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Thread: boom crutch vs. topping lift

  1. #1
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    Default boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Here's a simple question: why did so many sailors back in the day use boom crutches, rather than just the topping lift?

    I don't have a boom crutch and so use my topping lift, but am reading lots of old cruising books, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm missing something obvious...

    Boom crutches take up space in the cockpit when used, and in the cabin when stowed away, so there must have been a compelling reason to use them... darned if I can think what it is, though...

  2. #2
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    2 reasons, I think.

    First, the "why did they": the boom crutch holds the boom firmly in one place. A topping lift holds it up, but allows it to swing back and forth some. Much nicer when it is fixed in place.

    Second, the "why don't they, anymore" : placement. In the olden days booms were much longer than they are now, so you could put a boom crutch at the back of the cockpit and it wouldn't be in the way. Of course, with a shorter boom you can put the crutch at the front of the cockpit, but then you can't have a dodger, which is pretty much a "must have" item these days.

    Or some other reason, I guess
    Last edited by Uncle Duke; 05-03-2012 at 10:14 AM.
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I found that the mizzen boom on my yawl wore it's gooseneck rolling at the mooring. The boom was topped and the sheet secure, but there was still a little play. Day and night it caused wear by motion. A crutch would have prevented this.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Duke View Post
    ... Of course, with a shorter boom you can put the crutch at the front of the cockpit, but then you can't have a dodger, which is pretty much a "must have" item these days....
    On Magic, the boom crutch was affixed to the bulkhead at the front of the house and went through a hole in the dodger.
    When in place, it took no room. When it was removed, a velcro flap closed the hole. It all worked.

    Last edited by JimConlin; 05-04-2012 at 10:37 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Ropes used to stretch much more, so it was tougher to secure your boom by triangulating it.

    If I were to commission a cruising boat,it would have a gallows, it's wonderful to be able to securely locate the boom, while you are furling the sail or even walking on deck.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Even better than a crutch is a permanently mounted gallows. Both my schooners had one and I loved that. The outboard notches allowed the boom to be held to leeward and boat hove-to while tying in the reef cringles in lovely security. I am not satisfied with any of my thoughts for how to get a gallows up on Marmalade that won't foul the sheet so I live with the lazylifts for working and the crutch for when moored.

    There is no reason for the crutch to take up any significant room. For example, what's wrong with an unobtrusive bracket along the outside of the combing? Or a simple tie on the coach roof? Or a sort of fiddle-bracket along the bookshelf above the starboard bunk?

    G'luck

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    all of the above,
    A good gallows can carry chest high rope life lines and a small awns'l, if mounted well outboard.
    Scissor crutch always seem like an accident waiting to happen.
    I grind the living daylights outta my mainsheet sometimes, pulling on my 2 toppin lifts, and if rolling is really bad,whip a quick seizing on the sheet at the blocks.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    H'mmm... so the two most compelling reasons (for me) seem to be wear on the gooseneck, or (more likely) the mast from the gaff twisting on it and more stretchy rope in the olden days.

    I don't see rope as a problem anymore, but wear on the fittings and mast is a concern. I use a line to 'triangulate' the boom. That does the trick cheaply and easily, so I guess I can live with that for now.

    Okay, thanks! Just one of those silly questions that pop into your head when reading these great old books...
    Last edited by jalmberg; 05-03-2012 at 12:49 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    Even better than a crutch is a permanently mounted gallows. Both my schooners had one and I loved that. The outboard notches allowed the boom to be held to leeward and boat hove-to while tying in the reef cringles in lovely security.

    G'luck
    I've been heaving to all spring, every time I want to do something with the sails. My Blue Moon heaves to very easily, it turns out. Your suggestion of just heaving the foresail tight did the trick. No need to tie the foresail to windward as the books suggest. As a matter of fact, tying it to windward pushes the bow further down to leeward, which doesn't seem to be what you want when heaving to. Not sure where that idea comes from, really.

    Anyway, this weekend I had to reef the main and I know what you mean... gallows would have been that much more secure. I know the Pardey's had gallows on Seraffyn, which isn't much bigger than a BM, but I'd have to figure out a whole new way to sheet the main to add a gallows to my boat.

    Ah well. Just have to enjoy what we have!

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I set up my boom crutch whenever at rest for any period of time. Not only does it keep the boom from moving, it's a safety feature. If that topping lift were to go, it'd be major bang time on the deck/cockpit coaming.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwyl View Post
    Ropes used to stretch much more, so it was tougher to secure your boom by triangulating it.
    Good point, Ropes also used to get taut when wetted, taut enough to break stuff.
    Another long forgotten detail is that boats were rarely kept in a slip. They were kept in the "dock" which is a common mooring area in the harbor and were constantly rolling and rocking. And then there is that pesky gaff...

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Also just sheer weight of boom, sail and gaff means its just not safe until its all locked on.. On any of the Edwardian gaff boats I've had anything to do with the crutch is absolutely an important piece of gear. With her 28 ft long boom and 22 ft gaff, I was never happy on Waione until the boom and gaff were secured and on it.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    A boom crutch or gallows for a cruising boat provides a very secure location for a main trysail clew in a bad storm. The boom can be triangulated on a crutch as Gareth suggests, or strapped down tight to a gallows. A main trysail, small as it is, exerts significant pressure and strapping the clew down tight on the centerline is important to me. I wouldn't want the boom to move at all, if it can be avoided, and having a 'board flat' trysail is also something I'd want.
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    As I mentioned above - it's a safety thing even on a Marconi rig. My boom weighs at least 300 lbs. I do not want that landing on me or the boat!

    Last edited by Garret; 05-03-2012 at 03:23 PM.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Olinka had gallows in her earlier days .



    But had them removed in an accident , and never put back on .


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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    And 20' Sanderling has a transom which allows a permanent gallows to be fitted aft, right out of the way. Convenient and safe. (The stanchions also allow lifelines to be fitted if you want to.) The boom is sheeted aft of the gallows.

    Mike
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Scissor crutches are best cos you get to do a sort of chicken dance when you're setting em up in a seaway.
    You only ever let them chomp you once, after that you handle em like a gun with its safety off.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    21' Antigua Sloop,modified by me, in 1978. The boom thingy held the lifelines and the green awning,which could go horizontal or vertical, for keeping those beautiful sunsets outta yer eyes. Sculling bracket, (engineless, mostly) and OB bracket on the rudder. (what part of engineless?)and my not yet wife.3 years living on this lil stinker.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I liked the single oak plank boom crutch I had on my catboat. It was off center, had a partner on the coaming and a step in the floorboard. Super secure. Off center the boom was not in the way of going in and out of the cabin especially with a complementary off center hatch. And off center gave me the spot to which to bowse the boom down when reefing. Stowing it was simple, length was just right to fit along the centerboard trunk lying flat.
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I thought for many years about putting a boom gallows on Magic, but I spent years daydreaming about the other stuff that could be integrated with it- the stuff that's sometimes put on radar arch structures- things like canvas support, main traveler, stove vent. Anyway, my imagination kept me from doing anything.
    I recollect getting a confused look from my local PHRF measurer when I asked if he'd give me any credit for one. He was already perplexed by the anchor on the roller and the two more on the house top.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    An Alden yawl I sailed on in in my youth had a similar setup. Main boom crotch stepped in brackets on the aft side of the coachroof. Companionway was a little off center to port, crotch was to starboard. Never bumped your head on the way up, and gave you something firm to lay a hand on as you stepped up onto the bridge deck and down the companionway. Underway, the crotch wedged neatly between the handrail and the companionway slide on the cabin top.

    The mizzen had a little A frame affair hinged at the bottom, that folded flat on the A frame boomkin. To set sail, with the sheet still taut, you went out and loosened the shock cord sail stops. Then you want back to the mast, slacked the sheet, and one tug on the topping lift would lift the boom enough so that the crotch just folded itself down on the boomkin. Then hoist away. When furling one would swing the crotch up, lower the boom onto it and sheet it home, so everything was solid while you furled.

    The jib was self tending, with a boom. Instead of a crotch there was a 16"± length of line seized to the forward main shroud, with a snap hook that could be hooked onto a bail at the end of the boom. tighten the sheet and the boom was secure, and well to starboard so the foredeck was clear for working ground tackle or picking up a mooring.

    All the sails were self tending, and led to the cockpit so that if the helmsman sat to port he could adjust all three with one hand still on the helm. Tacking required no line handling at all. Very civilized.

    Allan

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I love it when a boat has had all the details worked out. It takes a long time. That's part of the charm of the Concordias. 102 other people have been working he same problems.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    One thing I've always been curious about with permanent gallows-what keeps the boom from hitting the gallows on a jibe? I can slack the peak halyard (when scandalizing the main) and the boom will drop very low.

    Harvey

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I don't recommend gybing with a scandalized main as there is way too much risk of leaving the gaff on the wrong side. In any event, when a gaff sail is scandalized it should be held where you want it by topping life, quarter lifts or lazylifts depending on your exact rig. Obviously you don't have no lift at all and any lift should be adjustable. If it's not, correct that.

    Most traditionally made gallows have three notches, and it's not at all unusual to have bronze slot fittings on either side of the center notch so you can put a block with tabs to fit the slots on the bottom and a notch on the top, allowing the boom to be stowed a bit higher than it would be snugged down to the gallows directly. You want the gallows to be a bit lower than the boom's working height, after all, and given normal cockpit clearances that might mean a little ducking when the sail is furled. That block also means that you don't need to change the lift much for normal sailing. The lift is set such that when the boom is not picked up by the sail at all, the boom just clears the gallows. When the sail is up, the lift is a little slack. And when the sail is stowed and that center block in place, you just lift the boom up a few inches to place it in the notch and the lift is really loose.

    G'luck

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    As Ian says, it's all in the topping lifts. There are two boats that I am very familiar with that have had gallows, one gaff and one bermudian. Both had sweet spots in their topping lifts, such that if the sheet was slack the boom would just clear the gallows, but if you tensioned the sheet the boom would stay in the slot.

    I've never scandalised a big rig, just dinghies and then just spritsails.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I built a boom crutch for my 38' ketch Night Wind. I did it to take the strain off the topping lift during long periods at the dock.

    I am surprised how much I use the crutch and what a positive thing it is. It moves the boom off-centre and off the hatch. It stabilizes the boom and provides a nice support for the winter cover.

    Also, it is kind of pretty, I think.

    It is posted here: http://www.sailorswhipping.com/2012/...ch-beauty.html
    Cheers,
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Ian I have gallows , a topping lift and lazy jacks on my Grey Seal.
    In regard to the block you suggested , what if they were hinged from the back , so that you flip the block being used back , when you lift up , and flip up the appropriate block , when you lower the sail.
    Regards Rob J.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    VanMikey, you have a great blog.

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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    I thought about changing to a flip approach on Goblin but why fix what's not broken. Granuaile had s flip up block on an all pipe gallows. The only problem with a flip block on a traditional gallows is that the hinge and bottom of the block will be in the way of the center notch. Either you do without the middle notch, you put a notch on the bottom of the block as well as the top, or you put the block off-center. All solvable.

    The block on Goblin was taller than the basic gallows plank was wide (vertical dimension) and so hanging down would not have looked so well. I had two stowage places for the block. One was in a slot against the side of the helm box. Totally out of the way. The other was in slots I made at the back of the helm box so the block could serve as a seat back. That was nice. And the shape of the block, wider at bottom and graceful curves, kept it from ever fouling the main sheet during gybes.

    G'luck

  30. #30
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Boom crutch or topping Lift? Neither. None of the boats I've worked on had either. On large schooners we used "quarter lifts." Topping lifts go to the end of the boom, and Gloucester fishing boats used those, but then the booms would sag under the weight. On coasters, they would just use a pair of lines on either side, going back about a 1/4 of the way from the outer end, and there would be no need for a crutch to hold her up. Simple and easy, the lines often attached to the same iron that held the main (or fore) sheet.

    Here's a picture of the Clearwater and her quarterlifts.

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Quote Originally Posted by VanMikey View Post
    I built a boom crutch for my 38' ketch Night Wind. I did it to take the strain off the topping lift during long periods at the dock.

    I am surprised how much I use the crutch and what a positive thing it is. It moves the boom off-centre and off the hatch. It stabilizes the boom and provides a nice support for the winter cover.

    Also, it is kind of pretty, I think.

    It is posted here: http://www.sailorswhipping.com/2012/...ch-beauty.html

    That is really nice. I have been wondering where I could mount a boom crutch, and looking at this photo, it's now obvious.

    It might even be nice to be able to mount it on either side of the companionway.

    Thanks!

  32. #32
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Okay, here's a weird coincidence... I was reading Thomas Fleming Day's "On yachts and yacht handling" (1901) last night, and came across this passage:

    "No boat should go into rough water for a long run unless she have ringbolts for the purpose of passing boom lashings, and also a fixed boom crotch, or at least one that can be made immovable. There is no other way of keeping a boom steady when the sail is lowered down. You cannot by any possible means do so with lashings, unless you can horn it in a crotch. A loose boom is a constant menace."

    These old timers, at least the ones who wrote books, weren't sailing around the buoys... they were 'out there', particularly the Brits, for whom a typical 'vacation' might be sailing around Lands End and across the Irish Sea... no picnic!

  33. #33
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Van Mikey, Your crutch is good looking, but not heavy duty enough for a gale at sea. I fear it would splinter and hurt someone. The lift should be made strong and proper.
    Harbormaster, I guess quarter lifts are what I have had all along, never even knew it!
    A PAIR of strong lifts , small or large vessel , are my first choice.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    I liked the single oak plank boom crutch I had on my catboat. It was off center, had a partner on the coaming and a step in the floorboard. Super secure. Off center the boom was not in the way of going in and out of the cabin especially with a complementary off center hatch. And off center gave me the spot to which to bowse the boom down when reefing. Stowing it was simple, length was just right to fit along the centerboard trunk lying flat.
    As the current caretaker of Ben's old catboat 'Goblin' I can attest to the benefits of this off-center boom crutch. When Goblin is relaunched next spring she will have another set of brackets (partners) on the starboard side so it makes no difference which side is next to the dock when boarding.
    I'll use the same two sets of brackets for a winter storage boom gallows set-up which will allow me to carry the spars on top of the boat in conjunction with another frame which sets on a stub mast.
    I may even add a third position to allow for centerline placement of the boom when we feel the need for a summer sun awning or rain fly but need to give this more thought to avoid too much clutter on a simple little craft.
    This old fat man is not a foredeck ballerina so having that boom secure adds a lot of safety.
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  35. #35
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    Default Re: boom crutch vs. topping lift

    don't suppose you have a picture of this oak crutch?

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