By Stephen Jensen:

Adding a traveler to a San Juan 21 is one of those things only racers or those fanatical about sail shape would want to do.  It adds another couple of lines to the mainsail adjustments that were not there before and figuring out what to do with those can be confusing sometimes.  Fortunately, you can always set it to the middle position and let it sit there or in heavy winds, let it slide a little.


What a traveler does is to change the ratio of how much the boom is being pulled down vs. being pulled to the centerline of the hull.  When the boom is pulled down, the leach of the sail is pulled tight, this reduces the twist of the sail and flattens it.  There are times, such as in light winds, when you want the boom to be to be pulled into the center of the hull, but not down.  On the other side, in high winds you want the boom being pulled down to tighten the leach, but not having the boom exactly on the hulls centerline.
In really high winds, you again move the traveler to weather to twist the main to spill the wind and depower the top of the sail.
This picture shows the boom being pulled down as much as to the center.


This is what the sail will look like when the boom is being pulled down.
Here, the traveler is pulled to weather allowing the boom to raise up but still being pulled to the centerline.
This is what the sail looks like when the boom is raised.
Travelers were allowed on our boats in 1985, but had to be sheeted to the aft end of the boom.  In 1993, travelers and main sheet systems were allowed to be sheeted no further than 36” forward from the forward end of the Booms black band (the mark on the boom that the sail can not be out-hauled beyond).

The further forward the traveler is mounted, the more effective it is, it also places more strain on the boom itself, however I have not heard of any boom failures.  A traveler mounted in the middle of the cockpit is also a great way to get incredible bruises in your shins, a great racing system but not very good for cruising.

On Charmed Juan, I have gone to a mid cockpit mounted traveler from the aft combing mounted unit and have found that in heavy winds, I just play the traveler in the puffs instead of the main sheet.  With the aft mounted traveler, there was not enough boom travel to use it that way so it was only used in light winds to lift the boom.  I also have the windward sheeting car.  This set up opens the leeward cam cleat when the main sheet puts sideways tension on the car meaning you only have to pull the Windward traveler line.  No need to uncleat the leeward side.  This makes sense until you use it.  The traveler has to be used.  It can not be set to the center and left there.  The traveler also slides around when the boat is at rest with the sails down, so you have to have some system to secure the traveler lines.  I just loop them around the track.  This also acts as a cushion for your shins.

I have mounted my traveler just in front of the tiller.  On a MK II that allows two to sit in front of the traveler and one behind.  Now that there is not a traveler going over the tiller, it can be raised up to allow the helmsman to move from side to side.  Not an option with a aft mounted traveler. On a MK I, the cockpit is larger so you have more room to move the traveler forward.



On our boats, a rear mounted traveler needs to be mounted on risers that are around 6” off the combings to allow the tiller to be underneath.  These travelers take up some room and make getting to the outboard and Laurette more difficult.  They also won't allow the tiller to be raised up in effect limiting a MK II to a two person crew.


This is a real traveler mounted on wood risers.



The traveler lines can be routed into the cockpit by means of blocks and fair leads.



Besides the “real” traveler consisting of a track, and a car that slides along it there are Rope travelers.  These home made units are much less expensive than the real ones, and some can work almost as well. 

For a rope style traveler to work you need a bridal.  This is a fixed line or wire that runs from one side to the other and acts as the traveler track. To be effective, the bridal line needs to be as flat as possible. This places an extreme amount of stress on the bridal, the risers and the fasteners that mount the units to the combings. 

On my boat, I have a ¼” steel braided vinyl coated cable for the bridal and 2” tall  teak risers mounted with ¼” bolts. The eyes also were heavy duty. A block on this line acts as the car.  Other blocks mounted to this center block act as the traveler blocks.




If you look closely, you see a bungee chord attached to the ring that holds the assembly up off the tiller in light winds.