LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

Exploding block + tackle.

It’s all fun and games until your jib sheet pulley explodes…while trimming the sail on a close haul tack.

I know I know, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already closed your browser window after reading ^^that^^ sentence. Lol.

Block? Pulley? Tackle? Um, no thanks. But let me try and explain our fun little sailing explosion in lamens terms. And don’t worry, I had to google all of these terms myself to even write this silly post. ;))


Basically, a block is a pulley. Which is really just a wheel inside of a metal housing. You can run anything through that pulley…a rope, a cable, etc. and the pulley helps support the movement.

We have various pulleys around the boat supporting different lines.


While under sail from Mayaguana, Bahamas to Provo, Turks + Caicos, we were trimming the jib after tacking for the, um I don’t know, millionth time. We were on close haul, requiring us to finish trimming the sail using the winch so that the jib would be as tight to the boat as possible. And hence, under a ton of pressure.

In other words, in order to get where we wanted to go we were basically sailing super close to the wind (so close that the boat is almost pointed directly into the wind). Trimming is just tightening or loosening the sail depending on where the wind is coming from. If a sail is too loose, it will flap around in the wind…and that’s no good. And a sheet is just the line you are pulling on to “trim” the sail.

Jer just so happened to be the lucky one trimming the sails this particular day. Ninety-five percent of the time it’s me doing the trimming work, so it sure was nice that it was him this time around.

As he man-handled that winch and cranked in the jib sheet tighter and tighter, it kept making a few odd sounds. You know, the squeaky ones you hear right before somethings about the break. ;)) I’m pretty sure at one point, we paused to look at one another and made the same “that’s weird” face.

The next thing you know, there was an insanely loud cracking, snapping, and simultaneously breaking sound that permeated the cockpit.

The jib sheet had forcefully ripped loose and flailed outward allowing the entire sail to spring loose. It all happened in a spilt second. And left us totally stunned to say the least.

The horrific snap-crackle-pop sound made it seem like we had lost the entire head sail or that the winch had exploded somehow. It took us about 5 seconds to realize that the crappy plastic block aft of the winch on the port side of the boat had actually broken and therefore allowed the jib sheet to violently spring loose from the pulley. Luckily, there was nothing between the pulley fair lead and the next fair lead (like the lifeline) because it would have ripped it right out.

Turns out, the white plastic sheave (the round thingamajig inside the pulley) had exploded. And the bolt that holds the sheave to the block had sheared right off.

There was no ‘fixing’ that thing. Fortunately, we had an identical one on the starboard side of the boat that wasn’t in use, so after getting our little situation under control, Jer immediately ran below deck, grabbed the necessary tools, and swapped out the two pulleys. Problem solved!


You might be wondering why we even have a pulley on the port side of the boat?

Well, simply because if we allowed the sheet to come in at any other angle to the winch, it would rub on the teak and/or canvas. The block/pulley allows the jib sheet to run fair to the winch (i.e. not touching anything along the way).


Let’s hope our new found ‘backup’ pulley doesn’t decide to follow suit and pop like the last one.

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