Category Archives: alberg 37

Fan up preventer line – does it work?

Last autumn I attached a fan up preventer line as designed and promoted by junk-rig Arne from Stavenger Norway. Having had problem with fan up on a few occasions I thought it would be worth the effort.

I discussed fan up and examined Arne’s preventer line in this post: the-dreaded-junk-rig-fan-up/

So, how did it work in practice?

There was only one occasion when I sailed deeply reefed in brisk winds where the fan up preventer line would have potentially prevented a fan up. It was sailing out of Campbelltown harbour on the Kintyre peninsular on my way to the Isle of Bute.

As the winds picked up I reefed down. I then went to tighten the preventer line for it to work and discovered it had become buried in the folds of the sail, unable to budge.

The only way to activate it would have been to raise the sail again and this time pull the preventer line in as the sail is lowered – which would have required 3 hands – one to let down the halyard, one to bring in the sheets as they slacked, and one to keep the preventer line taunt as the sail was furled.

If I didn’t have wind vane steering that would have required 4 hands.

So I can’t say it wouldn’t work if there was a 3 handed co-ordinated lowering of the sail, but the fact that the preventer line gets  trapped in the furled sail renders it useless if you opt for a quicker furling in demanding conditions.

I still think it is a useful extra line to have but requires some forethought and co-ordination in using. I’d like to say that I will be more thoughtful and organised next time I reef the sail in strong winds, but I know I can’t be sure of it. Handling a rig in rough conditions can be more gut-based than rational.

I’m currently finishing a new gallows for the foresail. This one will be slopped and rounded enabling fore sheets slip up and over the gallows when slack sheets come up against it in a gybe. Taking it up to Bute next week to mount it. I will take a picture of it and post it later so you can see what I’m talking about.

Below is a short clip of our sail from Port Ellen, Islay, down around the Mull of Kintyre, up to Campbelltown and then off to Bute for the winter.

I took clips of the reefed main. If you pause the video at seconds 31 to 34 you can maybe make out the preventer line starting at batten 2 going down the leech into the furled folds.

It comes with a soundtrack from an old Newfie sailing song, Up She Rises,  by Bob Porter. Either that or silence, as I don’t have a specialized mike to block out ‘wind thunder’.

Yes this post is 6 months after the date. What a procrastinator!!

reefed junk rig sailing in Scotland from Simon Foster on Vimeo.


Back from the Shetlands

The plan was to sail up the coast of Norway this summer into the Arctic Circle and explore the remote coastline and fiords in 24 hr sunshine … but … the most miserable and cold summer weather in living memory dampened our initial enthusiasm and we ended up staying a few weeks in the Shetland Islands before returning back to Lochinver at the end of the month.

After a couple of days of exploring the west coast of the mainland we found ourselves in thick fog, little or no breeze, and a contrary current off Papa Stour, so raised the Iron Jib (started the engine). After about an hour of motoring the propeller started making the most horrible sound compelling us to shut the engine down. Fortunately a breeze came along and we sailed up to Hillswick and dropped anchor. A couple of days later a diver went down to inspect. He reported that the shaft was oddly loose.

We then sailed down to Delting Boat Club in Brae where we let it dry out enough to inspect. The cutless bearing had lost all its inner rubber lining (for unknown reasons) and had to be replaced. Given the fact that there is only a small tidal range in the Shetlands (around 1.5 m) and there was only a ramp rather than a tidal grid to dry out on, it resulted in a startling but harmless angle to the boat when the tide was at its lowest. See pictures.

delting boat club brae shetland ramp

drying out on the Delting Boat Club ramp – look s bit dire from this angle!

It’s not the first time I’ve sailed without any working engine / propeller alternative and every time it happens I thank Neptune she’s junk-rigged. Not that I couldn’t manage with the more commonplace triangular sail rigs, but just how much safer, easier and more seaworthy the junk rig is.  No engine? no worries, when you sail a junk!

drying out ramp delting boat club

Speaking of the rig, the central theme of this blog, other than maintenance and upgrades, it has caused me little concern. The upgrades this year have consisted of changing the running ropes from three-strand to braided polyester. The result has been a smoother, less kinky, experience. The only downside is that the braid is more slippery and requires a bit more attention when hauling and tying off.

The dimensions I have used are the following :

main (400 sq ft) halyard – 12 mm

fore (200 sq ft) halyard  – 10 mm

main yard hauling parrel – 10 mm

fore yard hauling parrel – 8 mm

main luff hauling parrel – 8 mm

fore luff parrel (now standing) – 6 mm

all batten parrels – 6 mm

Future plans

  1. Experiment with alternate sheeting arrangements to reduce or eliminate twist when reefed. Up till now I have applied the KISS (keep it simple stupid) formula to sheeting which keeps the sheet power to each batten essentially the same avoiding undue twist when full. However, when reefed the sheet power increases substantially on the lower bundle introducing excessive twist in the leech. This is not really a big problem as it sails well regardless but I believe it is possible to create a more balanced sheeting arrangement, even when deeply reefed, if one incorporates euphroes (wooden blocks with holes through them) into the mechanics.  Experimental stuff.
  2. Source two grown Douglas fir poles to replace main and fore masts. I understand there may be some suitable poles to be harvested around Perth. To be confirmed.
  3. Make a new foresail to replace the thinning and much patched current foresail.

In the nearer future I’m looking around for a place to take the boat for the winter as it’s just too far and the weather is too brutal up in Lochinver. Unless I can find a suitable place here in south Wales / Bristol channel, I may go back to my old bolt hole in Crosshaven (Cork, Eire).

Back in action

After a few months of rebuilding the Kubota diesel engine in a friend’s garage over the winter, Ara’ Deg is re-powered and ready for action. So Alison and I went on a small sailing expedition around the west coast of Scotland.

junk rig Scotland

Drying out in Acairseid Mhor so I can cut the prop loose.

We hardly used the rebuilt engine at all and when we once did, shifting anchor spot in the small anchorage Acairseid Mhor in north-west Gometra, we backed over the anchor trip line wrapping it securely around the prop shaft stalling the engine, whoops!, requiring a partial dry-out in the shallow section to get access to the prop and cut it out.

Engines can be more of a curse than blessing at times but it feels good to have it there – in case our patience runs out faster than the wind can return on a calm day.

As you can see from the video clip below, the foresail has had many repair patches sown on – not from hard sailing – but simply from the rough treatment it received in Lochinver harbour this winter – one of the stormiest winters in memory. Stout sail covers are now higher up in the list!

The list? The list of things to do, modify, test, etc. The list never ends. You can only hope that things are being crossed off at roughly the same pace as new things are being added on. Reminds me of the saying – if you dislike someone leave them your boat in your will.

We’re still planning a sail to Norway north of the Arctic circle in a few weeks and will be replacing much of the running rigging currently employing three strand with more supple braided polyester of slightly smaller dimensions – 8mm for the fore sheets and halyard and 6mm for the yard, luff and batten parrels.

We found the 3/8 three strand to be getting increasingly stiffer with a tendency to kink and twist. We are hoping the braided line should make for some much smoother action.

Below is a clip of our journey out and back. The trip down to Barra was very pleasant – but the trip back, in rain and a fresh breeze (20 to 25 knots south-westerly) was .. less pleasant. The Minch has a reputation of getting very lumpy and lived up to its reputation. But I only vomited once (strong black coffee on an empty stomach is no way to start a lumpy sail I discovered) and Alison was only thrown out of her bunk onto the floor once. No bruises 🙂 .

Weather and related sea state is everything when sailing. It completely dominates your world and state of mind. I picked sound tracks for the sail down and back that reflect that fact.

P.S. Since posting this video I have been informed that Barra is spelt with two r’s.  Whoops!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A recent comment on the web-log reminded me that I have been neglecting it for close to a year. I suppose I have been waiting for positive sailing news but the truth is I’m still farting around with the engine and propeller.

The Good – Junk Rig

The actual junk-rig itself is in sound condition and is really ready to go. A few small sticky sail-repair patches on small holes here and there should keep in good condition for the coming year.

junk rig bosons chair

The Good – halyard renewal

Another issue is the main halyard. No matter how careful we handle it it always seems to take on some annoying twisting over time, although careful coiling (figure of eight) and storage does keep it to a minimum. We also found that the weathered part of the halyard was getting rather stiff / less pliable so we switched it around, end to end. Being a four part purchase meant that the  becket end of the halyard was secured to the block at the top of the mast – requiring someone to be hoisted up to untie it, tie on the opposite end, and then thread it through the sheeves. Alison volunteered and was hoisted up on a Bosun’s Chair. Very brave!

The halyard is now in good nick for another season or two, although we are wondering if the three strand 3/8 nylon line we are using couldn’t be improved by switching to a double braided (inner and outer) line of the same diameter.

I have to admit that I have not developed a fond relationship with the steel pole main mast which we dressed and stepped last year in Wales. It just feels too clunky and heavy and out of place. So I been having wooden main mast fantasies again and am currently seeking a good tree to fell this Autumn and season and shape for stepping next year some time. There’s a good stand of Sitka spruce not far from here I’m going to scout in a few days. There’s also some good old Larch stands around, which may make an even better grown mast, (depending on the knot arrangements). But for now, the steel pole will do. I’m such a fussy bugger!

The Bad and Ugly – Propellers & Engines

I’m not going to spend much time writing about this because 1. I have spent enough time on it already, and 2. it doesn’t really fit into the theme of this web-log, the Junk rig. Yes I’m talking about the devil himself – fossil fuel engines and related paraphernalia.

propeller shaft hole

The Bad – waiting for a new propeller and shaft

This winter a leak developed via the propeller shaft while I was 600 miles away at home in Wales. By the time harbour staff noticed it and pumped it out enough water had leaked in to submerge the engine.

We hauled the boat out in June to see what the problem was and indeed the whole shaft/propeller set up was clearly micky mouse and had to be replaced. So we’ve got a brand spanking new propeller and shaft … but the engine has yet to show a spark of life.

kubota v505

The Ugly – Kubota V1505

So I have been working on the engine for the past month. It takes so long here because we are a three hour drive from the nearest viable chandlery (stupid name for a place that stocks boat stuff) in Inverness and even then most parts have to be ordered in via mail. However, I’m confident that the engine will be up and running, complete with new controls, and ready to roll, before the end of the month.

There now that I’ve written it down I have a commitment and deadline. I needed that 😉 .

Next post will be a post-sailing post, I hope 🙂


New mast, new adventure

In preparation for sailing the Western Isles of Scotland this summer, Ara’ Deg has now been fitted with a new mainmast at Lawrenny Wales after sailing her back from Cork Ireland last month.

Last trip with broken mast / jury rig across the Celtic Sea back to Wales clip below.

The replacement mainmast is a 45 foot galvanized steel tube 268 mm diameter at its base narrowing to 76 mm at the top.

I had ordered a 4 mm wall thickness weighing in at an estimated 220 kg but at the last minute the the company informed me that this was no longer available and only a 6 mm wall thickness pole weighing 350 kg (estimated) was available. After sleeping on it I decided to give it a go, partly because I felt committed to sailing north this summer (and to turn it down would likely mean scrapping that plan) and also the fact that a weightier mast would bring increased dynamic stability and more sea-kindly motion (see: for a more in depth discussion of weight distribution and stability).

For number crunchers, here’s the specs:

  • Overall displacement (with mast) – 17,750 lbs / 8,050 kg
  • ballast – 6,500 / 2,950 kg
  • ballast to overall displacement ratio 38%
  • main mast weight – 775 lbs / 350 kg (estimated)
  • main mast to overall displacement ratio – 4.4%
  • main mast to ballast ratio – 12%
  • mainmast centre of gravity – 18 feet from base or around 14 feet above central roll pivot.

The mast has been painted white with a bright orange top for increased visibility and a navigation and anchor light fitted to the top. Moving spirit behind the up-and-coming Scottish expedition is Alison, who has been helping me prepare and step the new mast and rigging.

main sail junk rig

Alison contemplates sail repairs

The proof is in the pudding as they say and when the main sail is rigged I’ll take her for sea trials to see how she handles. If it turns out to be too tender (i.e. heels too much given the strength of wind / sail area) then I will have to sail it with reduced sail until remedied. The remedies would be either replace the mast for a lighter one or increase the ballast. The latter solution would be preferred as it would be simpler, cheaper, and result in a more dynamically stable and sea-kindlier boat.

Of course I’m hoping it’ll be ‘just right’, without modification and it’ll be ‘full speed ahead’ for the west coast of Scotland.

junk mast crane

junk mast crane

main mast lifted into place

over he comes …

main mast junk stepping

steady, aim …

mainmast stepping junk rig

in he goes …

temporary wedges mainmast junk

temporary wedges

alberg 37 junk masts

her new look …

topping lifts

topping lifts

Off we go …

With all modifications finished I’m ready to start the next leg of journey – Saint John’s Newfoundland to Crosshaven Ireland – 1796 nautical miles as the crow flies. I will have good Westerlies for the first day or two but will have to deal with awkward north-easterlies for a few days after that thanks to a high in the arctic pushing the lows south and off my track. But waiting for the perfect weather patterns can be a mistake. They may not arrive until it it is so late in the season that you risk get battered by Autumn gales.

Regarding sailing directly downwind, I discovered on my sail here that I was unable to adequately sail goose-winged. The foresail failed to hold sufficient wind, even in a fresh 12 – 15 knot breeze, due to the blanketing effect and  turbulence caused by the main. The foresail would only stay out for a minute or two and then start swinging back and forth with the motion of the boat. Not holding any wind it added no benefit and sailing under main only was just as efficient. For a brief time I tried sailing directly downwind under foresail alone but found the rolling of the hull significantly increased with this sail arrangement.

A huge benefit of the junk rig over the conventional sloop / triangular sails becomes obvious in dead calms. When I was sloop rigged I would have to pull down all sail and lash everything on the boat. Of course the boat would roll in the swells and a sleepless night of clanking and straining would be in store. (If I left the main up the the force of the sail flapping back and forth in the air turbulence caused by the rolling was much greater discomfort and stain on the rigging and hull.) With the junk rig I simply keep both sails fully hoisted and sheeted tight amidships. This has effect of reducing the swell-induced rolling to a gentle swaying with no strain on the rig, the hull, or my nerves. Deep sea dead calms in no longer something I dread.

The sun is rising and the sea beckons. I will up date this blog will a full report of the rigs performance on a transatlantic when I get plugged in in Ireland – say 3 weeks from now.

Running Lines

junk rig running lines

Main mast lines. The mass of loose lines flaked on the deck are the three downhauls.

Possibly one of the most difficult parts of finishing this project is finding a place for all the running lines – all 18 of them – 9 for each sail. The main hatch of an Alberg 37 is on the port side of centre which works out in my favour as most of the running lines are situated on the starboard side of the masts.

main fore sheets junk rig

Main and fore sheets, port side.

Only the two sheets and two port topping lifts come back to the port side of the hatch. I have used jam cleats for the sheets in order to enable quick release, which could be handy if hit by a squall.


junk rig running lines cockpit

Running lines starboard side from left to right: main luff hauling parrel, main yard hauling parrel, main halyard, three main downhauls, fore halyard, for yard hauling parrel, fore luff hauling parrel

The three main downhauls share one larger hole into the cockpit and will share one cleat (to be fixed). The fore mast downhauls will lead along the starboard side of the doghouse to the cockpit (to be done).

I have been unable to find suitable nylon thimbles to finish the fore topping lifts so for now they will have to remain as standing lifts that can be adjusted at the boom.

foremast lines junk rig

Fore mast running lines fed through frame to secure tender.

Securing my rowing tender to the deck without interfering with the fore mast running lines proved to be a challenge. I have built a frame fixed to the foredeck which h tender can be latched down to and the running ropes lead through leads below. It should work well.

On the starboard side come the main and fore halyards, main and fore yard hauling parrels and main and fore luff hauling parrels (although I’m considering placing a standing luff parrel in place of the hauling one as it seems to be unnecessary, although sea trials will determine that for sure).

Sea trials to come then off to Newfoundland.

Here’s a link to a feature article the local paper ran on my project: The Guardian Clear Sailing