Building a Beginning Billing Boats Kit, Dana Fishing Boat – Part 14: Mounting the Main and Mizzen Sails

The end of the year is drawing very near and it’s time to finish up the Dana build. All of the deck work is done at this point, and it’s time to mount the sails. I’m beginning by finishing the booms and gaffs. The booms are the spars that secures the foot of the sail. The gaff is the spar that secures the top or head of the sail.

The booms have to have a single block attached to each, so that the line that controls the angle of the sail to the wind, the sheet, can run through it and through a sheet block attached at the deck. Meanwhile, the gaffs need a length of line with both ends attached to it. One end is attached near the end of the gaff, and the other end is attached about 1/3 of the way down the length of the gaff. Both booms and gaffs will need a small eyebolt attached near the jaws.

Before going on, I figured some people may need a bit of help with the nomenclature. Not wanting to post any more copyrighted material than necessary, I drew up a quick and simple diagram.

Sails of the ketch-rigged Dana.

Diagram of lines of the Mizzen Sail. The Main Sail is similarly rigged.

The main and mizzen sails are rigged similarly. On my model, I laced the head of the sail using a needle to pull a length of thin rigging line through the material and around the gaff, simply tying off the line at the end. For the foot of the sail, I simply tied a loop of line through the corner of the sail, and around the boom. For the tack, the forward bottom corner of the sail, I tied a loop of line through the corner of the sail, and to the eyebolt near the boom jaw.

There are two major rigging lines then added: The throat halliard and the peak halliard. There are many simplifications in this kit and build, but I’m not going to do a comparison of actual practice versus kit simplifications. So, just to be clear, everything here is simplified rigging.

The throat halliard simply ties to the eyebolt near the gaff jaw. For the peak halliard, take a line, loop it around the piece of line attached earlier to the gaff. This can simply be tied, but if you can, you should try seizing the end instead if you know how. The halliards are run through their respective blocks as shown in the kit plans, and the leading edge of the sail is then laced around the mast.

I temporarily secure the ends of the halliards to the hull or deck with small pieces of painter’s tape. This helps keep the lines out of your way, while maintaining slight tension on them, making it easier to do your work.

Now, is a good time to go ahead and secure lines by tying them off to the cleats. Rather than explain the process of securing a line to a cleat, here’s a link to a site that illustrates it well:

The whole process is repeated for the mainsail. The photo above shows the final model and shows rope coils in place. I recommend waiting until all the rigging is done before you add rope coils. In any case,  you’ll notice we haven’t rigged the sheets. This we’ll save for next time.


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