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Old 26-05-2008, 09:44   #1
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In mast furler issues

Hiya all,

I had a somewhat nasty experience last week out on the water, which has made me lose a bit of faith in my mast furling system. My boat has an older Hood mast furling unit, which so far has operated without any significant issues. Last week, in 25-30 knot winds, while reefed, my topping lift came off the cleat (which was my fault, after buying the boat I should have put a longer line on it when I noticed it was too short to cleat properly!).
Anyway, after the topping lift let go, because the sail was reefed, the boom dropped down, and the swing batten caught the shroud. Lovely! So with the sails out about 1/3 of the way, and flopping all about, it tore the batten out of the pocket, and the rope inside that you pull to swing the batten into the vertical position wound its way around the shroud, and twisted itself to magically cement itself onto the shroud. After working at it for 10 minutes with a boat hook, it still wouldn't come loose. So, I decided to just cut the batten line, and furl the sail in, and deal with rethreading it later. Unfortunately, after cutting the line, good old Murphy's law took over, and the main furling unit jammed!

Being at the mouth of the harbor, and with big storm clouds coming, and being the only sailboat in sight where there had been dozens, and realizing I'm not the old salt I hope to be one day, I decided the best course of action was to wrap a halyard around the mast to pin the sail down, and get my behind back into the marina where I could at least work in shelter/safety.

I got back with a few cuts and scrapes, but with what I felt was a reasonable performance under a stressful situation for an inexperienced skipper. No sunk boat, nobody hurt, so all in all, not a big deal. The sail had a small hole torn from where it had caught the shroud, and both batten pockets ended up getting torn, but that's repairable.

I went up the mast in the bosuns chair this weekend, and freed the sail so that I could get it out, pulled off the batten pockets, and when I got down, I was unable to get the sail back in! Something is jammed somewhere at the top of the unit I think, as nothing is visible at the base of it.

The thing that bothers me the most about the in mast furling system, is that if something goes wrong in bad weather, you're really in deep doodoo. You really have no options, as you can't drop the sail if it's reefed in at all (as I was), and you can't be going up the mast in 30+ knot winds and significant chop smacking you about.

I'm going to look into getting a rigging specialist to fix the unit, and inspect it to try and minimize the chance of this happening again. But this brings me to a bigger question-

As the unit is old, is it possible to convert this to a standard sail configuration? Then I could have my main re-cut, and drop the sail like normal. At least then I always know I can do so, even if it requires more effort (I don't single hand, and most people get along fine this way!) and after that experience I'm feeling a bit conservative when it comes to having control!

Is that possible, or are you basically talking about buying a new mast, boom, and spending more money than it'd be worth on an older sailboat? If anyone knows around what kind of costs that would entail, I'd be interested to know.

Another option - is it horribly expensive to upgrade the unit to a newer one? Is that even possible or again is it a new mast? I'm guessing that the newer units have more of the kinks worked out that my 10-20 year old system...

Thanks for letting me pick your brains!

Matt
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Old 26-05-2008, 12:11   #2
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Matt... I hate to do a "me too" posting, but I will also be very interested in hearing comments from others who have this system. I just bought an Amazon 44 with the Hood in-mast furler, circa 1987. No problems yet, but I've only had the sail out twice, and in mild conditions. I'd be interested in hearing advice about preventive maintenance of an aging unit... and things to check before they rear their ugly heads.

Mine is in the photo below; I assume it's similar.

Glad you made it in safely!

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 26-05-2008, 12:14   #3
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Yes, it does indeed look very similar. I'm guessing they could be identical units, as I expect my unit to be from somewhere between 83 and 90.
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Old 26-05-2008, 14:47   #4
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I've looked a bit online, and seen a couple people talking about removing the unit, and just installing the track into the mast. does anyone have opinions on whether this is something that would just a really bad idea?

I'm guessing that if the mast can hold the furling system + sail, it shouldn't really have problems with the same size sail and a track installed on the inside of the mast, unless there are issues with where the stress on the boom ends up, but I'd think it'd be pretty similar... Does that make sense?

I'm not sure i'll even have to replace the unit, I'm guessing it can be fixed, but after the issues I had, I like thinking about what my "Plan B" would be if I decided to go back to a slab or conventional reefing system....
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Old 26-05-2008, 15:12   #5
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IMHO, you guys are in deep doo doo; you just haven't fully realized it yet.

Again, IMHO and my experience, in-mast furling may be appropriate for BIG boats...60' and over....but not for smaller boats. It's just an accident waiting to happen. And, unfortunately, if you actually move your boat out of the slip it's gonna happen one day.

There's really only one fix: you need to replace the mast and then install either a conventional reefing system (e.g., a slab-reefing system) OR an in-boom furler. Best ones out there these days are LeisureFurl and Schaefer. These alternatives may involve a new or recut main, also.

Sorry. I know it's big bucks. But there's really no satisfactory alternative.

Bill
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Old 26-05-2008, 16:43   #6
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The Hood in mast furling systems can be fixed and parts are available. (Mast may have to come out of boat to fix depending what the problem is.)
The newer Selden product is a lot better that the masts from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Yes if they jam then it will happen at an inopportune time for sure (Murphy’s law)
I am not a fan of them for this reason.
Furling booms do jam as well but you can get your sail off a lot easier.
I prefer the tried and proven method of reefing (Slab with a good batten car system and lazy jacks) With single line reefing I can get a reef into a boat as quick as you can with a furling boom.
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Old 26-05-2008, 16:53   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kismet424 View Post
I've looked a bit online, and seen a couple people talking about removing the unit, and just installing the track into the mast. does anyone have opinions on whether this is something that would just a really bad idea?

I'm guessing that if the mast can hold the furling system + sail, it shouldn't really have problems with the same size sail and a track installed on the inside of the mast, unless there are issues with where the stress on the boom ends up, but I'd think it'd be pretty similar... Does that make sense?

I'm not sure i'll even have to replace the unit, I'm guessing it can be fixed, but after the issues I had, I like thinking about what my "Plan B" would be if I decided to go back to a slab or conventional reefing system....
The installation of a track may be an issue depending on the mast section.
To fit a track you will have to drill and tap the track to the mast. The mast is open near the back for the sail to feed into and the wall thickness is generally not as great as for the rest of mast. (As this is just a storage cavity) Will the back be strong enough to handle the loads of the head when reefed? These questions would need some input from a spar maker that can look at the job and work out your headboard load when deeply reefed. However in my experience I would say not.
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Old 26-05-2008, 19:19   #8
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I've had just about every form of mainsail system - starting with gaff rigged with hoops. I currently have inmast furling and am very happy. I might still try in boom in a future boat for better sail shape but might stick with in-mast.

Most (as in well over 50%) of new monohull cruising boats over 40ft now are built with in-mast furling and this includes premium "blue water" boats - Oyster, Halberg-Rassey, Hylas, and Amel to name just a few. Satisfaction from owners seems very high. I have never spoken to someone who had owned a boat with in-mast or in-boom furling who went back to a traditional rig - although I'm sure there are some. The Hood system is a little dated but has a very wide slot that is not normally prone to jamming (the wind whistling is an issue!).

So, before you dismantle your system, I'd consider the cost of bringing it up to date. From your description you seem to have two areas to consider:

a) You need a rigid boom vang. Topping lifts don't control the boom angle well enough to make in-mast furling systems reliable. They're not cheap but it will make all the difference.

b) It sounds like you may have a mainsail with swiveling battens. The only sail like this I know of was made by Doyle and they stopped. You can either have a sailmaker recut the leech so that you don't need battens or install short vertical battens (about 6 ft).

If you do decide to switch, I would think about getting a new mast. There's no reason to carry around the extra weight aloft if you aren't going to have the benefit of in-mast furling.

Carl
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Old 26-05-2008, 19:32   #9
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I've got a Hood Stowaway mainsail furling system on a 1979 Gulfstar...I've attached a picture of the furling crank on the front of the mast.

Two questions:

is this what most of them look like...i.e. a place to put a winch handle and roll the sail in and out.


Does anyone have a source for parts...notice the piece that holds one end of the winch handle insert mechanism, and also locks the handle, thus enabling you to be reefed, is cracked. I would like to replace this piece, but can't seem to find one...thinking about having something made, but would like to buy a part if anyone has a source.

I've attached a picture, well no I didn't since I can't get it to work...I'll try again when I figure it out..
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Old 26-05-2008, 19:36   #10
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Picture of Hood Stowaway furling mechanism on front of mast

Ok, NOW I have the picture...anyone know where I can get one of these without the crack in it?

thanks
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Old 26-05-2008, 22:24   #11
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i recently bought a 42ft boat with selden in-mast furling. i was of a mind to replace it with a standard mast with single line reefing on the main (as a mech eng i prefer the simplicity).

i have just spent 2 weeks sailing in croatia and i would guess that 98% of the sailboats there available for charter have in-mast furling (selden appeared to be most common). there were 300+ charter boats available from the marina we sailed out of and they ranged from 35 to 55ft. i asked, and was told, that this confirguration was the norm throughout the eastern med so we are talking several thousand boats.

given that many of the charterers are neophytes (to put it as generously as i can!!) this form of reefing must be reasonably robust and reliable (i don't imagine the charter companies are into replacing main sails too often or spending a fortune on furling mechnism maintenance)

i have decided to give the in-mast furling system i have i good trial before doing anything radical because if it can be proven to be a reliable form of reefing the advantages are significant.
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Old 17-06-2008, 09:40   #12
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Update on mast furler

Thanks to everyone for the advice - it has been really valuable as I've worked through this problem.

I had a rigging guy come and help with the mast - and it turns out the furling unit is fine. There is an endless loop that goes from the unit back to the cockpit so that you can furl the sail from there. The rope was always tight, but it had shrunk and tightened to the point where it was jamming the unit! The guy cut the line, and the sail rolled right out by pulling on the clew!

After resplicing the endless loop, it worked great.

Taking the advice here, I brought the sail back to Doyle, and they recut it with vertical battens. I didn't lose much roach. Worked great on my sail to Lloyd's Neck Harbor this weekend. The sailmaker even remembered trying to talk the previous owner out of swing battens! His opinion was that if you had a high performance yacht with a furling mast, then MAYBE it made sense, but for a big girl like my boat, it's not really buying you much.

So getting that done, and also splicing a longer line on my topping lift, which I should have done before, I'm back in action, and all for a lot less than I thought it would cost.

I'm also adding a rigid boom vang as recommended - i think this will be nice in the long run, once I get the $$$ together for it.

Just wanted to send a big thank you out again for the great advice.

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Old 17-06-2008, 10:00   #13
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Nice to see a thread about in-mast furling with a happy ending. I was a skeptic too until I got it four years ago. These systems have come a long way and like anything you have to know how to properly use them. A rigid vang is a must.
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Old 18-06-2008, 20:27   #14
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The greatest attribute of IMF is it makes it easy for lazy and poor sailors to stow the sail and turn the motor on. I make sails and I have yet to see a reasonable shaped furl er with a good roach even when battens are used. Why make whats simple and works well complicated. Up to a 50 footer lazy jacks a good sail slide sx and a couple full battens work well even for a 70yr old timer like myself but I'm a sailor and I'm not lazy- I must say that roller jibs do work well enough now that on larger boats > 35ft they are acceptable and may be worth the compromise involved with sail size, shape and overall performance- but when I see a roller furling main it sends a relatively accurate message about the sailing interests and ability of the skipper. Different folks different boats - just beware the roller furl er it robs you of performance and ultimate reliability
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Old 29-12-2008, 19:49   #15
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Thanks eyschulman, What you say makes sense. I'm, at 61, ready for another extended sail and am looking at Mason, Little Harbor, Bristol....etc. I'm here to see what people say about IMF. If I stay under 50 feet I may try to go with a conventional rig with lazy jacks.
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