Lines Left at Mast

The alternative to leading lines aft to the cockpit is to leave the lines at the mast. This means that you need to go up to the mast to raise or lower the sails, set or shake a reef, tension the Cunningham, or adjust the topping lift.

Once again, we should look at the pros and cons of lines left at the mast

The pros:

You can see what you are doing while working on the sails
Fewer turns in the lines
If something jams, you are there to fix it and can see what happened
There is less spaghetti in the cockpit
It keeps the halyards and downhauls separated from the sheets
Dedicated winches
You can buy shorter lines

The cons:

You have to go forward to the mast
You need more winches

While going forward to the mast is inconvenient, it isn't the end of the world. When I sail alone, I lock the wheel and then go forward; when sailing with Maddie, she stays at the helm while I go forward. 

Once you are up there, you can see exactly what you are doing on the sails while raising, lowering, or reefing.You are there, looking right up your mast to see how everything is going. If a batten gets hooked on the rigging, or a line gets kinked and jammed, you are there and able to fix the problem.

The lines left at the mast also means that you will have a winch for each halyard. This does equate to more cost, but you can control the luff tension of each sail at any time. The advantage of having the halyards stay at the mast is that the halyards stay at the mast and do not join all the other lines and sheets that are dumped in the cockpit. This helps to keep the number of lines that have to terminate in the cockpit down.

The final advantages of leaving the lines at the mast is the reduced resistance and the need to buy shorter lines. The halyards come down straight with no bends or turns as it reaches the winch. Since the journey to the winch is shorter, you don't need to buy the extra feet of line to reach the cockpit. This makes it cheaper to replace the running rigging when the time comes.

Lines led aft and lines kept at the mast all have their ideal situations. Lines led aft shines on coastal cruisers that will be used in protected waters and on short trips. Lines left at the mast are found on bluewater cruisers because it has fewer places for failure to show up. 

Do you prefer your lines led aft or left at the mast?