Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

Using Lazy Jacks

Lazy jacks are a great way to control your main sail as it comes down, but they can also be a real frustration when raising it as the battens catch on them and it’s this up-and-down raise-and-lower the sail just a few inches and try to time it just right so they don’t.

There’s usually a bit of “discussion” between the person raising the sail and the one at the helm along the lines of “would you PLEASE hold the boat directly into the wind so I can get this sail up?” We won’t repeat what the person at the helm may be saying. For that reason, lots of people hate lazy jacks.

And I know a number of people who don’t want a stack pack system because it combines a sail cover and lazy jacks into one package.

A quick bit of rigging, however, will make lazy jacks simple to use when raising the main. The secret is having two small blocks on the mast that the lazy jacks go through, then back down to about boom height with a long tail on the line. That way, you can move the lazy jacks out of the way when raising the sail (and eliminate the chafe on the sail when sailing) but still have them when you drop the main.

It’s easier to show in pictures, so here goes.

Our system – I’ve drawn the lines and blocks in as they didn’t show up well.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem! A fairly easy DIY project.

To raise the main, you release each lazy jack where it’s cleated on the mast, pull the two lines that are attached to the boom forward, and hook them on the reef hooks or the cleats that the lazy jacks are on. Then tighten up the lazy jack lines. The lazy jacks now form a reverse “L” going along the boom and up the mast.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!Lazy-jacks-4

Now, with the lazy jacks out of the way, you can easily raise the main.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

While sailing, we leave the lazy jacks hooked on the mast cleats as that way they don’t chafe on the main.

Then, when it’s time to take the main down, we unhook the lazy jacks and tighten them up to catch the main.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

In light air, we can even take the main down without turning into the wind as the lazy jacks nicely corral the sail as it comes down.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

It almost flakes itself – a little bit of adjustment and it’s ready for the sail cover.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

This system works equally well with a stack pack and/or lazy jacks that have three or four attachment points on the boom. We had a stack pack and lazy jacks with four boom (or stack pack, really) attachments on our previous boat (a Tayana 37 with a much larger main sail) and it worked perfectly.

Barefoot Gal had lazy jacks when we bought her, but they were terminated at the mast above the first spreaders. No line back down to deck level. Yes, it drove us nuts. But thanks to whoever had rigged Que Tal those many years ago, we knew exactly how to fix it.

There were already pad eyes on the mast where the lazy jacks were terminated, so all we had to do was put a small block (sized for the lazy jack line) on the pad eye and then get longer lines to go from the lower blocks up to the mast blocks and then back down. These lines will be longer than you think since you have to be able to lead the lazy jacks forward and still cleat them off – when buying the line, it’s best to err on the side of getting them too long and later cutting a bit off.

We also had to add small cleats on the mast – we used inexpensive ones as there is very little load. The whole job took about two hours, including going up the mast to attach the blocks (if the pad eyes hadn’t been there, it would have taken another half hour or so). Total cost for 2 blocks, line and 2 cleats was just under $100.

A few tips:

  • Use some seizing wire or a cable tie to seize the pins on the shackles that are attached to the mast.
  • When screwing the pad eyes and cleats to the mast, use a bit of Tef-Gel on the stainless screws going into the aluminum mast. Use machine screws and tap the holes. If you prefer, you can use rivets on the pad eyes.
Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • Lucy
    Posted at 22 April 2016 Reply

    How do you know exactly what we say to each other when raising the main?! Great tips, we will have to do this!

  • Patty Thompson
    Posted at 22 April 2016 Reply

    Carolyn I really do love your advice!! Our boat has lazy jacks and we were never quite sure how to take full advantage of it and yes it has been a pain!! Now I can’t wait to do this and try it out! Thank you

  • Ted Broom
    Posted at 22 April 2016 Reply

    We made our own maany years ago and that’s how I made them. Figured Relinda didn’t need the hassle of fighting the sail up. She pulls the legs forward to catch them at the gooseneck and hoists. No problems

    Posted at 23 April 2016 Reply

    We’ve always done this in our home-made set up because I had already made a regular sailcover and didn’t want to put slots in it for the lazy jack, so we pull the lazy jack forward before covering and that way it is out of the way for raising the sail on next trip.

  • Rodney L Foushee
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    Having difficulty with lazy jacks is not a function of the jacks. It is a self-induced problem caused by raising/lowering sails in the wrong order. First up and last down is the head sail. Last up / first down is the main. After making way with the head sail, release the main sheet which allows the main on the boom to wind vane into the apparent wind. Leave the main sheet released. Helmsman pilots with the head sail; crew raises main with no batten snagging because the main system (boom, sail, jacks) is aligned with the wind. After the main halyard is cleated, helmsman trims the main. Same procedure in reverse order for lowering sails. Works in any breeze. Try it.

    • Keith & Nicki, s/v Sionna
      Posted at 01 December 2017 Reply

      Rodney, this is great theory, but in many boats – ours included – it simply doesn’t work. Largely this is because with any breeze at all the mainsail is a living thing, luffing and moving randomly as soon as you begin to hoist.
      Carolyn’s advice is Stirling, and exactly what our sail maker recommended, with the added benefit of reducing chafe on our main from having the lazy jacks rub against the sail while under way.

      • Rodney L Foushee
        Posted at 01 December 2017 Reply

        There is no “theory” with my recommendation – the main sail on your boat, my boat, every boat is subject to the same laws of physics, and, thus, is nothing more than a flag aligned with the wind until the main sheet is tightened. You are correct, the main will move about just like a flag, but what you are missing is that it carries the boom and everything attached to the boom, including the lazy jacks, in alignment along with it.. Head sail first, then the main, it is just too easy.

        I’m not questioning the wisdom of the jack system offered here. I’m just offering a practical efficient way of raising and lowering sails without fighting the wind. Simply a tip for the toolbox; don’t like, don’t use it.

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 01 December 2017 Reply

          I get what you are saying, but as the sail is raised the battens do not stay in alignment with the boom nor do the lazyjacks. They move independently and the battens WILL snag on the the sail is raised.

        • Marc Kornutik
          Posted at 01 December 2017 Reply

          Please allow that your system will not work if lazy jacks are in position.
          But I’m still confused because even if none are used or they are pulled out of the way…, once you are sailing after the headsail is unfurled the main is going to fill and billow out to leeward putting a lot of strain on the boltrope, mast track etc. Would be hard to raise and I think it would look quite the mess on deck. Glad it works for you is all I can say, but would love to see a video of you doing it.

  • Adam Norman
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    Hi Carolyn
    Another advantage of your excellent system is that you can move the lazy jacks out of the way to the mast cleats when the boat is moored in the marina, thus cutting out chafe and wear on the sail cover if it gets windy while you are away from the boat.
    All the best from the UK!

  • Margaret
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    Going to do this!

  • Molly
    Posted at 28 April 2016 Reply

    We’ve had a similar system on our boat for 20 years. It’s great. No chafing, no interference with sail shape.

  • Bob
    Posted at 28 April 2016 Reply

    A much cheaper and easier way I came up with is to just unfasten the aftmost attachment of the lazy jacks on both sides of the boom and tie shackles on the ends. Then since it is usually the aft lazy jacks that catch the battens, you can just unshackle them and walk them forward (I snap them together around the mast mounted jib halyard winch.) As long as you remember to walk them aft and reattach them before you lower the main (best to do them one at a time on the windward side of the main to avoid the pressure of the wind on the sail, and do the other on the next tack) it works fine. Granted this does not solve the problem of interference with the sail cover.

  • Patrick
    Posted at 29 April 2016 Reply

    I have been doing this for a long time but with a little modification. If you have a long tail on the line that raises your lazy jack you can run it through a small cleat and back up to the first eye on the lazy jack. In this way to lower you just untie the tail and pull down the lazy jack. to raise you do the opposite. You do not end up with a lot of line to deal with as the line that comes down goes up at the same time. I hope this is understandable.

  • Jason Ellmers
    Posted at 05 May 2016 Reply

    another thing that will help with snagging issues is to terminate the top most point in the middle of your spreaders and not on the mast at all.. It holds the top away from the centreline.

    I have a stack pack with jacks which works like a dream.. Must admit also I don’t have to worry about the blocks the sail might rub on as I have soft spliced eyes at the ends of the rope for the other lines to pass through… Another tip.

  • Marc J. Kornutik
    Posted at 13 April 2017 Reply

    Carolyn, excellent system for using just a sail cover. Must disagree though when using it with a stackpack. My lazy jacks also control the tension on the stackpack so it would flop to the sides rather than staying in place. Wouldn’t be realistic to sail that way if lazyjacks were brought fwd out of the way.
    It also allows the sail to drop out of it prior to hoisting (no sail ties) so really defeating it’s purpose. That said mine is rigged exactly as you described from the previous owner but I can’t get around the issue of the pack dropping down when those lines are loosened unfortunately.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 13 April 2017 Reply

      We had a stackpack with lazy jacks on our previous boat. The sail falling out the pack as we raised the sail was far less of a problem than having the battens catch on the lines in our opinion. One trick is to release one side fully and the other only slightly — keep the boat not perfectly head to wind so that the sail all stays in the slightly released side (it will form a big belly as you partially release the lazy jacks) then bring the boat fully into the wind just as the person at the mast starts raising the sail and the sail starts spilling out. Takes a bit of coordination, but isn’t as hard as it sounds and keeps the sail contained pretty well as it’s being hoisted but also prevents the sail from hanging on the lazyjacks.

      You may feel the opposite and prefer to keep the lines in their normal position. And yes, with a stackpack, we did re-tighten the lazyjack lines once the sail was up so that the stack pack laid next to the sail.

  • Jorge Bermudez
    Posted at 25 April 2017 Reply

    I only put up the lazy jacks to drop the main. Otherwise they are stored along the boom and mast

  • Bill Dixon
    Posted at 26 April 2017 Reply

    We run the “downhaul ” leg aft to the sail cover. It becomes a 3rd lazy jack instead of just another line banging on the mast.

  • Andrent
    Posted at 29 June 2017 Reply

    We are new boat owners struggling with the stack pack and lazy jacks! Could not figure out what to do, will definitely try your method. Thanks.

  • Vangelis Christodoulou
    Posted at 29 December 2017 Reply

    When under way don’t you get the lines fixed on the boom pulling ie not letting the boom swing out?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 29 December 2017 Reply

      No, they go to hooks that are quite close to the gooseneck, so there is virtually no difference in length.

  • Evangelos Christodoulou
    Posted at 30 December 2017 Reply

    Ok makes sense. Thanks

Post A Comment