Alado Furler: Good Stuff for Good Old Boats

When we first bought Moonrise, she had hank on foresails. Hank on sails are simple  and very reliable but even with our Catalina 27 we had a few anxious moments when there was too much wind and sea motion to feel safe leaving the cockpit to wrestle down our big genoa. Therefore, a roller furler was practically the first thing I did to Moonrise to make her ours. Melissa and I both feel that this single piece of gear is one of the best investments we ever made.

Honey, can you swap the head sail?

Honey, can you swap the head sail?

When I was researching furling units I wanted a furler I could install myself but I was not too keen on ascending the mast. Many furling units require that someone go aloft and lower the forestay so that the foil and top swivel can be installed. I have climbing gear now and so ascending the mast is not such a scary proposition. But when we first bought the boat, all we had was a bosun’s chair and Melissa grinding away on a Barient 21 winch. I trust the woman with my life, but only figuratively and not while I’m dangling from a halyard of unknown age and condition.

So it was with some excitement that I began to research the Alado Furlers. Alado, a Brazilian company, doesn’t seem to have the same big marketing budgets as Harken or Pro Furl. They advertise in our favorite sailing magazine, Good Old Boat, so you may be forgiven if you have never heard of them. Alado builds their furlers out of aluminum and they are hell for stout. The foil is not some flimsy plastic extrusion; rather, they are beautiful, anodized aluminum interlocking extrusions that offer two feeders for sails. Yes, you can run two headsails in a dihedral formation from this furler.

The cross section of the A4 size foil extrusion. the two sides interlock around the head stay, allowing for installation at deck level. Note the two feeds for luff tape.

The cross section of the A4 size foil extrusion. the two sides interlock around the head stay, allowing for installation at deck level. Note the two feeds for luff tape.

What sealed the deal for me was that Practical Sailor reviewed a number of furling units and the Alado unit was favorably mentioned. If you already subscribe to Practical Sailor, you can read the article here.

Our Alado Furler, ready for duty

Our Alado Furler, ready for duty

Finally, the price of the Alado Furlers was well below the major brands in the U.S. In early 2009, I paid around $1400 for a somewhat over-sized unit. The same furler today is priced at $1720, still a very good value.

The installation process consists of installing the upper sheaves and the foil extrusions onto the forestay. The foil extrusions are five feet long and easily mate together so the entire foil is assembled on the deck and pushed up the forestay. A spare halyard is used to haul the foil up the stay using a rolling hitch. Care has to be taken that the foil pieces cannot slide off your forestay before installing the drum. These are beefy chunks of metal which act as a torque tube to the upper sheaves. Seeing one slip over the side of your boat would ruin your day.

After assembling and raising the foil sections, you must secure the mast using a spare halyard and then remove the forestay from the deck fitting. Now, Installation of the drum and delrin bearing is completed by sliding these pieces up the forestay and adjusting as necessary to allow for clearance of your anchor. After the forestay is re-attached and tensioned, the foil can be lowered onto the drum and tightened. Haul up your sail and go sailing! I estimate the total install time was about three hours by myself.

The only issue I have with the Alado design is how to handle the jib halyard. If you wish to keep a fully functioning halyard at the furler, you will have perhaps 50 feet of line that you must secure so that it does not interfere with the rest of your sailing activities. Rather than keep 50 feet of line, I cut the halyard short enough to tension the luff and tie it off. When I need to drop the sail, I tie on a spare sheet with a sheep’s bend and then bring the sail down. After I have finished my work on the sail, I haul it back up and retension as normal. As I mentioned earlier, Two sails can be hoisted simultaneously with the Alado. I don’t know what one would do with all the extra line that this would create if you wanted to maintain two fully functioning halyards. The use of small diameter, low stretch lines would probably be the best way to go.

Cast Aluminum furling drum. Note the two eyes for two jib halyards.

Cast Aluminum furling drum. Note the two eyes for two jib halyards.

The drum of the Alado units are larger than many of the drums I have seen from Harken and Profurl. This is extra weight, true, but it is also extra mechanical advantage when rolling up a big sail in a blow. We have had occasion to run our big genoa partially furled and, as you might expect, the sail shape is not so great. Still, it beats being severely overpowered or in danger of a broach.

Melissa and I have been more than pleased with the Alado and I would gladly buy another one for our next boat if it does not already have a furler. As we outfit our next boat for blue water, I want products that are this simple to install and maintain.

If you are in the market for a furling unit, visit the Alado.com site and check them out. If you have an Alado, comment below and tell us about your experience with this bit of hardware.

19 thoughts on “Alado Furler: Good Stuff for Good Old Boats

    • If I spoke Portuguese, they might hire me. It is a great furler for cruisers and sailors interested in simple sailing. I can’t imagine too many J-Boats sporting one of these things since they carry more weight aloft than does a furler with a swivel at the head of the sail.

      Let me know if you have any questions after your research.

  1. My 1972 Cal 29 has had an Alado unit on it since I purchased it 5 years ago, it has performed flawlessly (except for the few times when I neglected to tidy up the base ties – which I can hardly blame the unit for!). The drum has suffered some peeling paint this year but that’ll be sorted out in the spring with the other seasonal maintenance.

    Like the others above I had not heard of Alado before so to answer the telling question of would I recommend them and/or would I buy another?

    simply, without hesitation!

    • I think other than tensioning the halyards and applying a squirt of McLube between the bearing block and the furling drum, our unit has been pretty maintenance free. It is a rugged, dead simple system; the best kind.

      For a good story on what can happen to a less robust furler, you might check out Captain Fatty Goodlander’s latest article in Cruising World (Piece of Cake).From a safety perspective, the most important role of a furler is to reduce sail quickly and Captain Fatty could not do that at the worst possible time. It is a sobering read.

  2. Hey there, sorry to be commenting on an older post, but I was curious. I’ve only go one headsail halyard on my forestay, and I thought I remember reading something somewhere that said that using the Alado, you don’t need to pull it with a halyard, giving you essentially a spare halyard [of which I could fly my asym from]. It’s really part of the allure of the alado. But you seem to indicate that you hoisted it using the halyard, is that what I understand?

    • Dartanyon,

      I am always happy to answer questions on older posts. We enjoy looking back at what we have done and helping others with similar equipment.

      The reference to using the halyard in the post is during installation. An icicle hitch (or similar) is tied just below the upper sheave onto the aluminum extrusions so that as you add additional extrusions (they are each five feet long) you can haul the whole assembly aloft.

      As I mention in the article, the aluminum extrusions are very stout. They have to be since in this case, the extrusion also functions as the torque tube. That stoutness comes at a cost in the form of weight. When assembling the furler, after a few sections have been installed, you can’t just push these sections up, they have to hauled up with the halyard and the mechanical advantage of a winch.

      The installation instructions make all this pretty clear: http://www.alado.com/manual.htm

      The good news is that once you are done with the halyard during installation you do indeed have a spare halyard which could be used for your flying sail.

      Hope that helps

  3. We installed 2 on an old Prout Snowgoose a couple of years ago. One for the stay-sail and one for the genoa. Installation was simple and took less than 3 hours to do both. We did have to replace the twin forestays with a single larger one. Normal installation uses the existing forestay without requiring any modifications. We sail at least once a week sometimes more and have never had any issues and highly recommend them. Having seen one used for furling the main we are considering doing likewise with our main when budget allows. We also had 3/16″ wires made for the halyards to avoid the stretch factor and attach a light line should we need to lower the sail.

    • Interesting use of the Alado as a mainsail furler. Again, its simplicity would make it a good choice in that regard. Have you seen other installations using the Alado as a mainsail furler?

  4. No but I do have some photos of the lower end setup. I can email them to you if you let me have your email address.

  5. Hello,
    On jibs with or without furlers, a lot of halyard tension is achieved by wrapping the halyard around a winch and grinding to tension the luff correctly. How is this done with an integral halyard? I’dd like to know because I just bought an Alado and didnt realize this could be a problem until now. I ‘ll be installing it soon and would appreciate your help.
    Thank-you,
    Larry

    • Larry,

      On the Alado furler, you have two sheaves that are integral to the top of the unit (called the Top Foil Terminal in the manual). Hoisting of the sail and luff tension is achieved by hauling on the line through the sheave (which will now be the jib halyard) and then tying it off on one of the eyes on the lower foil terminal.

      So, while you do not have the mechanical advantage of a winch to tension the luff, you can exert quite a bit of tension by sweating the halyard. I would also recommend a low stretch line for this application so that you don’t have to re-tension the halyard too often.

      One other point on this halyard. You can install line like a traditional halyard which means it would be a bit more that twice the length of the luff. That may be convenient if you are changing sails often or otherwise raising and lowering the sail every day. The downside is that you will have a lot of line to store some where near the tack of the sail when the sail is fully raised. If your luff is fifty feet, you might have 60 feet of halyard to stow. That can be unwieldy and maybe even unsafe.

      Alternatively, you can make your halyard only a few feet longer than the luff. Then, when you haul the sail up, you have enough line to tie off and tension the sail with nothing left to store. This will work if you plan to keep the sail on the furler all the time and don’t anticipate frequent sail changes. The downside here of course means that you must tie on additional line when you want to bring the sail down. I chose to handle the halyard this way since I rarely lowered the sail. In an emergency, I could see this as a problem but it was a risk I was willing to take.

      Thanks for the good question.

      Michael

      • Thanks Michael for getting back to me. I like the simplicity and reliability of the Alado for an offshore cruising furler. My head stay is 48′ so there is no way I would have 50′ of halyard in the way!

        I also race and need the ability to adjust tension on the fly. I am thinking of a 4 part tackle either between the tack and top of the furler or between the deck and the bottom of the furler. Much like a a cunningham on a main sail.

        What do you think about that?

        Thanks – Larry

        • I chose the furler for its simplicity and rugged build. I still like it and if I need to replace the current furling unit on Galapagos, I would probably put an Alado on.

          I can certainly see that if you had a couple of feet between the tack and the top of the drum, you could have a tensioning system as you describe. That would be a handy feature. A way to secure the extra line would be in order. Perhaps a few velcro straps to keep things tidy?

          Do you live in the Puget Sound? If so, I would be happy to discuss in person.

          • I may be a bit out of my element here, we’re on a 30′ Baba so a bit smaller of a sail plan, but what I we do is put a butterfly hitch in before we take the halyard through the top of the drum, and then run the bitter end up through that and back down to the top of the drum. It is degrading the strength of the line a bit, and adding some chafe of course, but it allows us to get some purchase and tension the luff pretty well without having a bunch of blocks up there. We’re in Seattle too if you wanted to see out setup.

            • I have never felt a need to tension my luff with that much force but then I am not much of a racer. I had considered your kind of solution; it would be like a truckers hitch. On our Cal, we never had that much room between the top of the drum and the tack. Using a low stretch line is important to slow the inevitable creep.

          • Hello Michael,
            I have been trying to install the Alado for 2 days now and keep running into problems.
            The salesman isnt much help and I am wondering if we could talk on the phone? My number is 707-484 9486. You could also send me your number as well.

            Please l;et me know.

            Thanks,

            Larry

  6. Hello – very new reply to an old post. I have just had a used Alado installed on my Catalina 27. It’s not going too well. For one thing, the drum is VERY hard to turn. You have to use both hands and tug to get it to rotate. Do you know a way to lubricate it? I’m sure it’s not supposed to be this way. Thanks!

    • Clayton, this will be a short reply as I am on a phone.

      Since there are no bearings, the drum should be sitting on a hard black piece (delrin perhaps). On my installation that rode on top of the swaged fitting of my forestay. If your fitting is rough or too small perhaps it is causing binding.

      Another diagnostic test if you don’t have a sail wrapped on the furler would be to loosen the bolts that hold the foil to the drum and lift it clear by an inch or so. Then you can turn the drum independent of the foil to see if it is truly the drum or if possibly the head of the furler is binding.

    • So sorry to hear you’re having problems, my drum has always worked great And turn easily. Do you wash it? Try flushing it. It sounds like you have a salt buildup. I’ve never experienced that but but I really don’t know what could be the cause. You could take it apart and see if it’s scored or what kind of crud is in there causing your problem

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