Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Captain Bumbler

Labelle, FL

[This post was written November 2015, but I forgot to push the Publish button.]

We all make mistakes. Today's story though is about a chain of mistakes so bad that I'm embarrassed to tell about it.

Our Furlex jib furler has been trouble ever since we bought it. I regret switching from a hanked on sail to roller furling. I never felt that there was a chance that we could not take the hanked-on jib down, but there have been several cases where it would not furl, or I feared that it would not furl. Last week on the Saint Lucie river was the first time we used the jib since leaving Green Cove Springs. It refused to roll back up. I went forward and inspected and tested the roll-up by hand. It was OK. But the furling line refused to pull. I used the windlass to the point where the line broke. We had to take down the jib. Jib sail out-of-service.

The cause of the fuller trouble was this bad block that I didn't notice. Ugh.

The main sheet is the line (rope to land lubbers) that goes between the boom to the boat. You let line out to allow the boom to swing wider, and pull line in to make the boom tighter. The mainsheet traveler is a device which allows you to move the point where the mainsheet meets the boat to port or starboard. Because the traveler may need to be moved under heavy loads, it is technically sophisticated.

Anyhow, the rubber bumpers on all the various parts of our traveler were falling apart. I had trouble finding replacements online (because our Lewmar traveler is a model considered antique). Last spring I decided to do more research during the summer, so I took it apart, and put the parts in a sandwich bag to bring north with us. As I took it apart, a whole bunch of ball bearings spilled out and rolled across the deck. Oh no! I think I found all of them and put them in the bag.

Well, over the summer I forgot all about the traveler parts. I never saw the bag while camping, or in North Carolina, or in Vermont. Then, the other day we were crossing Lake Okeechobee in stiff winds 20-25 knots. It was choppy and bumpy. I raised the main sail. Libby, at the helm, shouted, "Take it down!" When I went to look, I saw that the traveler car had broken and lifted entirely off the track. I had forgotten about the missing parts, and ball bearings! Main sail out-of-service.

What now? If we had been out at sea, we would have been in trouble. No jib. No main sail. (We do have a small staysail in reserve.) I hate to say it, but my seamanship was unforgivably poor. I wanted to turn around and go back against the wind, but Libby convinced me to continue ahead under power.

Later when we got off the lake, my brain started working again. I thought, "Aha, we have six emergency backup traveler cars on board." We have genoa tracks, port and starboard, both with blocks, and which slide back and forth or which can drop a pin in a hole to stay fixed. We also have staysail tracks port and starboard, with traveling blocks of the same kind. All those tracks are 1.25" wide, the same size as our mainsheet traveler track. All I had to do was to borrow one of those blocks. Wrong :-(

What I failed to consider was that the cross section of a 1.25" Lewmar track is different than a Harken 1.25" track. The blocks wouldn't fit.

Two days later, I came up with another idea. Westsail 32s originally sheeted their booms from the end of the boom. Therefore I rigged our mainsheet blocks to the fitting at the end of the boomkin where the back stay attaches, and from there to the end of the boom. That will not work in heavy weather, but it should work fine in light to moderate winds. I should of thought of that within minutes of the traveler failure.

Next task, lubricate the jib furler yet again (I did it last winter) and try to make it work. At least part of the problem is that our jib is made of heavy 7 oz cloth, and it is partially doubled where the sunbrella sun shade is. That makes it extremely hard to make the first (innermost) turn to roll it up. If that doesn't work, we will be limited to the staysail for a while.

I'm afraid that I am devolving from a reasonable competent, vigilant, and innovative sailor, into a bumbler. I promise to elaborate on that later.

The broken car beside the track.
End view of the track and car.
One of the traveling blocks that I hoped to use. Note the different track type.


1 comment:

  1. With my furlex - I find that I have to drag the line as it slowly unfurls to prevent over wrap on the drum when I furl up the sail.


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