Do you know how to reef your mainsail when the wind gets overpowering? If not, you really should learn how. If you already know, is your sailboat rigged so that you can reef and unreef quickly in high winds while underway? If not, besides a jiffy reefing line like I describe in Single line jiffy reefing, you’re going to want to install mast gates of some kind. I won’t get into all the nuances of reefing in this post. There are many other excellent resources for that. For a condensed, illustrated description along with many other sailing techniques, consider reading my review of Royce’s Sailing Illustrated Volume 1: Tall Ship Edition.
Without mast gates, one or more slugs will fall out of the sail feed slot when you reef the mainsail. That means someone has to go forward to the mast to reinsert the slugs when you hoist the mainsail back to full height. Mast gates either block or bridge the sail feed slot to keep the slugs in the track when you reef and unreef the mainsail. They turn reefing from something that you have to do well ahead of time to something that you can do as just another sail trimming option. Continue reading