Harken Furling Tips and Tricks

Harken furling has been my defacto choice for furling genoas and jibs, and generally they’re super easy to install.  There are a few tips and tricks I’ve accumulated over the years that make it a bit easier to be efficient during the build, and there’s recently been a run on fixing DIY furlers that highlighted a few steps in the process that people seem to neglect.  See below for some pics to help you through assembling your Harken furling unit.

Before you’ve cut foils or made a headstay,  first look around the rig and see if the ends of the headstay are appropriate for the furler.  In the above picture, there is no toggle at the bottom of the stay, and instead there is a highly alarming twisted single plate with an offset pin to raise the height of the furling drum.  Link plates in general are a bad idea for furling, as they tend to twist, but this is a single plate which has somehow managed not to tear apart. Toggles are far, far cheaper than rigs!Above you can see a link plate which has started to twist due to torsion from furling and sailing with reefed sails. Eventually one plate will break, followed by the other.

When looking at existing gear, it’s important to not only check for things like toggles, but make sure they’re working properly. The above mast had a jaw/jaw toggle installed overlapped (not inside) the masthead toggle, which had led to cracks in the toggle.  Replaced with a eye to jaw toggle, which seats properly between the plates on the masthead toggle.

When making the connections between foils, I like to use the box that came with the furler to hold the adhesive, tools and all the small parts (some of which are very small indeed!) This lets you work quickly, as you can just slide all the necessary bits along the headstay as you go.  The box catches any small parts you might drop, and can be used to elevate the foils when assembling stubborn connections.  The single biggest mistake I’ve seen in Harken furlers gone wrong is not using enough sealant in the joints.  In the photo above you can see that I’ve used the syringe to apply enough 5200 until it comes out the fastener port.  Harkens joints are designed to have 3 levels of connection; first the mechanical joint formed by the shape of the connector inside the foil, second the fastener holding the foil to the connector, and lastly the bond between all the parts formed by the sealant.  It’s far, far better to have too much sealant, and to hit the furler with an acetone rag, than to have too little and have the below picture in your sailing season!

The furler in the above image was a DIY unit 1, which had 2 foils come apart while sailing reefed.  Luckily the owner was able to get the sail down without much damage.  When I went to trouble shoot, I found that the connector barely had any adhesive on it, and the fasteners had none.  Apparently the install was done on a cold day, so the adhesive wasn’t making it very far into the joint.  I’ve also watched a DIY install use only a tiny amount of adhesive in each screw hole, as the owner “wanted to save the tube of loctite for something else”  I’m guessing that  the “something else” turned out to be fixing the furler later in the season!

 

Harken MkIV’s are stupid-easy to put together, but one slightly tricky area is in getting the connector wedges seated properly.  In the above photo you can see the wedge, which is slid into place along with the connector.  To make sure it stays in it’s proper place, hold it down with your thumb until the connector slides into place.  You can also see the giant glob of 5200 which is coming out of the foil. This is a good thing!  I like to finish off the install by wiping down the foils after the furler is stowed on the mast.  There is some variation in tolerances on Harken furling, so if you’re facing a stiff connector, I usually chill the connectors in a cooler, or heat the foils, to gain a little extra play in assembly.

 

 

Naturally, you’ve chosen an incredibly cold day to assemble the furler.  The adhesive that seals the connector in place is an incredibly important part of the joints between furler foils.  In cold weather, both 5200 and Loctite cure slowly, so to ensure the bond kicks off and that the adhesive flows properly around the joint, I always heat up the joint after assembly with a propane torch. It doesn’t take much heat, so just move the torch over the joint until the foil is barely hot to the touch. Too much torch and you can melt the plastic bushings or spacers inside the connector.  If you’re using Loctite as in the above picture,  I like to line up the connector in place, then hit it with the torch BEFORE installing the screw for the first connection. That way you can tug on the connector to see how much heat it takes to set the Loctite.  Also in the above image; always keep the Loctite bottle upside down when it’s cold, as this makes it easier to apply. Alternatively you can keep it warm in a pocket, but the obvious risks apply!

When putting the foils together, I like to leave the plastic wrapping in place,  pulling it away from each end. This protects the foils from damage to the anodizing caused by dragging the foils. When the furler is fully assembled and attached to the mast, now it’s time to remove the plastic packing.  All you need is a knife, held upside down in the furler track. Instead of moving the knife and possibly scratching the anodizing, just pull the plastic to the knife instead, so the plastic unzips around the blade.  If you”re tantalizing the furler mast up, I’ll actually leave the plastic on until the headstay is installed, then while aloft I’ll slide the plastic off onto a knife.  This leaves the plastic in place until the last moment, protecting the foils while you’re hauling the furler aloft, and lets you feel a bit like Errol Flynn, which is a nice way to end a project.

 

Fix and Prevent Traveler Car Failures with Aluminum End Caps

You can prevent the dreaded “how many bearings were in this car, anyway?” question on race day with a little help from Harken.

The standard end caps on traveler cars are plastic, which works great 90% of the time. However in situations where the loaded up car slams over and over into the end stop, these eventually wear out, crack, and deliver to your cockpit floor between 40 and 148 tiny little ball bearings which promptly scatter like cockroaches, leaving your crew to try and catch up to the car before trying to corral all the bearings back into place.

Well, if you’ve done that once, odds are good that once was enough, so these metal end caps might be a good bit of preventative maintenance, or more likely, the caps you should replace the broken ones with next time! Available for older, non CB midrange and big boat cars, they’re more expensive than the stock plastic ones, but well worth it to save lost sailing time and the wonderful excitement of ball bearing wrangling.

Older Harken Furling Repair

If you walk down the dock in any harbor, you’ll inevitably see more than a few older Harken furlers.  Even the models from the 80′s are still going strong.  With a few exceptions (worn bearing races, wrecked toggles) keeping an older furler going is pretty easy, as Harken will be supplying repair parts for a few more years.

 

The single most common repair we make is to damaged foils.  It’s inevitable that in spring or fall a travelift or careless operator will take a bite out of the foil sections, usually leaving the connectors bent or broken.

The fix is to lower the furler to the ground, remove the old headstay-as now is a great time to replace it;  any headstayy inside a MkI furler is going to be getting close to 20yrs old and past its expiration!-and replace the damaged components and foils.

One of the small issues that can slow down this process is when the connector is broken off inside the foil, and tough to remove.  

The connector above was cracked ~3/4″ into the foil, so quite tough to remove.  Sometimes the foil is damaged as well, but this foil was still fine, so we needed a way to push or pull the old connector out.

Other times I’ve encountered this I’ve remembered to bring a piece of old -22 rod rigging with, which can (just like any other rigid thin tube) can be used to punch the connector out, although it’s not always easy and you run the risk of damaging the  foil while flailing around with a 7′ foil and 8′ rod.

For this bit of field work, I was in a harbor with no suitable tool to punch the old connector out.  Necessity is a mother,  so we came up with a much simpler way to do this.  First the foil and connector was heated with a propane torch.  This does 2 things: makes the metals expand and contract to break up their corrosion bonds, and loosens the loctite that was used in original assembly. Then we dropped a 6″ x 1/4″ machine screw through the foil from the other end.  This gave us: 

An easy way to pull the connector out with a wrench tapped with a hammer.  When removing connectors and separating foils I find it’s best to stop and use more heat when encountering resistance from the bonds.  Much easier to spend a few minutes with the torch than to replace a damaged foil section.  Just make sure you have a decent spares kit with new connectors, screws, and plastic wedges.

Once the foils are back together, it’s relatively easy to thread the new headstay in from the top.  Use a swaged fitting aloft, and a Sta Lok or Hi Mod at the bottom (don’t forget the washer above the bottom terminal) and you’re good to go.

 

Big Boat check stay upgrade

There are tons of great old IOR boats out there that can benefit from more recent technology.  The old wire check stays and blocks in the picture above were heavy and a bear to use.  We were able to match working loads with much lighter gear and still keep the traditional look favored by the owner. 

The Harken runner block shown (4″ stainless runner) isn’t in the Harken catalog anymore, but is still available on a special order basis, which is great as they’re excellent blocks with a traditional appearance. These weight less than a third of what the old mammoth blocks weighed, and still deliver much less friction.  We replaced the wire-to-rope (yuck!) tails with simple New England STS 75 covered with a Marlow MGP cover.

Always nice to get kind feedback, and one of the funniest of the season Iv’e gotten was from this boat: “I know I’ll get whacked in the head by the checks at least once, so I’d much rather have it be the new runners than the old runners!”

Harken T18 soft attach blocks for bungee

The Harken T18 block is a great small utility block that can be used all over the boat, for control line leads, deflectors and retractors, like this bungee cord jib lead retractor on a Beneteau 36.7

A few details here worth noting.  Instead of traditional bungee cord, we’re using solid rubber cord, which lasts a lot longer in the sun, and has a stronger return force. Using 2:1 gives us plenty of throw so the system can work for the full (nearly 12′) length of the genoa track.  The 1/4″ cord is .75c per foot.

2mm bare loops secure the cord to the car, and we used a 2mm soft shackle to hold the T18 block in place.  Regarding the T18, the max stated line size is 5mm, but I find you can cheat a bit and use 6mm line and bungee with a bit of friction.  

T10 Deck Layout

One of my T10 customers asked a riggers favorite question this spring: “Blair is repainting my deck, and I’d like to bring it the harbor bare to have you put the layout in place, do you have time?”  Taking a cue from Ghostbusters, the answer to that question is always “yes”

The goal was to minimize hardware and holes, and get controls in places where multiple people could use them easily.

The customer picked up these ferrule head jib tracks, and we did the install.  The ferrule head is nice because you can cross sheet without leaning the jib lead inboard (illegal) but the downside is more friction.  If the winches are decently powered this won’t be an issue, but I wonder about some boats with older/smaller/smooth winches and how well this will work.  Does look very cool though!

Heres the starboard side of the same area.  We went clutches forward on this boat, which has been around for a while, but added a bit of trickery in using Antal Deck Rings instead of deck organizers to bring the halyards aft.  These bone-simple bits of gear work great for high load fairleads,  padeyes etc.  In this case they effectively and simply turn the halyards aft to the winches, but also provide an infinite angle fairlead so that the line can be tailed/hoisted from any direction.  If I were doing bow on this boat, I’d expect to be hoisting my own jib from up by the shrouds.

In both of the above shots you can also see the vang leading aft (white/blue line) 

The white blue line is the vang.  The control is double ended, going to both sides of the companionway, and uses my favorite fairlead ( yes really ) the Harken Extreme Angle lead.  This lead lets the line be cleated from almost 90 degrees to either side.  This means on this boat anyone in the cockpit or pit can trim the vang, and anyone within reach of the tail can blow it.  The other fairlead in this picture is in the little control box,  which is for the underdeck twings. For jib sheet and spin sheet cleats, there are 2; one on the back of the house and one on the side of the cockpit seatback (not visible) This gives lots of options for cross sheeting and locking off lines.Here you can another Deck Ring, this time for the downhaul.  Always tricky to lead, the downhaul on this (and most  buoy racing boats) works best when close to the mast base. This lets the downhaul put a little aft pressure on the pole, which helps with square running, and additionally the closer it is to the mast base the fewer adjustments are needed when changing the guy angle.  The Deck Ring is perfect for this as well, as it works in many directions and should last forever.  You can see topping lift and downhaul are mounted on swivel bases up on the coaming. Blair did the plumbing for routing the twings under deck, so all I had to do was provide a good bit of cordage.  We used regular sailmakers thimbles spliced into a piece of Alpha KMix cover in 7mm.  This is a nice handling line at a good price, and the thimble attachment is nice and light, although carries the caveat of being more friction than a block.With 2 winches on deck,  there are times during a buoy race where a bit of sail handling help is needed; imagine coming into the windward mark, trying to keep the jib in tight while loading the spinnaker sheet… the big boat style hobble saves hassle here, letting you clip the tylaska shackle into the jib clew, then freeing the jib sheet off the port winch.  The hobble takes the load and keeps the jib in, so you can get around the mark in style.  This one has a sliding loop splice to give it a bit of adjustability for different jibs and conditions, although I expect it to be a set and forget thing most days.Taming another corner of the jib we have a jin cunnigham system.  A simple 2:1 through the hook leads to double ended 3:1′s for 6:1 total power.  The sails on this boat have cunnigham attachments as a webbing strap, but if your sails have pressed rings, you can run the 2:1 right through the ring and save the extra hardware.The simple clean way to attach to a toerail is with a spliced loop on a Harken T2 block.  The loops will last a long time, not damage rail or deck and are incredibly strong and light. We converted the customers old style “pinch” fiber backstay to the newer cascading style, which works great.  A little detail here is how the lines are led.  Using eyestraps and T2 blocks in the cockpit we keep it light and able to articulate properly, and mounting them to the sides instead of the floor keeps them snag free and clean (as lines on the floor trap dirt/water/feet)  Also note the little deflectors that hold the line back and out of the way of the driver; just a little dyneema and a ring.

What a fun project; it’s nice to start from scratch.  Looking forward to sailing reports and will note any changes here.

Big Boat Twin Backstay Tails

These were fun.  I keep calling them runner tails, but techinically they’re twin topmast backstay tails…  Made from Heat Set Spectra cores, partially covered with New England ARC cover for good grip, toughness and control on the winch.  They yellow tails are Alpha Ropes SSC, which is super light, won’t take on water and nice to handle. The blocks are 100mm Air Runners.Made this way so you have minimum weight and friction where it runs through the blocks and is aloft, the cover is for winching and handling, and the lightweight tail is so the lazy runner-I mean, lazy twin topmast backstay tail (see why everyone calls em runners?)- can be pulled out of the way of the main.


The blocks are Air Runners,  although I’ve heard some TP52′s are using TTR blocks.  The TTR would be a bit of overkill, but they’re so cool! Titanium bearings in special races mean no deformation and super insane efficiency.  Someone buy some TTR blocks from me!

Cut lengths specials

54′ 8.5mm Poly Tech Blue/Black, unfinished SOLD

110′ 8mm Robline Admiral Dyneema white green, unfinished SOLD, but available per foot $1.75

Retail $82.60 Sale $55

Harken 2672 75mm Carbo Ratchet Cheek Block retail $82.60 Sale $58

 

14mm New England Endura Braid 136′ white/blue, reeving eyes either end, retail $7.36/ft, sale $4/ft

 

5/16″ Yale Crystalyne, white/blue with natural vectran core 49′ cut ends $1.56/ft std,  $1/ft sale

 

10mm navy New England VPC 68′ $1.30 retail, $.90 Sale one end cut, one end reeving eye