Selden’s Electric Furler Back-up System

Like any good lazybones cruiser, I surely do appreciate the ease and convenience of a push-button power furling system. Being able to wind up a big sail in a matter of seconds just by exercising a fingertip is enough to make any sailor feel like an all-powerful deity. But these systems also make me nervous. All I can think about when using one is what happens if I lose power??? Will I still be able to control the sail? It is, of course, a matter of basic common sense that any such furler should have ...

4th March 2010.
By Charles Doane

Like any good lazybones cruiser, I surely do appreciate the ease and convenience of a push-button power furling system. Being able to wind up a big sail in a matter of seconds just by exercising a fingertip is enough to make any sailor feel like an all-powerful deity. But these systems also make me nervous. All I can think about when using one is what happens if I lose power??? Will I still be able to control the sail? It is, of course, a matter of basic common sense that any such furler should have an effective manual over-ride, but in many cases they really don’t. Usually you’ll find a token socket for a winch handle stuck on the unit somewhere, but often there isn’t room to rotate the handle through a full 360 degrees, as a deck, spar, or some other protuberance usually contrives to get in the way.

So I was very pleased when I found out how Selden Mast engineered the over-ride system for their electric Furlex furlers while poking through their booth at the Miami show last month. Instead of turning the socket for the manual over-ride with a winch handle, you just slap on one of these continuous-line drive units and start hauling away. You can run the line all the way back to the cockpit if you like, have more than one guy hauling on it, or even put it on a winch if you really have to. Whatever happens, power or no, you’ll always be able to roll up your headsail promptly and safely.

Selden’s electric furlers have several other cool features. The electric drive units are completely compatible with existing manual 200, 300, or 400 series Furlex furlers, so you can convert them to power simply by removing the existing furling drum and replacing it with a new drive unit. There’s no need to resize your headstay or alter the luff length on your headsail. The electric motor is very torquey, with a self-locking worm drive, and draws just 30 amps (at 12 volts) under normal loads.

I also like the nifty wireless remote control you can use to operate the unit.

For those of you with more primitive power furriers, here’s a trick to keep in mind when the power fails: instead of spinning the sail around the furling rod, you can spin your boat in circles around the sail. (Note you do have to remove the sheets first!) I tried this once when the manual furler on a boat I chartered fell apart, and it worked pretty well. Fortunately, I was in flat water. In big seas it might be a lot more challenging.


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Charles Doane

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Charles Doane is an editor-at-large for SAIL, where he previously was a senior editor. He also served as managing editor at Offshore and associate editor at Cruising World. Charles has logged more than 40,000 miles as an offshore sailor, including six transatlantic passages and some single-handed passages. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.WaveTrain.net.
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