Have you checked your Harken pulley systems?

by Andrew Dowley
Harken pulley systems

Winter is coming and now is the ideal time to give your boat a check over, not only if you are sailing through the winter but also if you are packing down for the colder UK months head.

Checking your boat now gives you time to think about any issues you might find and means you won't be rushing a fix in March when you are about to hit the water again.

Harken pulley systems are generally very good, but as with other kit items such as salt water can stop them working.

We took a customers boat for a blast a couple of months ago becuase he was having a few teething problems that he wanted our advice on. Since we had the same sort of boat it made sense.

In this case it was the sheeting angle of the kite and also the internal mainsheet system which contained a Harken pulley system allowing a 8:1 purchase.

As soon as we hit the water and starting going upwind it was clear to me that it wasn't working as it should, sheeting in the main was much more painful than it should be. One simple fix we made was switching the ratchet block on, now that's a bit easier! However there was still a fundamental issue meaning the loads were much higher than they should be, especially when sheeting from the trapeze.

When we got back to shore we started working through the system looking at one block at a time. We then came across the blocks at the back of the boom system which were totally ceased up. These were the metal high strength wire blocks which had 3mm 12 strand dyneema running through them. This was going to be the problem, they were not moving at all meaning the dyneema was being dragged around the turn rather than running smoothly round the corner.

Steps to try and resolve the issue:

  • Fresh water, and plenty of it! - We ran the hose pipe over the pulley blocks while also moving the rope to try and free up the salt.
  • Hot soapy water - this was the next step, they were quite seased so the only thing that was going to break the salt down was the heat of hot water.

Fortunately this worked and the Harken pulley system was back up and running again.

The customer was happy and the boat was working just as it should, but then we had a walk over our boat. The mainsheet pulley system worked in the same way, apart from the additional purchase it had. We sail a high performance catamaran as a mixed team, so we have upgraded our system to be a 12:1.

After the dicussion with the customer we then supplied an additional Harken high strength 38mm block and another with a beckett attached. A little bit of 3mm dyneema later and he was off to change his system from an 8:1 to a 12:1.

This is a sceanrio we see quite a lot, especially where we sail on a salty estuary. We are obviously on hand when at events to advice but here are some top tips to prevent this from happening.

Our Top Tips

  • Take time to wash your boat down covering all purchase systems, blocks, pulleys and cleats
  • Check the ropes, wires and splices used in your purchase systems and across your boat - most failures can be spotted ahead of time and might have you vital race points
  • Check the harder to reach areas when you can, especially when you raise or lower the mast - beginning and end of the season for some
  • Take photos and write a list of the challenges your boat faces, this will help you to remember what you need to do when you get home, or a couple of months into winter when sailing is a distant memory

Help and Advice

If you would like any help or advice related to any of the products we sell then just give us a call or drop us an email.


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