Thursday, May 12, 2011

For Today's Project

New Bern, NC
35 05.91 N 077 01.95 W

Last week, when out sailing with David, the jib furler suddenly acted up.   It was extremely hard to furl the sail.  We had to use the winch.   Same problem next time I unfurled -- extreme friction.    I made a mental note to take it apart and lubricate the parts, but it seemed strange that friction should appear so suddenly.

In New Bern, we have the unusual privilege of having Tarwathie's bowsprit sticking out over the flat surface of the dock.  I looked when walking by, and I spotted the real problem.  It appears that a screw came loose, allowing some of the plastic parts to come apart.  Actually I can't be 100% sure that was the cause of the problem or a consequence of the problem.

Today's project was to repair that. I took advantage of having the bowsprit stick out over the dock and put out a drop cloth underneath it.  The cloth could catch all the screws and nuts I dropped as I went along.  Usually, those things I drop when working on the furler go straight into the sea.

The three pictures below show my furler in exploded views.  It's a complex apparatus.  My repair was essentially to redo the two steps shown in the third picture.   I also took advantage of having, Mitchel Hardware nearby.  It is an old fashioned hardware store.  I needed three 6mm screws with 1mm pitch and torx heads, and 6mm nylon lock nuts; all in stainless.  I found everything, except that I had to settle for hex heads rather than torx.  Not bad.   The job took two hours.

We have had this furler for 3 years.  I bought the Furlex brand because it is supposed to be the Cadilac of furler brands.  After 40 years of sailing, it is the first furler I ever owned.  I must say that after three years, I have a love-hate relationship to it.  At times, I wish I could go back to the old fashioned hanked-on sail.

I'll confess to being 50% of the problem.  The new jib I ordered with the new furler 3 years ago was specified to be made of 7 ounce cloth.   I though it would last longer.   I didn't reckon with weight and stiffness.  The sail is far too heavy, perhaps 150 pounds.  It is also stiff and hard to roll up requiring lots of force to pull the furler control line.  I suspect that it overloads the Furlex furler's capacity.  

The other half of the problem has to do with the control line that wraps around the drum.  If you wrap too many turns around the drum, the diameter of the roll becomes too thick and it rubs against the outer cover.  Too few turns and you run out of line before the sail is fully wound up.   I added and subtracted turns until I had the right balance.  At least I thought so.  

One day out at sea, I had to furl the sail at night in very heavy wind.   The force on the control line was too much.  I had to use the winch.   That caused the turns around the drum to tighten much more than normal causing me to run out of line before the sail was fully furled.  (20 loose turns could become 17 turns when pulled very tight.)  I couldn't see that because it was dark.   I kept turning the winch and pulled the drum apart in it's two pieces.  (See the assembly diagram above).  It also pulled out the screws that hold the outer covers on.  Miraculously, none of the parts dropped into the ocean.  Nevertheless, that was something I definitely could not repair at sea in heavy weather, so the jib was out of service for the remainder of that passage.  Ever since that day, the furler is even harder to operate.  I think some of the plastic parts got distorted.  Libby needs to use the winch 100% of the time to roll up the jib, even in light conditions.

If I was crossing an ocean, I'm sure I would feel much safer with a hanked-on sail.  The furler is too complicated.  Too easily broken, and impossible to repair under way out at the end of a long bowsprit.  Blue water sailors will recognize the mantra.  KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

1 comment:

  1. Dick: I have the same furler... I find that I must drag the furler line when unfurling so the wrap is tight otherwise the over warp will bind up.

    I've also seen problems with the inner plastic ushaped guide - the furler line gets underneath the plastic and jams up.

    I was thinking to remove the inner plastic piece to stop the jamming.


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