How to Raise Your Foresail with a Pendant

If you regularly sail in a busy bay with other boaters, personal watercraft, kite boards, SUP boards, kayaks, and the like, it can get downright dangerous. Would you like to see forward under your foresail better to avoid a collision? A foresail pendant will help you out. It’s a simple little thing to add to your rigging that will make you wonder why you didn’t think of it before.

A foresail pendant is simply a short wire rope about two feet long that you attach between the tack of your foresail and the stem shackle where you normally attach the tack. When you hoist the foresail, it lets the foresail rise up off the deck a short distance and clear of the pulpit. From the cockpit, this lets you see under the foresail.

Other than that, your foresail will perform about the same as it did without the pendant. The foresail can also tack from side to side without bending over your pulpit in the process.

The only disadvantages are:

  • It doesn’t work with a furler.
  • It raises the center of effort of the foresail almost the length of the pendant. In most conditions, this isn’t a significant factor or it can be compensated for by trimming the sail appropriately. On the other hand, you can always take it off if you want to and secure the foresail tack normally.
  • It only works with foresails that do not hoist all of the way to the masthead. Some genoas, for example, may be too tall to use a pendant. The C-22’s standard 110 jib takes a pendant easily with headroom to spare.
Top of pennant clipped to the forestay
Top of pendant clipped to the forestay to secure the tack and to harden the foot of the foresail

Hankerin’ for a hunk of steel

Your favorite sail maker or rigger will gladly make you a pendant but it’s not hard to make one yourself:

  1. Hank on the foresail that you want to use with the pendant but don’t attach the tack to the stem fitting.
  2. Hoist the sail until the foot of the sail is an inch or two above the top of the pulpit.
  3. Measure the distance between the tack shackle at the stem and the tack grommet in the sail. Make your finished pendant this length. The wire diameter should be at least the same as the sail’s luff wire. If your sail doesn’t have a luff wire, use the same diameter as the forestay.
  4. Go to your local West Marine or other marine supply store that has a swaging bench that you can use. Buy a piece of stainless steel wire the same length as your measurement plus a few inches on each end to crimp thimble eyes. I like to cut them from a retired shroud. Also purchase two stainless steel thimbles (one for each end), four Nicropress sleeves (two for each end), and one stainless steel carabiner (to clip the tack to the forestay as shown above).
  5. Make eyes in both ends of the pendant using the crimping tool at the swaging bench. West Marine doesn’t allow its employees to crimp wire sleeves for its customers (presumably due to liability reasons) but they will help you to do the job yourself. For tips on crimping, see How to Replace Your Standing Rigging for Less.
  6. Cover the exposed wire ends and the sleeves with rigging tape or heat shrink tubing. I also cut a piece of plastic shroud cover to fit over the exposed wire to further avoid chafing.

Important note: Weak crimps in the sleeves can cause the pendant to pull apart in strong winds. Correctly formed crimps have a specific maximum diameter depending on the size of the sleeve. If there isn’t a gauge available with the crimping tool to measure your finished crimps, use a micrometer to measure them. Compare your measurements to references like this one for the type of sleeves you used. If your crimps are oversize, ask the store staff to adjust the tool and then recrimp the sleeves until they meet the specifications. In my experience, West Marine does not periodically test and calibrate their tools. The crimping tool at my local West Marine store was significantly out of adjustment and made weak crimps until I adjusted the tool myself. This isn’t as critical for a foresail pendant as it is for standing rigging where a crimp failure could be dangerous but it’s still worth doing right.

Here are some tips for a strong crimps:

  • Make two or three evenly spaced crimps in each sleeve depending on the length of the sleeve. Don’t crimp the entire length of the sleeve.
  • Be sure the wire is tight around the thimble before crimping
  • Position the first sleeve tight against the thimble
  • Position the second sleeve one wire diameter away from the first
  • Leave one or two wire diameters of wire exposed after the second sleeve

While you’re at it, consider making extra pendants such as for an outboard motor safety lanyard.

Bottom of the pennant attached to the stem snap shackle
Bottom of the pendant attached to the stem snap shackle

Attach the pendant to the foresail as shown in these pictures and you’re done. There’s nothing different that you need to do to raise, trim, or lower your foresail. You can leave the pendant attached to the sail when you take the sail off or leave the pendant attached to the stem fitting and use it with other sails.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ed in Gig Harbor says:

    Hahaha…I thought you were gonna describe how to make one of those long waving pennants like you see atop the masts on tall ships! I couldn’t quite see hiw that would help me see other boaters…but the pendant sure does! Thanks for another great idea clearly explained!

  2. TomLuque says:

    Your permanent solution for looking under the jib looks great.
    I have also had situations of uneasiness not being able to see obstacles forward on my Potter 19 with a jib tacked inches from the deck. On my smaller jibs, I attach a length of 3/8″ shock cord between the sail and deck mounts. This provides the opportunity to pull the sail higher up when I need to have a better view. Sometimes I’ll use a loop of line for keeping a fixed distance.

    Thanks, your photos and descriptions have given me better food for thought.

  3. Jesse Peart says:

    Thanks for the great idea. I modified this concept further by substituting the pendant with a 2 blocked line back to the cockpit. It serves as both the pendant and a cunningham for job tension. Combined with a downhaul and halyard at the cockpit, I can hank the headsail right after raising the mast and never go back up on most days until we head back in.

  4. Thank you! Another outstanding article. After seeing your article, I decided to try with a whoopie sling made of amsteel and it works great and allows me to adjust the height as desired.

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