Quick and Simple DIY Turnbuckle Boots

This week’s project is one of the easiest you’ll ever do to your sailboat. There’s no epoxy, painting, drilling, wiring, or splicing involved. If you can saw through a piece of PVC pipe, you can do this job. Heck, this might be a good project for a junior crew member to work on their stingy sailor skills!

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Give Chafing the Boot!

Turnbuckle boots protect your expensive running rigging and sails from chafing on your turnbuckles and snagging on cotter pins. If you’ve been eyeing a set of Davis Instruments Turnbuckle Boots for your sailboat at about $6 a piece, you’ll be glad to know that you can make your own turnbuckle boots for under $1 a piece.

All you need is one 10′ piece of white 1″ diameter schedule 40 PVC pipe for each turnbuckle from your favorite home center. I recommend covering at least the upper shroud and the forward lower shroud turnbuckles. Don’t buy schedule 80 pipe. It has a thicker wall and smaller inner diameter and it costs more, none of which make it any better for this project.

One inch diameter pipe is large enough to fit over most turnbuckles on small sailboats but not so big that it slips over the T bolt toggles and off the ends of the shrouds. The diameter is important because you want to slide them up off the turnbuckles so that you can adjust them when you need to, but you don’t want them to slip off the turnbuckles every time you disconnect a shroud from its chain plate.

Cut all the lengths that you need from that one 10′ piece. You can cut the PVC pipe with just about any saw that will cut wood. A miter saw works well but a hand saw will work if that’s all you have. Cut the boots for the upper shrouds and aft lower shrouds at least long enough to cover your turnbuckles. I cut mine 12″ each. For the forward lower shrouds, you have two choices.

Tack ‘n Roll

If you keep your sailboat in a slip most of the time, you can cut the forward lower shroud boots long enough to work as shroud rollers (also called rigging rollers). Shroud rollers reduce the chafing caused by your foresail rubbing across the shrouds when tacking. Instead of the sail dragging across the rigging, the sail rolls across on the shroud rollers. The rollers can also prevent the jib sheet clew knot from hanging up on the rigging. If you heave to often, especially in moderate to heavy winds, your headsail can take a beating. Shroud rollers eliminate that chafing too.

If you want to cut the forward lower shroud boots long enough for shroud rollers, you’ll need to buy two 10′ long pieces of PVC. Cut one pipe in the middle for the two forward lower shrouds and cut the rest of the boots from the other piece.

If you trailer sail, I recommend that you cut the forward lower shroud boots the same length as the others. That makes them easy to secure for transport. If you make them 5′ long for shroud rollers, they’ll be a hassle to handle when stepping and unstepping the mast and when storing for transport.

If you trailer sail and want the protection of shroud rollers without the storage hassle, consider using snap-on cable covers one size too big for your rigging. Instead of a tight fit, they’ll roll like rollers but bend easily for convenient handling.

After you have your turnbuckle boots cut to length, round over the sharp edges on each end with sandpaper. To remove the ink printing on the pipe so your boat doesn’t look ghetto, wipe it off with acetone. Follow up with a coat of Armor All and they’ll look great!

Remove each turnbuckle from its shroud to slide a boot onto the shroud, then replace the turnbuckle. If you have quick release levers below your forward lower shroud turnbuckles like I do, the levers should hold the boots over the turnbuckles and out of your way when working the lever. While you’re at it, this is a good time to make sure your chain plates tabs are all pointing toward the mast.

Forestay Quick Release

Don’t worry about not having caps on top like the Davis boots, they don’t do much and you won’t miss them (or lose them)!


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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jacktar says:

    I made a similar gizmo of PVC and a plug to put the hanks above the turnbuckle on my Cat 22

  2. Having slightly larger turnbuckles (a 26′ Herreshoff), I have made some up using 18″ long, plastic kitchen sink drain tubes. These are very light and they spin like the dickens you say! No more chafe for s/v Spirit nowadays. However, I really value Stingy Sailor for all the really useful ideas!

  3. Hey, mates, lookit here.
    If it is going chilly where you live, why not get yourself this guy’s ebooks? I have ’em and they are just chock full of really useful ideas. We might indeed improve our minds and stay warm at home by a dandy fire reading these fine ebooks, eh? Rackin’ up plans for spring time to come! Eh?

  4. Ray says:

    I know this is an older post, but…My Capri is in her slip. Can I install these boots one shroud at a time, or do I have to lower her mast to be safe? In other words, will one shroud securely support the mast in calm conditions?

    1. Hi, Ray

      Yes, you can leave the mast up and install them one at a time, no problem.

      Thanks for your question,

      1. Ray says:

        Very much appreciated!

  5. Capt' Vic says:

    I made some of these for my Venture 21 before I saw this article. I ended up cutting them lengthwise on my table saw with a thin blade so I didn’t need to undo the turnbuckles to put them on (also the end caps). The saw kerf was slightly narrower than the cables so they won’t come off. I also used pipe end caps on the tops. The only problem I have is sometimes the jib sheets get caught between the bottom of the PVC boot and the chain plate but I think a little larger dia. sheet line won’t.

  6. grampa Brian says:

    If you do cut/split a tube (like PVC) to use without undoing your shrouds, set yor saw blade at an angle to avoid it coming off as easily. You can also use a wrap of white shrink wrap tape around it … usually the tape is about 6″ wide on the roll so it should do the job!!

  7. Dave says:

    The 1″ PVC was too big for my catalina 22, 3/4 PVC fit just right

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