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!