In addition to standing rigging, (wire stays), which hold the masts up, a sailing boat needs running rigging, (ropes) which operate the sails and booms, including the squares’l and yard. I wanted all these lines to finish up in the cockpit so nobody, (usually me), had to venture on deck in inclement weather or rough seas.

Roller furling certainly makes sail handling easier, in that it is not necessary to pull the sails up and down every time you want to change a sail or reef. But they also need more control lines and when you have five roller furling sails, ropes can become a bit cluttered. Luckily, Britannia’s cockpit has a wide empty area on either side of the companionway, originally used for only a couple of lines. I proposed to bring in twelve.

The main components of this maze are:

                                                                                                 CONTROL LINES:

Lines running over the top to the next upper deck.The controlling lines are modern double braid polyester, 3/8”, 1/2” and 5/8” inch diameters, depending on their job. These ropes are exceptionally strong, with very little stretch, and also nice and smooth on the hands.

It would be boring to explain the uses of all these individual lines, (which are shown in detail on the sketch), but in general they are: (a) four furling lines which wrap the sails up round their stays, (b) three out-hauls which unroll the sails, (c) three sheets, which control the booms, (d) two square-sail furling lines that roll the  square-sail up and down. In addition, there are five other control lines, (sheets), which are bent on the clews of the sails and lead into the cockpit through running blocks and fairleads to their own winches, mounted on the cockpit comings.


These are roller bearing pulleys which lead lines along the deck and eventually to the cockpit. Britannia has twenty two blocks, in singles, doubles and triple combinations. However, I could not find suitable blocks to carry my lines up and over the three deck levels into the cockpit. So I made my own, using very small diameter sheaves. I made one single sheave block, a double, a triple and a row of six. Making these babies in my garage was quite therapeutic, and they work marvelously well.

                                                                                                      ROPE CLUTCHES:

These are exactly what they sound like, clutches which allow ropes to slide through, but lock the rope when the lever is operated. They allow multiple lines to be used on a single winch. When a line is correctly tensioned on the winch, the lever is applied which locks the rope and it can then be removed from the winch and coiled round a belaying pin.

Not all lines need to be attended at the same time of course, and I arranged them so each sails lines are next to each other. Still, this means a lot of winch winding; for example, it takes 19 turns to wind the fore course squares’l up into its yard.The Winchrite electric winch winder, much quicker than winding by hand

I therefore invested in a ‘Winchrite’. This is really a powerful right angled electric motor with an adapter which fits into the hole in the top of a winch and saves having to manually wind the winch with a handle. As well as being variable speed it is also reversible, so a two-speed winch can be worked in the slower but more powerful direction. This effectively converts all our cockpit winches into electric winches and is much faster than hand cranking. The machine is extremely well made and some sailing friends, Vic and Sandy on Wind Wanderer, have used one to sail round the world.This is the starboard side rope deck.


All the mast winches were re-chromed while off the masts.Some of the winches were seized up when I bought the boat, and a few of the internal ratchets were broken. They were all Lewmar, so I bought spares, then had all the winches re-chromed, along with all other deck hardware. This really improved the appearance of the boat.

                                            BELAYING PINS:

These are just my preferred way to to keep the lines tidy. Another way is to used bags, but then the ropes don’t dry out so quickly if they are wet. I also enjoyed turning the pins on a friend's lathe. This is now the “rope deck”


A drawing was necessary to decide which lines went where back to the cockpit.