Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling

Reducing friction always makes life easier

The old saying that ‘if a job is easy, you’ll do it’, is a good one that we have tried to bring to bear at all times when improving our Ovni 435 Pèlerin. If the job’s difficult, you’ll delay it until it’s beyond inevitable and then it can become a hardship. And nowhere is that more true than when reefing, especially if you’re alone on watch.

As Delivered

When our boat was delivered some of the deck gear was less than perfect in our view; a simple case in point being the line controls for the roller reefing gear. This had small solid pulley blocks, and was led to the winch via a jammer to secure it (the original lasted a week before the lever broke off!). The friction in the system was such that the line had to be led to a winch every time we needed to reef the yankee (jib topsail), which meant that we lost the ‘feel’ that gives warning of a jam or snarl up at the drum end when the line is handled manually. And once you start cranking away on a big winch it’s easy to make things worse—multiply this x 4 with electric or hydraulic winches. So we shifted the blocks around a bit, replaced the jammer with a more robust model and then went sailing, fully intending to sort it properly when the right idea appeared.

  1. Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often
  2. Don’t Forget About The Sails
  3. Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  4. Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
  5. Reefs: How Many and How Deep
  6. Reefing Made Easy
  7. Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  8. Reefing Questions and Answers
  9. A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  10. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  11. Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  12. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  13. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?
  14. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  15. Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  16. Sailboat Deck Layouts
  17. The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  18. UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  19. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  20. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  21. The Case For Hank On Headsails
  22. Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  23. Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  24. Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age
  25. Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  26. Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
  27. Rigid Vangs
  28. Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1
  29. Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  30. Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  31. Keeping The Boom Under Control—Boom Brakes
  32. Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  33. Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  34. Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
  35. Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm
  36. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  37. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  38. Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  39. Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  40. Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  41. Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  42. Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  43. Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  44. 12 Great Rigging Hacks
  45. 9 Tips To Make Unstepping a Sailboat Mast Easier
  46. Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  47. Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  48. Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  49. Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  50. Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  51. Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist
  52. Going Up the Mast—Part 1
  53. Going Up The Mast—Part 2, Fundamentals
  54. Going Up The Mast—Part 3, Our System

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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Chris

Colin, Nice set up. I just ordered a few of the Harken “outside” blocks based on your post.

One additional thing we did was go to very low-stretch furling line. (We waited for the annual line sale.) We did this because of a couple of situations over the years where a reef with a lot of wind pressure in the sail resulted in a line lock on the drum that required a trip forward to clear.

The other thing we did was use line which has the same UV protection in the core as the sheath. We removed the sheath back to just ahead of the location of your spin lock. This loads the drum with smaller diameter line which also reduces the line lock problem. 92% of the line strength is in the core.

Chris

Colin Speedie

Hi Chris

I, too, have had the occasional snarl up in a drum under heavy tension and snatch loads in bad weather – a royal pain, and one reason why I prefer open drum rollers where it is easier to get at the line. So I’m very intrigued with your idea, which makes a lot of sense to me, and is something we’ll definitely look into when the times comes to replace the line – thanks!

Best wishes

Colin

Chris

Colin, if you give this a try, I should add we put chafe protection tape around the unsheathed line where it lingers in the stanchion fairleads and turning block forward. Chris

Ben

This looks like a very tidy solution. Thanks for sharing it with us. I punched a stauchion base through the deck once because the furling line turning block was mounted onto it… The base was very dodgy anyway, but as it was over my bunk everything got very wet.
Your stanchion base looks really solid. But just thought I better mention it in case anyone with an old fiberglass boat tries it…

On Snow Petrel I run my furling line over the cabintop, and onto a winch beside the companion way, a more direct lead on Snowpetrel and no need for a turning block, and someone can winch it in without leaving the companionway! But I could probably still reduce the friction even further by getting some good roller bearing blocks.

Hi Chris, the line stowage on the drum has been a big problem for me in the past as well, but now I have a huge alloy drum, that can take all the 10mm rope I want, less stretch, nice to handle and strong… Also the big drum means less effort to roll up the sail, and less tangles. It does look a bit chunky but this suits Snow Petrel.

I normally quickly run off, blanket the headsail behind the main (still sheeted in) and roll up a chunk of sail by hand; it’s quick and low stress, and requires no winching of furling lines or sheets. Curious to know how most of you reef the headsail? Do you let it flog, winch it or blanket it?

For more info see http://snowpetrelsailing.blogspot.com/2011/02/roller-reefing-and-misguided-mascochism.html

Colin Speedie

Hi Ben

Fortunately for us everything is welded and double-tough!

Good roller blocks always help, and I’m definitely with you on having a large diameter roller drum – makes a lot of sense.

We follow the same drill you describe when reefing, except in light winds, or when there is no room to bear away – we always try to avoid the sail flogging, which puts a lot of strain on the gear, and is hardly likely to prolong the life of the (expensive) sail.

Best wishes

Colin

Chris

Ben, for us, it’s one of those “it depends” answers. We prefer not to let sails flog unless the boat is at risk if we don’t. With the jib, a little bit of wind pressure in the sail also allows for a tight furl. If we have to use the winch, one of us keeps an eye on the furling drum to make sure it turns as the winch does. We’ve seen forestay tangs bent and lower furling units damaged from cranking a jammed unit. With the inner staysail, we decided against furling for now.

Richard

Big question:
How much did you spend on this Harken upgrade to your vessel?
Thanks,
Richard

Colin Speedie

Hi Richard

We bought the kit a couple of years ago, and it probably cost us around US$400 total. If we had fitted it from new of course we’d have saved the cost of the original kit, but that wasn’t an option at the time. But for the big improvement it has made for short handed sailing it was money well spent, we feel.

Kind regards

Colin

Peter Thornton

Hi Colin, I am looking at doing a similar conversion currently the line is secured to a horn cleat, nice and simple but awkward to pull in a little when under load. I use a ratcheting pulley on the aft quarter to pull it in. which is fantastic. Looks like you have used a XTS clutch rather than a XA as stated in your article. Question: Can you release this under load (obviously controlling the ease with some sort of friction for example a turn on the winch drum, or in my case the ratcheting pulley. Cheers Pete

Henning

The German rope manufacturer Liros makes a dedicated roller furling line that has two sections, one with full diameter for use in the clutch and on the winch and one with reduced diameter for use en route to the foredeck and on the drum. It is Dyneema and comes in a fixed length that needs to be carefully cut on both ends so that the small diameter section does not reach the clutch and winch when fully furled (add a good reserve, I would use 3m/10ft, as the furl of the sail will be much tighter in strong wind which results in more furling line coming off the drum when furled all the way in. Leave several extra turns on the drum when testing in port for the same reason.
Play around and test for a while, then cut, as this is too expensive to be thrown away and you don’t want the small diameter section in the clutch or on the winch.
The build of the line is top notch, comparable to their flagship product “Regatta 2000” which is the best line I have and know.
The change in diameter is abrupt, over 1/2 foot only, not a slow taper as on a racer’s spi sheet, but that’s no problem in my eyes.

The Spinlock XTS clutch can be opened under load but slow slipping of the line, of course, requires a turn or two on the winch.