Different Types of Sails

Any sailboat has a number of different sails.  The entire collection is often called a suit of sails.  Chrysalis carried a small suit of sails.

On Chrysalis, the mainsail (pronounced main-sail or mains’l) was the sail that blew out in the storm.  The foot of the mainsail is attached to the boom.  To raise the mainsail, a sailor pulls up and then winches up the main halyard.  When the sail is tight, he “ties off” the halyard on a cleat on the side of the mast.  To trim the main, he pulls in or lets out the mainsheet.  The mainsheet runs through a special pulley hanging from the boom.  This pulley is called the ratchet block and makes it physically possible for a sailor to adjust the mainsail even in very strong winds. In this diagram, “A” is the mainsail and “B” is the forward sail.

Chrysalis carried several forward sails.  On a boat like Chrysalis, these sails are attached to the forestay with hanks and to a large hook on the deck with a grommet in the tack of the sail.  The sailor hauls the sail up the forestay by pulling on and then winching up the halyard.  He adjusts the set of the sail using the two sheets tied to the clew of the sail.  In his story, Ben mentions two forward sails.  The number one genoa is the largest of all the forward sails.  It is used in light air.  The jib or working jib is a smaller sail used in stronger wind.

Chrysalis also carried a spinnaker, which the boys used on the island as a signal for help.    The spinnaker is a very large, colorful, lightweight sail used when running before the wind.  To fly the spinnaker, the sailor first rigs a special pole—the spinnaker pole—to the mast.  He attaches the tack of the spinnaker to the end of the pole.  Then he hauls up the spinnaker with a halyard and handles it with a sheet just as with the other forward sails.  The spinnaker, however, is much more difficult to fly and to manage than the other forward sails.  Of course, running before the wind flying a spinnaker is also much faster and much more exciting than sailing under main and genoa alone.