The standard equipment C22 backstay pennant is simple and handy for holding up the boom when the mainsail is lowered. It also works fine to keep the boom more or less centered over the boat when docked or anchored. But it’s not very convenient for shorter crew members and it won’t help you when reefing the mainsail. In fact, it can be downright dangerous for that. A better solution is an adjustable topping lift mounted on the boom within easier reach. It will also let the boom swing free of the backstay when you need to slack the main during reefing.
One way to do this is with a small diameter halyard that turns at the masthead. The working end of the line can be cleated at the mast or led aft to the cockpit. However, it requires mounting a block on the aft end of the masthead, which requires drilling and it adds more lines and complication at the mast. Instead, I chose to build my own version of the boom topping lift kit from a certain Catalina parts dealership. It’s easier to install, lighter, and can be adjusted at the end of the boom like the pennant. It consists of two main parts: a stationary line from the masthead to a couple feet above the boom, and a two-part block system mounted between the end of the stationary line and the end of the boom.
The parts required are:
- 1/16″ vinyl coated life line cable with thimble eyes swaged on both ends
- 10′ x 1/4″ New England Ropes Sta Set or equivalent. A few feet more if you plan to splice an eye like I did.
- Harken 224 micro bullet block swaged into one eye of the cable
- Harken 233 micro cheek block
- Small eye strap
- Fairlead cleat
The vinyl coated cable should measure approximately 21′ from eye to eye when finished. Purchase a couple extra feet to work with while swaging the ends. Borrow the swaging bench at your West Marine or other marine supply store. They can’t swage the eyes for you due to liability reasons, but if you’re handy with tools, they’ll help you figure it out. It’s not difficult to do and the cable won’t be supporting a critical load anyway. Remember to install the micro block in one thimble before you swage the end.
Top down installation
Mount the empty end of the cable on the same pin at the masthead as the backstay. Both eyes should fit on the pin easily. This end of the topping lift won’t move much to interfere with the backstay. If stretched out along the backstay, the end with the micro block should be at about the same place along the backstay as the cable clamp that attaches the pennant. The block will be high enough above the boom to give plenty of adjustment but also low enough that the average crew member can grab it at the mast to reave the line when the topping lift is disconnected. You can leave the pennant attached and continue to use it when necessary, by the way.
At the aft end of the boom, mount the eye strap on one side and the micro cheek block on the other. Mount the fairlead cleat about a foot forward of the micro cheek block. Attach the line to the eye strap with a spliced eye or bowline, lead it up to and through the bullet block on the end of the cable, down to and through the cheek block, and forward along the boom to the fairlead cleat.
If you already have hardware on the end of your boom, see the end of my Mainsail outhaul solution post for an example of how I organized mine.
To use the topping lift, just uncleat it at the boom, pull, and recleat. Leave plenty of slack in it when under sail so that it doesn’t interfere with sail shape, particularly when trimming a boom vang. Although the end of the boom isn’t heavy to start with even with the mainsail bent on, the block reduces the effort needed to lift the boom by half, making it easy even for smaller crew members. An added bonus is that the topping lift makes a better support for hanging a hammock under the boom, especially for larger crew members or a couple.
The bottom line
Suggested price: $74.17
$tingy Sailor cost: $54.90
Have you found other uses for your topping lift?