Why Sailors Love Pushbutton Sail Handling

By: Nick Hake

Boaters like to say the sea never changes, but the way people sail today has changed dramatically. We want more convenience features on deck than ever – not just mainsail furling. As the sailing population ages, we want electric winches, electric anchor windlasses, self- tailing winches and bow thrusters, all at your fingertips. As an aging sailor myself, I’m all for it!

If you’ve been to a boat show lately, you’ve probably noticed that most new boats over 30’ have mainsail furling of one kind or another. We offer in-mast mainsail furling for our 32RK and 46RK models. We like them because they make sail handling easier. While some sailors worry about the mechanism jamming at inopportune times, we have found them to be very reliable, as have most sailors using modern furlers.

Another nice thing about an easy-to-furl mainsail is that you can sail longer before reefing. The downside of in-boom or in-mast furling is some loss of sail roach and power. Most sailors today would opt for convenience over a half-knot of boatspeed. And they probably will sail more because less work often equates to more fun. We don’t offer mainsail furling on our 26-foot boat because the size of the sail doesn’t require it, and we don’t want to add weight aloft on a light boat.

Bow thrusters can be a great help when docking in side winds and currents. We don’t typically recommend them for our 32 model and other boats this size. For most of us, they are pure convenience on a small boat. We like and recommend them for our 46RK. Like most of the convenience hardware on my list, a bow thruster puts a two-handed job into the palm of your hand.

Another convenience that makes cranking extra easy is self-tailing winches. They spare us from cleating jib sheets, and eliminate tailing the sheets while trimming sails. I have them on my boat. We’ve had great luck with Andersen winches and have been using them for years. Rather than the chrome-plated bronze that most winch builders use, Andersen’s are constructed of stainless steel and are a little lighter than the chrome plated models. When your boat gets some years on her, polished stainless ports and winches keep her looking new.

Electric sheet or halyard winches are a great convenience. But if you don’t mind exercise, you can live without them.

I recommend an electric anchor windlass for boats 30 feet and up. It’s almost silly not to have one. They’re like having extra crew that you don’t have to feed.

In summary, why not opt for the ease and simplicity of today’s innovation? Sailors have always sought ways to find that easy reach.

I look forward to hearing from you with your most challenging questions.

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