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Yesterday, I spent a great afternoon sailing with a lady I met online…both of us are members of a Facebook Group called Women Who Sail. As it was, it turned out she and her guy owned a sailboat that was currently sitting in the Bahamas. In an effort to continue sailing, they had access to a Beneteau 31 time share of sorts. She mentioned in a post that she was looking for someone in the Seabrook/Kemah area to go sailing with. I responded that I’d love to crew for her. Long story short: yesterday we made that happen.

Yesterday was perhaps the hottest day of the year here in Kemah…just under 100 degrees. And, I was a little apprehensive about the two of us meeting up for the sail. Aside from a very brief message to each other online and an equally short phone conversation to arrange a time, I really didn’t know anything about this woman. There was an indication from her that she had a bit of experience sailing, but how much I hadn’t a clue. I was good with whatever, but really hoped the afternoon wouldn’t turn into me being drafted to teach her how to sail. I just wasn’t up for it.

I shouldn’t have worried.

I pulled up to the Kemah Boardwalk Marina, found my new boat mate, properly parked and within ten minutes or so we were on the boat and feeling each other out. I am the helmsman on our boat and every time we dock or undock I fully realize the stress of being in charge; I was very much looking forward to relaxing and being crew for a change. To my new friend’s credit and to my delight, as we prepared to undock I saw a strong competent skipper at the helm. As I untied the dock line and we cast off I instantly knew it was going to be a great afternoon as she most adeptly eased the boat out of the slip, turned on a dime, and slowly guided us down the rather narrow marina fairways. With us already neck deep in chitter chatter, she turned into Clear Lake Channel and pointed us toward the Galveston Bay entrance, but a couple of hundred yards away.

There wasn’t much wind, and because of the heat, not many boats out, but after clearing the first couple of channel markers my skipper indicated it was time to raise the mainsail. I was on it…kinda sorta.

The fairly new Beneteau 31 we were on was a fractional rig with roller furler headsail and in-mast mainsail furler. As my friend turned into the wind I released the clutches to the mailsail furler and attempted to winch the in-mast mainsail out. It was a no go.

I attempted to roll the mainsail in just an inch or two. Also, a no go.

Tried again to unfurl…another no go. Perplexed, I walked all around attempting to locate a cleat or jam or anything I may have missed…nothing. My friend gently chided, “I thought you were the engineer…you’re suppose to know how this thing works.” I loved the kidding and responded, “I thought so too.” We both laughed…obviously just being out on the water was good for the both of us.

I continued trying to unlock the seemingly simple puzzle of unfurling the headsail…to no avail. I had no experience on a Beneteau 31, and this was only the second time (I think) that my friend had. And, then, for no apparent reason, during one of my attempts to unfurl, the headsail begin to quite easily come out of the mast. We no fanfare we quickly unfurled the headsail…five minutes later we were sailing.

After several hours of sailing we turned back toward Clear Lake and dropped the sails. The mainsail winched in without a hitch…the headsail as well. I couldn’t help but compare our Tayana 52 with the Beneteau 31. Honestly, sailing the Beneteau was like sailing a toy – a small toy – compared to our sailboat.

My friend expertly drove the boat back to its slip and we uneventfully docked. It was an absolute splendid afternoon for me and very enjoyable; I hope we get to do it again.

I mention yesterday for only one real reason: the trouble we had with the in-mast mainsail furler. My friend said that when they had last used the boat there had been no problem getting the sail out and in. And, THAT, is the whole issue, actually.

Remember that our boat, Freedom, had a behind-the-mast roller furler. That system has since been taken down from our mast. The behind-the-mast system would sometimes work well…and at other times jam up. It might jam up coming out, and sometimes going in. We tried to work with it but when it jammed on us one day when we tried to get it in…and then we couldn’t get it out we said fuck it…literally.

So, from our last post and above, one can see that the decision was made to remove the behind the mast mainsail furling system, discard the existing sail, install a Tides sail track system, and have a brand new fully battened conventional mainsail built. Two weeks ago, an entire week was spent getting the new sail on order.

We got quotes from all of the local sail lofts – there are four – and one discount online loft. Banks Sails got the order. A 10.5 oz, fully battened, loose-footed cruising mail sail…with a Tides sail track and custom fitted lazy jacks. I will make the sail cover myself. Estimated delivery was one month, or two weeks from today.

The same weekend, we took our head sail down from its furler. A few weeks ago we took the stay sail down to be refurbed. It was now time for the head sail to be refurbished as well. It’s a Doyle radial cut cruising Genoa. And, it’s very big. It was quite easy to drop this sail from the Harken roller furler but once it was down we could barely get it off of the boat. We did the best we could at folding it but even so the sail hung all over the sides of the dock cart. Thankfully a couple of dock mates helped us get it into husband’s truck. It was too heavy and unwieldy for just he and I to lift it. At the sail loft we use to refurbish our sails there was a loading dock…they just slid the sail off.

I stopped by this morning to check on both sails. The head sail refurbishment will be done by the weekend. Still a few more weeks for the new main.

So…in a few weeks, if everything hangs right, we should have a new main and refurbished fore and head sails on the boat…life will once again be good.



  1. I have an old profurl behind the mast mainsail furler. Do you still have your old furler? If so I need a new halyard swivel for my unit. I cannot get one from profurl. Please let us know.
    Thank you,
    Cole Walters
    s/v Watercolors

    • We still have the old furler and the swivel. If interested it’s $50 plus the shipping.

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