Lazy jacks are rigging lines that run from the mast to the back of the boom that guide the mainsail into place instead of falling all over the deck when it is lowered.  Damian and I were eager to install lazy jacks on Gem&I so that the furling process would be easier and less dangerous for us while out at sea.

A storm threatens on the horizon. A beautiful afternoon sail cut short.

What is the smart thing to do? Furl in the jib, lower the main, start up the motor, and chug your way in to the safety of the dock or anchor in a protected cove or harbor close by. Rolling in the jib takes no time at all, especially when it’s on a roller furling positioned on the bow of a boat.

But lowering the mainsail? That job is a little more involved.

Point the sailboat into the wind. Unclamp the main halyard, wrap the line around the winch, and slowly release a few inches of line at a time.

The mainsail is released and down she descends. The sail whips from either side of the mast and the heavy sail drapes over the boom and falls not only all over the deck but also threatens to plunge over the side of the boat and into the water. Unless a crew member is up on deck, guiding the mainsail to flake carefully on top of the boom, the mainsail’s descent will be a messy process.

So how do you lower the mainsail if you are sailing single-handedly? What if the wind and waves have already picked up and makes the deck dangerous for a crew member to be up on deck?

Solution: Sail pack.

Less expensive solution: Lazy jacks.

Lazy jacks are rigging lines that run from the mast to the back of the boom that guide the mainsail into place instead of falling all over the deck when it is lowered.  Damian and I were eager to install lazy jacks on Gem&I so that the furling process would be easier and less dangerous for us while out at sea.

Harken Lazy Jack Kit

We purchased the Harken Medium Lazy Jack Kit that came with a detailed instruction manual. It came with steal rivets to install the lazy jacks to our aluminum mast and boom. However, Rich, from Trust Me, encouraged us to use aluminum rivets instead of the steal ones, because two different metals fused together has the potential to cause galvanic corrosion. We also needed a rivet gun for this project, so off we went to the local hardware store on Kent Island.

With the extreme summer heat temperatures, our project process had to be scheduled for the cooler evening hours of the day. Once we got what we needed, we headed back to the boat, and while others on our dock were enjoying their “happy hours,” we set to work. The first thing we needed to do was to measure from the height of the boom to a certain height of the mast, where we would install the lazy jack hardware. We dropped the measuring tape a few times and had to start over, but we eventually got this measuring job done.

Then we filled the pockets of the boatswain’s chair with the electric drill, aluminum rivets, rivet gun, the templates, a sharpie, masking tape and the center punch (that we had borrowed from another neighbor on our dock, Russ from Integrity).

Hoist Me Up the Mast

Damian hoisted me up the mast. He connected the main halyard to the rings on the boatswain’s chair with a bowline knot (something I am still learning to do). We used the spinnaker halyard as our safety. Damian used the jib sheet wench and cranked me inch by inch up the mast. He kept raising the main halyard with me swinging from it in the boatswain’s chair up past the mast spreaders. The higher I ascended, the more of the dock, the marina, the narrows, and the river I could see. It was a beautiful site with the setting sun lowering behind me. From up so high, the hundreds of boats docked in their slips looked so miniature bobbing in the massive expanse of the waters all around.

Lazy Jack Installation Process

Next, I taped the plastic template into the exact position we had measured up on the mast. I used the sharpie to dot exactly where I needed to make the marks with the center punch to keep everything aligned. After making the punches, I removed the templates and began to drill the three holes required. I had to keep firm pressure on the drill as it whirled into the aluminum mast to make any headway. Tiny shards of metal dispersed as the drill circled deeper into the emerging hole. Eventually I felt the drill strike the hollow center of the mast, and I slowly pulled the drill bit out. Each side of the mast required three holes. I completed the starboard side first, then the port. During the drill sequence of this project, our neighbors Mike and Paula from Saba Bound, came down to check out why I was flying so high on our mast. It’s not every day you see a person up the mast like that. Mike commented that it looked like fun! And as long as you aren’t scared of heights, it is quite a thrilling experience. We shared with Mike and Paula our mission to install the much-needed lazy jacks, and they watched my progress for awhile.

After that, I pulled out the tang, which held the lazy jack line to the mast and placed it in the appropriate hole. With the heavy-duty rivet gun, I used a rivet to hold the tang into the mast. I used all my might to squeeze the rivet gun, but it would not break the rivet into the mast. After multiple attempts and much encouragement from Damian and our neighbor Mike from down below, I realized my hands were just not strong enough. Damian slowly loosened the main halyard a little bit at a time, and I came down the mast.

Neighbor To the Rescue

Mike convinced us that he wanted a shot at going up the mast to use the rivet gun to complete the job I had not been able to do myself. Damian used the same process, and up Mike went to rivet the tangs into our mast. Mike successfully riveted all three rivets into place securing both tangs to the starboard and port side of the mast. Boy were we grateful! And he came down the mast super excited to have had a chance to be hoisted up a mast and to have helped us out. At this point, we were in need of a little celebration and headed over to Saba Bound to enjoy a dinner of home-made burgers with Paula, Mike, and their sweet golden retriever, Hudson.

Last Remaining Steps

The next day, I went back up the mast holding onto the lazy jack line to run it through the blocks, which are little pulleys that were dangling from the newly-installed tangs.

Finally Damian measured from the mast to the boom on where to put the cheek block. He drilled in the cheek block on the starboard side of the boom. On the other side, he riveted in the eyestrap. Damian attached the eyesplice to the eyestrap to permanently secure the lazy jack line to the port side of the boom. We secured the line and tested it by raising the main and lowering the main. It had worked!

No longer would we fight the wind blowing our mainsail all over the deck when we lowered it out at sea!

Have you ever installed lazy jacks?

What tips or tricks do you recommend for installing lazy jacks?  Is there any easier way for accomplishing the mission?  Do you have similar experiences with a rivet gun?  Share below!  We would love to learn what worked for you!