Safety & in-mast furling main sails

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John Reimann's picture
John Reimann
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Safety & in-mast furling main sails

I've seen a lot of discussions on safety and in-mast furling main sails. The other day I was talking (more like listening) to a sailing traditionalist who was telling me how unsafe they are because if you have to take down the main suddenly and the furling mechanism gets jammed then you can't take the sail down. It's true that that's a potential hazard, although I haven't heard yet of that happening.

However, there's another side that occurred to me two days later while I was sailing from SF Bay up to Bodega Bay - an overnight trip. My sailing buddy was very sea sick and basically couldn't do anything. I needed to reef the main sail as the wind was starting to overpower the boat, and I wasn't feeling any too great either. It occurred to me that if I'd had to get out of the cockpit for any reason, or even perform any strenuous task in the cockpit, I wouldn't feel very safe doing so. Even if I'd had lazy jacks, I wouldn't have felt completely confident, especially since I've seen them get hung up and somebody had to go on deck to free them. I feel the in-mast furler was a safety factor, not simply a convenience, under those conditions.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have a boat without in-mast furling (or, maybe better yet, in-boom furling), and there are obvious advantages to neither of these systems. But it's just something else to consider about in-mast or in-boom furling.

SF Bay
1998 C36

Rockman's picture
Rockman
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Our 375's have head sail furler and in-mast furling. I know traditionalist poo-poo the in-mast furlers, but after using one while sailing, they are magic. I can go from no sail, to both sails out and working within 30 seconds. With no effort.

Once my wife saw how easy it was to get the main sail in and out (our previous boat had a traditional main - that required you to leave the cockpit and haul the sail up). She felt much safer and happy to put the main up, because it could be taken down so easily.

As for getting caught in strong winds - that comes down to planning and anticipating the weather. Remember if you think is might be time to reef - it probably is.

Cat375 - Rock The Boat - Hull 54
Lake Macquarie - NSW - Australia

BudStreet
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We love the idea of the in-mast reefing main but I've seen some figures on what all that weight aloft does to the stability indexes for the boat and it's not good. If I was going to go that way I'd prefer in-boom just for the weight issue. I'd really like to have in boom reefing but it's beyond our budget if we actually want to go cruising next year.

We have all our main sail lines and both reefing lines led back to the cockpit. Reefing it can be done from the cockpit - except for putting the 3 ties on the middle of the sail which maybe you could get by without but it'd be hard on the sail maybe even tear it. We've been practicing this and are getting better at it. We run a jackline on deck whenever we are going out of the back bays. There's a lot of friction in the reefing lines and I think I am going to put blocks on the sail to mitigate that, does anyone know how much that helps?

I've always thought there had to be a better way to shorten sail though and I can't imagine doing it single handed.

Have to agree with Rockman's comments about when to reef, problem is that our weather forecasts are so bad now it is really easy to get caught out. It happened to us several times last year, predicted 15 kts of wind and we got 30 plus. We kind of track the success rate, it's about 30% for being right and about 30% for being totally wrong, especially with wind, the rest is varying degrees of wrong. Environment Canada's marine forecasts are extremely lightweight and devoid of detail. Often all we hear is "wind light" which is a bloody joke. It was "wind light" at their 1030 update one day while the wind was already at 18 kts and we eventually got 32 kts. I see what NOAA gives you guys south of the border and am envious, at least they're trying to give a detailed forecast versus our "wind light". I realize predicting the weather is difficult, but I just get the impression some of these guys aren't even trying. It is so bad we have a reef in the main most of the time. It really winds me up and to me, it typifies all that is wrong with government ministries in this country (bearing in mind I worked for three different ones for 28 years so know well the nonsense that goes on). Sorry for the rant, but it's a real sore point.

greigwill
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Posts: 174

The biggest difference between power boat seamanship and sail is the ability to reef.When i am asked to instruct on someones boat,i wont go out until we can figure out how to reef the main then practice it at dockside.And yes i have been a contract skipper on an older Bene 40 when the roller main jammed half out and would not go back in...when i bought my 1990 C36 last year i knew how i wanted to rig the reef lines and was the first thing i did.My slab reef lines are seperate,leech cringle and luff cringle.The luff line goes up and down from mast thru turning block at mast base back to clutch under dodger,the leech line is the same coming from the cheek block on the boom aft to another cheek block near gooseneck,then down to mast base turn block.This is a very common setup and can be seen everywhere.Its a 30 second job to reef the full battened main from the cockpit and i do it a lot.You know what they say...Practice makes Permanent

"Sailing Still" 1990 C36 M25 wing
 Sail Canada/Transport Canada training
Gibsons Harbour BC
www.landsendbc.ca

BudStreet
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Got any pictures or diagrams Greig? I'd like to see how you're doing that, feeble brain won't figure it out from words. We just have the stock Catalina setup on both 1st and 2nd reef and there is a lot more friction than I would like.

greigwill
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Posts: 174

I will take some photos today...maybe Larry can reduce their size for posting so i will send them to him first(from vista)..i am not very computer savvy but working on it,G

"Sailing Still" 1990 C36 M25 wing
 Sail Canada/Transport Canada training
Gibsons Harbour BC
www.landsendbc.ca

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deising
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Today, there are far more main furling units than ever before. I have only had one personal bad experience (aboard a friend's boat) when the main jammed out at about 80% in a thunderstorm. I attributed it to the owner's general lack of maintenance and sail-handling abilities.

While I still use and enjoy the slab reefing main we have, I understand why so many sailors go to the mast and boom furlers. I believe that the good ones are relatively low risk with proper maintenance and technique, but I can't back that up with any statistics.

Weight aloft is an issue, I agree, but I haven't seen those stability numbers.

Duane Ising - Past Commodore (2011-2012)
s/v Diva Di
1999 Catalina 36 Hull #1777
Std rig; wing keel, M35B, Delta (45#)
Punta Gorda, FL
http://www.sailblogs.com/member/diva-di/

stu jackson c34's picture
stu jackson c34
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[I][COLOR="Blue"]- except for putting the 3 ties on the middle of the sail which maybe you could get by without but it'd be hard on the sail maybe even tear it.[/COLOR][/I]

Bud, not true. I've been sailing with our "summer reef" from April to September every summer for years without doing up those lines, 'cuz it's easier to shake out the reef without going forward. ALL of the stress is on the leech and luff cringles in a reef.

Also, what you're asking about is what's called "double line reefing" which we have, too. The concept is very basic, as described, and what makes it better is that there is always a need for more tension in the leech cringle than the luff on a mainsail reef. We have four lines, two each for the two reefs, and can reef while going upwind on jib alone with the main sheet eased and the traveler down luffing the main. Drop the halyard to the pre-marked spot, haul in the leech lines (you have to pull both the second and first reef leech lines together or else the second reef line flogs and gets around the boom) and pull down the first reef luff line, tighten the first reef leech line with the cabintop winch (port side) and you're ready to sail again. It takes longer to describe it than to do it.

Google "double line reefing" or search around here and the old archived message board and you'll find lots of descriptions, some even may be mine!:)

The blocks on the single line reefing systems have reported to have helped a lot, too. I think they were well documented on the C380 website.

Stu Jackson, C34IA Secretary, C34 #224, 1986, SR/FK, M25 engine, Rocna 10 (22#)

gmackey
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[QUOTE=stu jackson c34;6827][I][COLOR="Blue"]- except for putting the 3 ties on the middle of the sail which maybe you could get by without but it'd be hard on the sail maybe even tear it.[/COLOR][/I]

What Stu said, plus take a close look at those "3 ties". I can't see your sail but, in most cases, those intermediate cringles have minimal reinforcement, maybe one layer of cloth.

In comparison, check your clew and tack reefing cringles and note the multi-layered reinforcement patches. That's what takes the loads when you reef.

The purpose of the three ties is to furl the reefed panel alongside the boom if you feel the need. Most people don't use them. Think loose-footed main.

Also, if you release the reef lines in a strong wind and forget to release those ties, you might damage your sail.

Cheers

Graham Mackey
SV Nostromo
1989 C36 908
Tall Rig/Wing Keel
Toronto, Canada

greigwill
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Yes,Stu gives a good description of the procedure and for C36 specific info.Also Tom Soto has pictures of his luff cringle setup in the upgrades section of this site(i think thats where i saw it).If you need more pics after all,let me know,Greig

"Sailing Still" 1990 C36 M25 wing
 Sail Canada/Transport Canada training
Gibsons Harbour BC
www.landsendbc.ca

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baysailor2000
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Posts: 217

I am old fashioned - I have the track with the metal slug sliders.
I would not prefer in-mast reefing and here is why- I ran aground at about 11:00 PM with about 20 knot wind in San Francisco Bay near the airport while at the marina channel entrance - OK so I mis-calculated the tides... The first thing I did in the pitch dark was to drop the main instantly so that I am not pushed more into shallow. I would hate to have an in-mast main that just got stuck. The jib was already rolled up so that was not a problem. I ran the engine and pulled back into the deep in about 10 minutes as the tide was coming in.
I am told that you can not bend the mast with in-mast main.
There are no battens.
I vote "NO" on this one.

Reefing - I can reef in about one minuite from the safety of the cockpit. You must be closehoul, release boomvang, pull the topping lift, drop the main halyard - premeasured-, pull the reefline, relaese the topping lift and pull the boomvang. Done.

Haro Bayandorian, 1999 C36 MKII, Sail La Vie #1787, M35B,
Coyote Point, San Mateo, CA.

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ProfDruhot
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I have in mast furling and quite honestly that was the biggest selling point when we purchased her. We just love the in-mast setup and No, it has never jammed on us. Although I will say this, I am not always pleased with the shape of the main at times.

Glenn Druhot
Carpe Diem
New Bern, NC
35* 6' 10" N / 77* 2' 30" W
2001 C36, Hull #1965
Std Rig; Wing Keel; M35B

BudStreet
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Posts: 1127

The way we reef is pretty much how Stu described it. Greig's point about practice is well taken, we've been doing that but need to do more.

We only recently put the 2nd reef lines in, the sail had the reef points but no line was installed and the clutch on the cabin top had been disabled, we fixed all that just before the boat came out of the water. Haven't tried it yet but it is a very deep reef, close to half-way up the sail if memory serves. That'd be a lot of sail fabric loose on the boom, even with the dutchman lines. I also expect it will be tricky pulling in both reef lines at the same time as they are on opposite sides of the cabin top.

Haven't tried reefing without tying in the intermediate lines, will have to try that next year.

What about blocks where the reef lines go through the sail leech and luff? I think there's a lot of friction there and am guessing blocks would help?

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plaineolde
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I've been considering adding blocks on the sail for some time. The friction where the reef lines go through the cringles makes it a real effort to reef and, I believe, makes it more difficult to achieve a good shape. My plan was to get some blocks and rig them through the cringles with webbing and D-rings. Also to replace the plastic guide on the mast with a block.

I'd also considered double line reefing, and would probably prefer to go that route as I could control the tension independently. The roadblock I see is how to run the line through the traveler to the stoppers; all of the turning blocks mounted on the traveler are already in use and I can't see how you'd add any more. I'd have to mount 2 additional stoppers, but that doesn't seem like a big deal. Does anyone have pics of how they solved that issue with the double line systems?

Gary and Cathy Price
1997 C36 Mk II Tall Rig/Wing Keel Imagine...
Hull # 1617
Worton Creek, Md.
Northern Chesapeake Bay

hilbre
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Posts: 218

As always, it's a matter of choice or preference and sometimes even a sacrifice. Certainly from a performance standpoint, there is no debate over which is better. However, failures aside, sails should be setup with the crew in mind. While I would love to throw away the inmast furler and get getter performance, I need to take into account what my wife can handle, alone.

I must also add, that in the five years of owning Hilbre, I have never had any issues with the mainsail furler and remember, you can also have failures with a traditional mainsail setup. For me, its a trade-off, at least I know that if I were incapacitated in some way, my wife can get us home without additional assistance.
John Meyer
Hilbre 2135
San Pedro, CA

John Meyer
Hilbre
C36 MKll, Hull 2135

Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA

Rockman's picture
Rockman
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[QUOTE=baysailor2000;6830]
I am old fashioned.
I ran aground at about 11:00 PM
I mis-calculated the tides
I would hate to have an in-mast main that just got stuck.
There are no battens.

Reefing - I can reef in about one minuite from the safety of the cockpit. You must be closehoul, release boomvang, pull the topping lift, drop the main halyard - premeasured-, pull the reefline, relaese the topping lift and pull the boomvang. Done.[/QUOTE]

No system is perfect, I have seen traditional mains jam and require somebody to jump up on the cabintop to help pull it down.

The new in-mast sails come with vertical batterns. You can also get traditional battern systems that use air-batterns to give you the best shape.

To reef our sail, we release the outhaul line, and pull in the furler and tighten up the outhaul. Maybe 10 seconds! And you have infinite adjustments possible.

I suppose if you were old fashioned, you would also not have electronic instruments, anchor winch, dingy motor, diesel engine, water pumps, gas stove, etc. :)

Cat375 - Rock The Boat - Hull 54
Lake Macquarie - NSW - Australia

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John Reimann
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Oops! I hope my original post doesn't start a debate about why traditional or in-mast furlers are good or bad. That wasn't my point. My point was just that there is a safety factor in the in-mast furlers, just as there is for the traditional main.

SF Bay
1998 C36

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deising
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Now you have done it, John! You might as well tell us what anchor you think is best!!! :D

Duane Ising - Past Commodore (2011-2012)
s/v Diva Di
1999 Catalina 36 Hull #1777
Std rig; wing keel, M35B, Delta (45#)
Punta Gorda, FL
http://www.sailblogs.com/member/diva-di/

BudStreet
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Or whether you carry a gun or not!

greigwill
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Yeah geez what a testy bunch.I may have to reconsider my jibsheet article on compulsery onboard prayer after the second reef...slab reef that is.

"Sailing Still" 1990 C36 M25 wing
 Sail Canada/Transport Canada training
Gibsons Harbour BC
www.landsendbc.ca

John Reimann's picture
John Reimann
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[QUOTE=deising;6839]Now you have done it, John! You might as well tell us what anchor you think is best!!! :D[/QUOTE]

I think a water pistol is best and I don't believe in carrying an anchor.

That's what you were asking, right?

SF Bay
1998 C36

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