How to Adjust a Turnbuckle

Open Body Turnbuckle W/ Swage Stud and Toggle

Open Body Turnbuckle W/ Swage Stud and Toggle

The concept of how to properly adjust a turnbuckle seems to sometimes elude most people. This is understandable as I didn’t used to spend my days thinking about tightening cables, like I do now. So let’s take a moment to discuss how this is done properly.

There are generally three different styles of turnbuckles. Yes, there are a few more styles, however these concepts should give you the gist for any turnbuckle.

Open Body Turnbuckle with a Toggle Jaw at Each End

Open Body Turnbuckle with a Toggle Jaw at Each End

First things first, always make sure that you start by taking out the cotter pins and removing any old tape. Generally, to tighten or loosen turnbuckles it is the reverse of what you have learned your whole life, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” is now “lefty-tighty, righty-loosey”.

OPEN BODY TURNBUCKLES: The open body style turnbuckle is the most common style in today’s sailboat market and will require either an adjustable wrench and a spike (a ‘beefy’ screw driver should do), or a second adjustable wrench. If you have a turnbuckle that has a swage stud at the top end, then look closely and locate the wrench flat which will be either machined or pressed into the stud by the manufacturer.

NOTE: Some boats today still have the old, Closed Body/Tubular Style , stainless steel bottles screw type turnbuckle (these should be replaced ASAP with chrome-bronze bodies). To adjust this type of turnbuckle you can use either and appropriately sized Ice Pick or C Sherman Johnson’s purpose made tool  (click link and scroll to bottom of page) to stick in the small hole located in the middle of the body. Vise grips or channel locks are not the answer here.

DOUBLE JAWED TURNBUCKLES: You may also have a double jawed turnbuckle which accepts an eye fitting attached to the end of the stay. In this situation it is important to keep the upper jaw/eye end from spinning by using either a spike or screwdriver. Also, please note: these turnbuckles are often installed upside down and not consistently. So figuring out which way is tight and which way is loose can be a doozie and may vary from stay to stay. It may be worth the extra time to make sure they are all configured in the same fashion, matching up with the aforementioned tightening/loosening method (“lefty-tighty, righty-loosey”).

MECHANICAL STUDS AND ROD STUDS : It is also possible that your rigging utilizes a mechanical stud at the top end of the turnbuckle. This is a similar product to that used for open body rod turnbuckles, and the same directions should be followed. Be careful in this situation as the mechanical stud will have two wrench flats, one is to tighten the cap of the mechanical stud (this is NOT the one to use and may cause the fitting to become undone!) and one is to hold the stud in place while turning the turnbuckle body. This wrench flat will sometimes be less noticeable, but if you look closely you will be able to determine which ‘flat’  holds the stud and not the cap.

Mechanical Stud, Similar to Rod Stud

Mechanical Stud, Similar to Rod Stud

TURNBUCKLES THAT UTILIZE RIGGING SCREWS (ROD AND WIRE): Next we have the rigging screw style turnbuckle, typically provided by Navtec. This looks like an open body turnbuckle, but in reverse. Instead of one body and two studs, there are two bodies and one stud. This is another typical turnbuckle found on rod rigged boats and you should follow these same guidelines here as well. Again, care must be taken to ensure that the upper end of the turnbuckle does not spin. In this case it is the upper body portion that will need to be either held in place by an adjustable wrench or a spike. Then use another wrench to turn the rigging screw by using the wrench flats on the screw.

Rigging Screw Style Turnbuckle

Rigging Screw Style Turnbuckle

COQUILLE OR STEM BALL TURNBUCKLES: You have probably noticed by now that I keep making the point of always holding the upper end of the turnbuckle in place, be it a stud, jaw, or body. Well, that is because in most situations the bottom of the turnbuckle is kept from spinning by the way it is pinned to the chainplate. EXCEPT, when the chainplate isn’t conventional. Beneteau and Jeaneau are notorious for these types of chainplates. They use what is called a coquille style chainplate, that means essentially, that the connection of the turnbuckle at the deck is a ball and socket type (which means it can spin freely). Here you need to either have three hands and arms, perform a bit’ of a magic trick or grab a friend. Both the top and bottom screws will try to spin in this case, so you will need to hold both upper and lower studs by their wrench flats. I like to go for the “magic trick” method myself, by using large vise grips to grip the lower stud. I will then place my knee near it (as I am in the crouched position) so that the vise grips become wedged up against me as they begin to spin. Then, I will go about holding the upper stud with an adjustable wrench and turning the body with my spike as usual. This maneuver can be a bit tricky, but with a little body contortion and the right tools, it can be done. OR…… simply grab a friend and have them help you ;-0)

Coquille Style Turnbuckle, Popular on Beneteau's and Jeaneau's

Coquille or Threaded Stemball Style Turnbuckle, Popular on, Catamarans with Diamond Stays, Beneteau’s and Jeaneau’s

When you are done make sure you line up the cotter pin holes in the studs so that the turnbuckle can be pinned. If cotter pins aren’t present then there should be locking nuts of some sort. A turnbuckle ALWAYS needs to be secured so that it cannot become undone.

TIP: No matter what type of turnbuckle you are adjusting make sure the wire, rod or whatever type of stay material you may have, does NOT turn, or is in any way able to become distorted. This can lead to shroud failure!

Remember, if in doubt you can always ask……

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Annapolis Boat Show

….is back!

Annapolis Rigging, atlantic spars and rigging, The Annapolis Boat ShowClick the Image for Boat Show Deals!!!

Come See Us at Tent O13, Next to the Marriot Waterfront

Posted in Annapolis Sailing, Around the World, Baltimore Sailing, Classic Yachts, Cruisers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Link Plates for Furlers



Link plates are an option for raising the furling drum up off the deck for clearance. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a new furler, or raising the height of the drum on your existing one:

  • Do you need to link the drum off of the deck to clear the anchor?
  • Do you need to have better visibility from the cockpit?
  • Does the furler or any of its components need to clear any cabin top or deck hardware?
  • Was there a link plate there before and why?

Harken Long Link Toggle, anchor roller

Schaefer adjustable link plate NOT for furler


Schaefer Long Link Toggle


Harken Long Link Toggle


Anchors need to live either on an extended roller or sprit. Otherwise, you will most likely need the drum to be linked up off of the deck sufficiently to clear the fulcrum effect of the anchor when it is deployed. If the furler doesn’t have enough clearance the anchor can damage the drum or the cage of the furler.

You may also want to consider raising the drum for visibility, although this can be done with a strop on the bottom of the sail, it can be a nice feature to have a clear view ahead from the cockpit. As with everything else, there are proper and improper ways of doing this.

Don’t forget: if adding link plates to an existing furler, you will need to shorten the foil (sometimes the stay) accordingly. It may be best to consult your local rigging professional to ensure this is done properly.

  Linking the drum up off of the deck can be done by using the manufacturers recommended link and toggle combination. Using the universal adjustable link plates for instance is typically the wrong answer for linking a furler drum off of the deck. Most furler manufacturers have link plates especially made for their model furlers and should be used when possible. The biggest issues with using improper linkage is torsion loading which, at the very least, compromises the effectiveness of the furler. Torsion loading, in extreme situations, can also shear cotter pins, damage the link plate itself and in a worst case scenario, dis-mast a boat. So before you make any big leaps of your own ‘custom’ rigging, consult a professional rigger and at least ask a few questions.

At The Rigging Company questions are always free of charge!

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Volvo Ocean Race LIVE!

Tomorrow early afternoon begins my favorite event in sailing, the Volvo Ocean Race…..

Alicante, Spain will host tomorrow’s in-port race as well as the start of the world’s most epic ’round the world battle….. and this time it’s one design baby!

Alicante Spain Volvo Ocean Race. The start of the race

Be sure to catch all of the action LIVE on the official website. I know I will.

Posted in Around the World, Maritime News, Modern Yachts, Racers, Sailing, Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boat Rope

YAle double braid ropeThe vast U.S. cordage market allows us to have several competitive options including; Robline, New EnglandSamsonYale, and Marlow Ropes, just to name a few. Each one of these manufacturers provide various rope constructions utilizing different materials to allow the consumer to achieve different functions based on application. All of the jargon like Spectra, Dyneema, Vectran, Kevlar, Technora, Dacron, Double Braid, Single Braid, and Three Strand, can be quite confusing sometimes. Let’s see if we can’t help explain some of the basic differences.

Rope Fibers:

Dacron is another registered trade name for Polyester. Its characteristics are; it’s extremely U.V. stable, chafe resistant, pseudo moisture absorbent, and a little stretchy (comparatively speaking), but soft in the hand and tends to run very freely depending on its construction.

New England Ropes Double Braid

Technora, basically Kevlar‘s replacement, comes from the Aramid family. This fiber is more stable in a U.V. environment than Kevlar (although, it would not be my first choice for U.V. resistance), it is susceptible to chafe, it does not absorb moisture, it is extremely low stretch, and is fairly heat resistant, but it does get stiff and rigid after heavy loading.

Spectra and Dyneema (synonymous products but different trade names) have more use in a wide array of applications. Spectra (or Dyneema) does not absorb water, is very strong, is very chafe resistant, and has a fair U.V. stabilization, it is also very low stretch, but is sensitive to excessive heat. This line material tends to stay more supple than Technora or Vectran, but is never quite as soft as Polyester.

Finally, we have Vectran Samson Ropes Single Braid Linewhich has combined some of the features of both Spectra and Technora. Vectran offers better heat resistance than Spectra and also lower elongation. Although fairly chafe resistant, this fiber will tend to be a bit more rigid than Spectra when loaded  and offers very little U.V. stabilization.

Rope Construction:

marlow ropesDouble Braid, the most common type of rope construction in today’s sailboat market, is a two-part braided  line, one part cover and one part core. Double braid line usually will have a polyester cover and a core made from either Dacron, Spectra, Vectran, Technora, or some sort of blend thereof. It is also possible to find blended and exotic covers. This is becoming more and more popular and Marlow Ropes is leading the charge in this department.

A Single Braid is typically a twelve strand braided line. This construction can typically be found in the core of a double braided line. Single braids can be coated to add U.V stabilization if necessary. Typically single braids are not good to put your hands on because they have a small diameter relative to their load capacity and can be slippery.

Lastly, Three Strand ropes are the more traditional looking right-hand-lain or twisted ropes that we will hardly use anymore in modern applications, unless it is for dock lines at which point Nylon becomes the preferred material due it’s elasticity, strength, chafe resistance and ultra high U.V. stabilization.

The way a rope is constructed, not just its material, plays a big part in how a rope performs, parallel fibers (like that found in New England Ropes Sta Set X) typically stretch the least, braided fibers usually provide some stretch or elasticity, and three strand line usually ends up being very stretchy and has a very elastic effect.

Hopefully this clears up at least a little of the technical jargon associated with rope. To find out what is the best product for your application needs please see your local rigger. You can read more about rope selection and maintenance here.

Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Click on any a picture to link to manufacturers’ websites for more info.

Posted in Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments