Halyard Service

Our main halyard takes a lot of abuse! Since we sail everywhere, it lives its life with the mainsail raised all the way to the sheave.

The sheave rubs on the halyard covering in one of three locations:

  1. Next to the shackle (full sail)
  2. Midway on the halyard (1st reef)
  3. Further on the halyard (2nd reef)

I don't spend that much time in the first or second reef, so most of the wear occurs near the shackle. Over the past 2 years, the polyester fibers have chafed and parted where they rest on the edges of the sheave. My choices are: 

  1. Let it continue to chafe until the halyard breaks and I have the pleasure of running a new halyard inside the mast.
  2. Replace the whole halyard
  3. Cut off the worn section and re-splice the end
  4. Repair the cover
  5. Service the cover

Obviously, I am opposed to ignoring the chafe, so option 1 is lunacy to me.

Replacing the whole halyard is a pricey endeavor, being nearly 180 feet in length, a new halyard would cost around $380! That's a lot of money for a single halyard that is only 2 years old and a little worn in one spot.

Cutting off the worn section and re-splicing the shackle onto the end is a valid alternative, but over time, I will end up with a short halyard. A splice consumes a lot of rope and I like having this length of halyard so that the line can reach into the water for emergency recovery. This would work in a pinch, but not over the long term.

Repairing the cover is a valid option, this would fix the chafed cover and continue to protect the core. The problem with repairing the cover is that this area of halyard is exposed to a lot of chafe and it will wear out again in roughly the same amount of time.

The last option is to service the halyard in a very strong cordage which will repair the chafed area and protect it from further chafe in the future. When the service becomes severely chafed, I can easily remove it and re-service the area with no adverse effects to the underlying core. Best of all, serviced line is very resistant to chafe, making this repair even stronger than it originally was.

The first step is to asses the extent of the chafe. If the chafe is only affecting the cover, repairing is acceptable; if the chafe is affecting the core, consider replacing that section of line (cut off and re-splice). 

My chafe occurred where the sides of the cover rubbed on the sides of the sheave and where the halyard exits the mast. 

The parted strands in the cover are pulled away from the affected area and cut off further back. This reduces the risk of further chafe from these ends on the core. The core is visible through some gaps in the cover.

For service, I chose to use 2.7mm dyneema applied directly over the remaining cover and core. Service was started by hand until enough was in place to start using the serving mallet.

The ends of service are the weakest portions of the covering, so it is a good idea to place the beginning far away from the location of chafe. This way, the stronger service applied with the serving mallet is in the harshest location of wear and chafe. 

Once the service has been started, I lash the shackle to a strong point that will not rotate and continue to apply service from there.

The service applied with the serving mallet is much stronger, harder, and more uniform than the service applied by hand. After several turns of the serving mallet, the halyard will be covered and protected. 

To finish the service, you need to bury the tail in the service. I service the line to the very end and then unwind the last 5 wraps and re-wrap them around my finger over the line. 

I pass the tail through the space between my finger and the halyard and pull the end tight using a marlin spike hitch. The end is then cut off where it exits the service and the tail edge is fuzzed to avoid chafing anything else.

Now the halyard can be set back up with new protection against chafe!

Living aboard made this project much easier. I was able to feed the halyard through the salon hatch and secure it to the companionway grab rail. When I was finished, I simply pulled the halyard back out through the hatch and re-attached it to the mainsail. If I had to take the halyard off, I would have needed to run a messenger line up to hold the place of the halyard and then replace the halyard after the service was completed. This is not incredibly difficult to do (it's how I replace halyards all the time) but it does add an extra step to the project which was avoidable by having a long halyard and living aboard!