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Old 05-11-2009, 07:31   #1
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Furling Line Control

We got to try out our new-to-us Moody 54 in some very stiff weather last month. It was blowing 40 to 45 with even higher gusts. The boat really displayed her amazing stability and stiffness, but we had some problems with the rigging.

Sailing on the unreefed staysail and deeply reefed main alone was wonderfully balanced but did not provide enough drive, so we attempted to let out the primary foresail, a big yankee, a little bit. Unfortunately, the furling line was being handled by completely inexperienced crew whom I did not adequately instruct, and he let the line go, which allowed the entire yankee to unfurl. Needless to say, this was rather terrifying, but the boat stood up well and did not hint at broaching, despite the 50 knot gusts. I let out the sheet and headed downwind to reduce the forces while the crew struggled to furl the sail.

In the process I got a very rude lesson on how frightening it is not to have good control of a furling line in a big blow like that. In ordinary conditions you don't pay too much attention to the furling line, because it ends up all the way out with no tension on it. But in a strong wind -- duh -- it's got a lot of tension on it, and you lose control of it at your peril.

My boat is supposed to have the furling lines run through blocks mounted on stanchions, then to a rope clutch mounted on the toe rail, from there to a turning block mounted on a pad eye on the after deck, to be led forward from there to the center cockpit to put on a winch. One of our problems was that the rope clutch was broken and the line was led directly to the cockpit from the last stanchion block by the previous owner. So a winch is the only way to belay the line, and there is no way to furl with a primary winch if you're going to need the winch for anything else, and the secondaries (Lewmar 40's) are fairly small for the loads in a storm (plus those winches are also needed for the running backstays).

I could simply replace the broken rope clutch, but it is not reachable from the cockpit and would be fairly awkward to operate in a storm. Maybe I could rig some kind of jammer closer to the winches?

What do you guys use to control your furling lines?


Another question: if your furler jammed or your furling line broke in a storm, what would you do to control the sail? Release the halyard and let the sail blow out of the foil? That would make quite a mess. What is the accepted emergency procedure in such a case?
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Old 05-11-2009, 07:40   #2
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We always put the furling line on a cleat before starting to haul on the sheets when we let the jib out. And we ease the furling line out as there is a tendency to jam on the drum if you let it fly out. I don't like jammers on the furling line as you can't control the line with a jammer, it's either stop or go! A cleat is better. I would mount a cleat somewhere on your coaming.
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Old 05-11-2009, 07:47   #3
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We always put the furling line on a cleat before starting to haul on the sheets when we let the jib out. And we ease the furling line out as there is a tendency to jam on the drum if you let it fly out. I don't like jammers on the furling line as you can't control the line with a jammer, it's either stop or go! A cleat is better. I would mount a cleat somewhere on your coaming.
That would work well if we were handling the line only by hand, but you can't use a cleat between a load and a winch, as far as I know. The yankee is so huge that we can't handle the furling line by hand even in calm weather. We use the winch to control the line going out, and that works fine. The big question is how to belay it after reaching the desired point.
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Old 05-11-2009, 08:10   #4
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Always have a turn around a cleat or a winch when any line is under load so add a big cleat and replace or add a new clutch. We have the same problem with our 1100 sq ft genoa if we are inattentive enough to get caught by a heavy squall we have to use an active winch to furl and it sometimes means running an extra control line via a rolling hitch to free up an active winch or cross winching to the windward side with a messenger line via a rolling hitch.

If the furling line breaks you re-reeve and wrap it 20-25 times the correct way around the drum or the sail has to be dropped but you need to be head to wind and then the sheets might 'beat you to death' so they have to be carefully controlled ...jammed half in and half out a knife and loosing the sail might be the only remedy in an emergency...something I was close to doing with a wrapped 1100 sq ft genoa in a 45 knot squall of Bermuda.

I solved that problem by running a control line via a rolling hitch to free the active sheet, cutting the sheet with the control line to eliminate it from the tangle and then coiling the other line and passing it around the head stay and sail until it was unwrapped, re-running that sheet on the other tack and then releasing the control line. After tacking this freed up the winches on the previously active side so that we could then reef the genoa...lots of fun on the foredeck in 45 knots and 12 ft seas but $4,000 cheaper than using the knife!

We mark furling line for each potential reef with sail thread...we have 1/4, 1/2. 3/4, we then cleat at that position and then release the clutch...we have operating clutch and a cleat
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Old 05-11-2009, 08:13   #5
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I guess you then need a dedicated winch and a jammer. Or a hydraulic furler.
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Old 05-11-2009, 08:15   #6
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We had the same thing happen to us in our "new" boat. The furler worked fine in calm weather but we went out to sea to bring it home and found no place to put it after winching it in in heavy air. We were able to wrestle it onto a cleat but then the winds weren't 50 at the time.
We have since rigged it by going all the way back to the stern and coming back into the cockpit with a turn around a block. We made that block a racheted block with a cam cleat and we have a cleat in line so we can tie it off if we need to. The winch can be used if needed as well. This gives us more control to pull it in by hand in lighter airs (it is not pulling back as you re-grip) and the turn seems to increase our leverage by allowing us to brace ourselves better in our cockpit arrangement.

We have not had it out in a big blow though so I will have to withhold judgement on how well it solves that problem. It does seem to give us much more control options though and it is further back and out of the way of all the other lines going to the winches so we can also keep them from tangling. :-)

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Old 05-11-2009, 08:34   #7
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I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person to have had these problems.

I like the suggestion about the rolling hitches to unload and free up a winch. I'll keep that in mind. That trick would have helped me. In our little adventure, we couldn't get the line back to a winch after it got let go, and so had to bend on another line (using a sheet bend, thank God I knew the knot).

I guess a clutch or a jammer close to the cockpit is going to be the best solution, with a cleat for safety (to take the unloaded end). The only problem is that it will restrict the angle of the line coming into the cockpit and so probably limit me to just one winch. That's not good. Maybe the designers put the clutch on the toe rail for that reason, and maybe I will just have to live with that.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:27   #8
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I have had a furler jam bearings in a 30-35 knot blow.

She would not roll-up, no way. The bearings fell all over the tramp. There is no answer - none that I have heard - other than getting the sail down the foil. Not too bad on a cat - worse on a mono. Even so, I got very wet and appreciated my tether very much. That is the safety draw back of furling gear. It can fail. It tempts you into leaving too much sail up, it is so easy to furl, whereas you might have been more cautious with hank on sails, knowing you would have to go forward.

A jammer in front of a winch is the way to go. The jammer is not for control - it is to free the winch for other things and to keep it furled. When we intend to let out just a bit in a blow, we always load up the winch and take some tention before we let the jammer loose. Letting out "just a little" will take only a few feet of line, and the crew needs to know that.

Everyone has made this mistake, by the way! I imagine it took only a second or 2.
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Old 05-11-2009, 14:09   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

... and the secondaries (Lewmar 40's) are fairly small for the loads in a storm ...

What do you guys use to control your furling lines?

... Another question: if your furler jammed or your furling line broke in a storm, what would you do to control the sail? Release the halyard and let the sail blow out of the foil?... What is the accepted emergency procedure in such a case?
1) something possibly wrong with the furler, these winches should be perfectly adequate,

2) footblock with a jammer - jamm it, line of the winch that can be re used for other purpose,

3)

a) lock the drum, sail (motor) in circles,
b) wrap the bastard with the spinnaker hallyard,
c) ???

Never ever try to drop it flogging - in most cases it will not budge. Maybe if you can have someone drive on the run and then try to drop in the shade of the mainsail.

b.
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Old 05-11-2009, 23:14   #10
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My furling line goes through a clutch on the side deck then to a block at the stern (where you would fix spinnaker blocks). This allows me to put the furling line to which ever primary winch is not loaded at the time.

I did have an experience of a furling line parting on the delivery of a 61ft boat with big overlapping genoa once. In about 30-35kts. Motoring into the wind we took maybe an hour to get it down. It doesn't just 'drop' - the only way we could move it was for a 100kg+ guy to wrap the luff below the feeder round his knees and jump down on it - sometimes it moved an few cm, sometimes it didn't. It did become easier the lower the sail became and the less friction in the system.

I hindsight, the way to do it would be to tie the end of the parted line to a spare line and winch it in.
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Old 06-11-2009, 05:32   #11
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My furling line goes through a clutch on the side deck then to a block at the stern (where you would fix spinnaker blocks). This allows me to put the furling line to which ever primary winch is not loaded at the time.

I did have an experience of a furling line parting on the delivery of a 61ft boat with big overlapping genoa once. In about 30-35kts. Motoring into the wind we took maybe an hour to get it down. It doesn't just 'drop' - the only way we could move it was for a 100kg+ guy to wrap the luff below the feeder round his knees and jump down on it - sometimes it moved an few cm, sometimes it didn't. It did become easier the lower the sail became and the less friction in the system.

I hindsight, the way to do it would be to tie the end of the parted line to a spare line and winch it in.
Yeah, the latter is what we did -- bent on another line with a sheet bend to the end of the furling line, and hauled it in on a big electric primary winch. Much easier than the luff-jumping technique you describe.

But we still had a good bit of line left, to bend something on, which made that possible. If the furler jams irretrievably, like someone above described, then you've got to do something else.

We had a halyard shackle fracture on our staysail in another big blow. The staysail just blew right out of the foil, depowering itself. I guess it depends on how tight the sail fits into the foil, also the strength of the wind I guess (it was blowing 45+ at the time).
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Old 06-11-2009, 05:49   #12
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Very lucky not to loose a finger or two. A wrap around an ankle or wrist would have been painful AT LEAST.
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Old 13-11-2009, 11:49   #13
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You stated how high the loads are. Have you considered how high the loads are on the stanchion mounted furling blocks? I would mount the blocks on the rail, shifting the load to something much more substantial before you rip out your stanchions.
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Old 13-11-2009, 15:12   #14
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I actually thought about the forces on the stanchions. But the pull is very oblique, and all the boats around here have their furling lines run that way. On the toe rail, they (they -- we have two headsails, and two furling lines) would really be in the way.

So I don't think that's the main question. I would be happy just to belay the d*mn thing properly.
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Old 13-11-2009, 15:41   #15
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Quote:
Sailing on the unreefed staysail and deeply reefed main alone was wonderfully balanced but did not provide enough drive, so we attempted to let out the primary foresail, a big yankee, a little bit.
I doubt a little bit of a big yankee would have done much. The shape would have been horrible. The idea of deploying it in that much wind was not a wise choice.

As for Lewmar 40's being too small to furl the sail back in. I would contend if they were too small you should not be using a winch on a furling line. They are not designed for it. The line wrapped on the furling drum is generally pretty loose and when you need a high force to furl it in the line will dig deeper into the coil. The load on the bearings will be extreme. The danger of wrapping the halyard is also real. It is then possible to unlay the forestay and possible to break it or weaken it a great deal.

To furl a roller furler you really have to remove as much load as possible before you try to pull it in.

We don't have stanchion blocks. We have two blocks on the bow sprit that run to a PVC tube (one each per furling line). The run through the bulwarks back to the cockpit to a double cam cleat and behind that a single block for each lines allows the lead to be at any angle. Since the line runs through the cam cleat if you let go the cam grabs the line. Using this system I don't find the need to use a winch. In high winds they don't come in easy.

You should only require about 50 pounds of tension on a jib halyard for a furler. Too much tension binds the bearings and can make it hard to furl even on a dead calm day.
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