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LED strip lighting

It seems that every C22 owner upgrades their cabin lighting at some point. The original dome lights are not very bright or sturdy and their incandescent bulbs use a lot of battery power. In Summer Dance, the previous owner had replaced the two salon dome lights with the combination white/red LED lights from Catalina Direct. They don’t use much power but they also don’t put out much light either.

600 LEDs to the rescue

I happened across a thread on a SailboatOwners.com forum that was started by an owner who had installed waterproof LED strip lights in his C22. He had installed one self-adhesive light strip on each side of the boat. There is a narrow channel in the underside of the deck where it meets the hull that is just the right size for mounting the strips so that they are mostly hidden. I liked the idea, low power consumption and widely distributed indirect light. The strips are dirt cheap on eBay so I thought I’d give them a try. But I wanted to take the idea a step further and create two lighting zones by installing two strips (one on each side) in the V berth and another two strips (one on each side) in the salon in a way that they could be independently switched.

LED strip in the deck underside channel

LED strip in the deck underside channel where it joins the hull

Each 8mm wide x 5 meter long strip has 300 tiny tightly spaced 12V LEDs. The LEDs are surface-mounted on a flexible conductor strip encased in silicone and has peel-and-stick adhesive on the back. You can cut the strip at 3 LED intervals to any length you need. The strips are available with standard 3528 or 5050 type LEDs and either warm white or cool white color temperatures. The 3528 LEDs require less power and are less bright than the 5050 LEDs. I chose the 3528 type for lower power consumption, 4.8 watts per meter. That amounts to about as much current per side of the boat as one of the original incandescent dome lights. They still put out plenty of light for the inside of a sailboat. If you decide to try this project, get the warm white color. It’s the most natural color temperature. The cool white color is harsh.

In planning the installation, I got stuck on deciding how to switch the lights on and off. I couldn’t find a surface mounted switch that was both easy to use and unobtrusive. I didn’t want to mount switch boxes or bulky teak switch plates on the bulkheads. The solution needed to be more elegant than that. Then while shopping for the right seller to buy the strips from, I found the answer, a two-channel wireless remote dimmer. No switches to mount and the lights could be controlled from anywhere on the boat. I could connect each zone to a separate channel of the dimmer and control them both with one remote. Here’s a link to an online store that sells a similar dimmer.

Two-channel remote control and receiver

Two-channel remote control and receiver

Along with the light strips and dimmer, I also ordered some solderless connectors to connect each pair of strips in series to separate channels of the controller. The connectors help to make the connections between strips. At first, I wired the two salon strips in parallel to the controller but that didn’t work. I wound up wiring them in series by running wires from one side of the cabin to the other under the V berth.

Strip tease

I removed the teak molding at the deck/hull joint to make it easier to mount the light strips. They are flexible enough to bend around the curve of the hull. Be sure to clean the mounting surfaces thoroughly with alcohol or a similar solvent to improve adhesion. Although the lights held in place for a couple of weeks after mounting them this way, they eventually wouldn’t stick in the deck channel. The strips have excellent 3M adhesive, but the rough surface in the fiberglass deck channel doesn’t provide enough contact area, at least on Summer Dance. I later reinstalled them with one of my favorite products, 3M Scotch-Mount Super Automotive Attachment Tape, and they’re holding well now.

I connected 16 AWG positive and negative primary wires to the pre-wired leads with crimp-on heat shrink butt connectors and ran the wires to the dimmer receiver, which I mounted under the aft settee seat. I ran the V berth zone wiring on the starboard side, down through a 1/2″ hole that I drilled in the hull liner at the aft bulkhead, and then under the liner to the dimmer receiver. I also ran the salon zone wiring under the liner to the dimmer receiver. I connected power to the dimmer receiver from the nearby breaker panel and negative buss. The dimmer doesn’t work with shared negative wires. Each strip needs a dedicated negative conductor to the dimmer receiver. And when wiring the strips in series, observe the polarity or else one strip won’t work.

Salon view

Salon view

After struggling with the sparse, poorly translated instructions to pair the remote control to the receiver, I turned on the strips with one touch of the remote control and viola! The whole cabin filled with bright, warm light. (By the way, all the cabin photos in this post were shot at night without flash and only the LEDs for lighting.) Each zone can be dimmed independently until it is completely off. Both strips can be dimmed together with the soft-touch dial on the remote control. You can only see the LEDs while laying down. When we only need a little task lighting in the salon, we can turn on the LED dome lights.

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View aft from the V berth

Lazarette lighters

After the cabin was finished, I had about 8′ of LEDs left over so I installed one 2′ strip on the underside of the drain channel behind each lazarette lid. They are controlled by a switch in the accessory panel that I installed near the companionway.

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LED strip inside the starboard lazarette

They’re really convenient for using the lazarettes or just to illuminate those storage areas from inside the cabin.

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No problem seeing things in the lazarettes at night

The bottom line

Suggested price: n/a
$tingy Sailor cost: $54.49
Savings: n/a

How have you improved the lighting in your cabin?

Trailerable lazy jacks

Trailerable lazy jacks

Lazy jacks can be one of the most complicated rigging systems on a trailerable sailboat but they have a simple function. That is, to cradle the mainsail when it’s lowered so that it doesn’t spill onto the cabin and cockpit. If you usually have another experienced crew member aboard, that person can gather and tie down the mainsail and you don’t need lazy jacks as much. But if you often sail short-handed or are just plain lazy, lazy jacks can make coming to a dock or anchorage a smoother, more pleasant event for everyone.

There are many lazy jack kits available, from simple stationary setups designed for boats that spend most of their lives in slips to complicated retractable systems that you can work from the cockpit. Specifically for the C22, Catalina Direct offers a simple but expensive kit. The problem with most systems is that they aren’t designed with the trailer sailor in mind. Either the lines fasten to the boom, which needs to be removed while trailering or they fasten to the mast and you need to reeve the lines through fittings on the boom in order to set them up. Anything that takes more time during setup means less time sailing and is the enemy of a trailer sailor.

Rock a bye, mainsail

The only system that I’ve found that combines good function with trailering convenience is the Sail Cradle Mark IV from SailCare. It’s made partly of regular rope and partly of shock cord. The rope lines form an inverted Y and fasten permanently to the mast like other systems. The unique part is the shock cords that form an M shape. You temporarily attach these to hooks and eyes on the boom during use. When it’s time to haul out and go home, you simply disconnect the shock cords, stow the system tight against the mast, and the boom can come off without any dangling lines attached. For a video of the system in action, skip ahead to 3:10 in this YouTube video of the system installed on a MacGregor 26M. The design is so clever that I built a set myself on Summer Dance at a fraction of the price.

Geometry 101 revisited

The trick to this project is determining where to mount the hardware on the mast and boom and how long to make each line. The length and position of each line is important if the lazy jacks are going to catch the mainsail or just deflect it onto the deck as usual. Thankfully, there are standard formulas that you can use as a starting point and then fine tune depending on the specific sail, its battens, and so on. Using the C22 P dimension of 21′ and E dimension of 9.66′, here are the formulas:

Top of first segment: P * 0.70 = 14.7′
Length of first segment: P * 0.25 = 5.25′
Length of second segment: P * 0.25 = 5.25′
Mid-boom attachment point: E * 0.40 = 3.86′
End of boom attachment point: E * 0.85 = 8.21′

These dimensions basically divide the mainsail height into four equal portions with the lazy jacks spanning the lower three portions. And it divides the mainsail width about in half with the lazy jacks spanning the whole width.

In the following pictures, the upper and middle segments are made of blue rope and the lower segment is made of white shock cord.

Lazy jack anatomy

Lazy jack anatomy

Shock cord and awe

On Summer Dance, I attached the top segments to the mast with eye straps angled 15 degrees down and aft (to bisect the lower segment). I tied nylon thimbles into the ends of the line segments with fisherman’s knots. Each middle line segment is one piece of line 10.5′ long. Each segment is able to run freely through the thimbles of the adjacent segments. The lets the system adjust to different boom heights, angles, and it lets the system stretch for storage.

Upper eye straps, upper segments, twings, and portions of the middle segments

Upper eye straps, upper segments, twings, and portions of the middle segments

I attached the stationary ends of the shock cords to eye straps angled up and aft on the mast at about boom height.

Lower eye strap with shock cord stowed for trailering

Lower eye strap with shock cord stowed for trailering

I mounted hammock hooks on the boom 4′ from the mast. This location seemed to hold the middle battens better.

Hammock hook at mid-boom

Hammock hook at mid-boom

At the end of the boom, rather than drill more holes for more hardware (it’s pretty busy there already if you look at this picture), I simply threaded a loop of cord through holes built into the fairlead cleats that were already in about the right location. Hooks in the ends of the shock cords clip into the loops on either side.

Standing end of shock cord attached to a loop through the topping lift cleat

Standing end of shock cord attached to a loop through the topping lift cleat

Tweaking with twings

During testing, the mainsail battens fouled in the lazy jacks more often than not since they were only a few inches apart to start with. So I rigged twings from the ends of the spreaders to the upper eyes to pull the lazy jacks apart about 2′. This forms a sort of funnel (as you can see in the first picture) and gives the mainsail plenty of room to flail around in on its way to the boom without the battens hanging the sail up.

Twing looped around the spreader end and taped

Twing looped around the spreader end and taped

The sail cradle/lazy jacks work well out on the water. I can point Summer Dance into the wind and drop the mainsail neatly into the cradle in seconds. When we’re tied off at the dock, the cradle makes flaking the mainsail properly easier than before because it’s partly done already.

The beauty of the system is really in the shock cords. You can stretch them to hook onto whatever hardware you already have that is convenient. When I have the mainsail tied up and covered, I simply unhook the middles of the shock cords from the hammock hooks. This slackens the whole system so that it’s out of the way when it comes time to hoist the sail again and the lazy jacks don’t affects the sail shape. I can also pull the slack down for the night and loop it under either the boom downhaul cleat or under the halyard cleats on the mast to prevent mast ringing.

When it comes time to put Summer Dance on the trailer, I unhook the shock cords from the boom, clip them into the lower eye straps and loop the slack under the mast cleats. This holds the whole system neatly out of the way until next time.

Lazy jacks stowed completely on the mast. The mainstail and boom are ready to remove

Lazy jacks stowed completely on the mast. The mainstail and boom are ready to remove

Without the expensive blocks or cables used in other systems, all the parts of this design are easily and economically replaced as needed.

The bottom line

Suggested price: $130
$tingy Sailor cost: $31.57
Savings: $98.43

Mainsail reefed with a single line

Single line jiffy reefing

If you don’t know it already, the ability to reef your mainsail is an important sailing skill. Your reefing rigging plays an important part in that. You can do it with just a few short lengths of line, but it will be more time consuming and difficult than it needs to be and not very safe to do during the sailing conditions when you’re most likely to need to reef. Having your reefing lines in place and ready to use at any time increases your ability to reef smoothly and efficiently (in a jiffy) when that time comes.

Reefing systems for trailerable sailboats typically come in two types: single-line and double-line. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. A single-line system has fewer lines to attend to and you don’t have to move from one to the other so it can be faster, but it doesn’t draw the sail down equally at both ends of the boom at the same time. You reef each side of the mainsail separately with a double-line system, but it can take longer. Some people prefer the basic approach of double-line reefing, others prefer the simplicity of a single-line. If you take the time to fully understand both types, you can choose which system is best for you.

This post describes a single-line system similar to the kit sold by Catalina Direct. The main difference is that this system doesn’t use a hook in the luff cringle (grommet). A hook can accidentally fall out and it can chafe the mainsail. In this design, the line runs from one side of the boom to the other through the grommet on a serpentine course from the end of the boom forward through the mainsail, down the mast, and aft to the cockpit.

Walking the line, turn by turn

My 33′ x 1/4″ New England Ropes Sta Set reefing line starts at the aft end of the boom where it is fixed to an eye strap. In this example, it starts on the starboard side, but either side will work. Just start on the same side as where you want the line to end at the cockpit. The line goes up and through the aft cringle in the mainsail, then back down to the opposite (port) end of the boom where it turns forward through a cheek block. When reefed, the line will pull this cringle downward and aft.

The line continues forward through three evenly spaced eye straps in the boom that hold it up out of the way when it’s slack. For an annotated picture of where the eye strap and cheek block are mounted on the end of my boom relative to the other rigging, see the last pictures in Mainsail outhaul solution.

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Mainsail leach cringle reefed. Note the slab of mainsail hanging below the boom.

At the forward end of the boom (port side, in this case), the line turns up through another cheek block on the boom and passes through the forward mainsail cringle back to the starboard side.

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Jiffy reefing line passing through the mainsail luff cringle

Now back on the starboard side of the mainsail, the line runs down the side of the mast to a fairlead mounted on the mast slightly below the boom. In the following picture, the fairlead is mounted horizontally on the mast. I later rotated it to about 30 degrees to reduce friction on the line when it’s reefed.

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Jiffy reefing line leading down the mast through a fairlead to the deck (boom lowered for clarity)

When reefed, the line will pull the forward cringle straight down to the boom.

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Mainsail luff cringle reefed (boom raised for clarity). Note the slab of loose mainsail and the sail slug that has slid down through the mast gates.

Below the fairlead, the line continues to the mast step where it turns through a block toward a deck organizer and ends at a cleat at the cockpit.

Putting it to work

Opponents of single-line reefing will point out that a single-line system can’t pull both reef points of the sail evenly. The luff cringle will pull tight while the leach cringle is just starting to pull down. That is because the end of the line nearest to the leach cringle doesn’t move. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t still work.

When you begin to suspect that the wind may pick up beyond what you or your boat are comfortable with, it’s time to reef the mainsail. If you have a single-line system, it’s easy to do and equally easy to undo, so do it early to be on the safe side. You can shake the reef out later if it turns out that you don’t need it. But if you fail to reef when you should, you could wind up regretting it.

First point the boat straight into the wind. This takes the tension out of the mainsail so that you can give your full attention to reefing it faster and tighter.  If you have a boom vang and it is tightened, slack it off. Assuming you also have your main halyard led aft to the cockpit, simultaneously ease the halyard to lower the mainsail while you pull on the standing end of the reefing line. To keep the first mainsail slugs from falling out of the mast, you need to install either gates in the mast to close the slot opening or a jack line in the mainsail so that they can be held above the opening with a sail stop.

The boom should stay in position and the mainsail should stay relatively flat while the slack in the mainsail is taken up by the reefing line. Continue until the luff cringle is as low as it will go, then cleat off the halyard. At this point, the mainsail is about half reefed. The leach is only partly reefed but the line will be tight.

Now since the boom is centered over the cockpit because you’re pointing into the wind, you can simply reach up to the boom and grab the reefing line forward of the cheek block on the end of the boom. Pull the line toward the mast with one hand while you simultaneously pull the standing end of the reefing line with your other hand. Continue hauling the reefing line until the leach cringle is as low as it will go. It should only take a few pulls and then you can cleat off the reefing line. Now the mainsail is fully reefed. All that remains is to reset the boom vang, if necessary, and to roll up and tie the slab of loose mainsail onto the boom. You should have short lengths of line called gaskets or bunt lines already tied into the middle reef points for this. Tie them with a slip knot so that you can easily untie them.

When it comes time to release (shake out) the reef, you basically point back into the wind and reverse the process. First, untie the reef gaskets. Uncleat both the main halyard and the reefing line and then ease out the reefing line while you hoist the head of the mainsail back to full height. The leach cringle won’t need any help coming loose. Cleat off the halyard and you’re done.

The bottom line

Suggested price: $107.03
$tingy Sailor cost: $40.54
Savings: $66.49