Boom Furling has been around for over 50 years albeit untill the last decade, involved rolling the main around the outside of the boom rather than into the boom itself. (For example, the Hiscock's had roller furling
on the main boom of that Wanderer III, built in 1951-'52.) The primary problem with such a system is getting a decent furl if the sail has any shape; and, being able to keep the foot of the sail tight. Classic "slab" reefing handles these issues well and avoids the possibility of the sail becoming jambed in the boom, or worse, mast, when one really, really needs to reduce sail area.
We have slab reefing on our Beneteau
First 42 and have not found relying on that particularly difficult. While I have never needed it, we do have a down-haul rigged to help lower the sail. In our case, we have a "Dutchman" flaking system which supports the bunt of the sail but that's really not an issue either and the Dutchman does complicate tying in reef-lines along the foot of the sail once the reef is made. The key to being able to reef effectively is practice, practice, practice. We have our main halyard marked with whipping thread at the set points for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd reefs
so one can see, and in the dark feel, how much to release the halyard for the respective reefs
. One only has to remember to release the vang and if the vang does not support the boom, take up on the topping lift
, before releasing the halyard. We also have a winch on the mast below the boom to take up the out-huals--which are ordered 1,2,3, from starboard to port, at the goose neck, again something that can be done by feel alone, in the dark, if necessary.
Regarding the "Winch Buddy" or its generic counter-parts, as I have limited use of my left arm, we have been using a right-angle Milwaukee Drill (in our case the original 18 volt version) with a winch bit for 3+ years and have found it to be a good, and economical, alternative to installing electric winches. We use it to raise the main, trim the jibs while tacking, and, when time comes, to furl the headsail. The batteries don't last quite as long as I would like but we carry two and even with the 12 volt charger
, they recharge quite quickly. My only disappointment has been the longevity of the batteries themselves but that may be because we only use them intermitantly. Still, at $80 USD each, they are not inexpensive and we are already through our scond set. (On the other hand, adding power to our Lewmar
winches priced out at over $3,000 USD each for the drives alone plus the cost of the electrical
, et al!)
N'any case, FWIW!