Category Archives: junk sail

Islay to Colonsay and alterations

While anchored in Port Ellen, Islay I managed to finish a few alterations to the rig.

junk main sheet

first pull from the bottom twist

Regarding the main leech twist I reversed the order of the main sheet so that now the fist pull is from the top, not the bottom. As far as I can observe, this new arrangement has reduced the incidence of twist if not completely eliminated it yet. I have tried to unearth photographic evidence of this but have yet to get a good shot of the new arrangement. I did manage to discover a shot of the old first-pull-from-the-bottom sheeting arrangement and concomitant leech twist. I will attempt to capture photographic ‘proof’ of reduced twist with the new first-pull-from-the-top arrangement next time I sail off the wind to a sufficient degree.

Two improvements has been made to the foresail sheeting arrangement:

fore-sheet blocks junk

spaced fore-sheet blocks

First, I have separated the three deck sheet blocks from around one inch apart to around two inches apart. This new arrangement is to avoid the sheet parts getting tangled and locked up – particularly when the the sheet went slack during reefing and jybing (or jibing, or jibbing – not sure how to spell it – and automated spell checkers don’t comprehend sailing terminology ;)). The larger spacing seems to have worked and I have not experienced any jamming so far :).

fore-sail gallows

foresail gallows sheet deflector

The second improvement was introducing a fore-sheet gallows deflector so the sheets wouldn’t get stuck on the side of the fore gallows when jybing. I have observed from pictures of Jock MacLeod’s Ron Glas that half circle hoops were placed between leech and blocks to enable the sheet to slide from one side to the other without snagging on anything (like my neck, which I experienced when coming over from the Republic of Newfoundland last year).

I’m not sure what the hoops were constructed from but I think half inch pvc pipe would work well. Not having any plastic piping of sufficient length at and I have set up a “temporary” fix – fixing a line from the gunnels outside the life lines to the top of the gallows and then back down to the gunnels on the other side. Cheap, easy, fast – just like me. So far it actually seems to be working with no snags to report. (By the way, I place ‘temporary’ on quotation marks because some of my temporary fixes have been known to stay in situ for years ;).)

– – –

With the current addition of Caer Edin born Alison Roe to the journeys of Ara’ Deg, I acknowledge that the readership of this online chronicle may be expanding beyond Junk rig enthusiasts and those seeking information on the evolving technology of adapting Junk rigs to Western hulls – to include Alison’s North Atlantic fan base.

Accordingly, with the help of Alison I hope to expand the scope of this web log to include some info on our travels around the west coast of Scotland and increase its general ‘human interest’ aspect.

Tying it all together is the fact that the modern use and development of the Junk rig got its start in Scotland some 50 years ago with the pioneering efforts of Jock MacLeod and Blondie Hassler cumulating in their definitive work on the subject in 1987 – Practical Junk Rig. There is probably no more appropriate place in the world for a modern Junk-rigged schooner like Ara’ Deg to hang out. I’ve yet to observe another Junk-rig here but it’s still early days.

Port Askaig

Port Askaig





Port Ellen Islay Scotland

port ellen

Port Ellen rest stop

After a brisk sail north from Port Erin, Isle of Man, we arrived in Port Ellen, Islay, early afternoon 15 June. After passing Mull of Kintyre late in the evening on the 14 June we decided to hove to in the increasing southerly blow so we could enter Port Ellen the next morning in light and more favourable conditions.

As is often the case when the rig is still undergoing modifications and sea trials, a long list of ‘to dos’ was complied en route including:

  • get sufficient wedges in the mast step to eliminate the disconcerting creaking of the mast as it shifted in its base (only a fraction of a millimetre but causing gut-wrenching sounds when it did so).
  • re-tying a fore parrel that had come loose
  • reversing the fore frayed luff hauling parrel and placing shackles between the blocks and battens to increase allowable movement and eliminate chafing.
  • spacing fore sheet deck blocks to avoid jamming

I would also like to build some kind of fore sheet deflection so the fore sheets don’t get stuck on the side of the gallows when jibbing. Not sure if I have the materials at hand here but I’ll look around. I believe thin pvc piping bent in an arc would be suitable but might have to wait till we get to a more central town to purchase them. In the meantime I will simply have to be mindful when jibbing and prepared to go up to the fore deck to disentangle the fore sheet if they get jammed on the side of the gallows.

Regarding the main sail, it has a considerable amount of twist at the leech despite an even distribution of force. (You can view the twist in the video short embedded below – although it seems more acute in real life than on film.) The lower sheet parrel seems to exert the most force making the foot of the sail too far inboard, (or the top of the sail too far outboard), when the sheet is eased. Currently the first pull is from the bottom and I have reversed that order to the top. We’ll have to see if that helps reduce leech twist on our sail north tomorrow.

The island of Islay is charming with low hills and an abundance of wild flowers. Unfortunately the harbour of Port Ellen is less accommodating and scammy, such as:

  • The best natural anchoring spot in the harbour, probably used for over a few thousand years, has now been taken over my a dubious “not-for-profit” oufit (see malinwaters and portofellen) who has installed a small pontoon marina over it charging extortionate rates for a berth for very little service in return.
  • We initially anchored in off to the side of the channel but were later approached by a ferry official saying that there was no anchoring allowed in the area as we would be in the way of ferry manoeuvres. As far as I can gather it was a lie based on the obsessive need to control others – a common trait of a petty bureaucratic mind, but not wanting to get in a hassle we picked up our anchor and moved to the north side of the pier and haven’t been bothered since.
  • There is a laundry here but they won’t let you wash your own clothes and charge £10 to do it for you. No thanks :(. Hand washing in buckets is far more preferable :).
  • Internet café charges £1 for each half an hour you access their connection – on your own laptop! They charge even more if you want to use one of their computers. Thankfully we have mobile dongles that can connect ;).

All in all, Port Ellen would suit the weekend yachty types but for serious travelling sailors the place is bit of an unfriendly rip-off and I probably won’t be coming back any time soon. (Having said that, locals we’ve encountered on the streets seem to be pretty friendly.)

Planning to head off tomorrow morning and go northbound up the Islay / Jura channel up to the delightful (hopefully) island of Colonsay.

Port Erin Isle of Man

Chicken Rock Isle of Man

Passing Chicken Rock approach to Isle of Man

Early morning Monday 10 June we set off from Dunmore East County Waterford and motor-sailed  against a fresh southerly around Hook Lighthouse to follow the southern coast of Eire before turning NE into St. George’s Strait and into the Irish Sea.

Shortly after departing Dunmore East the bottom most sheet span attachment to the mainsail boom severed itself causing the span block to become detached and its adjoining sheet block to become jammed into the main sheet blocks on deck by the transom. I tied back the blocks to the wind vane assemblage to allow the sheet to run freely again and lowered the main sail by two panels to regain full control.

Southern tip of Isle of Man

Southern tip of Isle of Man

I contemplated re-attaching the lower sheet span at sea but then decided against it as the fuss and risk involved in working on a rig while under way didn’t seem worth the gain so we continued to sail NNE towards the Isle of Man with a full fore sail and a two panel reefed  main.

We made good passage under a fresh SW breeze and arrived in Port Erin Isle of Man early in the afternoon of Tuesday 11 June covering a distance of around 135 nautical miles in around 30 hours.

port of erin

Moored in Port of Erin

Once tied up to a secure visitor’s mooring buoy in Port Erin harbour I re-attached the lower sheet span to the boom with ease. The line had chafed itself against the steel track used to secure the sail. My new arrangement avoids that from happening.

Ara’Deg seems to be taking well to its new steel mast despite its formidable 350 kg weight. All in all the boat remains well balanced without being too tender. I am both pleased and relieved by its performance so far.

alison roeMy sailing partner Alison still suffered bouts of seasickness on this latest passage but not nearly as severe as the initial journey from  Wales to Eire – which indicates to me that her ‘sealegs’ are starting to grow :).

Our next planned excursion will be a 105 nautical mile journey from here, the Isle of Man, to Port Ellen on the Scottish island of Islay.  Assuming that wind predictions remain consistent, we will be off early Friday morning 14 June with a ETA of around 24 hours.

Rest stop in Dunmore Ireland

lawrenny junk rig dry outGiven the enormous tides of the Bristol Channel, we decided to dry Ara’ Deg out and give her a clean up before heading off on our passage up north. The bottom was pleasantly clean with only a green slime that needed to be scrubbed off – not a big task.

Thankfully no mussel beds from the Maritimes were attached.

The lack of growth underneath is a testament to the less tenacious sea-life of the higher latitudes.

Lawrenny junk rigI remember hauling out in Trinidad after spending a month in the Caribbean and a month in west Africa before that. One could hardly see the bottom paint for the encrusted life forms clinging on. After much hard scraping we removed 6 or more 5 gallon buckets completely filled with barnacles – which makes me think there is no bottom paint poisonous enough for those latitudes.

alber 37 junk rig drying outThis time around a fast scrub did the trick. I decided not to give it yet another coat of bottom paint as giving it a scrub re-activates the old bottom paint and given these high latitudes and lack of voracious sea-life should prove sufficient for the rest of the summer / autumn (or I least I tell myself that saving me £100+ in bottom paint and mess :)).

Other improvements include a new main gallows with partial 45 degree sides built from the finest old-growth Yellow Cedar I brought myself from Vancouver Island British Columbia. It needs ‘finishing’ but is currently in use.

The foremast partner / boot is still causing us some grief allowing a small but irritating amount of water to find itself down into the fore cabin getting the cushions wet. Alison is going to attack it with a sealing gun this afternoon which will hopefully sort it out for good. Or so we tell ourselves ;).

The foresail topping lift has been re-rigged so as to make it running and also pull the cradle forward a little. No more getting the yard snagged on the wrong side of the lifts this time around – I hope.

I have also raised the foresail topping lifts and mast-lift a foot so that it can no longer get snagged the bow pulpit which resulted in a broken boom and batten last year when sailing to Ireland in some awful weather.

So …

dunmore east alberg junk

Moored in Dunmore East Ireland

After a 24 hour journey from Lawrenny Pembrokeshire Wales, we decided to take shelter in Dunmore East fishing harbour near Waterford Ireland.

Northerly winds and uncomfortable lumpy seas in St George’s channel convinced us it would be better to wait a spell in southern Ireland before catching southerlies to Scotland tomorrow.

So far her new mast is working as it should. The boat is not as tender as I had feared it would be and it handled 15+ knot headwinds without excessive heel – around 8 to 12%. It will be interesting to see how much it rolls when sailing downwind to Scotland over the next couple of days. Alison asks me how it compares to the previous mainmast and I honestly can’t recall much difference.

When I was sailing up the Avalon peninsula to St. John’s Newfoundland last year I recall the boat suffering (or me suffering) excessive roll when sailing downwind under foresail only and that it calmed down considerably when hoisting and employing the main.

The next few days are calling for 10 to 20 knot southerlies and it will be a good chance to test out the downwind sailing abilities of the new rig as well as scoot up to the west coast of Scotland in good time.

Although I will try different combinations I suspect that sailing under mainsail only may be the best approach for simplicity and carefree sailing.  I have tried goose-winging but given the shadowing effect of the mainsail along with the often fish-tailing effect when surfing down overtaking waves,  the foresail would often become blanketed and become unstable experiencing random gibes.

Still working towards that Junk-rig ideal of a completely carefree sailing experience where one never has to leave the cockpit to sort something out – like snagged lines, etc. Getting closer to that ideal all the time.

But the real question is, given the increased mass of the mainmast, will the downwind roll factor be increased or decreased. Theoretically, given the increased inertia against rolling that weight aloft should bring, the downwind roll should be dampened, not increased.

But then there’s theory and reality – not always compatible.  I’ll report my finding next time I catch an Internet connection in Scotland.

St. John’s to Crosshaven

drakes pool crosshaven eire

At rest in Drake’s Pool, Crosshaven

After 18 days of sea I arrived in Crosshaven, Eire on 10 September and am currently moored at Drake’s Pool – a secure spot I have visited twice before.

The good news is that we made it and I can now start to look for a replacement main mast this winter so we can be up and running again in the spring.

The not so good news is that it was a bit of a rough ride out there and had to pass through two gales and one storm. (A far as I’m concerned a gale is a minor storm and a storm is a major gale). Apart from being strangled by the sheets in an unexpected jibe I received no injuries (and the rope-burn scab on my neck should be gone in a few days 🙂 ).

The rig took a bit more of a bashing however. The list:

2 main battens broken

1 foresail batten broken

foresail boom broken

main gallows demolished

foresail pocket torn at leech

a few small holes in the sails here and there

one trashed main mast boot

main junk rig batten broken

A bad batten design 😦

The broken main battens was a design fault. They were both made of two aluminium tubes joined together with a wooden plug and then the join covered in a 10 foot PVC tube. The PVC tube had too much flex allowing the aluminium tubes to snap the wooden plugs. It was then only a matter of time before to two now separate tubes stressed the PVC to breaking point. After the second broken batten I replaced it with a single length of aluminium tube and had no more failure.

boom batten foresail junk rig sail

That’s a broken batten and boom tied together your looking at.

The broken foresail boom was snapped by …? … getting jammed in the bow pulpit I suspect. Now it should not have been able to get into that position but it must have slid forward under duress, got caught and snapped with a quick jibe. I tied the boom to the wooden batten above it and sailed with one less panel. A gale or two later I noticed that that batten had been cracked at the same place and tied them both up to the aluminium batten above sailing with two panels out of action. I have some clear ideas on how to prevent this in the future including reducing the sail balance, raising the mast lift height, and using a boom parrel as well as a boom/lower batten luff parrel.

junk rig main gallows

That’s pretty much all that’s left of the main gallows!

The main gallows were wiped out in the blink of an eye during an accidental jibe. Of course the boom should have cleared the gallows by a few inches but I can only suspect that the topping lifts had stretch a little allowing the sail to sag and the boom caught the top of the gallows at full force, cracking the boom and sending half my gallows into the Atlantic ocean. Not a big deal really cause gallows aren’t essential, just good to have around if you need to make repairs and need to secure the sail.

mast head crane junk jury rig

simple but effective 🙂

My one bolt crane solution worked remarkably well. On one end I hung the halyard block and hung the two sides of the topping lifts off the other. The mast lift was secured by a bowline slung over the top of the mast secured by the bolt from slipping down. So not all my designs are crap!

I took a few video clips of my journey from Charlottetown – St John’s –  Crosshaven and mashed them all together last night and uploaded them to MeTube. If nothing else it displays the fact that I am better sailor than a cameraman or video editor. But it’s just a bit of fun for me.

The “test pilot crew” in Charlottetown is photographer Astrid from Hamburg on the left, Bonnie from Charlottetown on the helm, and Rachael from the Welsh borderlands sitting on the right. Brave women! Thanks.

Plan B

When I limped back to St. John’s Friday evening with a broken main mast I was reconciled to keeping my boat in Newfoundland for the winter while I sourced and installed a new mast. However, after spending the next evening with an extraordinary individual I was inspired to greater possibilities. When I opened my eyes the following morning and gazed at the junk rig blueprint plans on the bulkhead (now with a jagged line through the main mast where it broke), it dawned on me how I could use the remaining mast to re-rig a furled main sail of approx. 175 sq. feet. Together with the fore sail of 225 sq feet I would have around 400 sq feet, or approx two-thirds of the original sail plan of 635 sq. feet.

400 sq. feet of canvas would be enough to move the boat art a reasonable speed I figure. So I set about transforming the 14.5 foot main mast stump into a working mast and rig the main so as to have the full fan head and one panel to sail with.

junk rig jury

The new look

The main sail is now hoisted with a three part halyard and a modified topping lift to help contain the considerable bulk of the furled bottom four panels. I have omitted re-inserting the battens in the furled part of the sail and have lashed the lowest working batten to the boom. I have replaced the luff hauling parrel with standing parrels but kept the yard hauling parrel. I have extended the lower fan head batten and attached a single sheet block to its end.The boom/batten and and batten above have a sheet span connecting them attached to the sheet with double blocks (one on the sheet span, one for the sheet. I have sheeted it with first pull on the single block on the uppermost sheeted batten.

Given this arrangement and the extra purchase of the single block, I believe incidence of sail twist will largely be eliminated.

I am reasonably confident I will be able to achieve and maintain hull speed (5.5 knots) in winds of 10 to 13 knots with fast speeds at 15+ knots.

The winds look favourable from Friday on and I will probably be experiencing winds of 20 to 30 knots later in the week. I am planning therefore to depart Friday morning. If I run into difficulty with the new arrangement I will return to port Friday evening and revert to my former plan of remaining in Newfoundland for the winter. If all goes well I will push on to the British Isles. So if there is no more entries in this blog by, say, Sunday or Monday, it means I’m going for the crossing.


junk rig mast dis-masted st johns

Queens Cove St John’s. Broken section secured to gallows, mast and battens secured to the decks

Spent yesterday sorting out the tangled mess of running rigging, main sail and broken mast top. Amazingly, the only thing that suffered  damage (apart from the main mast itself) was the navigation lights that was bolted to the top of the mast (and I might be able to fix that).

There are no obvious signs of defect in the breakage – other than the fact that it broke where a series of knots were situated – making it a weaker spot from a structural point of view but not fatal – or one would think.

schooner junk rig broken main mast

the new look 🙂

The break occurred 20.5 feet from the top, leaving a 14.5 foot stump from the partners up. Add another 8 foot of bury and you have a break close to the center of the timber. At the break the diameter was 7 inches (18 cm).

I’m now looking for a secure place to tie up for the winter. I’ve heard that Quidi Vidi has a small secure cove where I might be able to negotiate a spot. It’s only a half an hour (that’s .5 hour for the metric minded) from here so I’ll go check it out this afternoon.

I will then start sourcing a suitable replacement mast. Steel or fibreglass tubes seem the best option. St John’s is a major industrial port now, thanks to the offshore oil boom and if I am not able find anything locally I should be able to get something shipped in.