Having sailed the Caribbean
for many years in my 42-foot sloop
with hank-on sails
and slab reefing, as I passed the 60 mark it was time to consider some alternatives.
I was shamed into fitting a roller-furling genoa
, being the last boat at Nanny Cay to have hank-on headsails. Sailing buddies coerced me into it, and since I'd just blown out my favorite lightweight headsail for the fourth or fifth time my sailmaker
thought it might be a good idea, too. I thought he just didn't fancy trying to repair the 170% 2oz drifter again.
Anyway, I succumbed. Put a ProFurl LC-42 on the bow, had my sailmaker
cut down my #2 Dacron genoa
to fit, and never looked back. It's still up there, many thousands of seamiles later. And, I've come to love the ProFurl.
I often sail alone. After one particularly poignant moment trying to secure my mainsail
with nylon stops in a seaway near Marina Cay (one moment clutching the boom, the next moment lying in the lifelines
with a dazed look on my face), I came to think about options for mainsail furling
. I'd always favored the slab reefing approach: simple, fast, sure. But -- no getting away from it -- one had to be on deck
to make it work.
I never liked lazyjacks, since I first had them on a 10-ton gaff rigged ketch
. Didn't like the Dutchman, either. Or any other such systems I saw.
After much investigation and poring over the horror stories, I decided absolutely against in-mast furling
. Might be fine for very large boats with professional crews. But, IMHO they're a disaster waiting to happen on smaller yachts.
Behind-the-mast furling systems were interesting. While there are several commercial
variants -- all of which I didn't really like for one reason or another -- a simple and popular and relatively inexpensive solution is just to fit a ProFurl (or lesser furler) behind the mast
. Treat the main like you do the headsail. Simple. Requires only minor modifications to mast
. This would be a very good way to go for many sailors, and many cruising boats have done it successfully.
However, there are at least two drawbacks: (1) when the sail is furled, you still have weight and windage aloft; and (2) you lose some sailing performance since you can't have a full roach or full horizontal battens. These might not be of much importance if you have a run-of-the mill cruiser, but for a performance cruiser they could be important.
Which leaves in-boom furling. Much more costly. Much more modification required to existing rig. You really need a new purpose-built mainsail to do it right. And, if you've got a 40-footer or above, you really need an electric winch. All of which spells big $$$.
I agonized for months. ProFurl behind the mast, or LeisureFurl (the only game
in town at the time).
Finally, I bit the bullet, wiped out the bank account, and fitted a custom-built LeisureFurl, with a new North Sails
main and a Lemar electric winch in the cockpit.
Here's a pic of the LeisureFurl from the front: Gallery :: Born Free Maine Trip 2007 :: DSC_0452e
And, here's one from the side: Gallery :: Born Free Maine Trip 2007 :: DSC_0312c
I absolutely love the system. Once you get used to it, and if you're reasonably cautious in the way you raise and lower the main, it goes very smoothly. You can roll in or out any size sail needed for the present conditions. You don't wait too long to reef because you dread going forward in a sloppy sea.
Now, I've got total control of both headsail and mainsail without leaving the cockpit. Wow...what a concept!
For older sailors, roller reefing and electric-assisted roller furling
are a blessing.