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Preventing blocks from banging upon the decks when sailing in light airs

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What is the issue?
Light air sailing can cause blocks to lift and crash down on decks as the wind fills and un-fills from the sails.

Why address this?
The repetitive banging of the blocks can be hard on the nerves, particularly so for crew trying to rest down below off watch.

How to address this?
Prevent the blocks from falling on the deck by fitting heavy gauge 316 stainless steel springs to the blocks. When a spring is paired with the right block, it prevents contact with the deck when not under load and keeps the blocks ready for action.

Stand Up Spring Blocks
Photo: Michael Harpur

The technique is ideal if it can be implemented on the headsail blocks but is also commonly used at the base of the mast for turning halyards and reef lines, on a mainsheet blocks traveller cars, and especially on the foredeck for the foreguy.

316 Spring Acessories
Photo: Courtesy of Barton

Springs not only keep the blocks off the decks but they also hold the block in the direction that it was when it was last loaded and with the correct orientation for the returning load. Hence it will help reloaded lines to run free and make them less likely to tangle. It also prevents wear and tear on the deck and the block itself, as each fall will mark and eventually damage the deck and the block.

Nylon hook and Keeper
Photo: Courtesy of RWO
If a suitable spring cannot be found an alternative is a stand-up boot made of PVC that are available in black or grey in a range of sizes. The easiest way to install springs or boots is to use three electrical cable ties to precompress ¾ of the way down before reconnecting the block. The shackle itself should be dampened in advance - see quietening 'shackle crack' when sailing in light airs.

A similar effect to the upholding springs or boots may be achieved by inserting a short cut-off section of thick-walled polyurethane hosepipe. The diameter of the pipe should be just wide enough to allow you get the shackle on inside the hose. If possible a clear transparent hose pipe makes future shackle inspection easier.

Another approach is to lay a thump mat around a stationary block. Place the mat around the shackle padeye to cushion falling blocks. This traditional damping mat approach is typically made from a three strand flat Turk's head and can be highly decorative.

If the blocks are located close to guard rails they can be hooked by thimbles to the lower guard rails with shock cord and a nylon hook incorporating a keeper. If you do not have the nylon hook a clove hitch will work just as well.

A 'thump mat' protecting teak decking
Photo: CC0

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

How to Install Stand Up Springs & Boots on Sailboat Blocks

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