Dousing the Sail

For most of February and March I have been enjoying getting my newly completed Northeaster Dory out on the lake. On days with wind the lug rig has been a pleasure to sail, and so far I have been able to handle the boat in all the conditions I've faced. But I don't think I've got the best technique for dousing the sail in windy conditions.

I've learned that I need to be pretty far from a lee shore when I do douse the sail. I point the boat up into the wind, rush forward to the mast, and release the halyard. But this takes a little fumbling around during which the boat is apt to fall off. When the halyard is released, the top yard either gets caught by the wind and blows into the lake, or comes down too fast and bounces off my head, or bounces off my head and then goes into the lake! Sort of a sad comedy routine.

I don't mind this too much, but I can imagine a day when the wind really starts to howl and my current ineptitude will lead to a swim. Does anyone have any good tips on technique?

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RE: Dousing the Sail

Do you have lazy jacks? They'll keep the yard from blowing into the lake.

Good luck,



RE: Dousing the Sail

   For the lug rig on my skerry, I'm going to try some loops of line around the boom and mast and spar and mast to keep them close to the mast.  The spar particularly tried to sway all about until I had it up and tight.  I've not figured what to do about the aft ends of them.

 I will stare at it a bit and figure out where I can route the halyard so I don't have to reach up to the mast to cast it off.  Otherwise, I'll just do like I used to with the old Sailfish, cast off the sheet and just let the sail pivot where it will until I'm landed.

I have already made a lanyard for the free end of the tiller because I've already had the experience of fishing it back aboard after I let it go and it went in the water, trailing behind the boat.

RE: Dousing the Sail

I don't have a dory or a skerry, but what about uncleating the halyard while you're on a close reach and keeping tension on it to maintain trim while you get comfortably back at the tiller, head up and ease the halyard.  The boat will continue to glide into the wind while the sail douses safely inside the boat?

RE: Dousing the Sail

   Thanks, everyone. I'll experiment with those ideas. If I ever pin down the system that works best for me, I'll report back. At least now I have some collective experience with which to work. Jeff

RE: Dousing the Sail

You describe single handing the boat and fumbling with the sail halyard after leaving the steering position.


It has been suggested that you go foward and release tthe halyard during a close reach return to steering and hold the halyard. If its windy at all this will be awkward and sail trim will suffer.


I'm unfamiliar with sailing this boat. But I sense there is too much moving around.    Mount a block at the bottom of the mast. Route the halyard through this turning block and terminate it at a position you can reach from the location you sail the boat from. ( near tiller, main sheet, etc.}  Use a cam cleat with fairlead. Thus when it is time to drop sail. Round up the boat into the wind bringing in the sheet. Then release the halyard from the cam cleat and lower sail. No moving around no messing with regular cleats. The sail then falls into the boat an everything is still balanced.  The fairlead keeps the line from disappearing foward somewhere.  A figure eight knot at the end of the halyard will help.  That and the halyard will have to be longer than it is now.

RE: Dousing the Sail


I have to admit having never sailed any boat as light and narrow as the NE Dory.  But having sailed many small, open boats,  I do concur than moving around in such a boat while struggling with a sail can easily lead to a capsize --- especially if the sail refills.

Grumpy's advice makes sense to me, though it makes no mention of the lugsail's yard.  Perhaps lazyjacks would complete the picture.



RE: Dousing the Sail

Grumpy makes a good point.  On big boats, lines are always led aft for safety.  Why not on a smaller boat?  My suggestion was based on the assumption of having a tiller extension so you wouldn't have to "leave the helm" so to speak in order to uncleat the halyard.

RE: Dousing the Sail

On the top of the mast thwart  I have 4 stand up spring loaded turning blocks and 4 cam cleats so that the following 4 lines are all led aft (I can reach them easily from sailing position) ...Sail halyard, lazy jack halyard (bothon starboard)  downlaul to front of boom, and downhaul to boom just aft of mast (both on port).   I dont use any horn cleats on the mast, just places to get lines caught so I turned the mast a quarter turn to use the original sail halyard hole for the lazy jack halyard..

I love my lazy jacks and lines led aft....there is a good video of Chuck from Duckworks dousing his lug sail and it falls quickly into the lazy jacks....I made sure mine doused as quickly and had to try a couple different rigging methods to reduce friction (like a cheek block at the top of the mast for the sail halyard to let the sail drop quickly)

Try doing a search on this forum for "lazy jacks" and you should find the links to both Chucks and my lazy jacks...if you dont find them let me know


RE: Dousing the Sail

Thanks for the great tips, everyone. Lazyjacks seem like they would work very well indeed, and I've studied Curt's setup closely. (My you have a lot of tidy lines,  Curt!) I could be totally wrong, but I think lazyjacks work best when you want to keep the sail furled on the boom overhead while rowing (as is the case with a fairing cruiser). My preference, however, is to drop all the gear (including the mast) into the boat to reduce windage. I may end up coming around to lazyjacks in time, but I'm messy enough to be daunted by the challenge of keeping the extra lines untangled.

Running a cleat down to the mast partner . . . or further aft still . . . seems like all I really need. That, and a set of quick hands to catch a falling spar!  

RE: Dousing the Sail

   Birch2..good approach....for what it's worth, one of my lines led aft is a halyard for the lazy jacks so I can snug them up when sailing, lower them a foot or so to douse the sail in a controlled manner, roughly arrange the sail in the lazy jacks once down, then undo the lazy jack halyard completely to drop the jacks/sail to sit on the thwarts, then clip the jack lines around the sail with a quick sail tie, althought it's a lot more fun to see your lug sail blowing sideways from the top of the mast like a spinaker.. (:-:>)

RE: Dousing the Sail

There were whitecaps forming by the end of my sail today, and I was able to test the technique suggested by CaptainSkully: i.e., I got all my lines untangled and I loosened all but the final cleating loop of the halyard. Then it was just a matter of heading up into the wind, fully loosening the halyard, easing the boom down into the boat, and keeping my eye on the yard as I let it make a speedy, controlled descent. Since the tiller extension nearly allows me to reach the halyard cleat while still steering, all this can be done quite rapidly and safely without no modification to basic boat rigging. . . . It might not work in an absolute gale, but it was no problem today when the wind often a steady 12 mph (gusting to 23 mph).

By the way, here is a GPS of my course and speed during the last few runs across the lake (average of 5 mph with peak bursts of speed in the 8.5 - 9 mph range). I built my dory for great workouts rowing and relaxing cruises under sail. It's clearly not a planing hull, but I was pleased with how the boat handled (standard lug rig with no reefs) in today's challenging conditions. Nothing broke and I never felt any danger of capsizing!


RE: Dousing the Sail

   Average 5.2 mph or around 4.5 knots is pretty respectable by any standard and 9+ is outstanding.  Good job and thanks for the report.

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