Gale Sail or Storm Jib?

Our boat is a traditional sloop, with a fin keel and skeg-hung rudder. (1981 Mariner center cockpit 39′–the keel sits a little more forward than you normally see, but she seems to sail fine in normal conditions.)

We had assumed we would try to squeeze the budget to find cash to install a removeable inner forestay and running backstays for the sole purpose of flying a hank-on storm jib there (with our planned trysail). However, our sailmaker recommends modifying a storm jib into a sail like ATN’s Gale Sail, to set OVER the roller-furling headsail. While I had read that they weren’t great re: center of effort being so far forward, he says it will not be an issue. He said he’d only advise the inner stay & backstays as support for the mast…and that we have a pretty beefy spar as it is so perhaps not necessary. We intend to sail Maine Bermuda Caribbean , then possibly to Europe at some point. We are a crew of 2 parents and a young child. We are on an EXTREMELY tight budget (i.e. most of our gear is being purchased second-hand) so we do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that’s not really necessary.

On the other hand we want to be safe…. Do you have any thoughts or advice on this subject?

Hi Stacey: Let me pose a scenario for you–it is 0300, you are in the Gulf Stream, and an unforecast (or underforecast) frontal system is passing over you. The winds escalate from 25 to 45 knots in a matter of minutes. You roll the jib, set the trysail and now have to deal with some form of a storm jib.

At this point would you rather hoist the pre-hanked storm jib on its own stay with its own halyard, or wrap the Gale Sail around the rolled jib and hoist it with the spinnaker halyard? Keep in mind the wind is probably blowing against the Gulf Stream, so there are breaking waves–and you are working on the bow with one sail and in the middle of the foredeck with the other.

I think the Gale Sale is OK for onshore work, where the risks of really heavy weather are minimal. But for your proposed trip, I would go with the separate cutter stay and storm jib–and leave something else off to save $$$, something not so critical to your comfort and well being. The cutter stay will also break up the foredeck and provide a valuable place to hang on when you are at sea.–Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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