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.
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.
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.
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.
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.