The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (www.jtwc.mil
) predicts Cyclone Rita will pass within 90 miles south of American Samoa tomorrow night but she seems to have her eye set on a direct hit on Vavau, Tonga around Sunday.
As a precaution, my wife and I decided to remove our headsail yesterday afternoon in preparation of Rita, and I wanted to get it down for minor sewing repairs, anyway.
So - we went through the routine of un-furling our big (140%) genoa, sheet her off, ease the halyard and bring her down. Last time we'd done this was in the Caribbean - a year-and-a-half ago.
Everything went smoothly... until it jammed after lowering it only about five feet! And it wouldn't go back up again, either! There we were with the sail flapping in the breeze, jammed, and the boat was alive and tugging on her lines!
Up the mast I went in my steeple-jack torso harness to assess the situation. My wife employed our anchor windlass and I was aloft in no time.
I found the halyard was not binding as suspected... but the upper furler swivel was stuck at a joint where the foil sections linked. I tapped the swivel with my wrench but it wouldn't budge. Upon closer examination, I felt two of the lower set screws had somehow backed out of the retaining holes in the foil ends and can only assume that the swivel is jammed on the upper screw!
I was hanging by a halyard over 50 ft above deck with a leg hooked over the forestay and the mast was beginning to shake enough to rattle the rigging! I couldn't tell if it was the wind or my nerves doing all the shaking... but probably a lot of both!
I attempted to cut the mousing wire but couldn't get a "feel" on the job in the failing light, so I just clamped the vise-grips onto the shackle pin and started unscrewing it - under the load of the sail. The mousing broke and the pin finally came out and I let-go my grip on the stay and bagged the tools & pin and was finally lowered down after my wife took control of the sail & flaked it as best she could on deck, by herself.
It seemed that we provided some great entertainment for the gathering of Asian fishermen on the dock, who I immagine were placing bets among themselves if I was going to survive unscathed. There was a roar of applause when I finally touched down!
This morning I had a look at our now bare furler and, to my surprise, can see several of the set screws standing proud outside of their holes! I have no idea how long this situation had been developing because one has to physically get forward of the headstay while making way under full sail to be able to see it and the foils are (obviously) our of sight whenever the sail is furled around it.
Now the job at hand - after this cyclone passes - will be to repair the sail, go up the mast to free the swivel, attach it to my harness and then work my way back down the length of the headstay while inspecting for potentially lost set screws and re-tightening ALL of them with a fresh drop of Lock-Tight before bending the sail back on and rolling it all back up again.
Anyway - I just wanted to share this little ditty because I know there are a LOT of ProFurl systems out there and maybe this'll help others avoid this minor ordeal. All I can say is that I'll have a new item to check on my morning rounds while underway... and I sure am glad that I came to realize this problem while we were in port - instead of having to go up there and pull the pin while bounding through waves out on the High Seas!
Now - in the meantime - I'd be Grateful if someone out there will let me know what size alan wrench I need to repair this, because the ProFurl manual makes no mention of it.
C'est la Vie!