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Some of you of a certain age might remember Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live fame. Married to Gene Wilder, she died at just 42 from ovarian cancer. As one of the original Not Ready for Primetime Players, she helped make SNL the icon it eventually became. One of my favorite characters Gilda played was Roseanne Roseannadanna.  Roseanne would often rant on the Weekend Update sketch with Jane Curtain where after digressing she would always sign off with some version of “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

Well, just ain’t that the friggin truth…

My guy and I have been working very hard on our yacht for almost exactly one year, since bringing her back from Florida. She’s in good shape. It was time to take her on a weekend jaunt. So, last Thursday, we loaded her up with beer, wine, and food and off we went for a two day trip down to Galveston.

The plans were to travel down to Galveston on Friday morning, spend the night, sail offshore on Saturday, spend the night, and sail back up to Kemah on Sunday. We were to stay at the Galveston Yacht Basin  both nights. Having a drink Thursday evening in our pool I told Captain Husband I hoped it was a drama free weekend…he said he hoped so too.

The trip down to Galveston was uneventful. As we entered the inner harbor of the GYB we grabbed a slip right next to a friend of ours. The inner harbor, normally smooth as glass was very windy…the docking was so-so.

Saturday dawned calm and windlass. With no wind, we decided to break out the bicycles and take a tour of Galveston at street level. When we got to the seawall the wind had picked up…such was our luck. We’d bike a while and then sail later in the afternoon, we thought.

We pedaled wherever we wanted, but along the way ended up at the Railroad Museum. We didn’t even know Galveston had a railroad museum but it does, and a pretty good one at that. We really enjoyed bumming around all the old train cars and locomotives. It was pretty cool.

We rode all over before ending up back at the marina. By the time we got back we were too tired to go sailing, but the wind had died down anyhow…no big deal.

Sunday we got up and had breakfast before slipping the lines and heading back up the ship channel towards Kemah. The wind was light but sailable. It was a gorgeous day, though quite hot. We raised all three sails and made great time on the way home.

Just past Redfish Island we furled the two headsails…the wind had calmed to barely a breeze. I brought the boat around into the wind and we prepared to roll roll the mainsail up on it’s furler.

And, it was at this time when Roseanne Rosannadanna’s prophetic phrase popped into my head. Indeed, it’s always something…if I ain’t one thing, it’s another.

I suppose we need a history preface…

From the very start, when we were looking at photos of Freedom on Yacht World but had never laid eyes on her we had some concerns with her mainsail furling system. This was the description of the sail rigging as described in Yacht World when we first read about our yacht:

• Roller furling Main, Profurl Staysail & Profurl Genoa
• 2004 Main sail refurbished (2010) by North Sails
• Main Roller Furling rebuilt in 2010

Cool we thought, roller furling mainsail, staysail, and headsail gear by Profurl is a good thing. Cool. However, photos of the mainsail furler were not very good. But from what photos there were, It quickly became apparent from what we could see that the roller furling mainsail was neither an in the boom nor an in the mast type system. It was, instead, a behind the mast system…one, I might add that neither of us had ever seen. We didn’t like what we were seeing regarding this system but deferred to seeing the furler with our own eyes at the sea trials before judging.

We insisted on a thorough sea trial with us sailing the boat for as long as we thought necessary to make an informed decision. To the owner’s, surveyor’s, and broker’s credit, we were allowed to do just that. The winds on the day of the sea trial were light, around six knots or so. The surveyor and broker put up all three sails as we watched. They all unfurled easily enough, including the mainsail and its system.

We sailed the boat back into St. Mary’s Inlet only furling the sails once we were back into the Intracoastal Waterway at Fernadina Beach, Florida. The headsail and staysail both rolled on their roller easily. But when the surveyor and broker attempted to furl the main things didn’t go well at all. To furl the mainsail on its behind the mast furling system that day required the owner to give me directions so that I could point the boat exactly into the wind…exactly. When the boat was pointed exactly into the wind the broker began winching the furler to roll it up. Repeatedly the sail would hang up, have to be unrolled a bit, and then another attempt was made to roll it up…hang up, unroll, try again…several times. The kindest thing that could be said about rolling up the main during the sea trials was that it didn’t go well at all. Actually, a more accurate description was that the whole system sucked and getting the sail rolled up was a royal pain in the ass. They did eventually get the sail rolled up, but it wasn’t an easy proposition.

Needless to say, we bought the boat. The mainsail wasn’t a deal killer but it would head the list of things we liked least about our new yacht.

On the way back from Florida, the very first time we sailed the boat, we hoisted the mainsail. On our first attempt to roll the mainsail up, we snagged it. After unrolling it a bit, we managed to reduce the mainsail, but not roll it up. Almost 30 knot winds and 8 feet seas urged us to wait until the sea state was better. The end of our first three days saw the wind subside. Thankfully, the mainsail rolled right up.

During the nine days it took us to get the boat from Ft. Lauderdale to Galveston we hoisted and furled the main perhaps maybe five times. Some times were easier than other to furl the main, but at no time was it easy to do. Once in Key West it took perhaps an hour or so to finally get the main sail furled.

Once back in Kemah, Captain Husband and I hoisted the main the times we took the boat out…the last few times were not too bad in getting the sail furled on its rollers. Sunday, a week ago, June 29th, we took the boat out for the afternoon. The winds were in the mid teens and steady. We furled the main but just as the sail was rolled up, the roller furler drum line parted. We replaced that line with a new one last Monday.

So it was, as we turned into the mild breeze last Sunday and prepared to roll up our main. The procedure: turn dead into the wind, keep a little tension on the outhaul line, and steadily winch in the furler…just like we’d done it each time before. This time was different. Different for some reason that neither my husband nor me can figure out.

The sail hung up on the second coupler about 15 feet from the top of the mast…we unrolled and tried again…hung up again. Unroll…retry. The sail snagged on the next coupler. Unroll…retry. This went on for well over an hour as we struggled to get the sail rolled up. There reached a point, after endless attempts, that the sail could neither be rolled up, or unrolled. The entire system jammed solid. We were afraid to put any additional force into the lines for fear of ripping the entire roller furler and sail right off of the mast…we use electric Lewmar 65 winches to furl our sails and they are quite capable of doing just that.

In the end, we tied what sail was still not on the roller to the mast, opting to sort the entire mess out at the dock.

Yep…if it aint one thing, it’s another.

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I returned to the boat today to secure the sail better. The plan is to remove the sail completely and check out the roller furler itself. Captain Husband seems to think it might be the bearings. The roller furler is said to have been rebuilt in 2010. The mainsail was refurbished by North Sails in 2010 as well…supposedly the luft was reduced so that the sail would furl on the roller easier. Both the roller furler and sail were addressed by the second owner…we really just don’t know.

The original owner, a fine gentleman who has been most helpful with great insight indicated to us that the roller furling main took a little bit to get used to but overall worked well for him. We don’t know, and certainly don’t mean to imply we are pointing fingers after the fact (we are not), but the mainsail furling system as it is now is just not acceptable. In a serious blow, not being able to drop or readily reduce the mainsail could be a serious thing indeed.

Behind the mast mainsail furling systems are no longer popular – they never really were – parts are no longer available. There is really not a lot of information out there about them anymore. They were definitely a first generation system. I’m sure they were the bomb back in the day…not so much any more.

One might ask why not just dump it and get right as rain with a new system. Well…because…that’s a money thing. It’s a hugely expensive money thing. It would almost certainly require a new sail and would definitely require new sail rigging…the boat would probably need to be hauled out and/or the mast removed. Suffice to say that it’s a very big and expensive deal.

Yep…it’s always something.

GYB is about the same as it always is.  They have a burger place there now…pretty good.  We got to use our propane grill…that worked well.  As well as our Force 10 four burner stove and oven…that also worked well.  The 12,000 BTU A/C we put in last year worked good but we still feel we need additional cooling…the original owner had three A/C units on the boat.  We feel we need at least one more…probably a 16,000 BTU unit.

All in all it was a great trip I suppose. 

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