Sea Lark Rigging Survey

Text from a Brion Toss rigging survey in the fall of 2003, all major items were corrected

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I trust you had a good cruise. Around here the weather has been…variable, but with a lot of good sailing days. How was it where you were?

We’ve had lots of time to go over our notes from our visit aboard; here goes:

To begin with configuration, Sea Lark’s is unusual in that it has a Bermudian main, but no standing backstay. This indicates that it was probably designed for a gaff main. No problem, you’ll just have to rely on the running backstays for fore-and-aft tension at all times, and this in turn means that you want the runners to be powerful and easy to use, to get the most out of the rig, with the least effort. The Highfield levers you have aboard could fit the bill, but if they prove awkward, a small winch per side would work great. More on runners below.

You have a gaff fores’l, which only wants an effective vang to make it fully functional. We can recommend an arrangement that is rarely seen, and very handy, since you don’t have to tend it while raising and lowering the sail. On a related note, make your gaff span wire longer, so that it is not under excessive tension, and thus puts less compression on the gaff. Requires less halyard rope, too.

The rake of the masts is not aesthetically pleasing, because they are not raked to look parallel. It were best to fix this by raking the main forward, both because the foremast looks like it’s the one with closer to the “right” rake, and because taking the main forward would help reduce weather helm. While on the weather helm subject, a reduction would also come from changing the bobstay from chain to wire, and adding a rope

section to the chain on the anchor rode, thus reducing weight forward. This would also reduce pitching moment, and reduce veering at anchor.

The bowsprit could use a lift, again improving appearances. This can be achieved by using the standing rig to pull it up. You would have to tighten the turnbuckle aloft. Since the angles of the jibstay and bobstay do not intersect in the middle of the bowsprit, there is an unbalanced pull on the cranse iron which will cause the iron to crunch into the wood on the underside of the bowsprit. This can be minimized by putting a rope grommet behind the cranse iron, but a better-configured iron is really the key.

A snubber at the end of the bobstay for the anchor is a great convenience when anchoring; it keeps the bow down and to weather while preventing chafe. Check page 88 of the Riggers Apprentice.

Sea Lark has good shroud angles. The upper shrouds are well swept. The running backs supplement the aft sweep. The runners are now of wire, but consider rope for them. We use T-900, which is a low-stretch double braid with spectra/technora core. With your Highfield levers set up you could have a wire tail, although rope tails could also work, with different sheaves.

Moving on to standing rigging, the jibstay is 7x19, which is an extraordinarily elastic and corrosion-vulnerable construction; go to either 7x7, if sticking to galvanized, or 1x19 in stainless.

The bowsprit shrouds should be served, if they are to remain galvanized.

Improvement of your existing main boom topping lift would be a good idea. If you add a cheek block to the side of the boom you could make a 3:1 purchase, as opposed to the unfair 2:1 on the existing tackle. Replace the topping lift line as soon as you can, as it is so tired.

Lazy jacks would serve you well, and there is a configuration that doubles as topping lifts. With this, you’d get boom control, easy furling, less sail chafe, and only two control lines, instead of the three you need for separate lifts and lazyjacks.

You could add an outhaul purchase, dead-ended to the topping lift lug. Major sail-shaping tool, and a great reef-delayer.

The boat definitely needs a tune; a slack rig is conducive to shock loads, as well as heel, lousy pointing, etc. Schooners have a rep for not going to weather well, but much of this can be traced to poor tune.

Consider an in-haul for the running forestay. This will make it much easier to handle the sail.

The wire for the running forestays’l halyard is a bit on the small side; consider a larger wire here, or use low-stretch rope.

A downhaul for the standing forestays’l will assist in bringing down the sail.

Regatta braid would be a good replacement for most of the running rig. The peak and throat halyard foul on the gaff, but a fairlead on a starboard shroud would deflect the angle. You can also take the peak halyard block higher, and a gaff saddle could also reduce the foul, as a saddle doesn’t protrude as far outboard as the existing jaws.

You really need to have a close look at your mast wedges and the step as well as try to peek at the mast butt. You would be looking for soft spots, rot, and how well the butt sits in the step. This will all be easy to do — and deal with, if necessary — when the stick is out.

The masts may have been glued with resorcinol, which is a great glue, but can let go after a few decades. It looks like some delamination may be introducing itself. Another item to examine with the stick out. Meanwhile, keep an eye on those glue lines.

The dead eyes are tired, with at least one cracked right through. But it’s tough to tell when a deadeye is functionally disabled, since they are held completely captive in the shroud eye. And in this case replacing the deadeyes would require destroying the shrouds. It’s a tough call, but again, one that you might make after a closer examination, with the rig out.

You have a decent reef arrangement. I mention this largely because so few boats do. Refreshing.

The forward main boom bail is loose, especially on the starboard side. “Pot” the fasteners with epoxy.

Do likewise with all the boom fasteners.

The mooring line chocks, both forward and aft, are quite a distance from the belay points. This means that there’s enough length of rope to stretch significantly, and thus to chafe significantly. If you make a mooring line with a Dacron and Nylon combination you can get stretch with the nylon section outside the chock, thereby reducing shock loads to the belay points, and chafe-resistance in the chock.

The mainsheet belay is awkward. Consider leading the sheet through a standup block on deck by the tiller, and thence forward to mid-deck or through the cockpit coaming. This will make the sheet reachable from either side of the cockpit. A cam belay makes the work easier. On the boom move the first bail further aft for greater mainsheet purchase, and get more efficient blocks, with roller bearings or better bushings, for less friction, and thus more effective purchase.

Replace the bent goose neck pin now.


Things are generally clean up here, but the wood is tired on all the blocks aloft.

Some chafe shows on the throat of the fisher throat halyard eye splice.

The forestay eye on the starboard bolster is fine, but the port side is badly worn.

The lazyjacks on the foremast are old and tired. So are the peak halyard and strop.

That’s it for our notes. Not a lot of items for a boat of this age. The basic design is excellent, and only wants upgrades to some original layout, and some work on items weakened by age and use.

Fair leads,

Brion Toss