This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Tweaks

I finally got around to tweaking a few things on Ellie that have been bothering me for a while.

Tweak #1:  Jib Fairleads
When I built Ellie, somehow I missed the note on plan sheet NV11 that tells you where to locate the jib fairleads.  They should be located 120mm aft of B4 and close to the coamings.  The fairleads have been relocated per the plans. Verdict: The jib shape appears noticeably improved.

Tweak #2: Roller Furler deck block.
My roller furler line makes a 90 degree turn through a fairlead in the deck.  The arrangement works, but created unwanted friction and abrasion on the line.  I scoured the internet searching for a block that would work here but could not find one.  I finally gave up and fashioned my own.

I made the deck block from a small swivel that I got from Duckworks.  I cut one leg off of one side, and added a roller to the other and mounted it right over the fairlead.  Verdict: works great. Much less friction and no more abrasion.

Tweak #3: Halyard Cleats
For my mainsail halyard cleats I was using cam cleats which, like all cleats, have their pros and cons. I liked how I could easily give the halyards a tug to tighten them but I didn't like the angle that I had to pull the halyards at, how they took two hands to secure the halyards, and how a stop knot was required in case the halyard became inadvertently released.  For my application the ideal halyard cleat should have these features

  • Ability to secure the halyard to the cleat with one hand.
  • Ability to remove the halyard from the cleat with one hand.
  • Ability to pull the halyard at any angle.
  • Ability to secure the halyard to the cleat with no possibility of it accidentally coming undone.
  • Should not have plastic teeth that can wear out.

I couldn't find cleats that I liked so I ended up making my own jam cleats from white oak and painted them black to match my other cleats.  They're similar to these.  Verdict: I like them a lot. They met all my expectations.

Tweak #4: Whipping
I finally got around to whipping the ends of all my lines.  Verdict: very salty.
Tweak #5: Boom height
This was the biggest tweak.  The boom on my gaff-rigged Navigator is right about at chin level.  I've always wished it cleared my head like it does on the lug-rigged sailplan. So I decided to raise the boom enough to clear my head (10 inches) and give it a try.  This involved moving the gooseneck 10 inches higher on the mast and lowering the gunter on the gaff by 10 inches.
After with boom 10" higher


Verdict: The jury is still out on this one. The boom clears my head nicely, but raising the sail 10 inches made a noticeable difference in the way the boat sails. The boat heels over more now and reacts more to gusts. One of the things I like most about Navigator is how stable and upright she sails. It was uncomfortable to feel her reacting this way.  I think I'll sail her a few more times with the boom in this position but right now I'm leaning towards putting the boom back where it was or at least not raising it quite as high. [UPDATE: Eventually settled on 6" above the plan location.  Seems to be the best compromise between safety, appearance and performance]

Here is some video of the year's first sail, with the raised boom.

Maybe I should switch to a gooseneck mounted on a sailtrack.  What do you think?


  1. Joel,
    I have some through-deck fairleads, sorry to hear too late that you needed some. Harken makes them. I'm happy about the other upgrades. I suspect more responsiveness means better performance, which suits me fine. I know we've had this discussion before....

  2. Hi Mike. It was a deck block that I needed not a fairlead. Does Harken make a deck block like that?

    She heels over more now. I think it's partly the higher boom but mostly because the jib and main are working together more efficiently now. I should have acted more promptly on yours and JohnW's advice and moved the jib fairleads sooner.

  3. It's a block that fits flush with the deck and is for leading a line through the deck. I'd call it a fairlead (block). Dinghies use them for leading lines under side decks, out of the way and unobtrusive.

  4. Very nice oaken cleats! How big are they?

    1. They're about 5 1/4 inches long and 3/4" thick. I can post a drawing with dimensions if you're interested in making some. They're pretty much your classic jam cleat style.

  5. Joel,
    I have just seen your post about raising the boom and your thought about putting the gooseneck on a length of sailtrack. My Navigator came with a gooseneck on a length of sailtrack and it is still like that but only because I haven't been able to find an alternative.
    The problem I have found is that the sailtrack is not strong enough to withstand the forces applied by the boom. Over time the track opens out and then, when you least need it, the slider is torn out leaving the boom flapping about. My solution is to remove the track and squash it back into shape in a vice. The other problem I have had is that the spring pin that locates the slider in the track can let go allowing the boom to slide up and out of the track. I prevent this later event by using a hauldown from the gooseneck to a padeye on the keel.
    Last time out I had a new problem with the gooseneck. The U shaped bracket that holds the clew of the sail is riveted to the top of the pin that the boom swivels on. The riveted joint failed and the clew of the sail blew away, the pin fell out and the boom dropped off the gooseneck.
    Needless to say all these bad things happened when it was blowing quite hard and presented interesting situations.
    Overall it's not a good system and I may just go back to a boom with jaws.
    Whatever you do make sure it is strong enough, the forces at he gooseneck are quite high!

    1. Hi Dave,
      I sure am glad to read your comments. I have been putting off buying a sailtrack because I was wondering if it would be strong enough. It looked kind of weak to me and your comment confirmed exactly what I had feared. I think I will lower the boom to about 5 inches instead of 10. That seems like a good compromise between too low and too high. At that location it should clear my head with a nod instead of a crouch. I will have to stay with that though, as I can't keep drilling any more holes in my mast! I'll keep an eye on my U-bracket as well. Thanks for the tips!