How to Furl a Sail to Prevent Damage

An unexpected squall will find an improperly furled jib and take a toll in a hurry. Hands-On Sailor from our January 2013 issue.

Furled jibs

A summer thunderstorm can quickly unravel and potentially ruin a loosely furled jib (right). To prevent this, it helps to add on a couple of wraps with your jib sheets (left).Mark Pillsbury

When a series of overnight thunder squalls ripped through our mooring field this past summer, in the morning it was hard to ignore the two boats with their jibs partially unfurled, the sails snapping in the still-steady breeze. If this situation is left unattended, it obviously puts lots of wear and tear on the leech and can damage the cloth.

When furling the jib, it’s important to keep tension on one of the sheets to ensure a tight wrap. It’s better to go a step farther and take a couple of extra winds with the furler so that the sheets wrap once or twice around the sail for good measure. Then, with the furling line cleated, pull the jib sheets tight so that neither lines nor sail can work loose.

It may look tidy, but pulling the jib sheets forward and leaving them coiled and tied to the bow pulpit can also allow the leech of the jib to work itself loose in a blow. The furler was meant to have tension on it.

If you know that strong winds are forecast or if you're planning to leave the boat unattended for any length of time, take a couple of sail ties or pieces of line and use clove hitches to secure them around the sail. This will help keep the jib from unfurling.
To be extra safe, take a few more sail ties and bind them around the mainsail cover so if the wind comes up strong and somehow works the fasteners loose, the cover stays in place.

If storm- or hurricane-force winds are expected, it’s best to take the sails and canvas off completely and to consider reducing windage further by removing the boom and either lashing it to the deck or storing it below.

If you’re in a hurry and shorthanded, keep your mainsail flaked but remove the sail ties and rewrap them around just the sail, rather than around sail and boom. Then it’s easy to unpin the tack and clew and either roll up or brick the mainsail on deck.

Mark Pillsbury is CW's editor.