Rigging, Standing, Roller Furler, Schaefer Snapfurl CF-700

The aluminum drum of the Schaefer Snapfurl 700 with its stainless steel cage
Take a look around any marina today and you'll see that almost every cruising sailboat has a roller furler of some sort. The benefit of the roller furler is that it allows you not only to set and strike your headsail, but also to reef your headsail from the comfort and convenience of your cockpit. Granted, older, hank-on headsails can, to some degree, when properly rigged, be set and struck from the cockpit, but they still usually require someone to go forward to get them under control or to get them stowed away properly, especially if the wind is up. In the refitting of Oystercatcher, I knew that I wanted to upgrade her to a good, present-day roller furler system. The question, though, was which system would be best for a trailerable pocket cruiser such as the Ericson 25. Ultimately, I selected the Schaefer Snapfurl CF-700. How and why I came to this decision and how I installed it on Oystercatcher is the subject of this article.
I purchased Oystercatcher in the fall of 2009 from someone in the Pamlico Sound region of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He was the second owner of the boat, but he had owned her for almost all of her 35 years. During that time he had made a few modifications here and there, but for the most part he had allowed the boat to age slowly at his dock.
The sails and rigging appeared to be original to the boat.
At the time of purchase, my friend and I spent two nights aboard the boat, sailing her to her haulout spot in Oriental, North Carolina. One thing that we noticed along the way was that it was difficult to get good tension in the headsail. This was due partly to its stubborn, wire-rope halyard and partly to the gigantic 7/16 inch wire that was sewn into the luff of the headsail.
In the early days of roller furlers back in the 1970s it was common for sailmakers to sew a wire into the luff of the headsail. This wire served as a spool of sorts, not unlike the rigid or semi-rigid foil of the modern roller furler. The only problem was that this wire was independent of the forestay. Therefore, the only way to achieve tension in it was through the wire-rope halyard, which was not a cooperative piece of rigging. Most present-day furling systems are founded on the forestay, which is, of course, part of the standing rigging and thus capable of being well-tensioned by turnbuckles.
The wire within the wire-luff made the headsail difficult to stow when it was not set. I took this picture at my house after I had gotten Oystercatcher to my home in Charleston, South Carolina. What you see in the middle of the circle is a one gallon paint can. I put that there for perspective. Yes, this headsail was some four feet in diameter when stowed. I knew another Ericson 25 owner who had the same type of wire-luff headsail. He said that whenever he took it down he had to wrestle it through the foreward hatch and stow it in a contorted fashion in the V-berth of the boat.
The drum for the this wire-luff furling system was mounted on the stemhead of the boat. Most modern furling systems, as I said, are based on the forestay. In the picture below you can see both the forestay and the wire luff. I've discussed this old Schaefer furling system more thoroughly in my article, "Rigging, a Tutorial," so I urge you to consult that source if you are interested in more information on this system or its modern counterpart, still manufactured by Schaefer.
One of the first things I did after I got the boat back home to Charleston was to strip the deck of most of its hardware. For more on this, see my article, "Deck Hardware Removal." I found many troubling things on that first little project, but none was more troubling than the hardware the previous owner had used (or I should say not used) to secure the furling drum to the stemhead. If I remember correctly, this was not a hex head bolt, but a machine screw. Aside from this, the owner had, for some reason, not included a lock washer in this set-up. Consequently, the nut on the end of the machine screw had almost worked itself free. This was the furler that my friend and I had just used in our transit on the Pamlico Sound. I remember sending this picture to him afterwards. The title of the email was "Two Turns to Disaster."
Another earlier project soon after I returned to Charleston was my construction of four new sawhorses to support the mast and rigging. These sawhorses would serve as my operating table of sorts for the spars and rigging during my lengthy refitting of this boat.
Around this same time I removed the spreaders and the spreader brackets from the mast. For more on this, see my article, "Spars, Spreaders, Removal and Replacement."
Next in my series of projects on the spars and rigging was my replacement of the wire-rope halyards with all-rope halyards.
This involved removing the masthead . . .
and mailing it to Washington state . . .
where it received sheaves compatible with 3/8 inch all-rope halyards. All of this took place during the fall of 2011.
For more on this project, see my article, "Rigging, Running, Wire-Rope Halyard to All-Rope Halyard Conversion."
Also during the fall of 2011 I stripped the mast of most of its standing rigging and hardware. Most of the wire was rusty, most of the turnbuckles were dated, and most of the toggles were full of twists and turns.
At this time I also removed the mast stairs/steps. These things had a tendency to foul the halyards.
After I had removed all of the standing rigging, I coiled it up, taped it, and starting looking for someone who could replace it. My search for a rigger was concurrent with my search for a new roller furling system. New systems, as I said, tend to use the forestay as their foundation. This meant that the rigger would probably need to make the new forestay with some consideration of the new roller-furling system in mind.
My search led me to Charleston Yachting, a business on some property that was once a part of the old Charleston Navy Base.
This business was owned by Randy Draftz, a long-time sailor and racing enthusiast.
I showed Randy my rigging, and I explained to him that although the boat had been originally rigged with 5/32 inch wire, I wanted to re-rig it with 3/16 inch wire, in other words, wire that was one size larger. I explain my rationale for this in my separate article, "Rigging, Standing, Removal and Replacement."
Specs from the original Ericson 25 Owner's Manual
Randy was a great guy who was easy to work with. If you're ever looking for a rigger, and there is not a good one in your town, then you ought to give Randy a call. He'll do things for you through the mail.
I explained to Randy that I was ready to abandon the original wire-luff headsail furling system.
We talked about the new version of this old system - the Schaefer Freefurl system - but he agreed that this was probably not the best system for the Ericson 25. This is designed for much smaller sailboats.
We also discussed the pros and cons of traditional, hank-on sails, and concluded that this was not the best set-up for my intended cruising purposes.
An Ericson 25 with a traditional, hanked-on headsail stowed in a bag on the foredeck
Then we began to discuss some of the different roller-furler options. He had several samples for me to inspect. We talked about the Harken rigid foil system. I knew an Ericson 25 owner in Wisconsin who used one. I liked what this owner said about it, but I was concerned about the rigid aluminum foil sections getting bent whenever I stepped and unstepped the mast. This owner usually only stepped and unstepped his mast on a seasonal basis, so he was not overly concerned about the rigid foils getting bent while he was trailering the boat. He said that whenever he stepped the mast he had someone on the ground in the parking lot of the boat ramp holding the forestay and thus the foil as straight as possible while the mast went up.
An Ericson 25 in Wisconsin with a Harken roller furler.
Randy and I then talked about flexible furlers with PVC foils. The benefit of these was that they were more forgiving of movement while trailering the boat and stepping the mast. Since I planned to trailer the boat often, I decided that a flexible furler was the way to go. The only decision at this point concerned the manufacturer.
An Ericson 25 in Canada with a flexible, PVC foil furling system
I considered the popular, CDI Flexible Furler, but I didn't like it that the drum was also made of PVC. The drum of the more expensive Harken furler was made of aluminum. Comparing the two in my hands, the Harken seemed to be of much higher quality.
Also there for my inspection was a Schaefer, specifically a Schaefer Snapfurl 700. The drum seemed to be of equal quality with the Harken, and importantly the foil for this system was of flexible PVC. Schaefer seemed to me to be the best of both worlds - a quality product and one that would allow me to trailer the boat and step the mast without worries.
Randy gave me a good deal on the Schaefer, and a week or two later a brand new one arrived in the mail at his shop.
Within the box was the drum, the hardware, and the PVC foil. This foil consisted of two different pieces of PVC, each one hemispherical in its profile. To assemble the foil you had to snap the two hemispherical pieces together around the forestay. This was undoubtedly the inspiration behind Schaefer's use of the word "snap" in the name "Snapfurl." If Schaefer also intended to convey the idea that the snapping of the two pieces together was "a snap," in other words, an easy task, then their choice words was, perhaps, misguided, for as you will see, this was anything but a snap.
At this time Randy offered to help me snap the two pieces together around the new forestay. I had no choice, however, but to decline, because I was afraid that I might not be able to transport the forestay/PVC foil assembly back home in my vehicle. I owned a large SUV, but it seemed as if it might require a large delivery van.
Randy and I together uncoiled the two pieces and clamped them into place on his work table. At a minimum Randy said that he needed to help me cut the plastic pieces to the correct length.
Randy laid out the forestay beside the plastic pieces of the foil. We did not snap the two pieces together. We simply pressed them together without pushing them all the way.
The instruction booklet provided by Schaefer in the box was clearly written and helpful, unlike so many other booklets out there that you encounter. Measuring twice, Randy grabbed the hacksaw and cut the two foil pieces to the appropriate length. Schaefer gave clear warnings about cutting the correct ends of the two foil pieces. The opposite ends contain the slot for the insertion of the luff cord of the headsail. If you cut off that end, you obviously will ruin your foil pieces.
The cut was clean and the two pieces fit the forestay with about a 1/2 inch of wiggle room to spare.
Now the hard work began. If you and your rigger have a workbench like Randy's, then perhaps it is a snap to snap together the two pieces of the Snapfurl. If you're just a regular guy, who has to do this at home without a special workbench, then you definitely have your work cut out for you. Since the two pieces of the foil were some 30 feet in length, I had to spread them out through two different adjoining rooms of my house. I clamped the two pieces as well as I could under the conditions. I started by clamping them in the room in the foreground. Note that I have clamped them to the side of my centerboard mold. Within the mold is a frame for one of the portlights. To the right is my Honda generator. I had boat parts and pieces scattered throughout both of these two rooms that I had added to the house. My young son and his friend aided me in this task. While I clamped, they wrestled the two competing PVC pieces. I took this picture during one of our breaks. We had already succeeded, with much effort, in joining almost half of the pieces together at this point.
What made this so difficult was that the two pieces wanted to turn away from each other. The memory that they had developed while packed in the cardboard shipping box had caused this. Just when we thought we had conquered these wild serpents we would find them recoiling from each other, twisting and turning in all sorts of unpredictable ways around this work room.
One boy would tackle one of the recoiling pieces, another would tackle the other. I would force them together, listening for that telltale click that signaled victory on our part.
We battled this beast for at least half an hour before the final victory was ours. We should have set up a monument somewhere to commemorate this struggle. This was in January 2012. Over three years have now passed and my son and his friend and I still tell stories about that crazy, chaotic event on that winter evening many a month ago.
After all that, the assembly of the drum components was a snap.
The stainless steel cage was substantial. This was, without a doubt, quality work.
Having completed the assembly of all the components I moved the furler outdoors and laid it down on the sawhorses beside the mast. I ended up having to construct two new sawhorses to support the supple PVC foil.

The furler would sit beside the mast for over three years while I gradually worked on other parts of the boat in this lengthy refitting. Near the end of this refitting, I installed the anti-halyard-wrap preventer that had come with the Schaefer Snapfurl. This piece of hardware, as its name suggests, helps to prevent the halyard from getting fouled around the furler when furling the sail.
The PVC foil certainly was forgiving of all the movement it experienced in my stepping of the mast. The Admiral was free to take pictures. No need for a third person on the ground to prevent a metal foil from getting bent. I was glad that I had opted for the Schaefer in lieu of the Harken.

After launching the boat, my friend and I motored her to her slip. A few days later we bent on the new sails. The Snapfurl had come with the necessary shackles for this. I did, however, need to supply my own 1/4 inch furling line. I did not purchase the optional fairlead from Schaefer. Instead of this my buddy and I lashed a Harken micro block to the pulpit with seine twine. This worked just fine.
Likewise, the Schaefer Snapfurl worked just fine out on the water. It was a good purchase, and if I had to do it all over again, I would have done it the same way.
This ends this posting on my selection of the Schaefer Snapfurl CF-700 as the roller furler for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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