View Full Version : Self Furling Heads'ls for Prairie Islander

11-30-2002, 01:45 PM
Phyllis is at the dinning room table paying bills. I was sitting in my easy chair rereading an article on the gaff rig from the December 1977 The Practical Boat Owner magazine a friend in Wales sent me a while back.

"I wonder if we should consider self furling head sails for the boat," sez I to the room. Not a good time to bring up additional spending perhaps.

"Absolutly!" sez she without hesitation.

Alright, now what?

Remember Prairie Islander is a 20' gaff rigged cutter that lives on a trailer. Each time we go sailing we spend about 45 minutes rigging and maybe that or more loading at the end of the day. Once afloat the pressure of getting the head sails up falls (or has fallen, maybe there is a different way to approach our respective duties) on Phyllis struggling from the foredeck hatch. It causes more stress than it should and all the pressure she puts on herself. But still...

Anyway, the self furling systems I've seen in the catalogues are pretty high tech things, hardly suitable for our boat. So, what are my options do you think?


Prairie Islander's foredeck:

So sweat up the jib halyard, yet:

[ 11-30-2002, 02:48 PM: Message edited by: NormMessinger ]

11-30-2002, 02:14 PM
Classic Marine carries furling gear that should be just the ticket for Prairie Islander. The furling gear is made by Wykeham-Martin.I have seen seen pictures of this furling gear on an Enu na Mara in Watercraft Magazine Volume 10 July August 1998.


Jim McGee

[ 11-30-2002, 02:24 PM: Message edited by: JimM ]

11-30-2002, 06:36 PM
Ronstan makes a small inexpensive unit as does Harken........both are well built..

Frank Hagan
11-30-2002, 07:19 PM
Norm, having seen the great craftsmanship you employed in making your boat, including the hardware and blocks if I remember correctly, I propose you perfect the "homemade roller furler" for your fellow boat builders.

There's a fellow who made one for a ComPac 16, and posted detailed instructions at http://com-pacowners.com/tips/roller_furler.htm His cost, about $10. I suspect with good materials, the cost would be more, but the concept he provides might get you started. Here's how he hanks on the sail to the PVC he uses as the "roller":


Interesting, huh?

I had a poster who built one for his Weekender for $5, using similar materials (some of which he had on hand already). He used a wire spool for the furling gear itself, and PVC pipe similar to what the Compac owner has done.

David Tabor (sailordave)
11-30-2002, 07:31 PM
Flexible Furler (http://www.sailcdi.com)

I've heard this are great for smaller boats! (under 40')

Scott Rosen
11-30-2002, 09:12 PM
Jim M beat me to it. I agree with his recommendation to check out the gear at Classic Marine.

11-30-2002, 10:35 PM
The furler offered by Classic Marine fit the character of Prairie Islander I'm trying to maintain but, gosh darn, the price of the PVC pipe system is right. That is an ingenious application of materials as well.

If I remember right, Scott, Ian-on-the-Right uses the Wykeham-Martin system on his Patience from something he said years ago. It is simple and it is bronze.

Phyllis saw the pictures you sent Jim so she now says that is what she wants for Christmas. That may be a bit extreme, so for Valentines day instead.

Thanks all.


Scott Rosen
12-01-2002, 07:31 AM

Schaffer makes a system almost identical to the Wykeham-Martin one, except it's in stainless steel and it's a little less expensive. That's what I have on my Patience. You used to be able to get them through Waste Marine. I haven't looked at their catalog in a while, so I don't know if they still carry it.

Worth a look, I'd say.

12-01-2002, 10:26 AM
My problem with this idea is that the self-furling system takes longer to rig and take down and the sail must be fully extended before it can raised or brought down on deck. I have visions of a Sunday night where you have to be somewhere the next morning; You need to get the mast down; The wind is coming up and you have to get the jib down, first. If 'Prarie Islander' lives on a trailer and travels a lot, I'm on the other side of this issue. I think its a bad idea.

12-01-2002, 10:49 AM

In the sytems I'm thinking about you don't take the jib off. It just furls, you unfasten the headstay like normal, and away you go.

Ian G Wright
12-01-2002, 11:01 AM
AC-B can correct me,,,,,,,,, Major Whickham-Martin invented the furling gear that bears his name in the first decade of the 20th century. Moray at Classic Marine can tell you all about them, but I would guess that size# 1 would do though size #2, which I have, might be better.
To work well with the W-M gear headsails need to have a wire luff, which on our small boats Norm ,means they are harder to stow, the wire needs to be rolled, so you end up stowing an object about the size of a motorcycle tyre,,,,,,,,,

Mrs Norm might find a combination of W-M working jib and hanked on staysail might suit her needs.
At any rate that's what Patience has.
I have seen a Francis 26 rigged as a gaff cutter which had both stays'l and jib on Harken Reefing gears. Worked well I told, but VERY expensive!
,,,,,and that reminds me, W-M is a furling gear, not a reefing gear.


12-01-2002, 11:15 AM
It just goes to show you what I know, Jack. I didn't know such a system existed. I guess I'll have to do some more homework.

12-01-2002, 11:36 AM
Right, Rod, I don't think it would change the time it takes to rig or unrig. I'll have to put a wire in the sail, as Ian says, which will complicate stoage a bit. Rigging now goes something like this: http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4291389835


[ 12-01-2002, 11:53 AM: Message edited by: NormMessinger ]

John B
12-01-2002, 03:06 PM
That's what we ended up with. hanked on ( self tacking) staysail. Wykham martin on the jib. In our case, we have a head stay and run the jib flying just inside it. this causes all sorts of problems but in our case is worth it for rig integrity. If I were you Norm, I would have the jib on a wire( You have that already?) and make it a semi permanent setup. Ie: the jib luff becomes the headstay.
If you do it. pay particular attention to noting the lay of the jib wire so you know which way to furl and try hard to get seperation at the top of the halyard( Is it two parts?). This is to stop the top swivel from twisting the halyard instead of revolving. some people rig short lengths of strop or bar to achieve this.

12-01-2002, 03:28 PM
Well, I know a bit about Major Wykeham-Martin because my sister once owned his boat. He was quite a soulmate for Norman; he built "White Moth" (a 32ft gaff ketch) himself, at a time, the early 1900's, in the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, when it was literally unheard of for an amateur to build a cabin boat. His watchword was "If I cannot make it myself, or buy it at Woolworths, I can probably do without it!" I have no doubt that had he lived later he would have been an enthusiastic amateur pilot and plane builder as well.

White Moth is quite a machine, incidentally, 7ft 6ins beam, almost a plank on edge, and two thirds of the mizzzen boom is aft of the transom.

He invented quite a few things, including an elegant rack and pinion steering gear for wheel steering with a highly raked sternpost, and he did make a little money out of his jib furling gear, which has never been out of production.

It is a very elegant design, with sound detailing, such as making sure rain water cannot enter the bearings.

There is no other gear good enough for Prairie Islander; she must have the real thing!

Like John B I have a Wykeham-Martin gear (size 4) on the jib and a hanked staysail which sets on a boom. This is best for bigger gaff cutters, where you reef the staysail in a blow, and you want to avoid handling two sets of sheets, but less suitable for small ones.

Prairie Islander is a tad bigger than Mytica, which had/has Size 1, and I fancy Size 1 will do the job, but Size 2 makes the work even easier.

It is very easy to change or stow headsails with this gear; you just include an ordinary snap shackle between the drum and the sail at the bottom and between the swivel and the sail at the top. You keep the sails rolled, and if changing headsails you swap one sausage for another.

Yes you need a wire luff rope, and experienced sailmakers usually make the wire luff bigger than it would otherwise need to be, to help the sail to roll up round it nicely.

John B
12-01-2002, 06:08 PM
Sausages!. that's exactly what we call em.