22 Apr 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.
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.
Now, with the lazy jacks out of the way, you can easily raise the main.
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.
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.
It almost flakes itself – a little bit of adjustment and it’s ready for the sail cover.
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.