A boat hook, a fishing pole and a halyard

The first sail of the year is always an adventure - but you are never sure when the adventure will start. We headed up to the lake to finish a few things and to conduct a shakedown sail to officially get the lake sailing season under our belts.

This season was a bit different as we had made some significant rigging upgrades.

New Rigging

While the Catalina 25 was out of the water for the seson we replaced an aging furler and headsail with a new CDI Flexible Furler and an Ulman Offshore 135% headsail. The CDI was a relatively easy install if not super stressful.

Mechanically, the CDI has few parts and is elegantly simple. One of the design features of the CDI is an internal mini halyard that feeds down the front of the luff via a ferrule. This ferrule is connected to a line that sneaks out the front of the channel to raise the sail. While the ferrule keeps the internal halyard inside the channel and hidden, you must remember to extend this halyard so you can raise the sail.

To extend the halyard, I grabbed an old weathered dinghy painter and my handy knot book.

At the boat

We got up to the boat on a warm and beautiful blue sky day. With tools and supplies on the boat, we were excited to get the sail hoisted and out on the water - so we got to it.

We pulled the sail out of the bag and started to rig it up. We connected halyard to the head, fit the bolt rope in the luff (perfect fit) and raised the sail. Once raised, we had five feet to sail to spare. I was dumbfounded.

Did I get the wrong sail? Halyard caught? Did I have something backward? Wrong sail? What was wrong?

I was empty - no ideas. Hell.

Dad, why don't you shorten the halyard at the top of the sail? That will bring the sail up higher...

Brilliant. More than brilliant. I couldn't believe he zeroed in on the solution that fast! Another beer for him when he turns 21...

Without missing a beat, we dropped the sail and adjusted the halyard at the head of the sail by taking in a few feet. Ran it up again, and I had over compensated. Down again with another adjustment.

Excited to get rolling, we raised the sail once more.

"Snap" - The extension line had seperated from the internal halyard.

I stood there, with the halyard at the top of the mast, stunned.

Again, speechless and empty.


We looked up and thankfully the halyard was still in the fore channel of the luff - but at the top of the mast. Hell on hell.

How did you tie that knot, did you make a loop in it? If so, we can reach up and grab the loop with the boat hook.

A bit frustrated, I just kinda looked at him - thinking how wrong I was to use that spiffy new line knot on that old line AND that I should have in fact used a loop knot of some sort and new line...

Well, I guess you are going to the top of the mast - I will throw together a make-shift bosuns chair. Where is my phone?

Luckily there was no signal at the boat. We started chatting and pulled out the boat hook to do some recon.

Dad, if you can loop the halyard around the boat hook maybe we can pull it down?"

Extended, it was pretty long - but not long enough, nor was I going to be able to loop that little bit of line.

I am heading up the hill to the lodge to see if I can get reception and double check my idea of a makeshift bosuns chair/climbing harness. I will also see if they have a fishing pole.

At the lodge I got reception but the results for makeshift bosuns chair were limited.

Do you have a really long fishing rod I can borrow? Long story - I will bring it back. Have a hook I can use?

Jim handed me the rod and I was off.


Back at the boat we duck-taped the cork handled rod to the boat hook and affixed a hook at the tip of the rod. With our new halyard fishing rod in hand, we caught the line in under 20 seconds. My son started feeding sail while I pulled down on the boathook/rod combo.

"Snap." The line broke. Hell.

I have tied a blue zillion fish-hooks onto leaders, however, I did not double checked this one. It was clear that the knot at the hook had come undone.

Knowing we were onto something I went back to the lodge, but in search of one of those multi-hook jobs. You know the kind of hook that has 3 hooks in one and that are magnetized to any fabric, line or rope - or skin? I grabbed a pink/blue rooster tail off the shelf and ran back to the boat.

We rigged up the rooster tail to the tip of the boathook/rod and caught the line immediately. I was much gentler this time bringing down the halyard and when it was within reach, we grabbed on and held it with all we had. While the the sail was all the way up, it would need another small adjustment. To get it back down, meant a new extension.


I grabbed some paracord and all I could think about were loops. I made a loop on each line and connected the two with a slip knot/square knot.

Dad, do you think that paracord is strong enough?

Paracord 550 - we should be fine

We dropped the sail and made our adjustment. With paraccord in hand, we pulled the sail back up...and then, it was at the top and we tied it off and secured the tack.

Always a journey

I asked my son:

What did you think when the line snapped?

To that, responded:

Well, I knew we would get it somehow."

He also gave a smirk - he knew he would have been at the top of the mast and he was ready to do it.

How did you figure out how to fix the sail length issue so fast?

It just made sense, shorten the halyard, the sail goes up higher...

I am still blown away with how quickly he put it all together and was so happy to have him onboard!

Hey dad, one more thing, did you ever think that cork handle on the fishing rod was going to break?

This is the way it goes on a sailboat - always a journey - you just stick with it and soon you will be out there sailing.