Winterize Your Rigging

Winterizing a boat is very important, but most people forget about the rigging. Sometimes even the sails. This is actually not that much work, it’s just that most people don’t know what this might entail. Here is what we riggers consider when the sailing season comes to a close.

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  • Remove the HalyardsHoisting old sails for the new yearAttach a messenger or leader line (that’s long enough) to the bitter end and run all of the halyards out and just leave the messenger or leader in place. Make sure that the diameter of the messenger isn’t so small that it might jump the sheave over the winter, but use something small enough for a bowline to fit through all of the associated hardware.  Read here on tips on how to remove your halyards.


  •  Loosen the rigging, if for nothing else but to just turn the turnbuckles and give them a ‘good once over’. This is one of the best ways to inspect the standing rigging. Be sure to throw away any old cotter pins and tape, and go ahead and splurge and buy yourself some new… cotter pins and tape. When you loosen things up, make sure the stays have enough tension to hold the rig securely, nothing should be excessively loose. Then take those NEW cotter pins and just bend legs lightly to ensure things stay put through the off season. This way you can tune the rig in the spring by easily removing those new cotter pins, do a proper tune, and a fresh pin and tape. Standing rigging is an extremely crucial component in rigging safety. It is often forgotten and left unchecked which is the main reason that standing rigging fails!


first spring sail


  • Service Your Winches. Make sure all of those winches are all spinning freely and making that trademark ‘clicking’ sound. Although all of the winches should be serviced yearly, I will understand if you only do it once every two years, at least ;-0).

“If you do not hear that trademark ‘clicking’ sound the winch is unsafe to use and needs to be taken apart and serviced. A winch that doesn’t spin or even worse spins freely in both directions can really bring on a bad situation.”

  • Remove Your Sails. I know this is more along the lines of sailmaker advice for winterizing your boat, but…

…of course, you should have removed your sails for the winter…

Simply lower and remove them, lay them out on the lawn; giving them a good ‘once over’, maybe even a wash. Check them over for tears or loose stitching. If all is well fold or roll them, and store them in a dry place until spring.

Ready for Spring!

Just a quick note on furlers…

Sails that are up on a furlers all year long tend to leave the impression that the owner is really not practiced, or perhaps doesn’t know at all, how to take his or her own sail down (so don’t be that guy). If it’s not enough that it makes the sail last longer, do yourself a favor and do it just for the practice. Consider it crucial knowledge to sailing. The last reason is you can’t very well run the halyard for inspection (as mentioned above), if you don’t take the sail down. The halyard will also be attached to what is called a halyard swivel, which could probably also use an inspection.

If you are unsure about the first time taking your sail down, be sure to ask your local sailmaker, or just ask around for someone who knows what they’re doing.  I am sure that they’ll be more than delighted to help you douse, flake and stow your sail ;-0). 

Not only is checking over these items a good method of annual inspection, but it can also help make you more practiced at understanding your boat’s rigging and sails.

Read more: here are some additional guide lines to inspecting your own rigging as well as some tips to help you static tune your mast. You can also learn how to run your own halyards.

If you have any doubts, questions or concerns, leave us a comment below.

See you on the water.


2 thoughts on “Winterize Your Rigging

  1. OK, so I have a J-40…..what diameter messenger line do you recommend? Halyards all have soft eye splices, but idea of messenger line jumping a sheave has me gun-shy on pulling main halyard. I guess alternative would be to tie messenger to shackle and just raise to top of mast, leaving everything but shackle protected inside mast or under cover…….thoughts? Many thanks! Sean

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