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by David Nichols - Austin Texas - USA


The Snotter

The Snotter maybe the least attractive of all nautical terms and therein lies its beauty…. well, to the six-year-old in me anyway. I must confess to taking a perverse pleasure in saying to my unwary companion in the boat, “Grab that snotter and give it a yank” or “See if you can squeeze a bit more from that snotter.” I always did this with a straight face and with serious tone in my voice, while inside my head the six-year-old doubled up with laughter. It’s not something I’m proud of but I did it and if I still had a boat that used a snotter I would again.

For those not familiar with this particular nautical term let me explain: a snotter is a line used to capture or adjust either a sprit boom or the sprit in the Sprit Sail. Why is it called a snotter? I can’t answer that…. the six-year-old in my head could but I won’t allow it.

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Figure 1
Figure 2

(click images to enlarge)

There are many variations of snotters and one of the great joys of traditional sails is this variety. The snotter in Figure 1 allows the sprit boom on a Sliding Gunter to be adjusted from the helm. In this case the snotter pushes the sprit down and out. But in Figure 2, the snotter for a Sprit Sail pushes the sprit up and out. The snotter in Figure 2 is a snotter shown in Pete Culler’s Skiffs and Schooners (published by International Marine). He stated he had seen it nowhere but on his boats but was quick to add, “… being simple and practical, it was worked out long ago, I’m sure.”

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Figure 3a
Figure 3b
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Figure 3c

I had to look at this “simple and practical” snotter for awhile before I figured out a way to make it. When I finally figured out a way to make it I had to ask myself why it took me so long because it’s so simple.
Start with a simple eye splice like Figure 3a but you’ll want to make sure that the loop in large enough to go around the mast. However, not so large that it doesn’t allow for enough uptake on the sprit. Once all that is accomplished jam the thimble into the crotch of the eye splice and seize it in place like Figure 3b. Now all that is left is to determine how long the tail should be. Do this on the boat with snotter and sprit. It’s that simple. Figure 3c shows the finished snotter.

Don’t know how to make an eye splice? Well, marlinspike skills are something every sailor and waterman should know but if you don’t, all is not lost. Create a loop by seizing the working end to the standing part and press on. It will work just as well but won’t be as pretty….. but you really should know how to make an eye splice… it’s not hard, really.

This is just one of several possible ways to make the Culler snotter and the Culler snotter is just one of many variations used to control and capture the sprit. As with all traditional sails, there is no right or wrong way as long as it does the job of controlling the sprit.

Personally, I think everyone should have a sprit boom or sprit if for no other reason than to be able to say “Hunker down on that snotter and push it out” or “grab that snotter and sweat it up”. The real reason, of course, is the sails that use a snotter are simple, efficient, and well suited to small boats but if there is a six-year-old on board, the snotter has been known to keep them entertained for hours.

By the way, thimbles are great to have because you can make so much gear with them including snotters. I always keep a few in the bottom of my marlinspike kit.

Be sure to get your copy of David's book:
"The Working Guide to Traditional Small-Boat Sails"