Stowing the mainsail

Do you stuff it or flake it or both? Your mainsail, I mean. Or do you have one of those combined lazy-jack, sail bag thingies?

For me, the most efficient way to get the main down and under control is to stuff it. You apply the topping lift, release the halyard, form a ‘bag’ with the first yard of sail and into this you stuff the remaining sail as it tumbles down the mast track. You punch the cloth into the bag to get a tight fit, and as each batten arrives you align it fore and aft. You then roll the ‘bag’ onto the top of the boom and secure it with sail ties (or gaskets as they are sometimes known). Job done.

This gives you a secured mainsail in quick time but the result looks a bit like a boa constrictor that’s swallowed a family of warthogs. Not pretty, and for some boat owners, unacceptable.

Flaking the sail as you drop it really requires two people; one stands at the mast and encourages slabs of sail cloth to fall to alternate sides like a concertina’s bellows whilst the other stands at the other end of the sail and hauls the flakes aft, aligns the battens and pushes the reefing lines into the folds to stop them dropping untidily onto the deck. You then secure with sail ties. After a few years the sail learns where the flakes come and the operation becomes more efficient.

The result can be such a satisfying work of art that you delay the fitting of the sail cover so that others can admire your handiwork – like the one in the picture.

Many sailors, myself included, use a combination of the two methods; stuff it until you’re at the dock or have your anchor down, and then go back and flake it.

But my ideal cruising boat, the 40’ fantasy boat about which I occasionally ramble, will have in-mast furling so the above will be rendered moot. Anyone need some sail ties?