Issue: May 2002
Roll With It

I've been thinking a lot about roller furlers lately, and how they are messing with my husband's head. The other day when I mentioned the F word he actually seemed to twitch a little. Or maybe it was just a stiff gust of wind slamming the truck-we were driving home from my sister's house, and the breeze was swatting us around like a cat cuffing a limp mouse. So it could have been that . . . but I don't think so.

It's funny how our boats identify us. Watching Luna, our Peterson 34, slowly transform from a flat-out racing boat to a, shall we say, specialized cruiser has been something like an out-of-body experience. Having once been a flat-out racer myself, I can relate. Her neat little lockers, once labeled for her seven or eight c "rewmembers, are now stuffed with an eclectic variety of items-mosquito coils, Huggies, sail ties and well worn copies of The Lonely Sea and the Sky and The Runaway Bunny. The galley cupboards hold dishes, and even food. Johnny redesigned the deck layout so all the important stuff leads back to the cockpit, and last year we added a tiller pilot named Raoul, who takes over when the wind dies. We even installed a couple of rod holders. Now we're talking about replacing the tiller with a wheel-a nice big one, of course, with all new (racing) bearings-and getting an anchor that's actually heavy enough to sink.

To all appearances, Luna is sailing gracefully into her third decade of life, evolving as we all must. Whether we like it or not. And yet the most obvious item of all-a clearly accepted and necessary part of the cruising sailor's identity-is missing. No roller furler. The headstay is still a Tuff Luff, just in case we ever get a wild hair and decide to do an inside-outside headsail change while the kids are napping. And since you never know when you'll want to find out if two people really can peel a masthead kite without killing each other, we have a full complement of halyards (Spectra, mind you), which Johnny clearly enjoys unclipping from the bow pulpit and moving to the base of the mast before setting sail. The bowman in him just can't let go. I suspect he feels that putting roller furling on his speed queen is like putting an automatic into a Ferrari Testarossa. It may go nearly as fast, but your left foot keeps flailing around down there, looking for a phantom clutch.

And so I wait. I can empathize, and with empathy comes patience, although I find it a target-rich environment. "See," I will say quietly, after we've wrestled the heavy number one into submission (while the kids are jumping on it), stuffed it into its bag (barely) and are standing there on the foredeck, sweating like a couple of Enron executives. "We could have had a swim and a cocktail by now." I have to be careful though. Don't want that twitch to get out of hand.