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post #1 of 36 Old 09-12-2006 Thread Starter
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power winches

planning on long term livaboard coastal cruising. Nothing offshore.
I've been looking toward in mast furling. I'll be 55 by the time I head out and ain't gettin any younger. Boat will be mid 40's long. I'm concerned with the effort required to raise a cruising mainsail. Pulling horizontally has to be easier than pulling vertically.
But what about electric winches? Do they do a good job? Are they reliable? Will they raise a good size main in a decent amount of time? Current draw?
Seems reefing will still be an issue.

Looking for experienced opinions,
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post #2 of 36 Old 09-12-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xort
... Pulling horizontally has to be easier than pulling vertically.
In mast furling is more problematic in heavy conditions. You're adding some complexity where the sail has to roll nicely back into the mast when the wind is whipping it around. I've used them a little and I think I would avoid them for myself. I've seen horizontal tears in mast furled mains though I don't know the cause. I've also heard of in mast furlers getting jammed just when you need to reef !
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Originally Posted by xort
But what about electric winches? Do they do a good job? Are they reliable? Will they raise a good size main in a decent amount of time? Current draw?
Seems reefing will still be an issue.
I have some experience with these in 20-30 knot winds on 50 foot boats. For speed we raised fairly far without the winch first, then transitioned to the electric and it worked well. You need to be more careful to make sure there isn't something restricting the raise of the sail since you won't actually feel the restriction. The motor may break something before you realize what's wrong. I've heard of that happening. So you need to be quite alert with the electric power.

I think you'll find the power draw is akin to an electric windlass so you'll need similar heavy wiring and some serious amperage availability and battery capacity for short periods. According to Nigel Caldor, longevity of electric motors is reduced by operating under high loads, so the power winch seems to be tasked in a stressful environment.

There are portable power winch handles but I wouldn't even consider those. In heavy conditions I wouldn't want something as heavy as that having to be slung and secured around the cockpit with flesh and fiberglass.

Finallt, I'd make the vessel decision first on your ability to operate it safely without the power winch(es).

-- neal
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The real problem I see with relying on electric winches is that they can: A) fail due to many reasons, B) damage things if used improperly.

IMHO, you'd be better off getting properly sized winches to hoist the mainsail than getting the heavier, more expensive, and higher maintenance electric winches. I think Neal's advice on getting a boat that you can handle without electric winches is a good one.

As for in-mast furling... I see a lot of problems with it, and would personally avoid it. It adds a lot of weight aloft, it has less efficient sail shape, and if it does jam, it will often do so when you can least afford it, and there is no way to take the sail down, without unfurling it first.

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Last edited by sailingdog; 09-12-2006 at 06:40 PM.
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I have not used an inmast offshore so I cannot comment on that piece... but since that may not be how you would use it, I would consider an inmast for coastal... especially at your age if you are concerned about physical exhertion.

There are tricks to inmast, though. You do not pull it in/out like a regular main. The boom vang really needs to be loose, the main sheet loose, I center my traveller, and pull it out. I know many people in this forum have told you to pull it out slightly off the wind, but I have found it better to head almost dead into the wind.

If I could go back, I would probably strongly consider a batt car system versus a in-mast. The only issue is pulling in a reef in a storm. I HATE going forward in a storm trying to pull in a reef (and don't tell me all that stuff about putting it in before hand... I know!).

As far as the electric winch... I have one and never use it. I don't like the possibility of something jamming and not realizing it jammed until it is too late. I will say that (in my opinion) if you get inmast, you probably will not need the electric winch. It comes out really easy (mine is a 40 foot Catalina). If you go traditional, it is probably worth the money.

After a long winded answer, my opinion: If you are coastal/Island hopping and not doing a lot of offshore, buy an inmast without electric winch.
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FWIW - There was a large Hinckley abandoned in the North Atlantic several years ago in a storm because the crew could not reef the main into the mast. The conditions were too bad for even a salvage crew to get to the rather expensive vessel.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
As for in-mast furling... I see a lot of problems with it, and would personally avoid it. It adds a lot of weight aloft, it has less efficient sail shape, and if it does jam, it will often do so when you can least afford it, and there is no way to take the sail down, without unfurling it first.
Can you elaborate on the "lot of problems" you have personally seen with In-mast furling?

Or are you speaking hypothetically?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad
If I could go back, I would probably strongly consider a batt car system versus a in-mast. The only issue is pulling in a reef in a storm. I HATE going forward in a storm trying to pull in a reef (and don't tell me all that stuff about putting it in before hand... I know!).

After a long winded answer, my opinion: If you are coastal/Island hopping and not doing a lot of offshore, buy an inmast without electric winch.

Can you elaborate on the differences between In-mast and Batt car systems and how that would be better?

I do plan on coastal cruising ONLY, the only offshore for me would be a trip across the stream to the Bahamas. Nothing further south or further off.
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Go with the in mast furler. In mast furling has been around long enough that problems are rare. The ease of deployment & the ease of reefing means you'll probably do a lot more sailing when your cruising. As far as sail shape what's half a knot when your coastal cruising. You rarely if ever hear these criticisms from people with roller furling mains. Do they have hanked on genoas as well?
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in mast vs forestay furled

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebs001
...You rarely if ever hear these criticisms from people with roller furling mains. Do they have hanked on genoas as well?
Since the in mast furler is surrounded by a sheath, it adds the complexity of friction added by the sheath in a challenging furling situation. It is true as Ebs01 says that in mast furlers have been around for a long time. However it's also true that while roller furler headsails have become popular, in mast mainsails have not.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xort
Can you elaborate on the "lot of problems" you have personally seen with In-mast furling?

Or are you speaking hypothetically?
On a Tartan last summer, we had the in-mast furling jam in 25 knots of wind, and we weren't able to reduce sail or get the sail down. The problem ended up being the top swivel. To get the problem fixed, we had to send up the skipper's girlfriend up the mast in 30 knots of wind as she was the lightest. She was not a happy camper.

Another friend had it on a boat he had chartered, and it wouldn't unfurl after the storm had passed. I don't remember what he said the problem was, but they had to take the furling unit apart to fix it.

If a roller furling head sail has a problem, it is usually fairly easy to fix, as the sail isn't covered by a sheath, unlike a in-mast mainsail system. Most of the problems on a headsail furler occur at the lower drum, unless you've set up the halyard lead wrong or have the halyard too loose. Also, the lower furling drum setup on most in-mast furling systems is far more difficult to access, where the furling drum on a headsail is usually pretty accessible.

One other thing... with in-mast furling, it is often difficult to control the sail shape. This can make a big difference, especially in heavy winds. Having good sail shape controls means you can de-power the mainsail in heavy weather.

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Last edited by sailingdog; 09-12-2006 at 09:10 PM.
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