Roller Furler Sales and Services
Headsail furlers are by far the most popular upgrade we sell and install for the recreational sailor. A properly selected and installed furler unit will enable you to safely operate your jib or genoa without leaving the cockpit. We regularly sell, install, and service a wide variety of furling units.
At Annapolis Rigging, we recommend conventional furlers based on the customer’s needs and sailing plans. Because each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses we focus on matching the furler to the application. The manufacturers we most often deal with are Harken, Schaefer, ProFurl, Furlex, and Reckmann. We often have parts on hand for those units and can reliably source other options as well. We are also the only shop on the East Coast north of Florida that can rebuild Selden hydraulic furlers in-house.
Avoiding furling accidents
One of the great things about modern headsail furlers is their durability. Outside of a few common issues, your furler should be one of the easiest parts of your boat to maintain. Some simple preventative steps should help you avoid prematurely replacing your furler. Furlers usually fail due to corrosion or improper use. Rinsing your furler regularly should prevent corrosion in most cases. If your furler relies on metal bearings this is especially important.
A stuck furler can quickly become a danger at the wrong time. To avoid damaging your furler through improper use you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. In particular, you should be careful not to force the drum to turn by putting your furling line on a powered winch. You should also check that your halyard is not wrapped around the top of the extrusion when furling or unfurling. This will not only prevent you from using your furler, it can also pinch and twist your headstay itself, which will mean replacing the stay. We can reduce the risk of halyard wrap by installing a halyard restrainer on your mast.
How to compare your furler unit options
Each furler has three main components. The lower unit drives the furler and keeps the internal stay from spinning with the sail. The extrusions hold the luff of the sail and the halyard swivel links the head of the sail to its halyard. Each manufacturer has a different set of priorities among these components and no single furler is the best in all cases. The main differences are in bearing system, extrusion shape, the presence of an independent tack swivel, and how the extrusions are connected. The best possible furler would combine components from a variety of models.
The bearing system is, intuitively, vital to smooth operation of a roller furler. Some units rely on stainless steel bearings on stainless races offer strength and durability when properly serviced. They must be greased to prevent corrosion and must be occasionally cleaned and re-greased. Other units use TorlonⓇbearings on stainless races. These do not need grease but should still be regularly flushed with water to ensure smooth operation.
Furler extrusions are typically either round or air-foil shaped. Round extrusions roll more easily and produce a smoother furl in your headsail. They are favored in cruising applications and tend to be heavier and stronger than air-foil extrusions. Furlers designed for racing typically use an air-foil shape for their extrusions. These create less drag and better sail performance, are commonly lighter, and often have two luff groves for quicker sail changes.
Some furlers include an independent tack swivel. This allows the sail to roll from the middle out, which allows for a cleaner furl and better sail shape when reefed. Preventing baggy furls can help to extend the life of your sail. Some units also allow you to remove the drum for racing.
How the extrusions are connected is easy to overlook but these links can often dictate how long your furler will last. All of the units we recommend use aluminum links between each extrusion. Most have plastic liners to protect the stay from undue wear. A well-made furler can last decades longer than the stay it first contained. Reusing a furler can save you thousands of dollars on a re-rig. This makes ease of service an important consideration when buying a new furler. Most models hold the connectors in place with machine screws while some use rivets. The former are quicker to service.
We most commonly recommend Harken and Schaefer furlers. We also commonly service Profurl and Furlex furlers. All four types will serve you well if properly maintained. For owners of larger yacht who may be interested in powerd headsail furling, we are working on a different article that compares your options. In the meantime, we are happy to assist you by phone or email.
Our favorite furlers
Harken furlers are as ubiquitous as they are reliable.
They offer two model lines: the MKIV, oriented towards racers and performance cruisers, and the ESP, a budget version.
The MKIV is available in several unit sizes, ranging from the Unit 0: (22’-30’) to the Unit 4: (65’-80’). The MKIV boasts a removable drum, independent tack swivel, and double-grooved air-foil extrusions for racing. The lower unit is aluminum with Torlon ball bearings. The extrusions are linked at roughly six foot intervals with highly sturdy connectors that are held in place by conector bushings, screws, and adhesive. Plastic sleeves protect the stay at each link. The swivel also relies on Torlon bearings. Parts are easy to find and the Torlon ball bearings provide low-maintenance durability. This is easily the most common furler we sell and service.
The ESP offers only 4 sizes and is only recommended for boats up to 61’ in length. It is simpler than the MKIV but shares the same easy maintenance schedule, adjustability, and reliable construction. Both should outlast the headstay on which they are installed.
Harken also offers electric (35’-60’) and hydraulic (45’ and up) furling systems. Both are reliable options for easier control and are especially useful for short-handed sailing.
We often recommend Schaefer Big Boat Furlers to cruising customers.
They offer systems for boats ranging from 16’-65’ with several adaptations that are perfectly suited to cruising sailors. The lower unit boasts a large-diameter drum which increases the mechanical advantage for furling large sails. Schaefer furlers also use Torlon ball bearings for both the lower unit and the upper swivel. The extrusions are durable round aluminum and are held together with plastic-lined connector bushings and rivets. Schaefer offers an optional longer link toggle to lift the drum further off of your deck for easier anchor management.
Profurl furlers are easily recognized for their lime-green components.
Part of the Wichard group, profurl makes a reliable product for boats up to 98 feet. Profurl furlers are ubiquitous and solid options. The lower unit is light-weight and low profile thanks to a combination of plastic and metal drum parts. It is kept small by exposing the headstay turnbuckle. Although many customers combine a profurl furler with a set-length headstay to avoid the risk of lines catching on the exposed turnbuckle this choice comes with obvious drawbacks. This unit uses carbon steel bearings sealed in grease. The aluminum extrusions are held together with connector bushings and thread-locked screws. A deflecting cap helps to prevent halyard wrap. The product is sturdy and durable as long as the bearing seals last. Be sure to keep an eye on these because any exposure to water will rust the bearings rapidly.
Furlex, a Selden subsidiary, offers manual furlers that are affordable and reliable.
The lower unit on new Furlex models features a split drum for removal during racing. Both the lower unit and swivel rely on stainless steel ball bearings, which are quite durable, although they should be rinsed regularly when accessible from the deck. The extrusions have plastic bushings along the entire covered length of the headstay and are linked by aluminum connectors. These connectors hold a tab in place that links each extrusion. The swivel also features a dyneema halyard attachment point, which balances load under sail.
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