by Des Ryan
If you are a cruising sailor there will always be the time when you are short-handed (meaning one or two crew), even if you generally sail with a larger crew. There are two things that are essential for any short-handed sailor and it's all about Jack.
Jacklines - this excellent diagram from SV Yellowfin
Jack lines (above):
Lazy jacks - by Harken
If you don't have jack lines on your boat you are omitting one of sailing's greatest safety measures.
When the weather worsens it's always more difficult to get to the bow, but it might be necessary - and you might need to be up there for an extended period of time. By keeping jack lines on your boat every time you go to sea (but put them away at the mooring or berth to save deterioration) you will be ready for any eventuality, and you can go forward with confidence, knowing that you don't have to clip and unclip as you go.
Methods of attaching them can be different for each boat, but basically make sure you have them attached from strong point to strong point along the deck on each side of the boat.
All sailing is easy when the wind is slight and the seas are flat. It's when the scuds are coming through or a massive storm is threatening that things get more complicated. Well fitted lazy jacks are the fail-safe mechanism for getting your main down, in the right place and secure before the storm hits.
Lazy-jacks are made from a set of fixed or movable lines led from the upper section of the mast to the boom, with lines on each side. They guide the sail onto the top of the boom when reefing or dousing it and keep it there to be tied up at the crew's leisure.
Sometimes you can purchase these in a kit if they suit your boat, or you can make your own.
Whatever happens though, don't leave home without them!