Don’t gross out yet, it’s not what you think.
When we decided to buy a new mainsail, the first decision was whether to replace the existing in-mast furling main or go to another system.
The in-mast system was very popular ten years ago when Country Dancer was built. It is reasonably priced when ordered on a new boat, and furls the sail on a vertical aluminum extrusion very much like the tried and proven head sail furling systems. This allows for ultimate flexibility in furling or reefing the sail to any size needed, and since all the lines are lead to the cockpit, you don’t need to go on deck to deploy, reef, or stow the main. The sail cover is a simple canvas wrap that encloses the sail in the bottom of the mast. A nice, simple and effective sail handling system.
Except…. To make the in-mast main work, it has to be made of somewhat lighter cloth or it will not fit through the slot in the back of the mast. This lighter cloth is more susceptible to stretch, and ages poorly. The sail is also cut with “hollow” down the leach, or aft side. Cutting it this way puts more tension on the back edge to help hold it out against the wind. Alas, this reduces the area of the sail by about 10% and most of that is at the top where the size is most needed. Conventional sails use battens, fiberglass slats or rods sewn in pockets, to help hold the leach out, but since these cant be rolled into the mast, the aft edge of this sail is completely unsupported.
Well it is a great system and if you don’t mind replacing your main every few years it workers pretty well, but the racer in me just had never been happy with the lousy shape that our sail gave. We heeled way to much, and went way to slow.
Then one day Jodi went to Catalina to see some of their surplus stuff, and Ken mentioned that they had 2 full batten mains for a good price. Salvation was in sight. I could get a “real” sail on the cheap. It turned out that cheap was only about $400 less than a custom main from Mack sails, but the ball was rolling. A few weeks later I ordered a full batten main, lazy jacks and ” Mack Pack” cover from Mack Sails in Stuart.
I am going to leave out the part about having to re-cut the sail to fit over our Bimini and solar cells and just say….what a GREAT sail. I feel like I am home again. We point, that is sail very close to the eye of the wind, and reach, going with the wind to our side, like a real sailboat. I lead the two reefing lines back to the cockpit, so shortening sail in a blow is not that big of a deal.
We really hadn’t sailed the new sail much before leaving on leg one of our trip, so getting to key west held a few new experience for us. But man did we go FAST. We saw over 9kts on a few occasions and went from the dock in Madeira to “anchor down” at Key West in 32hr. A new record for us.
During the upgrade I had decided to leave the in-mast furling system completely in place, so we could still use it if needed – or desired. That meant that the extrusion running up inside the mast had to stay in place. What I didn’t realize was that it was completely unsupported in there and would just rattle around. The result is the most horrific banging and clanging as every wave pitches the long clanger back and forth in our 65ft tall aluminum bell. Something had to be done.
In Key West, I decided to go “up the stick” and figure out how to support that darn thing before all the other boats in the anchorage came and kicked us out. What I decided to do was take a couple of can of spray foam up the mast and squirt it into baggies on both sides of the extrusion inside the mast. An hour latter these new “snot bombs” were all in place and silence returned to the harbor. I did have that crap everywhere though. Imagine if you will, 65 feet in the air, swinging in a bosuns chair, with your fingers manipulating a Baggie through a 1/2 inch slot in the mast when some hot rod fisherman comes by at 25 kts and rolls us a 3ft wake. It’s Capt Gary all @@@holes and elbows trying to keep from being launched into Miami with yellow spray snot shooting out and over everything. “Look out below, snot bombs away.” But it worked.
We had our first really quiet night since getting the new sail, and silently slipped our lines and left KW the next morning.
Jodi, what was that sound? It sounded like part of that mast clang again. Nah…..Yeah. The snot bombs had worked well at anchor, but it turns out that foam will not cure and get hard in a plastic Baggie. With every wave more of the spray snot worked its way out of the mast and the gentle tink, tink again became a clang, clang as the mushy Snot Bombs exploded and fell to the bottom of the mast. By the time we were 5 miles back up the Hawks Channel, I am sure that people on the beach were wondering what was falling apart on that boat “out there.”
So now we are 70 miles away from Jacksonville, and will make our anchorage by about 10:00 PM. If we don’t get arrested for breaking some noise ordinance tonight, I will be climbing the mast in the morning to replace all of my snot bombs with my next Really Great Idea. Stay tuned.