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Roller furling problem

Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
I have a 16 year old Furlex 100S which is sticking pretty badly. I would say it worked fine for the first 8 years, and then started to get stuck when I was unfurling the jib (a 110%). I would have to go out and unroll it by hand for the last 1/2 or 1/3 of the way. Then the boat sat on land for 3.5 years, and now it's worse. I can't even get it unrolled more than a few feet before I have to help it in some way.

I did discover recently that I can get it to unfurl quite easily by easing the halyard (sometimes quite a bit) and then retensioning after it's unrolled, but obviously this isn't normal. No: I don't think I'm over tensioning it, but what do I know? I have no problem furling the sail afterwards.

Before the jib was put on, both the top swivel and the bottom swivel/drum seemed to turn perfectly freely. I had intended to lube the bearings, but had some problems with my sail repairs, and the sail tech came out and put the jib on himself before I got to it.

So I have 2 theories:

1) It's just the bearings. If I wash them out and lube them, it'll be fine.

2) maybe there's some problem with the forestay tension? One odd thing I noticed: the foil (the part which fits around the forestay) looks a bit banged up just _below_ the feeder slot where the sail feeds in. Not too bad, but I have absolutely no idea how this could have happened.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Jay
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,746
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
I had a Furlex on my boat, the operative word is had.

Unfurling was never a big issue, however, as you experienced, furling it was. After too many frustrating moments and trips to the foredeck to try to furl the sail, I decided the fix was a Schaefer 2100.

When I went to remove the furler last fall I found 2 issues that convinced me of my decision to replace the furler. First, it was not possible to easily remove the furler from the forestay. The furler does not accommodate a turnbuckle, it uses a Norseman or Sta-Lock fitting that was pretty firmly embedded into the furling drum. In order to remove the foil, I had to cut the forestay.

Second, I found the foil was binding on something. Since I had made the decision to replace the furler, I didn't track down the problem. However, when I tried to move the upper swivel, it would bind up, then release and bind up again. It could have been a bearing, it could have been something with the foil and the forestay. This happened when the mast was down and there was no tension on the foil or forestay.

Because there is no turnbuckle to adjust forestay tension, I doubt the problem is tension. It could be bearings or it could be something to do with the forestay and how the foils rotates around the forestay.
 
Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
I had a Furlex on my boat, the operative word is had.
Thanks. I'm wondering if a third possibility is that the jib has somehow stretched with age, so that when I have normal halyard tension on, the swivel is pulled up and is contacting the guard at the top of the foil. One thing: I just had the sail repaired, and they stitched a fold of cloth over the top 12" or so of the head of the jib. The sail tech said that the luff tape was rotten at the top, and this fabric reinforced it. Actually, the first time I got the sail back, I couldn't get the luff tape [bolt rope] into the slot in the foil more than about 1/2-way, because it was just too thick with the extra fabric:
jib_repair.jpeg

They totally re-did the repair in 1 day, and came out and put the sail up for me, so it was good service. The guy said that the first person to do the repair didn't gather the new fabric tightly enough around the old luff tape, and so he re-did it with thinner fabric, and more tightly gathered. He said this was a really rare problem. So I'm thinking maybe the jib was a little on the long side and the failed luff tape and the repair has somehow moved the attachment point at the head of the sail up a cm or so, causing the swivel to bind when I tension the halyard fully.

Or it's just lubrication. Or something else. BTW: you can also see the minor bunging up on the foil just under the sail feed slot. No idea.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,746
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Thanks. I'm wondering if a third possibility is that the jib has somehow stretched with age, so that when I have normal halyard tension on, the swivel is pulled up and is contacting the guard at the top of the foil
Take a look at it with some binoculars. Another possibility is halyard wrap, where the halyard gets wrapped into the sail as it is furled. This is caused by the lead from the mast sheave to the upper swivel. I doubt this is the case because the boat is older and it would have been discovered and fixed by now, but ya never know.

While you're looking check to make sure the halyard lead is fair and the halyard exits the mast and then goes straight to the upper swivel.

And finally make sure the spin halyard isn't getting caught in the sail when it is furled.
 
Jul 19, 2013
310
Pearson 31-2 Boston
Furlexes do call for periodic lubrication, if you haven't done that annually, address it.

Probably not your case but a common cause for unfurling problems is the furler line jamming in the drum. Are yuo keeping tension on the leeward jibsheet while furling the sail, this ensures proper wrapping on the drum. Also be sure you have the correct size furling line and an appropriate number of turns on the drum.
 
Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
Ok: so this is one of those "I'm an idiot" stories. Everyone likes those, right?

As described above, I've been having progressively more trouble unfurling the jib. (Not furling: unfurling. It furls easily.) Just this summer, I found that if I slacked the halyard a bit, it would usually unfurl. Well, sort of. Most of the time, I'd put some slack in the halyard, which would allow a few feet of sail to unroll, and then I'd have to do some more. Maybe do this 4 times, and the whole jib would be unrolled. Then I'd put the halyard back on the winch, re-tension it, and happily sail until it was time to roll up the jib. It always rolled up easily. Now, I was well aware that this isn't normal, but here's the thing: it worked and allowed me to sail while I worked on other boat projects or worked on work. I've been pretty sure that the bearings in either the swivel (top) or near the drum (bottom) are either worn, damaged, or just need lubrication, but hadn't gotten around to pulling the jib down and fixing it.

Oh: one more part of the mystery. After doing this, I'd go home, and then sometimes I'd arrive back at the boat and notice that the jib halyard would mysteriously have quite a lot of slack between the rope clutch and the mast. Hmmm... Was someone sneaking on the boat and loosening it? Was the rope clutch faulty, and couldn't hold tension over several days? I looked up at the jib several times: the jib halyard seemed to have a nice, fair lead to the swivel.

Well today I know the answer. Can you figure out what was going on?
 
Jun 9, 2008
1,643
- -- -Bayfield
Furlex comes with their lube and they say in the instructions that you should periodically clean the bearings and lube them through the lube holes in the upper swivel and in the drum. If you don't keep up with maintenance, you have problems. So simple.
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
@jaysweet
So... what’s the cause?!?! We’re all scratching our heads.
I’ll go first. Is the halyard wrapping around the forestay?
 
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Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
Dr. Judy wins! I suppose it should have been simple, but I never put together the 2 things 1) having to add slack to the halyard a few times to unfurl, and 2) the mysterious extra slack which would appear days later, the next time I was at the boat. The upper swivel is unable to turn freely around the forestay (actually, around the main body of the swivel, which is stationary wrt the foil and sail) when under tension, probably because of corroded bearings. So when I slack the halyard, the line would wrap around the forestay above the swivel until it ran out of slack. Do this a few times and the sail was fully unfurled, at which point I would re-tension the halyard. I assumed I had taken up all the slack just introduced. Then when I furled the sail, within 1/4 turn, there is no tension on the upper swivel because the halyard has partly unwrapped, so it turned easily. After fully furling the sail, the halyard would be back where it started again, not wrapped, but with a foot or two of extra slack in the system. Every time I looked carefully up at the head of the mast, I was already back in the slip with the sail furled, I guess having scratched my head and pulled the extra slack out of the halyard into the rope clutch before looking up. So up at the top of the mast, the halyard looked completely normal. I never looked up there while I was out sailing until yesterday, because I was too busy sailing, especially when single-handing.

So the funny thing is that the swivel seems to turn completely freely when the sail is off and it's down at eye level. When I pull up on the halyard attachment point (and down on the shackle for the sail), I can definitely tell that it's a little rough, but I wouldn't have thought it was enough to cause the problems I've had. Anyway, I called a rigging company, who will come out next week. I thought I'd kill 2 birds with one stone and have them do a full rigging inspection as well as replace the bearings and/or swivel.

Jay
 
Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
Furlex comes with their lube and they say in the instructions that you should periodically clean the bearings and lube them through the lube holes in the upper swivel and in the drum. If you don't keep up with maintenance, you have problems. So simple.
Well, of course you're right. But there are hundreds of systems on a modern boat, so it's hard to find time to keep up with all of it if you're not retired or a full-time cruiser. I've easily spent 10 weeks of full-time labor since April 8th of this year fixing/upgrading the boat with my new-found COVID time: more time than I've ever had in my life, before this. The furler was on my list, but I hadn't gotten to it yet.

I've actually had the Furlex manual out a couple of times, and it's not very clear about how to lube these bearings. It pretty much says "press grease in here", but when you look at the swivel, it's really hard to see how the heck the grease is going to get past the rings which retain the ball bearings: you can't even see the ball bearings, only the outer part of the rings.
 
Jul 7, 2004
7,921
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
@jaysweet
So... what’s the cause?!?! We’re all scratching our heads.
I’ll go first. Is the halyard wrapping around the forestay?
That was a problem on my Hood 810. Had to lengthen the line at the bottom so no halyard was exposed up top. When I got the length right, I replaced the line with SS wire like the manual says to do.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,746
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Halyard wrap is caused by the angle of the halyard to the upper swivel. The halyard needs to be parallel or angled angled back to towards the mast to put tension on the swivel. See the attached page from the Schaefer 2100 installation manual, which also happens to be one of the solutions to problems with a Furlex furler.Halyard Wrap.jpg
 
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Jul 7, 2004
7,921
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
Halyard wrap is caused by the angle of the halyard to the upper swivel. The halyard needs to be parallel or angled angled back to towards the mast to put tension on the swivel. See the attached page from the Schaefer 2100 installation manual, which also happens to be one of the solutions to problems with a Furlex furler.View attachment 183057
now that's what I'm talking' about!
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
Hi,
I would suggest you start by looking at the angle between the main halyard and the furler. That’s the usual cause of halyard wrapping around the foil or forestay. The angle between the forestay and mainhalyard should be a minimum of 5 degrees and a max of 10 degrees.

sometimes the problem is that the luff of the sail is too long, and in that case, your sailmaker can fix it for you. Sometimes the problem is that the sail is too short, and in that case you can add a pendant to the head of the sail. Sometimes the problem is that the forestay and then halyard exit on a masthead rig are too close to each other, and in that case you need to install a halyard restrainer on the mast.

If the upper swivel is hoisted up too high, the angle might be closer to 90 degrees than than 5 or 10 degrees. In this case, the swivel and the halyard pulls horizontally, and that will cause the halyard to wrap around the forestay. that’s not always visually obvious from the deck unless you look very carefully.

If the upper swivel isn’t hoisted up high enough, the angle is less than 5 degrees. In this case, the halyard will wrap around the foil,.

Chances are that the bearings on the upper swivel are still good. you reported that the upper swivel tuns freely by hand when it’s not down where you can reach it. The bearings in the upper swivel are stainless steel, and rarely wear out. Unless there’s a grinding sound when you turn the upper race or the bearings are worn and very wobbly, I’d recommend you lube it according to the instructions in the owners manual, and then test it.

Don’t jump to the conclusion that the bearings are bad. To replace the bearings you need to remove the swivel from the furler to rebuild it, and that’s an expensive project. Repairing it in situation would be a nightmare of dropped parts. Lube it and test it first. Maybe remove it and degrease it.

what model is you Furler? How old is it? Given the model of your boat, I would guess it’s less than 20 years old.



Judy B
Sailmaker and Authorized Selden Dealer
 
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Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
So thanks for all the replies. It's quite possible that all it needs is lubrication, and I believe the rigging company will check that first, before replacing. The main reason why I'm happy to pay them come out anyway, is that the (entire) rig is 16 years old, and has never been inspected by a professional. So I think it's well worth paying for this service, which costs much less than I would have thought: $500.

As far as the suggestions about the halyard lead being wrong, I'm not so sure. First of all, it worked just fine for the first 8 years, and when I look up at it, the angle looks good. (It's a Furlex 100S, Judy, the same age as the boat: 16 years.) When the boat was last in the water, 2016, it was getting difficult to unfurl, but I could still unroll the last few feet by hand up on the bow, just to give you an idea of how this problem has progressed. There is one thing that changed this year, which might possibly have affected the lead, and that's the sail repair to the head of the sail, which I described above. See the picture in #3. If they had totally undone all the stitching and added several inches to the length of the luff, I suppose that might have changed the halyard lead. But I find it very hard to believe that this is the problem. My guess is that it's just in need of lubrication, or that somehow the ball bearings have taken a beating (or maybe the race) and are pitted.

Now, the riggers can't get out here until next week, so maybe I can try to lubricate it and go for a sail before they come out. If that fixes the problem, I'll just have them inspect the rig.

Does anyone have an idea how to get grease in there past the bearing races and to the actual ball bearings? Here's the picture from the manual:

furler_1.jpeg
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
See page 42 of the owners manual,for instructions on how to lube the upper swivel.


You might try cleaning out dust and old grease first with a degreaser. Apply a little at a time, spin the bearing, and Let the degreaser soak in. Have plenty of rags handy to clean up the mess.
 
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Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
See page 42 of the owners manual,for instructions on how to lube the upper swivel.


You might try cleaning out dust and old grease first with a degreaser. Apply a little at a time, spin the breaking, and Let the degreaser soak in. Have plenty of rags handy to clean up the mess.
Judy: that's the part of the manual that just says "Press grease into the grease recess E and F in the Eye ring", which is what I was paraphrasing above. As I was saying, it's hard to see how the grease is going to get past the bearing races (A3, A4, etc. in the picture above) and into the actual ball bearings. What I really need is a grease gun with a very thin fitting on the end, maybe.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestion about the degreaser. I think I'll try to do that first, before jamming some grease in there. Maybe WD40 or some other spray cleaner (carb cleaner? only with some serious deck protection, like a full tarp, as that stuff just eats plastic!) would easily get to the ball bearings.
 
Jun 25, 2004
283
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
So as Judy suggested, I sprayed some WD40 into the 2 ball bearing races in the upper swivel and worked it all around. Then I took one of those kitchen syringes (usually sold as "flavor injectors": I use them in the shop),
syringe.jpg
cut the end of the needle off flush (they usually have offset holes on opposite sides), and packed a bit of grease into the tube. Used this to try to put a very fine bead of grease all the way around both bearing races on the crack between the upper and lower cup. Worked it around a bit, and put the jib back on. It now unfurls reasonably well at the dock. Not perfectly, but reasonably. I wonder if it's all the WD40, or if some of the grease somehow made it's way in where the bearings are.

Anyway, I'm declaring tentative victory, pending a trip out on the waters to see how it works when used in anger. Or hopefully, when used in joy. Meanwhile, my recently repaired chart plotter just died again...<sigh>.

Thanks again for all the suggestions, folks! Especially Dr. Judy!
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
The main reason why I'm happy to pay them come out anyway, is that the (entire) rig is 16 years old, and has never been inspected by a professional. So I think it's well worth paying for this service, which costs much less than I would have thought: $500.
I applaud your diligence! I'm always amazed when people don't do a top to bottom to chain plate visual inspection of their rig annually, at least with binoculars. I go up in a bosuns chair or lower the mast for inspection every year.

When it comes to your rig, what you don't know can hurt you.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,746
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
I applaud your diligence! I'm always amazed when people don't do a top to bottom to chain plate visual inspection of their rig annually, at least with binoculars. I go up in a bosuns chair or lower the mast for inspection every year.

When it comes to your rig, what you don't know can hurt you.
The mast on Second Star comes down each year, so it is subjected to at least a casual inspection. The second season I launched the boat the mast was just minutes from being stepped. A yard worker walked down the mast dragging his finger nail along the cap shroud. "Hey Dave," he said, "look at this" and there it was a broken wire in the shroud.

Dragging my fingernails down the shrouds is now an annual ritual. Even on the new ones.