Reeving Halyards

Some people are daunted by the task of attempting to run-in or reeve new lines which run internally or cannot be easily accessed. Halyards for instance present the problem of, “how do I get the old one out and the new one in?”. Let’s address some technicalities first…

~Not all eye splices are created equally.

If you are about to buy a new halyard, ask the rigger (splicer) to splice a soft eye (a.k.a. reeving eye, Flemish eye, pull eye) into the standing end. The reeving eye is NOT to be confused with a structural eye splice. A reeving eye is a NON-structural soft eye which is there ONLY for reeving purposes. See picture below

Reeving Eye, Soft Eye, Flemish eye, Pull eye, Core dependent eye splice, The Rigging Company
When you order a new halyard (or any internally run line, i.e. reef lines) from us, one end of the line will have what is called a reeving eye or soft eye spliced into it.

When we (The Rigging Company) go to run-in new halyards we use the old halyard as the messenger for the new halyard. So, now stick with me on this {cracks knuckles, sigh}…

….we do this by cutting off the working end (shackle end) of the old halyard and attaching the standing end¬†of the new line using the methods¬†depicted below. Alternatively, you can save the old line in its entirety, BUT¬†this takes more time, a lot more messenger (or some small diameter¬†leader), and is not without its problems. When saving the old line in its entirety¬†you will attach the messenger at the standing¬†end of the old line and pull out the old halyard using the messenger as a chase. Once the chase makes it all the way through you can the detach it from the old line and re-attach it to the standing¬†end of the new line and run it in that way. As I said, the latter is a more time consuming method, and is not recommended unless the old line in its entirety, eye splice and shackle, need to be kept in tact. Trying to do it this way also presents this inherent problem; running the much smaller messenger line through all the way will increase the chances that the line will ‘jump the sheave’ and get wedged between the sheave and the sheave sides, jamming the line. This will require a trip aloft in order to be resolved and may STILL not be do-able at that.¬†Fractional rig owners BE-WARE, if it is the main halyard that we are talking about (and that is the only halyard that goes to the top of the mast), you may have to take the mast down or go up in a crane to correct this….expensive!

“Regardless of which method, saving the old halyard or cutting off the old working end, make sure that you keep a little tension/ friction on the line during the pull-in process to help to prevent the line from¬†‘jumping the sheave’.”

In either scenario….Here are the methods that we employ¬†to attach a line to another line for reeving. Before getting started there are some –¬†¬†Knots to Know: the Bowline and the Half Hitch.

Tools required to attach two line to eachother. Tools Required: You will need a small diameter piece of line, approximately 1/8" or so should do it. The piece of line doesn't need to be any longer than 3 feet or so (maybe even less). Next you will need some tape, preferably white electrical (or vinyl) tape. Lastly you will need a sharp knife, a riggers knife is our tool of preference.
Tools Required:¬†a small diameter piece of line, approximately 1/8″ should do it. The piece of line doesn’t need to be any longer than 3 feet or so (maybe even less). Next you will need some tape, preferably white electrical (or vinyl) tape.¬†Lastly you will need a sharp knife, a riggers knife is our tool of preference.


The Reeving Eye Method

The easiest method. You can only do this if your rope has a soft eye spliced into its end. So make sure that your new line comes with this, that way you can simply tie the messenger to it via bowline.

The Half Hitch Method

The most used method. You can even use this on old wire halyards (you’ll likely need cutters) It is very simple but will cause an increase in the¬†rope’s dimaeter and may¬†therefore¬†not fit through certain hardware, i.e turning blocks, rope clutches, masthead, or exit slot (if internal).

The Half Hitch Method Reducing the Rope Diameter

Same as above but done by reducing the ropes diameter. This method is only available with double braid lines.

The Poke a Hole in it Method

My favorite method, as it is the fastest. In my experience this only works with old crusty rope. You will also need an additional tool, something pokey: a spike, a fid, a small Phillips head screwdriver. This method also increases the rope diameter, but only slightly.

I have also found these techniques to be helpful for attaching a line to another line in order to duplicate a block and tackle. This can be helpful if you are too put off by the complexity of the tackle.

However, if you want to learn how it’s done correctly (recommended). Here is a good video that demonstrates one of the more difficult block and tackles to reeve…the 6:1 purchase.


In searching the internet, it seems that most people use thread, needle and tape to achieve the same thing. Some just use tape, NOT RECOMMENED. Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat, but we find that our techniques require the least amount of fuss and are also the the most dependable. Besides, we do this for a living ;-0)

Don’t Forget: When running the line one should apply a bit of friction to the line ensuring that it stays put on the sheave. Do this especially when the messenger goes over the sheave.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please leave us a comment below if you have questions.

Thanks for the read.



3 thoughts on “Reeving Halyards

  1. Good info and very comprehensive. Shows you understand the challenges we sailors face.

    I use a slight modification when feeding the topping lift line through the boom each year after removing the boom for winter storage. I use the messenger line approach and put my loop in the topping lift line using duct tape around the loop. it has worked very well for many years, but I do have the advantage easy access if there is any jamming at either end.

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