What sort of reefing do you use?
Moonshadow’s main sail has three deep reef points as well as a flattening reef which we occasionally use to keep the boom out of the water when power reaching. Each reef point is controlled with a single line that comes out of the boom below the gooseneck and leads to a winch on the mast, just above the main halyard winch. Reefing is quite simple. In rough seas, we heave to on starboard tack, which reduces motion and sets up the work on the high side of the boat. Otherwise, we just feather the main and then lower the halyard to a premarked position and then close the rope clutch. Then the reefing line is wound in on the winch until the both the reef tack and reef clew are drawn down to the boom.
With the aid of full battens in the mainsail and a boom rack, we find it faster, easier and safer to set the leeward lazy jack to hold the extra canvas as opposed to lashing it. In average conditions, taking the first reef is a two or three minute job.
The first and second reef clews on the mainsail have cheek blocks installed to reduce chafe and effort. I use a lightweight tag line spliced to the third reef line to help reduce weight and resulting shape distortion of the main.
What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
I would do one of three things: 1) Reconfigure the deck layout to accommodate the leading of the main halyard and reefing lines aft to the cockpit. 2) Install a boom furling system for the mainsail. 3) Buy a trawler.
Is the reefing system operable from the cockpit or must you go forward?
The current reefing system is not operable from the cockpit. I must go forward to take a reef. When I do, I wear a harness and tether myself to a full-length tubular webbing jackstay, and we have a very beefy pushpit on either side of the mast to lean on for support. Unless I am single-handing, I have another person on deck to control the mainsheet and keep an eye on me. I reckon the whole operation is still safer than crossing the street during rush hour in New York. To make reefing easier in rough conditions, I usually heave-to on starboard tack which calms the boat down immensely and makes the job a lot easier.
On average, how often per year do you find you need to reef?
Over the past few years, we have sailed an average of about five thousand miles a year. I figure that we have taken a single reef less than once per every thousand miles sailed. The second reef makes a cameo appearance about once a year, and the third reef is still a virgin. We are quite happy to wait for a favorable weather window before heading to sea.