Is Harken the Best? Well that’s a matter of opinion I guess. They are definitely one of the best. There is just no match for composite ball bearing furlers. The reason is that Harken Furlers and any composite bearing furlers can typically be easily serviced and maintained. Essentially, in order to maintain your Harken Headsail Furler, all you have to do (while washing your boat) is ‘squirt’ a little soap in the races of the drum and swivel once in a while and thoroughly rinse and spin the unit until no more suds come out. Then just add some of Team McLube’s Patented One-Drop Solution (not a requirement) if you are really looking for some rip roaring, spinning action.
Should the furler still have issues, or it is just time (5 years or more), you may want to look into having it professionally serviced. Relatively speaking,it is very affordable and simple to service the units and replace the Torlon balls. I know “composite ball bearing” sounds fancy and expensive, but it’s quite the contrary, about $25 for 25 balls (of which you’ll probably need two packs). Just make sure that you get the right size.
How does the competition tend to stack up against Harken’s Headsail Furlers? As I mentioned before, there are other good furler manufacturers out there that utilize this dry lubricated composite ball bearing design. However, let’s take a minute to talk about the ones that don’t and what their design is. Other manufacturers tend use sealed and unsealed stainless ball bearings, that ride in stainless or aluminum races and are packed in grease. These furlers can be a pain and sometimes impossible to service (not to mention, messy!), without sending them off to the manufacturer. Usually they require complete bearing and race replacement, which can be pricey, and if nothing else time consuming. With some manufacturers, you may be able to re-grease them yourself or rather add more grease on top of the old grease (not ideal). Also, these “packed-grease-bearing” furlers seem rather sluggish right out-of-the box. Not a surprise really, considering that stainless balls packed with grease just sounds slow and dampened, much like I would expect for a wheel hub on a car or trailer. I can appreciate this engineering concept, but “I am trying to unfurl my sail quickly and effortlessly, not drive my furler down I-95 at 65 MPH :-0)
You make the call, but I would stick with the dry lubricated composite ball bearing technology of Harken Furlers. Don’t take my word for it, instead head down to your local chandlery and ask if you can give one a ‘spin’!
Thanks for the read!