Friday, January 24, 2014


Sometimes they make you look at the sky and shake your fist. Or at least that's how we felt the other day when Vlad returned from a five-hour, fruitless search for new bearings for our roller furling, a search that left him sweaty, covered in road dirt and completely empty handed.

A bit of backstory. We have two roller furling systems aboard Bettie - one for the genoa and one for the yankee. The roller furling for the gennie is in great shape, but there's one problem. We can't tack using the genoa. It's too large of a sail to fit between the two headstays, which means we have to furl it every time we want to change directions. Pretty frustrating.

The yankee would have been our go-to sail for heading to windward, except of course that the bearing seized on the roller furling the night before we left on this grand adventure. We would hank on the sail at various times, but ultimately we just didn't use it as much. Even though we've been meaning to get this fixed for, oh, going on two years, other fixes kept taking precedence. That is, until now.

Vlad had expected to be able to find the bearing and replace it without an issue. After all, most bearings come in standard sizes, and why would anyone use a bearing on a marine item that wasn't a standard size? Why, indeed. As it turned out, this particular bearing was unusual. They didn't have it in any store in the PV area, and no one had it in Guadalajara either. After much online searching, Vlad found the right size in the U.S., and it was expensive and for an airplane. And they don't make it anymore! He found one as part of a lot on sale through Amazon and some others for sale in former Soviet Republics.

Why the manufacturer of the roller furling used this type of bearing is unknown to us, as is the manufacturer for that matter. Vlad couldn't find any mark or name anywhere on the furling system. He did manage to find a reference to an identical roller furling on an online forum, but no one else knew what it was either.

These mysteries will most likely never be solved, but we did finally un-break the broken roller furling. Vlad took it to a machine shop, and for 500 pesos they milled out the holes in the ends of the collar to accommodate the new bearings as well as surfacing the inner drum with aluminum and milling that back down to fit the interior race of the new bearing.

Problem solved, but the process was not a simple one. And this is pretty illustrative of what it's like trying to fix a broken boat. I'm sure one of these days we are going to have a boat problem that will be a snap. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


  1. It's funny...On our boat things that are expected to be a breeze can take 6 times as long, and those expected to take forever can be a breeze. I'm always skeptical now as to how long something is going to take and try not to get myself worked up about it! I'm so glad you were able to get a standard size bearing to fit!

    Resourceful :)

  2. Having an old boat creates these kinds of identification issues. I like the idea of replacing old, non-standard parts with updated parts that are easy to replace. But I also like the idea of having a good relationship with a machinist. We're dealing with a similar issue with our cockpit drains. Mike thinks he has an easy solution, but I remain skeptical. Because it's just. too. easy. Know what I mean? Good work, Vlad.

  3. “Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.” ― Dalai Lama