In-mast furling

2airishuman

The Loyal Opposition
We're starting to shop for our next boat which will mainly be a weekender and coastal cruiser in Lake Superior and eventually as far as the Caribbean.

In our search, several otherwise suitable vessels have come up that are equipped with in-mast furling.  While we would prefer a conventional main, it is less clear whether the presence of in-mast furling is a defect of sufficient consequence that we should reject such boats out of hand.

I am aware that there is a performance penalty, though with vertical battens I understand that the penalty is minor.

Of potentially greater concern is the reliability of these systems.  It is my observation that people who have in-mast furling and like it, claim that these systems are reliable as long as they are maintained and used properly, and as long as the sail is discarded when it no longer holds its shape.  Most people who like in-mast furling will point out that conventional systems are not trouble free either -- slugs rip out, car and track systems jam and come loose with age, reefing lines foul and stick, etc.

What has been the experience with these?  Are capable sailors/boatowners still at greater risk of jams and serious problems than they would be with a conventional mainsail?  Would you pass on purchasing a boat with one even if it meant accepting a boat that was less well found in other regards?

 

freewheelin

Anarchist
621
132
WLIS
I chartered a boat a few year backs that had in-mast furling with vertical battens. My experience was mixed. Getting the main out was pretty easy. Getting the main back in was tricky with the vertical battens. You had to tension both the outhaul and the furling line and be super careful that the battens went in perfectly vertical. Once, we had a batten go in slightly crooked (not much at all), and the furler nearly got a little jammed. we noticed and were able to free it, so it was not too traumatic. But getting the main in was a project and took a few minutes and two people every time. I am sure with practice that would come down. 

Of course, all systems have their problems. (We use sail ties and a saddle bag on our own main - so that takes time as well). And other boats we have chartered have stack packs. That can be a project too, getting the battens to clear the jack lines. But getting the main back down is a breeze! If it were between the the two for me on a cruising boat, I would take a stack pack over in-mast for sure. I like to get my work done ahead of time.

 

Crash

Super Anarchist
5,071
1,003
SoCal
We're starting to shop for our next boat which will mainly be a weekender and coastal cruiser in Lake Superior and eventually as far as the Caribbean.

In our search, several otherwise suitable vessels have come up that are equipped with in-mast furling.  While we would prefer a conventional main, it is less clear whether the presence of in-mast furling is a defect of sufficient consequence that we should reject such boats out of hand.

I am aware that there is a performance penalty, though with vertical battens I understand that the penalty is minor.

Of potentially greater concern is the reliability of these systems.  It is my observation that people who have in-mast furling and like it, claim that these systems are reliable as long as they are maintained and used properly, and as long as the sail is discarded when it no longer holds its shape.  Most people who like in-mast furling will point out that conventional systems are not trouble free either -- slugs rip out, car and track systems jam and come loose with age, reefing lines foul and stick, etc.

What has been the experience with these?  Are capable sailors/boatowners still at greater risk of jams and serious problems than they would be with a conventional mainsail?  Would you pass on purchasing a boat with one even if it meant accepting a boat that was less well found in other regards?
I guess the first question is how big a boat?  How big a mainsail?  How physically fit are you guys?  Where do you fall on the sail vs. motor spectrum?

Off all the different systems to "assist" in getting the main down, in-mast furling seems to have the most performance compromises, along with the most challenging "what happens if the furling has a problem" issues.  So its only real advantage is it's cheaper than in the boom furling...

 

Huggy Bear Brown

Anarchist
691
103
We bought a 2008 Jeanneau 45 in 2017 with in-spar furling.  While I wanted a stack pack/slab reefing there were too many other positives about the boat we went ahead with the purchase anyway.  We sailed south from Rhode Island and have been in the Caribbean since 2018.  Prior to departing we bought a new North batten-less main which has been great.  While I've raced for about 50 years and trimmed sails for most of that time, I just don't give a shit about what the sailshape is anymore.  I'm cruising full time and getting somewhere 15 minutes later is not a problem.  Usually I can't even see the sails with the full bimini and dodger.  The in-spar has worked well and we've furled and reefed in 35 knot gusts.  I now prefer it to slab reefing which can be more complex.  I'm not sure I would sail around the world in this boat in in-spar, but for liveaboard coastal cruising it's been great.

 

2airishuman

The Loyal Opposition
I guess the first question is how big a boat?  How big a mainsail?  How physically fit are you guys?  Where do you fall on the sail vs. motor spectrum?
Fair questions.

1) 37-40' depending on availability and how much useful space there is for the length; i.e. if 40' it would be less beamy or have a sprit or something that drives the length up.

2) Around 350 s.f. depending on the boat.

3) I'm in good shape and am effectively singlehanded.  My wife sails with me but has a chronic illness that makes it impossible for her to do anything that requires strength or balance.

4) We sail in anything, as long as we have steerageway, and don't motor unless we're late for dinner

Off all the different systems to "assist" in getting the main down, in-mast furling seems to have the most performance compromises, along with the most challenging "what happens if the furling has a problem" issues.  So its only real advantage is it's cheaper than in the boom furling...
I have only seen one boat for sale that has in-boom furling and don't know much about it.  I would not add either system to a boat that lacks it.

 
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ChrisJD

Member
254
169
Boston, MA
And other boats we have chartered have stack packs. That can be a project too, getting the battens to clear the jack lines. But getting the main back down is a breeze!
We have a fully battened slab mainsail with a stack pack, and while I enjoy the small sense of smug satisfaction I get from knowing that I'm optimizing my sail shape, wrestling a 400-square-foot sail down into the sail bag and making sure it's folded properly is hell in any kind of breeze.  Literally the thing I hate most about sailing is getting that damn mainsail back into its bag at the end of the day, which inevitably takes 5-10 minutes of me clambering around on the cabin top straining to reach the foot of the sail while my wife releases the halyard and keeps us pointed into the wind.  Granted, if we have a real problem while we're out at sea, we can blow the halyard and it drops (most of the way) into the bag no problem, but not in any sort of shape you'd want to leave it in for any real length of time.  I'm regularly jealous of people in plastic fantastic boats with unbattened mains that they can just roll back into the mast at any point of sail, which we used to have on the crappy old Hunter that we had a share of.  If I were looking to live aboard and cruise, I'd likely go with an unbattened mast-furl main myself.  On the other hand, if I had a billion dollars, I'd have a Park Avenue boom and a lanky deckhand who was responsible for nothing at all other than properly lowering the sail each afternoon.

 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
68,592
12,292
Great Wet North
I've sailed a fair bit on a 38' with an In-mast main.

Convenience is its only virtue and IMO it even fails there compared to a good lazy jack installation.

At one point some of the other owners had the main jam partially furled. I helped to unfuck it at the dock - it would have been an incredible, even dangerous clusterfuck in a rising wind away from a dock.

They had a new main built for it as a result.

 

El Borracho

Verified User
6,657
2,630
Pacific Rim
Putting in all three reefs is a good way to douse the main in tough conditions. The last bit is usually easy to flake from there. No need to grind the clew or halyard tight. 
 

If your reefs are not easy to accomplish … well then … :eye roll:

 

2airishuman

The Loyal Opposition
We have a fully battened slab mainsail with a stack pack, and while I enjoy the small sense of smug satisfaction I get from knowing that I'm optimizing my sail shape, wrestling a 400-square-foot sail down into the sail bag and making sure it's folded properly is hell in any kind of breeze.  Literally the thing I hate most about sailing is getting that damn mainsail back into its bag at the end of the day, which inevitably takes 5-10 minutes of me clambering around on the cabin top straining to reach the foot of the sail while my wife releases the halyard and keeps us pointed into the wind.
While they are not perfect, a Dutchman system goes a long way towards dealing with this.

 

slap

Super Anarchist
5,921
1,341
Somewhat near Naptown
While they are not perfect, a Dutchman system goes a long way towards dealing with this.
I've got the Dutchman system on my boat - the main is 300+ sq ft, full battened, and uses a Tides sailtrack.  Swing her into the wind, blow the halyard and it comes down *fast* and with no help.   Go back on course, start putting the sail ties on.  The Dutchman keeps the sail from blowing around - I only have to straighten the sail out a bit when I put the ties on.   Zip the cover around the forward Dutchman line to keep the cover from blowing around too much, and then zip the cover around the mast.  Zip the cover around the aft Dutchman line and then tie the end of the cover to the end of the boom. 

 

Crash

Super Anarchist
5,071
1,003
SoCal
Ever since my days at USNA, I've been a guy who drops his main into itself (Hold 2-3ft of the base of the main out to make a "bag) and just rolls that over itself and put a couple sail ties on it to control it.  Then once in the slip, I can, at my own pace and leisure, get the sail straightened out on flaked onto the boom just the way I like it.  Unless the wind/waves are very light, then I might flake it right when dousing...

But that only worked up to the J-109 (most of my other boats were 30 footers) and it's main if only have one guy to gather up the sale.  At Navy, we were never "short-handed."  But it seems to me that if you've got lazy jacks, there is little reason not to just drop it and tie it, and then once pierside, clean up the flakes to make it look "shipshape."

 

IStream

Super Anarchist
10,854
3,037
Call me a heretic but I just drop my main into the bag and zip it up. No flaking. 8 years on since I got the boat (and the main wasn't new) and it seems none the worse for wear.

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
6,067
1,174
worldwide
We're starting to shop for our next boat which will mainly be a weekender and coastal cruiser in Lake Superior and eventually as far as the Caribbean.

In our search, several otherwise suitable vessels have come up that are equipped with in-mast furling.  While we would prefer a conventional main, it is less clear whether the presence of in-mast furling is a defect of sufficient consequence that we should reject such boats out of hand.

I am aware that there is a performance penalty, though with vertical battens I understand that the penalty is minor.

Of potentially greater concern is the reliability of these systems.  It is my observation that people who have in-mast furling and like it, claim that these systems are reliable as long as they are maintained and used properly, and as long as the sail is discarded when it no longer holds its shape.  Most people who like in-mast furling will point out that conventional systems are not trouble free either -- slugs rip out, car and track systems jam and come loose with age, reefing lines foul and stick, etc.

What has been the experience with these?  Are capable sailors/boatowners still at greater risk of jams and serious problems than they would be with a conventional mainsail?  Would you pass on purchasing a boat with one even if it meant accepting a boat that was less well found in other regards?
They use in mast furling on bareboat charter boats 

it is reliable and easy to use 

with moving parts there is always more maintenance

 

Veeger

Super Anarchist
I've had an imitation stack pack and lazyjacks on my last two boats, each over 500 sq ft.  Just head into the wind, let the halyard run free, tug down the last of the square top and zip it up.  If it's a pain to 'flake and zip' then the stack pack is likely too small...

 

Zonker

Super Anarchist
9,640
5,599
Canada
I generally think a lot of the issues that a furling main solves can be better and cheaper solved with an electric winch to handle the halyard and reefing lines.

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
6,067
1,174
worldwide
For a cruiser a furling main is faster than a slab 

the furling main can instantly  be reefed to present conditions … you always have the correct power 

 

TwoLegged

Super Anarchist
5,666
2,094
the furling main can instantly  be reefed to present conditions … you always have the correct power 
Not so.

With a furling main, you can more easily have whatever sail area you want.  But you can never have the correct power, because the sail shape is compromised.

 

Spinsheet

New member
41
6
USA
I chartered a boat a few year backs that had in-mast furling with vertical battens. My experience was mixed. Getting the main out was pretty easy. Getting the main back in was tricky with the vertical battens. You had to tension both the outhaul and the furling line and be super careful that the battens went in perfectly vertical. Once, we had a batten go in slightly crooked (not much at all), and the furler nearly got a little jammed. we noticed and were able to free it, so it was not too traumatic. But getting the main in was a project and took a few minutes and two people every time. I am sure with practice that would come down. 

Of course, all systems have their problems. (We use sail ties and a saddle bag on our own main - so that takes time as well). And other boats we have chartered have stack packs. That can be a project too, getting the battens to clear the jack lines. But getting the main back down is a breeze! If it were between the the two for me on a cruising boat, I would take a stack pack over in-mast for sure. I like to get my work done ahead of time.
+1 I was in the same situation.  The boat has EVERYTHING I wanted, but it has a furling main.  I have found that it very easy to use and reef short handed.  For cruising it's not much slower.  As an example - for race handicapping they gave the boat +13 seconds per mile to account for the furling main. That's 2.5 hours on a 700 mile route.   

A friend said to think of it more as a jib than a main when trimming and that helped a lot. 

 




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