Installing a new halyard on a sailboat is pretty simple . . . and no, you don’t have to go up the mast as long as the old one is still there. It doesn’t even have to be in good shape (as you’d want it if you were going to use it to go aloft). It just has to be there.Since we had to replace our spinnaker halyard this past weekend, I took photos of how we did it. Literally less than 10 minutes, and a big part of that was because I was taking pictures. It would have been under 5 minutes otherwise.
Basically, all you have to do is securely fasten the new halyard to the old, then use the old to pull the new into place. The key is securely. Just taping it together won’t do. And you obviously can’t tie a know in it and expect it to pass through the sheave. So how do you do it?
If the old halyard has a shackle on the “sail” end, start by cutting it off (we did this and had it spliced onto the new halyard — read about our splicing here).
Then use a 8- to 10-inch piece of Monel wire or sail twine to “stitch” the bitter end of the new halyard to the “sail” end of the old halyard.
If using wire, wrap it tightly around the line so it won’t catch on the fittings on the top of the mast or snag another halyard inside the mast.
We then wrap cheap electrical tape around the joint so that it is smooth. Don’t use a lot of layers — the key is to keep it thin and flexible.
Start pulling gently down on the old halyard as if hoisting the sail. Make sure the halyards aren’t fouled and don’t have knots in them. If there’s a second person to help, they can hold the other end of the halyard away from the mast and any protrusions, although it usually won’t snag.
When the joint gets to the sheave at the top of the mast, gently pull it through. You can actaully exert a fair amount of pressure as the two lines are sewn together, but yes, be a little careful as you don’t want to break the connection (if you do, you will have to go up the mast to run the new halyard).
Keep pulling until the joint comes out of the mast (or is reachable for an external halyard). Undo the tape and “stitching.”
There! You’re done, and no trip up the mast.