How To Coil a Halyard

No Foil to This Coil: Having trouble with coiled halyards or lines that keep coming undone? Let's solve the problem once and for all.

May 7, 2015

So here’s my secret: When it comes to knots and rope work, I suffer from a mild form of, well, marlinespike dyslexia. When I get a knot, or splice, I’ve got it. But sometimes it takes me more than a few practice repetitions for the light bulb to click on. Even so, over the years I tried about a thousand different ways to coil halyards on mast-mounted winches. And I’d still never been able to come up with the perfect method. Until now.

I have sailmaker Carol Hasse of Port Townsend Sails to thank. In Maine last fall, in preparation for a transatlantic sail later this summer, crewmate Hasse took pity on me as I was fumbling around when we were cleaning things up after reefing the mainsail on Eleanor of Hewes Point, a Valiant 42. In seconds flat, she showed me how she does it. Voilà. It was so simple and sensible even I learned it straight away.

If you’re also afflicted by, well, Bitter End Syndrome, give this a try. You won’t be disappointed.


This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Cruising World. Herb McCormick is CW‘s executive editor. Click here for more seamanship tips.

How to coild a halyard step 1
Once the sail is set or reefed with proper halyard tension, begin by coiling the line clockwise as you normally would, about a foot and a half from the mast. Herb McCormick
How to coild a halyard step 2
After you’ve coiled the line neatly, reach through it with your free hand and grab the bight (or middle) of the remaining uncoiled line. Herb McCormick
How to coil a halyard step 3
Pull the bight through the center of the coil, forming a loop directly beneath where your other hand is grasping it. Herb McCormick
How to coil a halyard step 4
Take the loop and pass it directly over the top of the coil. Then with the remaining bight of the line, repeat the procedure, making a second loop. Herb McCormick
How to coil a halyard step 5
The second loop that you created will be used to secure the coil to the mast-mounted winch. The loop should be just large enough to fit tightly. Herb McCormick
How to coil a halyard step 6
And there you have it: A coil that’s tight and secure, and won’t fly away or come undone while you’re underway, even on a steep heel. Herb McCormick

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