Tag Archives: schooner

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






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.

Both sails up

junk schooner sais

so far so good 🙂

Today, for the first time, I was able to hoist both sails to see how fitted together. I was relieved to observe that the finalised sails are setting very similar to my original plan on paper.Sometimes things work!

Unconventional perhaps, but I have gone ahead with contrasting colours – black and white. I originally planned to build both sails in black but was unable to source canvas of suitable weight in black for the main but came across 54 inch white canvas (Dacron) at a super price. So white it was.

junk rig foresail

Nice set of the foresail

You might notice that the foresail only has batten pockets from the leech to where the batten parrels attach whereas the main has pockets all the way across and gaps for the batten parrels. This is because I made the main first and later found i needed more flexibility when it came to attaching the batten parrels. I had to extend the main parrels right to the luff to prevent them from binding when furling the main. I may modify the main like the foresail but for now it’s working well.

I haven’t got running topping lifts for the foresail yet as I can’t seem to find any nylon thimbles locally – just clunky galvanized ones that are heavy and could chaff the sail, or so I fear.

The biggest problem to solve is where to position all the running lines – and where to store the bulk of excess line when the sails are up and working. So far I have the halyards, luff hauling parrels and yard hauling parrels coming into the starboard of the hatch (the wider side because the hatch is on the port side of the boat) and the to sheet lines held by jam cleats on the port side.

The three main downhauls come together as a bundle on the starboard side also. I have yet to figure out how exactly to manage the topping lifts lines (4) and fore downhauls (3). I will upload more details and pictures of the layout in a few days.

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Main sail hoisted

schooner junk sailAt last the main sail is on the mast. Since this picture was taken I have added the Yard hauling parrel and Luff hauling parrel – although they make little difference to the appearance or shape when the sail is not working.

alberg 37 junk schoonerI have decided not to extend and sheet batten number 2 (second from Yard) although I have seen this done in pictures of other modern Junks. The extra sheeted batten would introduce a more complex sheeting arrangement with possible issues of undesirable twist when hard pressed. This is something I may experiment with when I have more time but right now I’m focused on getting both sails up and running and ready for a sail to Newfoundland, then Ireland.

The foresail has been sown and is connected to its Yard ready for battens to be fitted. Will update with a picture in a few days.

Why a Junk rig?

my first Junk

First off, I have to say that I have some experience with Junk rigs having designed and installed a couple of them before. One in an experimental proa and the other on a salvaged 18 ft day sailer (pictured to the left) that was later used for sailing the east coast of Vancouver Island.

On the 18 footer hull the sail was a painters drop sheet; the mast was a discarded aluminium pipe stuffed with a 2×4 wood cross for stiffness; the batons where bamboo poles from Chinatown; the yard and boom where made from scrap wood. The whole rig cost me under $100 to make and it sailed great! I’ve been hooked on Junk rigs ever since.

My interest in designing and building Junk rigs came from discovering and buying the then newly published book Practical Junk rig by MacLeod and Hassler back in 1992.

At the time it just seemed a cheap and easy way to get a working rig up on a hull. After sailing with the Junk rig for a while I came to appreciate its benefits and advantages over the more excepted Western rigs such as sloops, cutters and ketches.

The advantages I would summerize as follows:

  • The rig is safe and and easy to handle compared to Western rigs.
  • It can be maintained and repaired anywhere in the world or at sea with no need of specialist rigging fittings.
  • The entire rig can be handled, including reefing and hoisting sail from the cockpit (or even from an enclosed compartment) with no need to go on deck.
  • A large Junk rig can be easily handled by one person.
  • Reliance on an auxiliary engine is reduced if not eliminated.

For a long distance cruiser such as myself the rig has simply too many advantages to ignore.

The fact that it requires no standing rigging is a huge bonus.


All standing rigging fails eventually. It’s not a question of if but when. I have it happen to me but was fortunate in no loosing the entire rig – and event that happens all to often on Western rigs. The only way to avoid rigging failure is to replace all rigging wires every few years at enormous expense and bother. And even then there are no guarantees.

Personally I prefer to cruise with peace of mind, not chewing my fingernails wondering what’s going to fail next.

For these reasons I am planning to completely remove the mast and rigging from my boat and replace it with a Junk schooner rig.