Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 02-08-2008

Our 1985 Newport 30 came with old halyards that needed to be changed out with new lines.  Our problem was the mast was up and we didn’t care to use the old ratty lines to climb the mast.  Our techinique is simple and will save you a long climb to the top of the mast.

Using the orginal owner’s book that was still aboard, we bought the correct length of halyards.  Our halyards are wire to rope and as we didn’t care to change out the hardware at the mast top we kept to the same type of line.  The wire to rope haylard was not an item in stock at the local marine store so we had to special order them.  We also didn’t have the swaging tool or wire cutter needed.  We found a local chandlery that would rent the tools which is what we did.  The swaging tool is pretty spendy to buy at the marine store but we did later find one at a home store and since we’re not living aboard and don’t have to worry about rust picked one up for the future.

So, using the rented tools we cut the wire to the length needed (we just matched with what was on the old one).  Then we ran two oval sleeves of the correct size on to the wire and then looped the wire around a stainless steel thimble.  Getting the two oval sleeves over the end of the wire was not easy.  It’s really important to have a clean even cut on the wire as they are sharp little needles and will quickly prick your fingers.

Once we had the sleeves positioned on the wire and the thimble snug, we used the swagging tool and crimped the thimbles.  Be sure to use two thimbles on each halyard and crimp each one twice.  Obviously if you have rope halyards then you don’t need to do this step.

Now came the hard part, threading the new halyard without climbing the mast.  First we cut the wire from the old halyard so we just had rope to work with.  I put the two ends together, the bitter end of the new halyard and the fresh cut end of the old halyard and placed them snug up to each other without over lapping and then I took a needle and heavy duty thread and sewed a couple of time through both to make them stay together and knotted it off.  I followed this up with a piece of duct tape and taped around the two halyard ends (at the butted ends over the sewing).

Now I had for all intents and purposes one long halyard of both old and new lines.  My hubby then flaked the new section of halyard so it would run free and then stood between the mast and dodger to guide the line.  I on the other hand took the bitter end of the old halyard and began to pull the entire setup through.  When we got to the top of the mast and had to roll over the sheave we really began to sweat it.  I told my hubby to let the line run and not pull it at all as I began to thread it over.  I swear my fingertips were teleaported to the connecting joint through the old halyard!  I pulled it through very slowly and carefully trying to feel for any snagging or hang-ups but it went through just fine.  Once I had the joined section in hand we hooked the new halyard to the mainsail and removed the old halyard.

We replaced all the running rigging with this method and it worked well for us.  So, yes you can change the halyards while the mast is up on  a sailboat without climbing the mast.

3 Comments posted on "How to Change the Halyards on a Sailboat"
Hal Parker on December 4th, 2008 at 8:18 pm #

good information, I am re-rigging and needed some answers.

Debbie on December 4th, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

Hi Hal,

I’m glad you found this helpful. We were really stumped when we started thinking about replacing the halyards.

Good luck with yours! Thanks so much for visiting.

GEOFF Taylor on March 21st, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

great! Thanks. I’m now able to replace the halyards on mr Roberts 30 without climbing the mast.

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