathing space to put some real time into my new writing venture.  That has meant getting 7 posts nearly finished and ready to schedule all in a short time frame.  As of post day, and after a quick last edit i’m about where i left the post…i did go down to the yard today with the intention of doing a dry fit and photograph but : firstly i forgot the crucial box of bits and secondly Chris had moved WABI”’ off the pontoon and i couldn’t get aboard.  It would have been a rush and at this stage i want to take my time because iv’e tried to do the job well.

Quite soon i will be able to talk about my other writing work which will be a series of short story’s , sailing related.  Because of other things that i will talk about this month i can only say that it’s an attempt to move into long-form writing and story-telling and will probably become available on a low cost paypal/patreon kind of basis.


1 Comment

  1. Nice drill Steve. That mount for the bowsprit butt end is very tidy and after again consulting my nautical dictionary I now know what a reef nettle is 😉 Some reef nettle wisdom here:


    You’re definitely learning by doing with the cat-ketch rig and anchoring technique and I’m glad its going well– great stuff. Good luck with the writing project too.


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