Technique for furling in high winds - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Old 11-10-2008
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Technique for furling in high winds

So I took off early down the Chesapeake from Reedville last Wednesday headed south in 15 kt. winds, not predicted to be above 25 until late afternoon. I only had to go about 12 miles, then turn West to enter the Rappahannock river. Well, NOAA blew the forecast and about 1.5 hours into the sail the winds were 25 gusting to 30 or 35, and they were issuing a gale warning for later, with following seas about 4-5 feet. Since it was just myself and an inexperienced girlfriend aboard, I opted to motorsail with only about 3/4 Jib out so I could minimize trips on deck.

As we turned west I quickly realized that the short-frequency, steep waves of the Chesapeake directly on my beam were not going to cut it and decided to tack at 45 degrees into, then turn 45 degrees away from the wind/waves in order to make headway to the west. I decided to furl the Jib and just motor. That was when I realized that even when I pulled with all my might on the furling line, I could not get the sail in on any point of sail. It was not jammed, there was just too much wind on it. I was finally able to get the line around a winch while going downwind and winch it in, but because the wind was so strong it wrapped the sail up so tight that I ran out of line before it was all in and was left with about a 4 ft. triangle sticking out which flailed a hole in my sail.

So what did I do wrong (besides going out in the first place) and does anybody have a better technique for furling the jib in high winds?
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Old 11-10-2008
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You cannot furl the sail with any pressure on it. The sheet should be fully eased (except for slight drag to minimize the bulk of the furl a bit unless it's as windy as you experienced.)

If it's too windy to furl the sail even with it luffing or if it furls too tight as it did for you, then the best way is to head deep downwind, hide the jib behind the main and furl it then. Be careful not to allow an accidental jibe, since you'll be heading pretty deep during the manuever and you don't want those complications.

Generally if you need a winch to get the sail furled either you're doing it wrong, or there's a mechanical problem, or a substandard furler.

Also, as you unfurl the sail be sure to keep some drag on the furling line then too, ie- ease the sail out rather than let it spin itself out... otherwise you can get really nasty overrides on the furling drum that can cause a problem later.
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Last edited by Faster; 11-10-2008 at 01:05 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Faster View Post
You cannot furl the sail with any pressure on it. The sheet should be fully eased (except for slight drag to minimize the bulk of the furl a bit unless it's as windy as you experienced.)

If it's too windy to furl the sail even with it luffing or if it furls too tight as it did for you, then the best way is to head deep downwind, hide the jib behind the main and furl it then. Be careful not to allow an accidental jibe, since you'll be heading pretty deep during the manuever and you don't want those complications.

Generally if you need a winch to get the sail furled either you're doing it wrong, or there's a mechanical problem, or a substandard furler.

Also, as you unfurl the sail be sure to keep some drag on the furling line then too, ie- ease the sail out rather than let it spin itself out... otherwise you can get really nasty overrides on the furling drum that can cause a problem later.
I had it fully luffing heading into the wind with sheets eased but still could not get it in. I will have to check the furling gear to make sure it is not binding, but it did not seem to be a mechanical problem and it is a good Profurl system.
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Old 11-10-2008
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Check to see that your halyard is not wrapping up around the headstay. If the halyard exit is not angled away from the headstay it can wrap easily if there is a high amount of load on the swivel (like when you are in windy conditions). Also, backstay should be tight enough so that the sag of the headstay is somewhat minimized; if the headstay is loose then the foil will not want to bend as it rotates around the headstay.

If your halyard goes to the top of the mast and it exits the mast more than 8-10" you should add a pennant made of stainless wire between the head of the sail and the swivel. That will minimize the ability of the halyard to wrap up because the eye splice is thicker and it won't twist as easily; and the length is shorter between the swivel and the sheave box. When I added a pennant to the head of my jib it eliminated the problem of a wrapping halyard.

Also make sure that the furling control line is running free and be sure that when the line exits the drum it is at 90 deg to the headstay because if it is not the line won't spool onto the drum evenly. You should always have about 10 extra turns on the furling drum so that you don't run out of purchase if the sail furls tightly around the foil; so you should either add more turns by dropping the sail and then pre feeding some in by rotating the drum by hand, and if the line is not long enough for this replace the line with a longer one.

Another thing to consider in the situation you were in is that it is nearly always safer to remain under (reduced) sail than to try and drop sails and motor to your destination. I agree that you had a tough situation with inexperienced crew and double-handed; but even if you reduce the headsail to a storm jib size and then either spill your main a bit or reef it (I know this might not have been an easy procedure given your scenario), you are going to make better time and in more safety than under motor alone. I think of my engine as a device to use in an emergency; since it is also difficult to raise sail if you lose engine power while under motor alone (if your filters get clogged, or if you have some other engine related failure). With the situation of tacking into the wind with waves on the beam; just spill your sails a bit; go at the waves on with them aft of your beam a bit and you should be OK because your heel will be reduced and the wave will push your stern to windward. If you see a big roller coming you can round up and let it go past your bow then continue along. Morgan 416 O/I should be up to the task; next time you head out into challenging wind conditions be sure and have more crew along.

Last edited by KeelHaulin; 11-10-2008 at 03:05 AM.
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Make sure you have a good few turns on the furling line drum in excess of what appears necessary in the marina. Then you can furl it completely, if necessary with the help of a winch.
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I routinely furl the jib heading downwind as suggested by Faster. When furling is difficult, rather than pulling the furler line straight back. I repeatedly pull the line perpendicular the cleat and the furler, and then take up the slack.
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Having a few extra turns on the furling drum is a very good idea, as some of the furling drums can separate under load if they don't have a couple of wraps of line around them. Generally, you'll want at least five-to-six extra wraps around the drum so that when you've furled the sail completely, you can wrap the sheets around it two-or-three times and still have a two-to-three wraps on the drum. The sheets wrapped around the sail help ensure that it won't come unfurled when you don't want it to.
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I'm going to have to give the furling gear a good once over while I have the jib off for repair. It seems like there are just too many times when it is hard to furl it if there is much wind at all. From what I am reading, it should be fairly easy to furl up without using superhuman strength or a winch no matter what the wind.

More crew or at least more experienced crew would have helped a lot on the trip. In lieu of that I am going to have to rethink the kind of weather I go out in without another experienced crewmember.
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I suppose it depends on how big a headsail you are trying to furl. With my large and heavy 140 genoa, I can only furl it in light airs without a little help from the winch (being a 2 kg weakling helps here). Using the winch in heavy airs has the advantage of preventing the beast slipping out of control. It does require a cautious eye on the head of the sail, just in case halyard wrap looks imminent, or some loose spinaker halyard decides to get involved.
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