by Jerry Powlas
When we bought our boat, she came equipped with non-self-tailing winches and hanked-on headsails. And she lacked a windlass. For most of the 20 years we owned her, I found this arrangement completely satisfactory. Like many sailors, we tended to sail Mystic on weekends and for one longer vacation a year. The long vacations were two and maybe occasionally three weeks. All the sailing was coastal cruising on Lake Superior and in Lake Huron’s North Channel.
Last summer we finally had the magazine staffed well enough to be gone for longer than three weeks. We got away for 12 wonderful weeks last summer and sailed counter-clockwise around Lake Superior. In spite of having three months, we didn’t see the whole lake, but we saw a lot of it. Somewhere into those 12 weeks, I began to rethink things. Based on that longer cruise, I spent part of the winter and too much of the spring refitting Mystic with a windlass, large self-tailing winches, and roller furling. What follows are my first impressions after cruising with these upgrades for four weeks this summer.
The windlass is very nice. At first, Karen was afraid of the thing and I did not discourage this. I’ve heard too many stories about people getting hurt with windlasses. I took over some of the anchor duties to see if I could develop a procedure for anchoring that would give us the versatility we enjoyed when we handled our anchors without a windlass. After a few weeks we got used to “the monster,” as Karen called it. Now we have a satisfactory routine. We set and recover two anchors using the same windlass, and I like the way it all works. Does everybody need an windlass? No. I think putting one on a 30-foot boat is pushing the limits of the boat’s abilities to carry added weight forward. A lot of people tried to talk me into all-chain rode. I’m glad I did not add that weight to the bow.
I suspect this might be the most common upgrade found on good old sailboats. We used to carry four headsails: 170, 150, 110, and a storm jib. The 150 and 110 had foot reefing. Now we carry two: a 150, and a 110, both designed from scratch to be used on a furler. Many people carry only one headsail, the one on the furler. After four weeks using the furler, I don’t quarrel with that. The furler took some getting used to, but we like it. I had hoped we would sail more if we had less time invested in setting and dousing sail. This proved to be the case.
Is the boat as fast with a furler? I doubt it. Both new sails set well and perform well, but sails for a furler are high-cut and so lack that extra area you get from a deck-sweeper. Still, the convenience they offer is a performance factor in a strange way. I think we sailed more and motored less this summer because setting sail was easier. We spent a lot of time in heavy air with both sails and they did well. The boat was fast enough for a cruising couple and, even when the sails were furled way too much to have good sail shape, she pointed pretty high and had good speed. As good as the hanks? No, but I will probably never go back to hanks on Mystic. The Mega 30 we are working on does not have a furler. I took it off. Will I put it back? Probably not.
I added self tailing winches the previous year. We went from #22s to #30s and I thought we would be in fat city with that added mechanical advantage. The self-tailing feature was nice, but I don’t think the #30s were any easier to crank than the old #22 non-self-tailers. This year I changed the #30s for #46s. Now, finally, we have easier cranking. For the first time since we have owned the boat, Karen can crank in the biggest jib by herself. That change was well worth it. My advice is to go bigger than you think will be the minimum if you’re adding self-mailers. The self-tailing feature is very nice. It is also more sensitive to the diameter and type of line. We changed jib sheets mid-cruise with vastly improved results. Our old sheets were a bit too large for the clutches on the winches.
I bought Karen a small pressure washer for Christmas . . . put it right under the tree. I think she had some doubts about that at the time but it turns out she loves the thing. Next year I may put in a washdown pump to supply the pressure washer at anchor. Right now we can only use the pressure washer in marinas where city water is available. With the pressure washer, we can clean up the deck better and much faster. It’s lightweight and easy to stow. This has become a real favorite in Karen’s opinion.