Fitting a new Furlex

Sept. 4, 2017, 10:40 a.m.

King Malu came with a terribly old Goiot furler. It had long lost its bearings and was running on a grease slide between two plates. Having jammed on us a few times and the last time when we really needed it to work smoothly, we eventually decided to replace it with a new Furlex unit. This meant changing the genoa as well. We are now selling the various Fulex units in Cyprus.
In for a penny, in for a pound, we invited Paul and Vicky Lees out from Crusader Sails in the UK to teach us how to measure boats for new sails and to advise on what we needed for King Malu. Hence... a new Furlex.
   
We first thing to do was remove one side of the v-backstay and loosened the turnbuckle as much as possible on the other side. We marked the turnbuckles with blue tape so we knew where we needed to come back to when we re-tightened them.
       
The next thing to so was secure the mast, so that when we removed the old forestay/furler it would not do damage. Friday had very light winds so that was an advantage, but we took the wire genoa halyard to a u-bolt on the deck and winched it tight. It was then possible to remove the bottom pin from the old forestay.
The original forestay had been mounted onto the rear hole on the anchor roller, which meant that all the tension was being taken on two deck screws. Paul thought this a bad idea, and so did we, so we decided when we put the new Furlex back it would be on the middle hole.
   
We then took the forestay/furler and tied it off to a cleat on the pontoon ready to drop it onto the pontoon.
     
I then went up the mast and secured the top of the forestay to the spinnaker halyard and removed the top pin. I being at the top of the mast with the standing rigging not bow tight was slightly strange. I am used to the motion of the boat beneath me, but not the mast slightly rattling on top of the boat!
   
We then lowered the forestay/furler onto the pontoon. Paul had warned us that the luff tube of a furler bent like crazy and it certainly did!
     
Tim and Sid and I had read through all the instructions the night before, but fitting a Furlex for the first time, it's pretty critical to follow the instructions to the letter. Having got the old furler/forestay to the pontoon the first task is to measure it and calculate cutting figures for the forestay and luff tubes. This is easier said than done. My old woodwork teacher always said 'measure twice, cut once'. When fitting a new forestay this is even more critical. One mistaken cut and you wait for a new forestay to be delivered! We measured, we checked each other, we looked again... eventually it was clear and we got the measurements we needed. It would certainly be easier a second time.
The luff tubes fit together really easily, although the instructions fail to mention there is a right way and a wrong way up for the luff tubes. It is important to have the metal infils over the joints not plastic.
       
Before fixing the top of the luff tubes and the forestay it's important to put on the top swivel, and as Paul said, make sure it's the right way up! The instructions also say to tape it to the sail feed slot which is also a good idea to stop it sliding around.
     
Then you feed the forestay through the extrusion. The end is annealed, so it should thread easily, but in our case one of the strands wasn't caught well so we had to cut it back a centimetre or so to thread it through. The top of the new forestay/furler looks really smart and much more secure.
   
Finally the bit we have been waiting for... or dreading... cutting the forestay to length. A new sharp hacksaw blade did the trick. The instructions look easy and the parts to join it to the rigging screw also look easy. Too easy. But threading and a wedge over the centre wire proved far from easy.  
The instructions then say to bend the outer wires over the end of the wedge. Actually this was the bit I worried about most. The wire stands were so thick I could not believe they would bend over.
   
However, Tim plus pliers and we had a very much neater end than I was ever expecting.
     
Two spanners and some gentle, or not so gentle, tightening and the forestay is attached to the rigging screw.
     
The tape to the right of the finished join is to hold in a pin which we have glued in place till the glue sets.
     
Finally fit the bottom swivel. The instructions don't say so, but we found out by trial and error that the forestay may appear too short at this point. When hoisted and under tension we found it was perfect.
     
Hoisting back up and securing the bottom pin proved much easier than I expected. The luff tubes bent like crazy again, but worked fine.
       
Wow, does this look smart compared to the antiquated Goiot furler we had.
         
Next, it's back up the mast to secure the top pin. We used the spinnaker halyard to haul it up. I then secured it at the top, lowered the halyard slightly on the luff tubes and Tim was able to winch up such that the top eye aligned with the masthead eye to about 1 millimetre. Fixing the pin through was therefore trivial!
       
There was only one problem and that was the old guide block for the genoa halyard. Not only had it seized and was being worn through by the halyard acting as a cheese cutter,  but it was too low. With the halyard at this angle it would put undue strain laterally on the luff tubes and forestay.
     
So, up the mast again and this time to fit a new halyard guide. The problem is, where I really wanted to fit it there were old holes from a previous guide, which would meant I could not secure it properly. So I mounted it about 5 centimetres lower than I really wanted. That's a new safety harness I have on. Bought for working at height on building sites, thus much cheaper because it didn't have the word 'marine' attached. It is very much more comfortable and made working at height significantly easier. Sid said I was moving around the mast much quicker and more lithely than before.
 
Here's what the halyard looks like at the correct angle. To shallow and the halyard will wrap around the luff tubes, too acute and it will stress them laterally.
       
Then it's time to reverse the process and tension the rig again. And remember to use lock nuts to secure the turnbuckles...
         
...or if you have the other type of turnbuckles, using mousing wire or a split pin to secure it. It's amazing the number of boats we see in the marina without mousing. If the turnbuckle is corroded in, you may get away with it (as we did) but if they are relatively new, then a vibration in the rig can unwind it. Not what you want to happen while you are sailing! We found that for the same apparent tension we were approx 1 centimetre different on the mast rake. As a cruising boat I'm sure that won't matter!
   
Finally we fitted the new drum and furling line. The two halves of the drum didn't quite match so we had to file them down so they clipped together. Paul had warned us this might be a possibility. Getting them to clip together took quite a bit of filing, but was worth it eventually.
   
The furling line itself is led out of the middle of the drum, perpendicular to the forestay. Getting that angle right determines how well (or otherwise) the line feeds onto and off the drum.
You can buy a Fulex unit from us, and we can quote you for fitting it. 

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