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Halyard Quick-Release Line

I made some changes to my MC to make it easier to right it in case it ever turtles. This was prompted by watching a rescue committee bungle a recent attempt to right a turtled MC. The water was about 48 degrees, so no one really wanted to get wet (the poor skipper was already in the water and had to be hauled out to prevent hypothermia).

The best way of raising the mast is to pull it up with the halyard; however, on a Melges, the halyard is attached about 4 feet up the mast and 2 feet in from the sides -- too far under water to mess with. Even on a Johnson it is a long reach under water to get to it. What is needed is a simple halyard release mechanism that does the job without requiring the rescuers to get in the water. I modified my boat (Melges #1521) as shown in the photograph below. 

Parts List:

  • 1/4" x 1" Fastpin (West Marine 102632 - $5.75)
  • #2 Jib hank (West Marine 115253 - $ 2.69)
  • 9 feet of 3/8" Sta-Set Polyester line


Melges Boat Works MCs:

Drill a 1" deep hole with a 1/4" drill in the front of the mast at the height of the bottom rivets. (You will be drilling through the wall of the mast and into the heel.) Insert the fastpin in this hole. Remove the Melges-supplied shock cord from the eyestrap on the mast and attach it to one end of the line. (I made an eye-splice.) Run the line through the ring on the fastpin until the end with the shock cord is even with the eyestrap on the mast. Tie a single knot around the ring at this point. Tie the jib hank to the other end of the line. (I also made an eye-splice here.) Attach the jib hank to the bowplate.

Johnson Boat Works MCs:

You have two options, 1) Modify it like the Melges by removing the shock cord from the wire halyard and attaching it to the line, or 2) Tie a boat snap (West Marine 115568 - $1.70) at the end of the release line for attaching to the shock cord in normal operation.


Normal Conditions:

After raising and latching the sail, attach the wire halyard to the shock cord as you usually do. You will be pulling in the shearing direction of the fastpin so nothing will move -- the line is strong and should last for many years.

Turtled Condition (hope it never happens to you, but if it does...):

In case of a turtle, the halyard is released by reaching under the nose, undoing the jib hank, grabbing the line and pulling towards you. This action will pull the fastpin straight out of the mast. The wire halyard line is now available to the rescuers for bringing the mast up to the water line. The sail can then be released and the boat righted by lifting the mast and "walking" it toward the hull.

Good Luck and great sailing!

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