Tag Archives: Roller-furler

First Fullish-Family Sail

My mother and father sailing Errant, June 2015.
My mother and father sailing Errant, June 2015.

Following the most idyllic bike ride this morning, I headed out on Lake Champlain with my parents and sister for a almost-full-family inaugural sail. Perhaps we’ll manage a full-full-family sail when my brother arrives in a little over a week?

Loosely Logged…

We had motored out of my slip at the Essex Marina and begun hoisting the sails when I remembered that I wanted/needed to install the reefing system for the mainsail.

I still need to rig one or two reefing points. I’ll try to take care of that over the course of the week… (First Sail 2015)

Fortunately I found some spare hardware aboard and managed to temporarily rig the first reef, and it turned out to be essential. The initially light 6-8 know winds quickly built to the mid-teens and before long were +/-20 knots.

I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area.

This was my first time using the reefing system, and I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area, I’m going to hustle up the requisite hardware so that I have two ready reef options from now on.

I also reefed the genoa’s roller-furler twice as the wind built. It was a powerful learning experience.

This spring while working on Errant in the shipyard at the Willsboro Bay Marina I met a friendly fellow who was spring commissioning his sloop nearby. He impressed upon me the importance of reefing and assured me that the boat would perform better once I became accustomed to reefing during heavy winds. I explained that my sailing experience is primarily rooted in small boat sailing and sailboarding which made me greedy, hesitant to sacrifice sail area when the wind was whipping. But today I learned that he’s right. The boat doesn’t round up or wallow, and no water helm to wrestle with. And I was actually able to increase my hull speed when reefed, which was an important if overdue lesson to learn.

My sister and my father sailing Errant, June 2015.
My sister and my father sailing Errant, June 2015.

Furler Foibles

We knocked around for a few hours taking turns at the helm and familiarizing ourselves with the ins-and-outs of this user-friendly Catalina 310. Once we were ready to wrap up and head in, I asked my father to furl the genoa. I rounded up into the wind, and he pulled the roller-furler line. It wouldn’t budge. He took the wheel and I tried. Nothing.

I realized that the spinnaker halyard had become tangled in the roller furler when I reefed it earlier. How? I had secured the spinnaker halyard to the bow pulpit this winter to keep it from slapping against the mast, and I forgot to switch it over when I launched. I had noticed the halyard flapping in the wind earlier in the day, and I’d made a mental note to secure it to the mast as the end of the day. Not soon enough!

By unfurling the genoa and tightening the spinnaker halyard so that it wouldn’t re-tangle, I was able to solve the problem. Relieved. I promised myself to become more detail oriented going forward.


Docking still revs up my anxiety meter… [so] I arrived at the Essex Marina with a twinge of dread. (First Sail 2015)

I was well protected from the wind and waves when I arrived at the marina, and with the advantage of a full crew to handle lines and fenders I was able to execute a relatively confident and wholly successful docking. I’m developing a slightly more intuitive understanding for Errant under engine power, but there’s still plenty to learn before I will feel as comfortable docking 11,000 pounds of fiberglass (plus plenty of windage) with a small two bladed prop and a 25hp diesel engine as I do a powerboat. But each successful docking brings me a little closer to the goal!

ATN Mastclimber Review

ATN Mastclimber ascender (as seen from top of the mast)
ATN Mastclimber ascender (as seen from top of the mast)

Sloppy manufacturing… [is hopeful not] not what I will experience when my ATN Mastclimber arrives next week. As with the other potential concerns addressed above, I will offer a personal review once I’ve gone aloft. Successfully. I hope… (ATN Mastclimber)

Okay, I have to admit that I’m still feeling that tingly, slightly electric feeling in my bones. All of them. Even though I’ve been down from the mast for a few hours. That’s the “bad news”.

The “good news” is that the ATN Mastclimber is an impressive piece of equipment. It seems well built; none of the obvious ATN Mastclimber quality concerns I cited in previous post. And it works! I was able to ascend like an “inchworm” all the way to the tippy top of the mast to recover the top of the roller-furler which gravity had stolen last autumn.

ATN Mastclimber tool bag (view from top of the mast)
ATN Mastclimber tool bag (view from top of the mast)

I won’t pretend that the experience was enjoyable enough to repeat for fun, but there was a certain thrill (laced with primal fear) that helped propel my cloud-ward. And while ascending isn’t necessarily easy, it’s not nearly as difficult as some other reviewers have suggested. Once I got the hang of the ascenders and fell into a rhythm, I was able to reach the top of the mast relatively quickly. Of course the omnipresent awareness that I could plunge to my demise served as a useful motivator!

But while ascending proved easier and quicker than I anticipated, descending proved slower and considerably more awkward than I anticipated. Several times I descended too far on my upper (harness) ascender, making it it tricky to release my foot ascender. And vice versa. In these cases it was necessary to slide one or the other ascender back up slightly. Aggravating. And slow.

But I did get the hang of it, and I did successfully accomplish my task atop the mast and then return safe and sound to the deck. That, after all, is the bottom line.

ATN Mastclimber harness (and tool bag)
ATN Mastclimber harness (and tool bag)

In general the seat and harness are more comfortable than I expected. They are sturdy and super secure. Tight webbing wrapped around my groin isn’t exactly the sort of experience I savor, but I’d rather feel secure than comfy when going up the mast. And the ATN Mastclimber’s storage bag which doubles as a gear/tool bag is a good idea, but a less-than-perfect compromise. It has to be large (long) enough to accommodate the rigid swing seat, but this then makes it slightly deeper than ideal. Locating items at the bottom while working at the top requires a bit more effort than ideal. But it works. And it’s sturdy. And it is attached to the harness with solid hardware.

So what about the ATN Mastclimber concerns that I discovered while researching this tool?

Construction Quality Concerns

As I mentioned above, I am confident that the workmanship is good. Yes, it’s premature to judge the quality construction. No, this is not my final and last word. But I carefully examined the harness, seat, ascenders/hardware, and stitching before entrusting my life and limbs to the ATN Mastclimber. I would not have gone up the mast unless I felt confident that it was well built. And I would not have kept it after making my initial ascent if anything gave me cause for concern. I would have shipped it back and requested a refund. I didn’t. I stowed it for the next time I have to go aloft.

Mast Damage Concerns

I mentioned previously that some reviewers expressed concerns about the ATN Mastclimber causing damage to the mast. I can verify that there are indeed abrasive edges that could gauge or scrape the mast. Knowing this in advance I was able to avoid contact between the ascenders and the mast. No damage. But I was on the hard, and there was virtually no wind. I can easily imagine a scenario where the variables are increased and the mast might endure damage.

ATN Mastclimber Harness
ATN Mastclimber Harness – Additional Impressions

I wondered beforehand if it would be easy or difficult to use the ATN Mastclimber. Easy or exercise? Both. In all honesty, it takes some doing, especially descending, but if you’re fit enough to sail, I suspect you’re fit enough to propel yourself aloft with the ATN Mastclimber. Just save some energy for the descent…

Another takeaway involves the potential wear and tear on the halyards. The teeth in the ascenders’ jammers/breaks abrade the line, no way around it. Observing this from on high at roughly the same time I discovered an especially worn section of my halyard triggered a line of reflection still ongoing: how can I develop a convenient and reliable backup? I’m wondering about a grigri on a secondary halyard. Research ongoing, and I’ll share my experience when the time comes.

At the very least, my venture aloft with the ATN Mastclimber definitely highlighted the value of replacing my halyards. ASAP!

Sails Off

Sail De-rigging
Sail De-rigging

Finally a day with sunshine, warmer temperatures and lower winds. Finally it’s winter sail removal time. I’ve been anxious about leaving the sails up while traveling abroad. And now I’ve been home almost a week, but the weather’s been rainy, cold and windy. Not optimal de-rigging conditions…

Time to head off to the Willsboro Bay Marina to remove my sails. I’ll post a progress report soon. I hope… (Sail Removal 2014)

That was just over a week ago. Much has happened since then. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless. Sails. Are. Off.

I should start by admitting that it’s been a steep learning curve. It seems so obvious, right? Remove the sails. Bag up the sails. Store the sails.

I’ve pulled sails off of small sailboats and windsurfers thousands of time. How different can it be on a 31′ sloop?


Sail Removal
Sail Removal

Sail Removal

Removing the mainsail was easy. Pull the battens. Remove the slides from the mast. Remove the halyard, topping lift, Dutchman, etc… Pack it all tidily into the sail bag and celebrate halfway-to-completion!

But my celebration was premature. I’ve never removed a sail from a roller-furler before, so it took some research and reading to figure it out. I’m certain it’ll be simple a year from now, but this first time was all new. And then I discovered damage to the genoa, ripping and binding along the leading edge that fits into the roller-furler. Removing the final couple of feet further damaged the already exhausted fabric. Looks like sails will need to be repaired this winter!

Actually I had planned to have them serviced to ensure that they were not going to fail next season. I figured a more knowledgeable skill set wold be prudent, but now it was apparent that the the project was going to be even more involved than I initially anticipated. So it goes.

Sail Repair

I was referred to Vermont Sailing Partners in Winooski, Vermont to inspect and repair the sails. That’s the boss man, Bill Fastiggi, in the photo below, inspecting Errant’s genoa.

Inspecting genoa at Vermont Sail Partners
Inspecting genoa at Vermont Sail Partners

Bill agreed with my guess that these are the original sails, but he felt like they’re in good condition and have plenty of sailing left in them. I was reassured but asked him whether it made more sense to replace them given the amount of repair work necessary. He explained that they could make me a new set, but assured me that the repairs indicated were were and inexpensive.

We agreed to repair the genoa, adapt the bottom of the mainsail, and convert from a B to A style Dutchman flaking system.

For the genoa, they will remove and replace the head and tack webbings; repair sail damage; replace Dacron caps at head and tack; repair torn luff tape at tack; and add a cut-back at the tack to prevent future tearing of lower luff tape.

For the mainsail, they will relive the bolt rope tension on the luff which is bunched due to rope shrinkage; remove the foot rope and convert the main to a loose footed sail; and replace the old B style Dutchman flaking system with a simpler A style.

Given that there’s no rush, I encourage them to fit in the work when they could and that I’d retrieve the sails in the spring at launch time. That solves the winter storage problem!

Inspecting genoa at Vermont Sail Partners
Inspecting genoa at Vermont Sail Partners

Catalina 310: Star-Spangled Super Sloop

Da Capo (Catalina 310) sailing on Lake Champlain
Da Capo (Catalina 310) sailing on Lake Champlain

Another recap of another Catalina 310 review. Bear with me. Trying to sort… this… out…

The article was written by David Lockwood on Friday, 1 October 1999 and appears online at BoatPoint.com.au if you’re interested in reading the whole review (which you should!)

Catalina’s new 310 edged upwind with surprising alacrity…

Neither too big to handle two-up or too small to put to sea, Catalina’s new 31-footer is an affordable recreational yacht that can do a bit of everything on a whim.


Fitted with an offshore capable rig the boat can be powered up or down in a short space of time

Consequently, in the 310, you can race around the cans, short-haul cruise up the coast and head out for a week with your partner in great comfort…

[The Catalina] 310 is built of solid, hand-laid fibreglass and backed by a five-year hull-structure warranty. The deck has a plywood core and is bonded and through-bolted to the hull. Both the hull and deck are reinforced by liners bonded into place. Further rigidity comes from the yacht’s interior moulded liner, chainplates that terminate at the knees and are through-bolted, and keel-stepped mast.

Below the waterline, transverse ribs provide strength and somewhere for the lead fin keel (wing keel optional) to hang.

Fitted with what Catalina terms an offshore capable rig – comprising double spreaders, with fore and aft lower shrouds, a solid vang, fully-battened mainsail, with two reefing points, and roller-furling headsail as standard – the boat can be powered up or down in a short space of time. The mast is, in fact, the same stick as a Catalina 32, but just 150mm shorter.

[The Catalina 310] can host eight for drinks, six for club races and four for dinner by the waterfront. Moreover, it can provide a couple with big-boat comforts in a package that’s easily driven and slotted into a marina berth.

On the social side, despite its modest waterline length, the 310 has a big cockpit with loads of deck space and plenty of seats. The coamings are rounded and the cabin top comfortable to rest against, with great views for those riding shotgun on the pushpit seats behind the skipper.

Underway and during tacks, the cockpit remains uncluttered thanks to the traveller and clutches being mounted on the cabin top. The yacht comes standard with wheel steering – an 81cm wheel that doesn’t crowd the cockpit – and a big-boat binnacle on which instrumentation can be mounted right where the skipper can see it… the location of the primary, two-speed self-tailing winches for the genoa make single-handed tacks a snap. These Lewmar winches are right alongside the skipper.

With the shrouds mounted inboard and nice, wide flat decks leading forward, the foredeck is never far away. Backed by high lifelines, cabin-top handrails and a greedy grade of non-skid, the foredeck contains a useful anchor locker and electric anchor winch.

At rest, a wide walk-though transom with a boarding platform, fold-down swim ladder and freshwater deck shower will come in handy during summer, as will the outdoor lunch table around which a crew of six can sit… you’ll praise the boat’s storage capacity. Among the big lockers is the portside designed to house an inflatable, with room for the outboard on a stern bracket. There is also a separate locker for the gas bottle.

The Catalina 310 feels bigger than a 31-footer.

Okay, I apologize for including [almost] everything in this review. It’s that thorough. That helpful. Hope I haven’t over-quoted. (Okay, I know I have!) But there’s too much useful information in David Lockwood’s review of the Catalina 310 to slice and dice.

With just two people, a host of features come into play… the boat can work as an open-plan living space instead of having to lock the forward bulkhead to the cabin for privacy. This way, you stand to gain most from the roominess of the main saloon, which gains from the beamy and high sides.

With headroom all-the-way, from the aft bathroom… to the master cabin in the bow, the boat feels bigger than a 31-footer. With lots of hatches and a basic white headliner, light streams inside and stops any chance of stuffiness.

For a cruising couple, the forward cabin contains the piece de-resistance – a queen-sized berth (on the centreline, so you won’t fall out at night), with an inner-spring mattress. There’s a hanging locker and drawers on slides…

There is a second cabin back aft… [and the ] table is big enough for candlelit dinners…

The Catalina 310’s 27hp Universal engine consumes just two litres of diesel per hour at cruising speed.

[The Catalina 310’s] galley comes with a forest of teak cupboards, cabinets and even a dedicated cutlery drawer. There’s a front-loading fridge, a massive 80lt of hot water on tap, a second icebox which can be used as a food-storage hold, stainless sink and a two-burner gas stove and oven, with grill.


The decor is best described as traditional American yachting, with teak bulkheads and joinery, white glass for the headliner, a teak-and-holly vinyl floor covering, cream-covered lounges and a sandy-looking granicoat finish on the benches in the galley and head.

The companionway offers plenty of elbow room as you descend below, while the stairs lift out to reveal direct access to the freshwater-cooled, three-cylinder, 27hp Universal engine.

This engine, by the way, consumes just two litres of diesel per hour at cruising speed, so it won’t cost you much to get back home if the wind fizzles.

So David Lockwood is corroborating what I continue to read everywhere. The Catalina 310 is comfortable, practice, and well built. But how does it sail?

A couple will find the 310 a cinch to sail… the yacht is said to have a balanced helm brought about by a deep, elliptical spade rudder. The view forward was reassuring and the telltales easy to see… The 135% genoa drives the boat through the tacks and provides almost as much power as the main when underway. (Source: BoatPoint.com.au)

Sounds promising, right?