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Old 21-04-2018, 17:33   #1
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Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

My good old Contessa 32 came with a Profurl unit, probably made in the mid-80's, probably (going by online photos) an N42. It has served me well for 5 seasons, some of it fairly heavy sailing. Never had an issue with it.

So it is Spring and time to bend the new sails on, which I did today. The genoa is a difficult hoist (I think the Profurl extrusion is just a tick small for my luff tape), but it went up OK. When it was time to roll it up, I got a nasty surprise.

During the roll-up, the Profurl unit made a very strange "tick" or "clunk" sound at a consistent rotation, i.e. one clunk per rotation, always in the same position. Also, it juddered or jumped a little with each clunk (as if something inside was riding up over something else, then falling back down into a normal position). I was gobsmacked: it's never done that before. Since taking the sails off last winter, the boat has sat quietly at a somewhat protected dock. There have been windy and rainy days of course, and some snow, but that furler hasn't been rotated for months. How, I ask myself, can it have broken while doing nothing?

While grasping for explanations, I recall that in January I replaced the ancient bimini with a hard-topped version. This involved temporarily removing the backstay, which of course would have slackened the forestay. So I wonder whether there is something (??) inside the Profurl that, under inadequate tension, might have slipped or slid into a location that would rub on the mechanism as it turns. I restored the backstay carefully to its original tension when the bimini was complete, so again I'm surprised that there would be such a noticeable change.

I don't think the bearing races are going, because I would expect that to produce more of a continuous grinding or growling effect, and also difficulty of furling/unfurling. The rotation is just as smooth as it ever was, and no more difficult, except in that one location where there is a hiccup.

I know that sound transmits well over wires under tension, so it's just possible that the interference is at the masthead and I'm hearing the noise down at deck level; but using binocs I was unable to see anything peculiar happening up there, and I would swear the noise is coming from inside the drum assembly.

I took a quick look at Profurl's minimalist documentation, and didn't get much out of it.

Anyway, the season is just beginning and I have enough projects to do -- so this mysterious new noise and weird behaviour are very unwelcome. My Profurl must be over 30 years old by now, so it's gonna be impossible to get replacement parts. My online reading suggests that taking apart a unit this old is a high-risk venture (it may not come apart, or it may be damaged by extreme measures needed to disassemble).

So if this leads to complete failure then I'll be shopping for a whole new roller furling setup (ouch) and a rigger to install it (double ouch). And just at the worst time of year. So I am rather anxious about it and would love to hear from anyone who has ever seen/heard anything similar.
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Old 21-04-2018, 18:06   #2
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CO32_Tazling View Post
My good old Contessa 32 came with a Profurl unit, probably made in the mid-80's, probably (going by online photos) an N42. It has served me well for 5 seasons, some of it fairly heavy sailing. Never had an issue with it.

So it is Spring and time to bend the new sails on, which I did today. The genoa is a difficult hoist (I think the Profurl extrusion is just a tick small for my luff tape), but it went up OK. When it was time to roll it up, I got a nasty surprise.

During the roll-up, the Profurl unit made a very strange "tick" or "clunk" sound at a consistent rotation, i.e. one clunk per rotation, always in the same position. Also, it juddered or jumped a little with each clunk (as if something inside was riding up over something else, then falling back down into a normal position). I was gobsmacked: it's never done that before. Since taking the sails off last winter, the boat has sat quietly at a somewhat protected dock. There have been windy and rainy days of course, and some snow, but that furler hasn't been rotated for months. How, I ask myself, can it have broken while doing nothing?

While grasping for explanations, I recall that in January I replaced the ancient bimini with a hard-topped version. This involved temporarily removing the backstay, which of course would have slackened the forestay. So I wonder whether there is something (??) inside the Profurl that, under inadequate tension, might have slipped or slid into a location that would rub on the mechanism as it turns. I restored the backstay carefully to its original tension when the bimini was complete, so again I'm surprised that there would be such a noticeable change.

I don't think the bearing races are going, because I would expect that to produce more of a continuous grinding or growling effect, and also difficulty of furling/unfurling. The rotation is just as smooth as it ever was, and no more difficult, except in that one location where there is a hiccup.

I know that sound transmits well over wires under tension, so it's just possible that the interference is at the masthead and I'm hearing the noise down at deck level; but using binocs I was unable to see anything peculiar happening up there, and I would swear the noise is coming from inside the drum assembly.

I took a quick look at Profurl's minimalist documentation, and didn't get much out of it.

Anyway, the season is just beginning and I have enough projects to do -- so this mysterious new noise and weird behaviour are very unwelcome. My Profurl must be over 30 years old by now, so it's gonna be impossible to get replacement parts. My online reading suggests that taking apart a unit this old is a high-risk venture (it may not come apart, or it may be damaged by extreme measures needed to disassemble).

So if this leads to complete failure then I'll be shopping for a whole new roller furling setup (ouch) and a rigger to install it (double ouch). And just at the worst time of year. So I am rather anxious about it and would love to hear from anyone who has ever seen/heard anything similar.
"How, I ask myself, can it have broken while doing nothing?"

Thats what boats do for a living isnt it? Im amazed at how much stuff breaks on a boat just sitting unused.

I faced your delima last year, my old reliable ProFurl was starting to show signs of issues. I decided to rebuild, in theory not that hard nor expensive, but...removing and reseating large diameter bearings and seals is harder than it looks. ( In the end a machine shop irreparably damaged the upper swivel while trying to press the whole assembly back together. ProFurl wanted almost $1K just for the upper swivel. So, I ended up replacing the furler.

The seals and bearings are off the shelf items so you should not have any issues sourcing those. The large diameter snap rings need a good heavy set of snap ring pliers...not the flimsy little ones. Get two beefy ones...one for each direction (inner and outter)...you will be glad you did.

ProFurls also tend to have issues with bi-metal corrossion. My lower drum was basically fused into a single unit...requiring some convincing and drilling to disassemble.

A pro rigger friend originally suggested to just replace and not rebuild. His perspective was that squeaking a few more seasaons out of a now potentially less reliable furler was not good economics or ideal for saftey either. However, rebuilding is WAY less expensive than new so I gave it a shot. In my case it didnt work out, but it has for others.

No big harm in giving it a go, if it works out then you've saved a lot of cash.

How old is the forestay wire inside of the furler?
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Old 21-04-2018, 18:51   #3
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

Well there is one other thing -- it's possible that my buddy who was helping might have been a bit over enthusiastic on the genoa hoist, as he's a bit of a gorilla. I've read that you shouldn't overtension the luff on a genoa on a furler. But really, could a 1-speed halyard winch have bent the insides of a Profurl unit? I'll investigate further when I've recovered from the cold shudders.
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Old 21-04-2018, 21:02   #4
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

It may not be that difficult. I replace the bearings in mine 9 years ago and it remains smooth as glass. Some parts were seized, but they didn't all need to come apart.

https://sail-delmarva.blogspot.com/2...placement.html

I did replace the plastic balls with stainless and grease, adding a slinger to exclude water from the top.

Go for it. You can do it with mast up if you bring some halyards forward.
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Old 22-04-2018, 09:19   #5
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

It is not hard to install a new Profurl. Anyone with average skill can do it, as long as you don't mind working aloft and probably also want a helper.
20 years later, no maintenance (manual did not recommend any) and it still works perfectly.
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Old 22-04-2018, 09:58   #6
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

Proper troubleshooting will answer a lot of the questions and give you so data to make a decision as to the next step.

Remove the sail from the foil and then carefully check the top and bottom swivel for odd behavior. My first guess would be that the furling line has an issue, not the bearings, but I admit that is simply something to assess. Could the whole assembly shift on the forestay so that it rubs on the stay or the turnbuckle inside the drum? Very unlikely but if it did that is easy to see.

You can rebuild both the top and bottom swivels with non-Profurl parts except for the acetal bearing in the top swivel but that is not an expensive part from Profurl.
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Old 22-04-2018, 10:50   #7
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

Hello,
It could be a brocken wire.
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Old 22-04-2018, 11:22   #8
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

I would try to see if your extrusion has dropped down into the drum unit and is sitting on your swage fitting in Or your have a broken wire.
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Old 22-04-2018, 14:29   #9
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

I believe that there is a “cup” that the extrusions sit in on the torque tube - which if it fails, let’s the extrusions ride on the turnbuckle ???????
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Old 22-04-2018, 18:24   #10
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Re: Old Profurl, strange new noise... advice?

Hi all, thanks for interesting hints and clues. Went down to the dock and had a good long look, saw that the "darth vader hat" was in what looked like the wrong rotation (the rigger who last worked on my boat was kind of a flake) and the halyard was running over the fat part of the rim instead of through the notch. The notch was facing to port instead of aft (which is where I'm guessing it should be). So hmmm, maybe that sharp bend in the halyard was putting a lot of side loading on the extrusion at the top. Dropped the sail (it came down fairly easily) and had a close look at the rotating parts.

Both seemed fine and there was only the very faintest ghost of a "scrape" at the hiccup point, when rotating the foil. I could hear it in the extrusion, so I'm pretty sure that is what is touching something somewhere. The top bearing unit seemed a little loose (some side/side wiggle) on the foil but otherwise both turn freely and smoothly, no bad-bearing feeling at all. The foil seemed very firmly anchored in the bottom unit, no slop. Whatever it is grinding on, it contacts only when the sail is actually hoisted.

Then we started over, being very careful to keep the halyard in the notch of the darth vader hat.

It was bloody difficult going up. Tremendous friction. Maybe it's the odd-size extrusion on the Profurls. But up it went; and of course then the breeze kicked up (why is it that an unforecast breeze always kicks up just when you have a big genoa 3/4 of the way up the forestay?). Got it wound in OK. But guess what, when any significant side loading is placed on the sheet (as when rolling it in with a stiff breeze IRL), it still Clunks while winding in. Not quite as badly as before, but the clunk is still there.

A quite expert sailor wandering by said he thought the forestay looked kinda slack, and maybe the slack stay was touching the foil interior. It does seem a bit loosey goosey, and I don't really trust that rigger to have set everything up properly (he did a sloppy job in some other respects). The aft lowers are too soft; I think I could relax the fwd lowers a bit, bring the backstay in a tick, take a bit in on the aft lowers, and end up with a tighter forestay w/o too much mast bend. I notice that the stainless tangs that support the lower furling unit (they bracket the turnbuckle) are bowed outward slightly, as if someone at some point had tightened the forestay w/o adjusting the furler length. But maybe they are supposed to be bowed out slightly -- I've never installed one of these so I don't know.

So the mystery continues. I suspect if the foil is touching something as it rotates, it will rather quickly get ground down and the hiccup will diminish in severity. I'm gonna take the boat out for the spring shakedown -- seems like the furler is working well enough for a short trip. But I do wish I understood what is going on!
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