Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lugsail Yard Parrels

My old boat setting a balance lug, with the yard snugged up against the mast

 A problem which many people encounter when using a balance lug, standing lug, or a Chinese lug, is arranging a method to hold the yard close to the mast.

Some designers advocate a method where the halyard is attached to the yard towards the heel, and then leading along the yard (and around the mast) to a pulley-block at the normal halyard attachment point.

The theory is that as tension comes onto the halyard, it automatically pulls the yard in against the mast. I've tried it, and (for me) it doesn't work. The amount of force holding the yard against the mast is small, and much more importantly, the yard is largely free to move forward and aft through a significant arc.

Here are two photos taken on a day when we tried it on my sailing canoe just for fun, and as you can see, it wasn't worth a cracker!

Yard with the normal halyard attachment point hanging aft by close to a foot

Halyard doing a very poor job of holding the yard close to the mast, even though the downhaul and halyard tensions were high.

Another popular option is to use a loop of line, bronze rod, or stainless-steel rod around the mast somewhat like a conventional mast hoop on the luff of a gaff mainsail. If you follow Jim Michalak's suggestions for a loop of line, it will work OK, but is prone to jamming when the sail is raised. You can confidently follow Jim Michalak's advice about almost anything regarding boats, but in this case I believe there is an even better way.

The metal ring method has problems in that it makes it very difficult to get the yard aft when lowering, until you can reach high enough to lift the yard off the hook which usually forms the attachment to the ring. If the sail is boomless, it may not be too much of an issue - but when a boom is involved, it is very important that the yard is free to move fore and aft while still being attached to the halyard.

The system I prefer is simple, light, and highly effective. Here is a drawing which should be self-explanatory. Click on the drawing for a clearer view.

The loop (shown in red) can be simply dropped around the halyard, or can be attached to the yard by the halyard rolling-hitch. Raising and lowering the sail is no problem, because as soon as the yard is lowered, the loop automatically loosens, and when being raised, the loop is loose until the yard reaches the raised position. If you need to reef, lower the yard to the required position, and simply re-tighten the lower end of the snotter (a.k.a. Yard Parrel) and the yard will be held snugly against the mast. No need to make it tight - just snug.

Below are two photos showing the system in use on a First Mate. In this case, we had the snotter line knotted into the halyard rolling hitch on the yard, but it isn't necessary - the system shown in the previous drawing is fine.

Blue line is the halyard, and the buff-coloured line is the snotter (yard parrel).

The system is simple, light, and reliable. I've used it for years without any problems.


  1. Thank you for this - I dragged and dropped your drawing of the 'snotter' onto my desktop. I am renovating a standard dinghy into a lug sail exploration dinghy, so this very good advice about how to keep the gaff close to the mast is very timely!

  2. Thank you for your post, very interesting to build boat