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Why does the roller-furling drum lose wraps?

2019 March 1

Dear Boat Doctor,

We stored our boat on the hard in Puerto Rico and launched after hurricane season. When we put the boat back in the water, I had a rigger help me re-install the sails. When I went to pull out the genoa there was so much line on the drum we couldn’t unroll the last three feet of sail. So, I had the rigger “fix it.” We went sailing again and I could barely get one wrap of the jib sheets around the genoa when furling. I had the rigger back and when he left, there were three full wraps on the drum and three full jib sheet wraps on the sail when furled. After sailing, there’s now three wraps of jib sheet on the sail and about one and a half furling line wraps on the drum.

I’m frustrated and not sure if it’s safe to only have one and a half wraps on the furler drum. If not, can you advise me how to increase the wraps on the drum? We’ve left the area where the rigger is, so I am on my own.

Gary Krieger

s/v Freed Spirit

Dear Gary,

I like the three sheet wraps around the furled sail but you need some more on the drum. As you experienced, differing conditions can impact the way the sail furls. What happened the last time you sailed and rolled up the genoa was that the conditions were likely much different than when the rigger rolled it. It’s likely that the sail was somewhat loosely furled when the rigger “primed” the drum with three wraps. When you furled it after sailing, it was likely windy so you got a tighter furl and almost ran out of furling line.

I like to keep at least three wraps on the furling drum at all times. You never want to get down to no wraps because the load on the knot or clamp on the drum would be too much. By keeping three wraps on the drum you lessen the load on the knot and ensure you have enough furling line left to furl in all conditions.

The good news is that there is an easy fix, and none of it involves dropping the genoa. With the sail furled, just bring the sheets to the bow, coil them and tie them on around the furled genoa with half hitches. Next, free the furling line and turn the headsail, sheets and all, until you have four or five wraps on the drum. Run the sheets back to the cockpit and you’re all set.