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12th October 2023


Marina Safety Spotlight - Headsails

Flogging sails & canvas

Autumn is in the air and that means it's time to start battening down the hatches and preparing for the winter to come. Whilst we get strong winds coming through year round at Portland, during the winter the air is colder and subsequently denser which means it packs more of a punch as it whips through the marina. Even if you plan to sail throughout the winter months, ensuring your headsail  is properly secure and can't unfurl in even the strongest gusts is an absolute must. We've already had one headsail start to come adrift this autumn and we're only half way through October!

Our marina team patrol the marina daily and on days when the forecast is due to bring stormy weather, they're out there more often looking for loose lines, fenders, covers and headsails. If we can, we'll nip the problem in the bud, but a headsail can pull out surprisingly quickly and get out of control, especially overnight when our Night Berthing Masters are lone working. We want to look after our custmers boats, but the safety of our team is first and foremost and a flogging headsail in a blow is not something to take on solo!

Aside from the obvious expense of replacing or repairing shredded sails, a flogging headsail puts huge stress through your rig and the attached sheets can cause damage to yours and neighbouring vessels, so it's best to be avoid it happening in the first place. If you can't drop your genoa, there are a few things you can do to reduce the possibility of it unravelling;

  • Make sure your headsail is furled tightly so the wind can't catch the sail cloth and work it loose
  • Furl your headsail with several turns of the sheets around it
  • Ensure there are a few turns of furling line still on the drum
  • Put a sail tie around your genoa ensuring it is through the clew ring
  • Pull your sheets tight on the winch and then tie them securely so they can't pull loose and allow the sail to flog
  • Securely make off the furling line so it can't pull free. If it's through a jammer cleat, tie it off as well
  • Regularly pop down and check your headsail

None of the above are a complete failsafe and we would always recommend removal for the winter. Moatt Sails offer a removal service and whilst it's down, why not take advantage of their laundry and storage offers so you don't even need to find room in your loft or garage!

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