Spaghetti and Macrame

(or Starting to Plan the Deck layout and cockpit hardware)

A generic deck layoutThere are a lot of lines on a fully outfitted C27 -- four halyards, four reef lines, outhaul, cunningham, vang, pole lift, pole foreguy, topping lift... That's 14 lines (not counting the furling line, mainsheet and traveller lines). That's three more lines than I've ever rigged on a sailboat. There was an extra jib halyard, and the two lines for the spinnaker pole that I really wasn't all that familiar with --I've never owned a boat with a symetric spinnaker and I wanted one on the C27 so I'm not sure exactly what the functional requirements might be for them.

On my other boat, a trailerable West Wight Potter 19, we have 7 lines running aft on the cabintop: the main halyard, four reefing lines (two reefs with two lines each), topping lift, and cunningham. The Potter has a CDI roller furler for the headsail, which has an integrated jib halyard, so I didn't need to run the jib halyard aft. The 4:1 vang and 4:1 outhaul terminate on the underside of the boom, where I can easily reach them from the cockpit. With 9 lines at my fingertips on the Potter, I rarely, if ever, need to go forward to the mast or the foredeck. Just about the only time I ever go to the mast was is when I need to set the whisker pole.

Not only are there more lines on the the Catalina 27, it is harder to figure out where to run them. The area on each side of the enourmous companionway is unusually narrow for a 27 foot boat and the raised rails for the companionway are in the way, because they go as far forward as the mast on the 1977. That's not a cabin top that lends itself easily to extensive single handed rigging.

And to make matters even more difficult, I want to have a good sized, substantial dodger for offshore sailing -- which would prevent me from terminating the vang right on the boom -- I wouldn't be able to reach it and operate it gracefully. The ergonomics of reaching up to the boom would be awkward, because I'm "kid-sized" (5'4", 105-110 pounds) and I can't pull on a line with any strength up that high.

Of course, I'd love to run them all aft and have them all right at my fingertips for single handing, but I've never seen anybody run so many lines aft... so I figured I needed to sort out which ones are most important and why? Clearly, I needed help to make good decisions before I spent a lot of time and money buying and installing a lot of new hardware.

I figured professional riggers had seen more C27's rigged than I, and maybe had seen some clever solutions. It would be a good investment to hire a rigger for an hour's consultation. Bruce Schwab, the rigger I've depended upon for advice in the past is off preparing his Open 60 class boat for racing around the world single handed (see his website at, so I asked a few knowlegable folks for a referral.

First try

The first rigger I hired came down to the boat at the appointed hour, and looked at the functional specifications (consisting mostly of the list of lines that I planned to have) that I had written up and listened to me explain that I wanted all the mechanical advantage I could get, because I'm smaller than most male sailors and I have arthritis in my hands.

He suggested I run 12 lines aft, 6 on each side of the companionway, with 6 rope clutches on each side and a winch. Considering how little "real estate" there is on the cabintop of a Catalina 27 (because of the huge companionway entrance), that seemed to be a nearly impossible task to me. But, he took measurements, and told me he'd fax me a sketch and part numbers before the end of the week.

And, Bless him, he figured out a way to make it all fit! But even though he proved that it would be possible, it seemed very crowded very crowded to me, not to mention a little expensive. And I had a nagging feeling -- it seemed to me that he didn't analyze what I needed, he just figured out how to do what I said I wanted. And since I wasn't at all sure that I knew what I wanted I figured I needed a better advisor. Oh well, that was not money well spent...

Second try

I made an appointment with Douglas, the manager at Svendsens Rig Shop. I had worked a bit with him over the years, especially since Bruce Schwab quit the Manager's position at the rig shop at Svendsens to campaign his boat for the Vendee Globe and Around Alone races. Doug is a seasoned, senior guy, who had supervised the rigging of a lot of boats.

Douglas came down to the boat, looked at my list of lines and then started interviewing me, tossing in bits of advice along the way. He started by saying "oaky, let's see what you really need. It's not practical to run all those lines aft, and you probably don't need to. Let's see how we can simplify this and still have it work for you. ". Douglas asked questions like "are you going to fly the spinnaker sail singlehanded?" (The answer was: probably not, not on windy San Francisco summer afternoons)... and he lead me through a sensible and expert analysis of my needs and requirements.

In the end, we prioritized split the lines into two groups based on function and crew size. Some lines will be run aft to the cockpit for single handing and basic sail trimming, while others will stay at the mast and be used when we sail short-handed or race with a full complement of crew . .

Before Doug left, we put lots of pieces of blue 3M masking tape to mark the locations of the deck hardware.


Lines Running Aft on the Cabin Top

Port Cabintop

Starboard Cabintop

Jib Halyard (from furler) thru clutch to winch For changing the luff tension on the jib on the twin groove Harken 0 Furler as winds increase.

Main Halyard thru clutch to winch (#16 single speed self-tailing)

Main halyard and both reef tacks will be on the starboard side so I can ease the halyard as I winch in the reef tack. The dodger will prevent me from turning the winch handle thru 360 degrees, so a single speed self tacker works best on both sides of the cabin top.
First Reef Clew Line thru clutch to winch Both reef tacks will be on the Port side of cabintop. First Reef Tack Line thru clutch to winch see above
Second Reef Clew line thru clutch to winch see above Second Reef Tack Line thru clutch to winch see above
6:1 Outhaul to cam cleat   Topping Lift to clutch or cam cleat May not be necessary if I decide to install a solid vang
Cunningham to cam cleat   Vang to cam cleat (optional) Optional: double sided vang for ease of release when things get hairy flying a spinnaker.




Five More Lines

  • All the lines for setting the spinnaker will be at the mast, since I probably won't want to fly the spinnaker when single handing very often (if ever!),
    • Spinnaker Halyard will stay at the mast. May require a small winch mounted on the mast. Terminate thru an (optional) mast-mounted cam cleat to a horn cleat. The cam cleat will be used to free the winch for the second jib halyard, if needed.
    • Pole Lift and ForeGuy will stay at the mast. (I'm not sure yet how best to terminate them)
  • Second Jib Halyard will stay at the mast. It will rarely be used except when racing (if we want to do peel away headsail changes with the twin-grooved Harken 0 Furler), at which time there will be crew available to go forward. Due to my size, I may need to have a small winch mounted on a pad on the mast. Terminate thru an (optional) mast-mounted cam cleat to a horn cleat. The cam cleat will be used to free the winch for the spinnaker halyard, if needed.
  • Jib Furling Line will be lead aft thru stanchion blocks to keep it up off the deck. Terminate at jamming horn cleat. Optional lead to the secondary (spinnaker) winch on the coamings (#16 single speed self tailer)


Hardware specifications

Safe Working Loads:

There is a program on Harken's website that calculates the required strength of each piece of hardware, given the specifications for you boat. You can go to Harken's CompuSpec program, select your boat (in my case, a Catalina 27) and get a report on the loads on all the lines on the boat. The program will interactively recommend blocks and other hardware with the correct safe working load for specific applications (mainsheet, turning blocks, winches, etc). You can look up the specifications for each recommended block, to see how strong a block you'll need, based on the application and the angle of deflection of the line.

Match the Bearings to the Application

There is one more important thing to consider besides the safe working load of a block: that's the type of bearing. You can't always safely substitute one 500 pound block for another 500 pound block. Blocks that must survive large static loads require special bearings that won't deform under a constant load. Examples of these are blocks for the main halyard and jib halyard . Other blocks must have bearings that will release quickly and run friction free under heavy load, such as the mainsheet.

Not all bearings are the same!!!! You may buy a cheaper block that's strong enough according to the required safe working load, but if the bearings don't perform properly for the application or won't hold up to a standing static load, you're just wasting your money

Turning Blocks and Deck Organizers


The lines lead aft from the boom and mast will be reeved thru swivelling turning blocks attached to the halyard organizer plate under the mast step.

The mainsail halyard, jib halyard and vang turning blocks will be Harken #011's with a safe working load of 750# and a breaking strength of 3000#B 2.25" sheaves, 7/16" max line. These blocks have carbon impregnated plastic rollers to prevent deformation under high static loads like you have with halyards. They will remain free of exceess friction for many, many years, unlike less expensive blocks with lesser quality bearings. The street price for these blocks is around $38 each.

Other turning blocks for lines with light loads (for example, the topping lift, cunningham and reefing lines) will be Harken #183's with a safe working load of #500 and a breaking strength of 2000#. They are are smaller, ligher, more compact than the 001's, and only cost about $14 each. These are wire bullet blocks, with higher load-carrying roller bearings that won't deform under static loads. (Harken's CompuSpec program specifies a SWL of 300 for reefing lines, and 330 for the cunningham.)


Deck Organizers (Harken, midrange series for boats up to 37', 4 sheaves) will be located outboard of the mast to turn the lines aft. They will have to be mounted on risers above the companionway rails to get a fair lead. The sheaves are 2", SWL is 500#/sheave. BS is 2500#/sheeve, max line diameter is 5/8". It is important to keep the angle of deflecton less than 90 degrees with these organizers, for a fair lead and to minimize the actual load on each sheave.



Cabin Top Clutches, Winches and Cam-Cleats


Spinlock XAS triple rope clutches (or maybe 2 doubles) will be located on each side of the companionway, on 1" pads for a fair lead. They will be approximately 14-16" forward of the winches, for fair leads.




Harken #16 single speed self-tailing winches will be located near the back edge of the cabintop. They'll probably be on pads for two reasons: first, to get them level so the winch handle has the max room to move and for ergonomic reasons, and secondly, to raise them up and maybe tilt them so line won't overwrap (i.e, we want the line to contact the winch at the bottom of the drum and at a 5-10 degrees angle to the drum axis).



Cam cleats (Harken #150) for the vang, cunningham and outhaul. I'll probably put the vang on a swivel base (Schaeffer #??) so it can be released in a hurry from any position in the cockpit in case of a broach while flying the spinnaker. SWL is 300#, BS is 750#. Since the lines are not being deflected much from a straight line, which increases the load, these should be strong enough.



Primary and Secondary Winches

Primary winches will be Harken #40 2-speed self-tailers. Secondaries will be Harken #16 single-speed self-tailers. With my petite size, I'll need them!


2-Speed Mainsheet

Stand-up Toggle for Mainsheet


Harken 1561 stand up toggle

Two speed mainsheet (Harken #332) has 6:1 and 3:1 purchase.

I want a two speed main with 6:1 purchase for trimming when beating upwind in 40 knots of wind. But 6:1 mainsheets take a long time to trim, so the 3:1 feature will be nice when sailing in lighter winds and downwind.

This mainsheet system also has an added feature usually found only on big boats -- it has two hexarachet blocks. When the hexarachet feature is turned on, it increases the "gripping power" by about 10 times, so it'll be easier to hold in my hand,rather than cleating off, in gusty weather when I want to play with the main. When the hexarachet is off, it's freewheels and is very low friction.

This system is overkill, in terms of safe working load. It's designed for end boom sheeting for a main of up to 240 sf or mid boom sheeting up to 180 sf.

The mainsheet tackle will be mounted on the car (Harken #1508) on a stand-up toggle (Harken #1561) so it doesn't flop around when the mainsheet is slack, such as during a tack. That way it will always stay ready to the hand, and, just as importantly, won't bang against the track. (The original OEM track is ruined from having the lower block flopping over and hitting the track. The car is in good shape,but doesn't slide freely on the ruined track.)


Harken 1508 mid-range traveller car with pivoting shackle for attaching the mainsheet
Harken 1519 mid-range traveller control with double sheaves
Harken #1508 Mid-Range Traveller Car
Harken1519 Mid-Range Traveller Control
Harken 1515 control block for mid-range travellers

The track, cars and controls are from Harken's mid-range series. Harken's small-boat range components which are rated for high loads would be strong enough (considering the scantlings for sail area and boom-end sheeting), but the choices for control blocks and configuration are more limited. So I stepped up to the mid-range series of components.

The traveller will have 4:1 purchase.

The traveller will remain located at the end of the boom to make things eaiser single handing. The control lines from the traveller will be lead to the inboard edge of the cockpit seats via a cheek block. That'll make it more ergonomic to adjust the traveller; I'll be pulling towards myself when seated at the helm.

The track will be Harken's 1610 mid-range, low profile track with sliding bolt, so I can reuse the holes already drilled in the boat.


Partial (and Preliminary) Parts List


Qty Part Number Description
2 1502 stacked 2x2 midrange deck organizer (4 sheeves each)
3 011 blocks for turning at mast (main halyard, jib halyard, vang) 750# swl


183 blocks for turning at mast (cunningham, 4 reefing lines, topping lift, outhaul) 500# swl
1 266 lead block kit for furling line (stanchion mounted blocks)
4 B16STA #16 self tailing winch - Aluminum
2 B40.2STA #40 self tailng winch Aluminum
1 332 3:1/6:1 mainsheet
1 1610.1.2M mid-range variable hole spacing traveller track, 1.2 meters long
1 1508 mid-range traveller car with pivoting shackle
2 1519 mid-range end car with two sheaves
1 1515 Double contol blocks to be mounted on the traveller car (part includes one pair of blocks)
1 1561 stand up toggle (to keep the mainsheet block from banging on the track)
1 1524 track trim cap (part includes one pair of caps, I think)
1 017 or 109 little hexarachet cheek block stbd or bullet cheekblock
1 018 or 109 little hexarachet cheek block port or bullet cheekblock
2 356 Cam-Matic 150 w fairlead
2 295 flat cam riser
? 150 and/ or 240 Cam-Matic 150, cam-matic on swivel base with bulls eye for terminating the vang, outhaul, cunnigham - to be decided....
2 145 cam wedge kit


2 XAS06123 Spinlock clutches-triple 1/4-1/2"

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