Which Boom Furler is the Best?

Carbon Fiber Leisure Furl

When it comes to mainsail management systems, in-mast furlers appear to be losing popularity with cruisers while boom furlers keep popping up on more boats. We are noticing a huge increase in customers upgrading their conventional or even their in-mast units (yes, you read that right, read more below) to in-boom furling. I may even go as far as to say that in-boom furling will soon become standard equipment for the production boat market.

Oyster 880 with carbon boom furler and mast

in-boom furling on the royal huismann

 

 

 

 

 

Like many other things in sailing, boom furlers owe their origins to custom designed solutions for mega and super sailing yacht customers, where pricing is of little significance. While I wouldn’t call the current production systems down right affordable to the cost conscious cruiser, there are now plenty of choices for furling your mainsail horizontally. However, most of these furling boom manufacturers only have a carbon fiber option for their spar material, which makes for one very expensive boom. So what are some more cost effective alternatives?

Carbon fiber boom furlers the rigging company

Aluminum extrusions seem to be the answer here. So, for the sake of cost and to narrow down our discussion a bit, let us take a look at who’s building aluminum boom furlers:

As each of us here at TRC has had experience with all of these systems at one point or another, allow us to give you our thoughts on these seemingly similar, but yet ‘oh so’ different boom furlers. For more carbon fiber options please take a look at the links provided at the bottom of the article.

 

PRO FURL MKR 

Pro Furl In-Boom The Rigging Company

Pro Furl In-Boom

Coming in at a tie for 3rd place is the Pro Furl MKR. Pro Furl boasts of a very sturdy double gooseneck assembly, and it does appear quite sturdy. This is a good feature when considering the concerns of boom weight with these systems, especially while gybing.

TIP: TRC always recommends the addition of a good boom brake system to help control the effects of an unruly gybe.

Pro Furl’s overall spar design is sleek and attractive. They also have the furling drum mounted on the inboard end, which we like because it keeps the weight inboard. The Pro Furl in-boom furling system is only available in painted aluminum. The system uses a proprietary vang which is a must, as it is with most of the manufacturers. Pro Furl’s vang is essentially a hard vang (with no adjustment) that kicks the boom up to its ideal furling position. This is a very good concept, the user just eases the main sheet, the sail flogs, and the boom returns to its proper position for furling. There have been problems reported with the vang however, users have stated issues about vang leaks and parts failure.

 

If you look at Pro Furl’s behind the mast track, it is very far stood-off behind the mast. This is likely for a clean lead into the sail track as the drum occupies the front of the boom and requires the sail roll to start pretty far aft. This, if nothing else makes for a very unsightly track system. The only real plus I see to this track system is it makes climbing the mast very convenient, it offers almost a ladder of sorts to the top of the mast ;-0). How does this system do in off wind hoisting and dousing situations?? Pro Furl In-Boom customers are encouraged to leave us a few thoughts below.

 

FURLBOOM

Furlboom by The Rigging Company. In-boom furler

Furlboom

This brings me to the other tie for 3rd (a close 2nd). Furlboom has changed hands recently to a new owner and hopefully they can take this seemingly promising design to the next level of refinement. Available in anodized or painted aluminum only, Furlboom’s spar is a square/rectangular style section that is tapered and can look at home on almost any modern day sailboat. Their biggest niche within the market, IMO, is pricing. Furlboom comes in as the least expensive of all of the options. This is a very appealing perk as these systems are known to cost a small fortune. Furlboom does not offer a manufacturer specific vang, instead recommends the use of Selden’s Rodkicker Vangs. Selden’s vangs are perhaps not the top of the heap when it comes to rigid vangs, but it is already a better option than what Pro Furl attempted. Leave the vangs to the guys that make…vangs. Furlboom has a lot going for it: low weight (relative to boom furlers), a manual override feature,  a solidly mounted behind the mast track, a low profile tapered spar design, and it is very well priced (comparatively).

 

Some of the downsides of this system are found at the top of the track; they utilize a sheave to extend the halyard out to the aft face of the track. This in conjunction with a non-hinging track, can make for some pretty severe halyard chafe, especially when off the wind or when the halyard is just sitting static for long periods of time in the stowed position. Although the boom material and construction seem to be a very nice quality, it seems that some of the track parts were cheaply cast and painted, instead of extruded/machined and anodized. The last part that is questionable is the chain drive which links the furling drum (mounted below the gooseneck on the aft side of the mast) to the mandrel. Regular maintenance and inspection of this chain is highly recommended. If the chain drive fails, the manual override feature cannot be used. When considering a boom furler for a smaller boat, the Furlboom is and has been always our first choice due to weight, size, and price.

NOTE: Only Furlboom and Leisure Furl offer manual override features!!!

 

SCHAEFER GAMMA AND BETA BOOM

Schaefer Boom Furler The Rigging Company

Schaefer Boom Furler

Schaefer makes the podium at 2nd place, living up to their reputation for being robust and high quality. This boom is rock solid. It is made of high quality machined and extruded aluminum with a deep anodized finish. The Schaefer system lacks only in four departments: looks (no taper and just plain big), a loosely mounted behind-the-mast main sail track (must be noisy and is not attractive), the vang is a fixed length rod, and lastly Schaefer utilizes a furling drum that is mounted at the very outboard end of the boom; not an ideal place for added weight especially when considering the already big size of this boom. This can make gybing an already heavy boom even more interesting, especially if it is accidental. Although I am not in love the with their behind the mast track, it does seem to offer very good off the wind hoisting and furling due to the hinged design of the track. Schaefer’s proprietary vang is mandatory. The vang is really more of a strut as it is set at a fixed length. Although this guarantees an optimal boom height for furling and hoisting at all times, it restricts the users sail trim options.

 

LEISURE FURL

Leisure Furl The Rigging Company

Leisure Furl}

This leads us to the winner………the Forespar Leisure Furl {LF} System. This system has been around a long time. LF has had many years of R & D which usually means they have worked out most of the kinks. Leisure Furls are available in many sizes, configurations, and finishes: anodized, painted, as well as carbon fiber. There are also two smaller, entry level, models called the Leisure Furl Coastal and the ALL NEW LF Coastal Plus; which focus more on the small to medium size boat market. Here are some of the big pluses of the LF system:

  • A sleek solidly mounted behind the mast track
  • A fully functional (and required) Forespar Yacht Rod (one of the best rigid vangs on the market)
  • A tapered attractive spar design
  • An inboard mounted furling drum
  • A manual override (excluding coastal and coastal plus)

Over the years Forespar has only simplified, instead of adding to, or over-complicating their original design. We like that concept as it is in line with our company motto. They have also eliminated most of the plastic pieces except for the bottom feeder track, they call this the ‘Flexy Feeder’. This piece, which has been duplicated by many in-boom furling manufacturers, is crucial for better off the wind furling and hoisting. Another great feature of the boom is that it keeps a majority of the weight inboard by mounting the furling drum on the forward face of the mast. Initially, I was a bit skeptical (as I am sure most of you are) not just of the drum hanging off of the front of the mast, but also of the 1″+ hole that needs to be drilled at the gooseneck for the furling mandrel to connect to the drum.  It turns out that by putting a solid stainless steel rod through it, along with the massive gooseneck bracket that accompanies it, this typically weak and highly loaded area of the mast, is actually strengthened.  Keep up the good work Leisure Furl!

 

Looking to Ditch Your In-Mast Furler for an In-Boom Furler???

Forespar, who have been building masts for many years, and is one of the most respected names in the industry, has developed and tested a custom made kit for converting in-mast furling masts, to conventional masts. The long and the short of it is, they have a specially designed tool which bends aluminum plates to the exact shape of your mast section. These plates are then installed so that the two mast walls, port and starboard, are tied together and the long slot that once served as the entrance for the sail housing is eliminated. Once this is installed the existing mast can be used to facilitate the Leisure Furl In-Boom Furling System. Want to know more? Please ask our experienced sales staff about details and pricing.

leisure furl

To wrap things up (pun intended)…

…. these booms are all priced very comparably and offer similar but different design features. I recommend checking each one out in detail for yourself by clicking on the images to link to the manufacturers website and find out for yourself. Keep in mind, all furling systems are convenience items and thus can become the opposite of convenient (a problem) if not properly installed, used, and maintained.  The big plus with horizontal furling systems is the halyard can always be released and the sail just comes down….just like in the old days.

Additionally, before you pull the trigger, keep in mind that there are some other final cost considerations that are required but not included…all of these manufacturers will most likely require replacing the mainsail, a specific vang, an electric winch, and something to ‘snub’ with (i.e. snubber winch or polished stainless cleat).

 

Wondering who else makes in-boom furling systems?

The companies mentioned below only offer carbon fiber (even possibly only powered drive units). Here is a list of all of the ones that we know of, that we did not discuss, but are worth checking out:

Be sure to ask us about any of these products or manufacturers. We’d be glad to help.

Thanks for the read and see you on the water.

~T.R.C.

Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Rigging, Sailing, Solo Sailing, Tech Tips, Yachting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Views from Aloft

This was back on Halloween day and I’m back up the mast for an inspection. It was a little chilly, more than I’d prefer but…it’s October.

J105 masthead. Annapolis Yacht Club.

I had a great view of the Spa Creek Bridge.

J105 view of the deck from the mast

We were at the famous Annapolis Yacht Club…J 105 row.

J 105 aloft

Annapolis Yacht Club is still in the early phases of re-construction since the big fire!

J105's should have toggles at the top and bottom of the backstay

We are firm believers that all back stays should have toggles at the top, and the bottom of the stay to help reduce fatigue.

Annapolis Yacht Club. AYC. Aloft

A view across the creek.

J105 row AYC. Annapolis Yacht club

Other than the mast finish needing to be re-done, and some basic mast electrical items, the findings weren’t major, but there were some….

West Marine Spreader boot has seen better days

Spreader boots need to be replaced.

Rod service intervals for J105

Turnbuckles look nice and secure. Don’t forget to service those rods every 6 years.

Stainless steel rusts without oxygen

MYTH: Stainless steel doesn’t rust. Adhesives and seawater can contain chlorides which penetrate the rust protective layer found on stainless steel. So make sure you peel off that old tape at the end of the sailing season and start fresh next year.

Toggle instead of link plates. Furler link plates done wrong.

That ring pin is about to shear!!

This is a perfect example of wasting your time and doing it wrong. These custom made link plates should be replaced with a standard, readily available, eye-jaw-toggle.

How not to bend a cotter pin

How not to bend a cotter pin.

How not to do a mast boot. MAst collar done wrong

I’ll just finish with this…probably the worst example of a deck collar, mast chocks, and mast boot (or lack thereof, must have been awfully wet below decks) I have ever seen.

Thanks for taking a look at the view.

~T.R.C.

Posted in Annapolis Sailing, Cruisers, Home is where the heart is, Modern Yachts, Racers, Rigging, Views from aloft | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Winches

The three big winch  players are HarkenLewmar, and AndersenSelden is also trying to make a splash in the production winch market. Almost all of these manufacturers offer different drum finishes from anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome plated bronze (even unchromed bronze upon special request). So what are some of the other differences?

Lewmar Ocean ST Chrome Series Winch

Lewmar

One of the number one companies in the history of winch manufacturers, Lewmar, offers 3 models: the Evo, Ocean, and their Grand Prix line of winches. Lewmar also offers a bi-directional version of the Evo called the Revo, ideal for trimming AND easing sheets and halyards under load. As one of the pioneers of powered winches, Lewmar offers horizontal and vertical below deck motor configurations. Powered units are available in 12v, 24v and hydraulic. With Lewmar winches, the customer can expect extra long service life and a reputation for dependability; not to mention their winches are easy to service with readily available parts (even for many older models).

HarkenUniPower900Alloy

Harken

Harken offers powered units in vertical and horizontal configurations just like the other leading winch manufacturers. However, the #1 name in sailing innovation, has done it again and designed a new type of powered winch which minimizes the intrusiveness of the motor below deck. The Harken UniPower (pictured above) has a portion of the motor above the deck and in the actual drum, and does so without affecting the look of the winch! The UniPower motor sticks into the cabin by almost half as much as the other horizontally mounted electric motors. Harken was also among the first to revolutionize the electric winch market with their 2 speed, powered, bi-directional units. Harken’s standard winch lineup includes four styles: Radial, Classic, Performa and Carbon Grand Prix. Most Harken winches also come with composite drum bearings made of Delrin and require no grease, unlike its stainless steel predecessors. This can help make servicing the winch a breeze. Harken, true to their motto, is definitely in the running for the award in innovation.

Selden self tailing 2 speed winches at The Rigging Company

Selden

Selden winches, fairly new to the sailboat winch market, have also come up with some unique innovations. Selden claims to offer some of the best drum grip available, boasting concave flutes along the drum body; providing greater grip, allowing for less wraps. They also talk about their self tailer being designed to have the rope rigged through it at all times, allowing the user to sheet directly through the self tailer… as depicted in this video.  Since winches that spin both ways are becoming more and more popular, Selden also offers a winch that is bi-directional; the only company that does not offer this in a powered version. As far as I know, none of Selden’s winches are available with powered options…yet!

andersen winches sailboat

Andersen

If looking for Stainless Steel winches that are very high quality and very reliable, give Andersen some serious consideration. Andersen will give the end user a classic, good looking and reliable winch option that rivals the winch market’s highest quality winches. The only thing I can say is that perhaps Andersen makes for a little bit of a bumpy ride when having to use this winch to get aloft (or descend rather); this is due to Andersen’s trademark rope grabbing drum ribs. Although not so visually appealing, Andersen is the only company that gives the consumer a powered option that is mounted above deck, below the winch itself. They also, like Harken, offer a low profile below deck motor which uses up less space than conventional horizontal power units. Andersen winch motors are available in the more typical horizontal configurations, via hydraulic and electric power.

In conclusion, Andersen and Lewmar are always good choices if you are looking for dependability in the manual or electric winch markets. If you are in need of headroom below decks, but need powered winches, Harken and Andersen win that category. Lastly, if you are after something new and innovative, don’t forget about Selden. At the end of the day, all of these manufacturers have great reputations, not just as winch manufacturers, but in the marine industry as a whole; which means the choice is yours and it might be a tough one.

As always, if you have question or something to add, please leave us a comment or give us a call.

Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips, The Biz! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments