Rigging workshop with Brion Toss in Port Townsend

I had the opportunity to participate in a Rigging workshop with Brion Toss during the last weekend of October.

Brion’s loft is located at Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend. Initially I was planning to sail up there for the workshop, however, Image had to stay a little longer at the boatyard on Lake Union so I ended up driving. In hindsight this proved to be a lot more comfortable than sailing, going by boat would have meant beating upwind in 30+ kts.

Point Hudson Marina
Point Hudson Marina

The workshop was attended by 12 students, some of them brought their boats. It looked like I was the only one in the room whose boat was built before he was born :). Ambitions of the participants ranged from cruising in the San Juans to Offshore Passage Making. Boats ranged from 28’ ketches to wooden boats to 50+ foot sloops.

The rigging workshop was a two day class and covered a lot of ground. Amongst other things we talked about rig types and sizing, deck layouts, knots, splicing, improving rigs to make them more sailable and a lot more. Brion has an outline for the workshop on his website.


Ben, the loft's mascot
Ben, the loft’s mascot


My takeaways

  • Understanding the basic concepts of sailboat rigging not hard and empowers you as both an owner or as a charterer to assess the state of a boat and make the right decisions such as the decision to go in certain wind conditions or when to reef
  • The Harken catalog is your friend. The same goes for the Lewmar, Schaefer and Ronstan catalogs as well as the ones I’m forgetting. If you can, get your hands on a paper copy and keep a digital copy on the boat.
  • Once you know how stuff works, there is no going back. On the one hand this means I am able to understand how to set up and improve Image. On the other hand, I am a lot more skeptical about going on a boat that I don’t know. I am also a lot more open to depowering (reefing) a boat now that I understand how big the loads are and where they hit. Especially shock loads and undiscovered weak spots become a lot more concerning.
  • I really enjoyed the hands on experiences such as drilling holes in a piece of mast extrusion, looking at broken or stressed stainless steel parts under the microscope, splicing as well as tying a couple knots I did not know before.
  • I learned a lot about standing rigging. Before the workshop I was convinced that stainless steel standing rigging should only be touched to tune the rig, now I understand the physics, the draw back of old school swages and the possible advantages of high modulus rope as standing rigging. You should check that stuff our if you have not already, it’s really cool and seems a lot easier to inspect than stainless. However, time will tell how well it holds up compared to stainless.
  • At this point I feel competent enough to tackle smaller projects such as replacing lifelines, control lines or setting up lazy jacks and preventers in a clever fashion on my own. Image is actually using Amsteel soft shackled and eye splices to attach genoa sheets now. A friend of mine did the splicing though, so I cannot really claim this as a victory.
  • If you have a chance to participate in this workshop in the future, take it. It will make you a much more competent and safe sailor. It will also enable you to have a much more informed conversation with your rigger if your boat needs to have work done.



Thanks a lot Brion and crew for a very informative weekend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *