Belaying pins

Another rare item on sailing vessels nowadays is the belaying pin. The closest most sailors come to them is during visits to the tall ships or when watching a deck fight in an old pirate movie. Who would think of using them on today’s craft? They’re out of fashion, impractical and archaic . . . and we love them.
Belaying pins are used to provide increased friction to control a line by taking a single round-turn and one or more “S” turns around the pin. This is to “belay” the line. When a single hitch or slip-hitch is added to the belayed turns, the line is “made fast” (see diagrams).

Historic Vessel Vega - Belaying pins
Scourge, our ships cat on hand to supervise the work.
Scourge, our ships cat on hand to supervise the work.
One of the leather skirts we use on all our belaying pins to reduce wear on the pin rack varnish. Make a paper or stiff carton template first to insure a good fit.
One of the leather skirts we use on all our belaying pins to reduce wear on the pin rack varnish. Make a paper or stiff carton template first to insure a good fit.
Pins should fit snugly in place
Pins should fit snugly in place
After testing we soak the leather with lanolin and then let it shrink in place for a good fit.
After testing we soak the leather with lanolin and then let it shrink in place for a good fit.

Historic Vessel Vega is rigged in the old manner with no sheet winches. To attain mechanical advantage, multiple-part block and tackle is used for each of the sheets. This presents the problem of long coils of line ending up on the deck due to the 4:1 block ratio. This would be a colossal spaghetti pot if it weren’t for the fife-rails and pin-racks we’ve installed, not for belaying as such, but also as a practical way of keeping our sheets out from underfoot.

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