Ready, Set, Go!

Starting to get neighbors in time to leave.
Strangely, I was a little uptight on Wednesday. Its not even my boat but we were finally installing the new roller furler we had put together from pieces on the dock. To Furl is to gather or roll a sail. A roller furler is a system that allows this to be done like a window shade turned sideways on the bow of a boat. The headsail does not need to be hoisted each time, but is rolled out and then rolled in as needed.

The furler consists of a foil the length the headstay holding the sail, connected to a drum at the bottom, both turn together to roll the sail in or out. The foil, an aluminum extrusion, came in seven foot long pieces which we put together like high tech Lincoln Logs to fit the 52 foot headstay. The pieces connected together with intricately machined aluminum slugs and plastic bits. All held together with marine adhesive and little tiny machine screws which we assembled over the gaps between boards on a floating dock swaying to the motion of the Hudson.
The Furling Drum


To commission the furler, one end had to be raised to the top of the mast and the drum end attached to the stem fitting at the bow. In raising it, the furler bent in a luxuriously dangerous arc from the dock to the knot we had tied on. Knowing the intimate details of what was holding it all together, it was nerve wracking to watch the strain on the joints in the foil. It is a heavy thing too. We had to be careful in the lifting, as well as the 'not dropping,' parts of the operation.

Adding to the unease was the fact that we had put the furler together based on the length of the old furler we had removed. Sailboat rigging is complicated. On Eleanor the mast is held up with two stays and eight shrouds which all work together to keep it straight and straight up. The complexity of the constuction of the new furler meant that any necessary change to the length would be a tremendous amount of work. Additionally, we worried some components would not stand being reworked.

Bowsprit, Anchor and Furling Drum. 
Furling is quite prevalent these days. There a few old school hold-outs, like me, who still 'hank on' our sails. If we need less sail, the bigger sail must be lowered and stowed and a smaller one raised. To furl or not to furl is a question that can become a debate. Eleanor's headsail is very large and as a cutter ketch, she has two headsails. It is a safety issue when contemplating manhandling that big sail down in any amount of wind. The Captain made the right choice installing a furler on this boat. Its a technical and tedious project but the installation manual was well written. Once we got going, it went up without a hitch. We did it - ourselves.
All 52' of the furler

The furler was one of the last of the big projects aboard Eleanor. It looks like we are leaving on Sunday. We may anchor out Saturday evening as we need a high tide to get out of the marina. Then down the Hudson River to Atlantic Highlands inside of Sandy Hook, NJ. There we will wait for good weather to go offshore to Cape May. If the weather holds we may continue offshore to Norfolk, VA. Otherwise we'll sail up the Delaware and over to the Chesapeake on the C&D Canal.

At Norfolk, we will enter the Intercoastal Waterway(ICW) to get past the Carolina Capes on the inside. Then we'll jump offshore to Savannah, GA and then again to St. Augustine, FL. In Florida, we'll cruise the ICW again to get to South Florida. From the Miami area we will head east - totally the wrong direction to get to Panama - because it is shorter to go around the east end of Cuba. The Bahamas and Jamaica may be stops on the way if we are not pressed for time.

Our departure is upon us. After a month of seven day a week work, when departing was just a vague notion, we know it now plainly. Barring a change in the weather, we are heading out!!  It is a privilege to be learning so much about boats and vagabonding.

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