Furling a head sail in high winds

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 5, 2011 under Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | 2 Comments to Read

Sailing last weekend reminded me of this tip so here it is.

Often times when using a roller furler head sail you’ll find that if you’re furling it in really high winds, there is not enough furling line in the spool. And this has the potential problem of damage if you’re not watching what you are doing.

Here’s the scenario: You’re trying to stop the sail from flogging whilst furling so you’re holding the sheet on the winch and releasing slowly. The high wind puts a lot of tension on the sheet and thus you require a lot of tension on the furling line. The sail then furls up very tightly. This means that it takes more turns to furl to sail. Turns that you don’t have stored in the furling drum.

Now you’re cranking and cranking and all of a sudden it becomes very hard to pull in more furling line but the head sail is still a little bit out and needs a couple of more wraps. If an inexperienced crew member is doing this then, with the power of a winch, something is going to break. Ouch!

This happened to us last weekend sailing in a 30 knot blow in Tasman Bay, New Zealand on a 42 foot PDQ Catamaran. Fortunately I was doing the furling cranking and determined the problem instantly.  Not that I’m the world’s greatest expert, but I’ve just seen this plenty of times before.

Oh oh - no more line left in the furling drum

Oh oh - no more line left in the furling drum

I’ve got two solutions for this issue – of course once you reach shelter you can unfurl the sail and furl in back in with out all the back tension and problem is solved right? Well sort of. Not really because you might not be so lucky with the next crew member. So that’s not counted as a solution.

Here’s number one. Get some more wraps into the furler so you don’t have to deal with this again but how do you do that? I can remember the first time taking the end of the furler line, lying down on the deck with my head cocked all skew and feeding the line in and around the drum with great difficulty and frustration.

No the solution is much simpler.

(1) Pull out the head sail sheets forward and out from the fairleads, coil the sheets  and bring them forward.

(2) Wind the sheets around the furled sail  until the sail is fully wrapped then three more times for good measure.

(3) Pat yourself on the back that you read this blog.

(4) Uncoil and feed the sheets back through the fairleads – you’re done.

Wrap the headsail sheets around the furled sail

Wrap the headsail sheets around the furled sail

BTW – notice the awesome bay in the background.

A quick note however, some drums are really small and you might find that there is not enough room for those extra wraps. In that case you might consider a smaller diameter furling line.

What a small fine point of learning to sail this tip is. And now you’re understanding that it’s impossible to train your crew members on all the things like this on a sailboat but it can be a real problem and ultimately who pays for something on your boat when a crew member breaks something. You do!

So here’s the second part of the tip – A) Send this blog onto your crew members and also send to them your personal NauticEd Promocode. They’ll get $15 off their first NauticEd sailing course and you’ll get friend kudos and $10 credit towards your next NauticEd sailing for beginners Course. Cool eh!

Don’t know about the personal NauticEd Promocode? See here.

The Chicken Gybe – Jibe

Posted by Grant Headifen on July 9, 2009 under Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

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Remember in the movie back to the Future when Michael J. Fox hated being called “Chicken”. But eventually he smartened up – didn’t take the dare and changed his future for the good. Well … sometimes in sailing it’s equally as smart to not take the dare.

The safe maneuver is called the chicken jibe.

The chicken gybe replaces the gybe in high winds

The chicken gybe replaces the gybe in high winds

It’s mostly done when the skipper is uncomfortable about the conditions for the gybe and most likely if the winds are high. High winds in a gybing maneuver can cause damage to the vessel rigging by the boom SLAMMING across too fast. In a normal gybe maneuver the boom slam effect can be reduced by pulling in the main sheet and letting it out as the boom comes over to the other side. However, in high winds – 15 knts plus, if the boom is not let out fast enough, the wind on the main sail will round the boat up in to the wind and heel the boat way way over. This is a very uncomfortable situation.

Here’s an animation. Note I’ve included the apparent wind direction and notice how it changes direction through the maneuver – it’s just a little extra to keep you thinking. And I also included some batman cartoon stuff from the old days – sorry it’s just my sense of humor. The little man getting tossed off is no joke however – I included this as a reminder to how dangerous gybing can be – especially if you don’t prepare your crew. That boom comes across fast (not in a chicken gybe however).

So many choose the chicken gybe. The end result is the same. You are meerly tacking the boat from a broad reach on one side over to a broad reach on the other side. Simple, easy, effective and safe. The only thing to watch out for is that the jib sheets will whip back and around quite violently. So it’s a good idea not to have anyone near the jib sheets i.e. on foredeck.