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.
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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