In the last blog about taking care of your sails at the end of the season, I have pointed out some of the areas on sails that are particularly vulnerable to deterioration or damage. This time I would like to share with you a few pictures showing these problem areas:
This first picture shows a severely deteriorated webbing loop at the head of this furling genoa. This web is really ready to fail at any moment, and most likely it will happen in the worst possible time…
Hopefully webbing loops on your sails are nowhere near this level of deterioration, but keep an eye for drying fibers, that feel chalky and dry. Especially if you start to see individual fibers starting to separate, as in this picture, it’s time to replace such webbing, else inevitably this happens:
Often on sails with a second-hand sun cover installation, corners end up being left uncovered as in this example:
If you zoom closer and look at the Dacron® surrounding this pressed ring you will see that top layer has ripped. As you might have guessed, sun exposure has weakened the fabric. At least this sail has a webbing reinforcing the corner, but it itself is slowly weakening. Ideally you would want all Dacron and webbing surface to be covered with Sunbrella for best and longest lasting protection. If your sail has any areas exposed as in this picture, keep an eye on these.
In the last blog I have also mentioned about luff tape on furling sails. Here is the example of what I was writing about:
This particular genoa has Sunbrella sun covers installed in a typical fashion. Again, ideally you would want to have the web loop also wrapped in Sunbrella for protection, but it would be nice to have a strip of Sunbrella to extend over the portion of luff tape. Take a look at a close up of the top of this luff tape:
About 2 inches of this tape has ripped and this will continue if left unattended. It is much easier (and less expensive) to fix if you don’t let it go this far on your sail. It may be worth your while to occasionally drop your head sail and inspect what is going on at the head…
If you have any questions or comments on the subject, feel free to leave me a comment below.
So, it’s November. For many sailors in the Northeast and other parts of the country (and the world) the sailing season is winding down. Your sails represent a significant investment in your sailing enjoyment, so naturally taking good care is important. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to sail care.
End of season sail care do’s and don’ts
Don’t store your sails when they are wet and or dirty. Wet sails stashed away invite mold growth. That may not damage your sail in terms of its usability, but it may cause unhealthy conditions, spread to other items (sails) and leave permanent stains. That may be especially troublesome with laminate sails, as mold tends to get trapped between laminate layers, which for all practical purposes will be permanent. Please note that we do not accept for consignment sails that have even a trace of active mold. If you are sailing in salty or brackish waters then storing wet sails causes another problem – salt deposit. As moisture evaporates, it will leave salt deposits which will over time cause damage to the sail fabric. The same goes for sand and any other particles.
Most of the time all your sail would need is a good hose down with fresh water, followed by thorough drying in a fresh air and some sunshine. It should go without saying but we will say it anyway: don’t put the sail in a dryer, even if it will fit!
If water alone won’t do, you may add some soap, just make sure that you rinse it thoroughly afterwards. You can use your bathtub for that purpose, large barrel or something else big enough to soak your sail completely. What kind of soap can you use? Basically anything that is not too aggressive. Dawn® dish detergent might be one simple option. If you’re not sure, then stop by the Bacon’s – we sell a powdered sail detergent formulated specifically for home sail cleaning, all you need is large enough container and some elbow grease…
Of course if you don’t feel like doing it yourself bring or ship it to us and we will professionally clean your sails for you.
Besides making sure that your sails are clean and dry, you should carefully inspect your sails for any needed repairs. Taking care of small problems can really save you big bucks when small issues get neglected.
You should inspect all the attachment points: head, tack and clew corners – make sure that all corners look strong:
Check webbing loops for visible degradation from sun exposure.
Make sure that all stitching is healthy
If there is a ring, make sure that metal is not deteriorated, and ring itself is not loose in the panel.
Inspect fabric surface for excessive UV damage – that is especially important at the head of the sail. Especially on roller furling genoa’s , fabric near the head that is not protected by sun covers when furled, deteriorate quickly and panel may need reinforcement.
Also on furling sails, check the luff tape at the head. It typically gets exposed to sun and quickly rots away. One way to deal with it is to add a protective Sunbrella® strip that provides added protection from sun exposure.
If your sails have leech and/or foot lines, inspect a visible section of the cord for tears and excessive wear. The cord attachment is often covered with a pocket that has a tendency to wear out. If Velcro is used for closure, inspect it as Velcro is also very vulnerable to sun exposure.
On furling headsails, the stitching on sun covers is always the weakest part as is the case with any marine canvas project. Usually within a few seasons sun covers need to be restitched because stitching on any areas constantly exposed to sun eventually sunrot and weaken. That makes a great case for taking the trouble to remove your sails from the boat after the season.
Sun covers made from Sunbrella® can last many seasons in moderate climates, but they are, by no means, indestructible. Keep a good eye on your covers especially if they’re more than 3 seasons old. Immediately repair any tears and, as already mentioned, have them restitched as needed. Replacing sun covers is an expensive proposition. In fact, depending on the size and condition of the sail, it might be a more prudent expenditure of money to just by a brand new sail. One area of the sun covers on headsails that you should keep your eye on is the area of the leech that may come in contact with spreaders. We have seen many sun covers completely ripped, because small snags in those areas went ignored and unattended. If you notice that your covers get a serious beating there, a good solution is to install protective/ sacrificial patches in that area called spreader reinforcers.
Whether covered with a sun cover or not, all sails experience wear along the leach. Whether because of leach flutter, flogging or just sun exposure, pay particular attention to these areas of your sails. Like many illnesses, when it is discovered early it is more often easier to cure. If, on the other hand, you ignore it, it may bring your sail to an early demise more often than any other type of damage.
On mainsails, batten pockets are the culprits of high wear. Inspect them often and definitely at the end of your sailing season. Pay close attention to both batten pocket ends, outboard and inboard, for excessive wear and deterioration of any component of the pocket construction. Again worth repeating – what starts as a minor repair can easily turn into a big $$$ if you ignore it. Not to mention the ever annoying “lost” battens.
Mast or luff hardware is another area of mainsails that should command regular attention. Regardless of the type of hardware in place, these are areas of high stress and high load for a sail, attachment point and hardware itself. If you have nylon slides or slugs, check for broken or failing pieces. These are quite inexpensive and, in most instances, you can easily replace them yourself.
You should also thoroughly inspect the entire sail surface area for any damage. Most of the time small scuffs and minor rips may simply need a self-adhesive Dacron patch, while larger areas may require sewn repairs. If you are unsure, seek advice from more experienced sailors, or bring your sails to us for a full inspection.
Typically at this time of a year we get really busy with cleaning, inspecting and repairing our customer’s sails as well as making modifications to sails that just don’t fit right. From many years of experience, we can’t emphasize enough that taking good care of your sails is crucial to extending their lives. So, clean them, inspect and, if necessary, fix any damage before it becomes a much bigger problem later. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself or you prefer to have it done professionally just bring your sails to us. And yes – we carry various repair tools and materials in our store to help you maintain the integrity of your sails.
If you have any comments or question regarding this post, please comment below. We would love to hear from you!
I was really anxious, maybe even slightly scared. My adrenaline was definitely in overdrive. Although it just around four in the morning, there was no trace of sleepiness in my body. I was on my sailboat, miles away from nearest shore. It was pitch dark, with strong swells hitting the hull of my boat with laud bangs, leaving that unnerving, sickly feeling in my stomach, and a nagging question that run through my alarmed mind – will she hold together?
Such was my state of mind shortly before the awesome feeling of elation, joy and sense of adventure lifted my spirit. How did that all come about? Well, allow me tell you…
My boat was over forty years old, 27 feet long Albin Vega sailboat. These relatively small, unimpressive looking, yet very capable vessels has crossed all the oceans of the world. (Vigor 7-12) (Neal ) (Mercy )When I found this one just two years earlier, she was nothing but a sad looking, abandoned hull. Few people thought that she would ever sail again, but I knew that she would. I cannot even tell you how many hundreds of hours I spent, bringing her back to life. It truly was a labor of love. I named her “Attraction”. After the law of attraction which brings our desires to fruition. I will spare you endless details, only to mention that it was a long process, with a few twists of fate along the way. During that project I had to move out of state, and live for a year away from water and my boat. Yet a circumstances presented an opportunity for me and my boat to do what we meant to do together – sailing. I got an employment opportunity in a marina near Annapolis, Maryland.
Immediately I have decided to bring my boat from New Jersey to the marina in which I was going to work, and live there aboard my boat till I got settled in my new location. That’s how my sailing story begun… I needed to sail with my boat from Port Republic in New Jersey, south along the Jersey shore, then north up the Delaware Bay and through C&D canal to Chesapeake Bay and southbound to Annapolis. Of course, at that point my boat was completely untested on the water. Additionally, I have never sailed any more than few miles within the protected bays near Atlantic City. Now I was facing a passage requiring several days of sailing and couple hundreds miles over the waters, I have never seen before. Yet on April 27th 2010, Attraction and me have left the Port Republic and were on our way. On the second night we moored in a protected cove at the entrance to Cape May Canal. Shortly after 3 am next morning, I fired up the motor – you see – in the canal, you have to move under the engine power – no sails allowed. The canal is too narrow for flying sails anyway. We easily motored through The Cape May canal, which is a well-lit, protected body of water. As I approach the entrance to the Delaware Bay though, my heartbeat started to speed up. Up ahead of us was slowly expanding; pitch black canvas of the open water. The Delaware Bay is known for its capricious nature. (Bennett) As the fresh waters of Delaware river flow towards the ocean, they face the opposing tides and often strong winds coming from the Atlantic. As I sailed out of the canal, the smooth ride has quickly changed into a sudden pitching motion of the boat’s hull, struggling against large swells of the agitated Bay. The lights of the Cape May quickly shrunk and faded behind, and we succumbed to a complete darkness. The unnerving ritual has begun. In the darkness I could only hear the approaching swells, but could not see them till they hit the hull with a loud bangs, followed by screeching and gnawing response coming from the interiors of the boat’s hull. I knew that Attraction should handle this without problem, but then again, both the boat and the captain were completely untested. If something went wrong – this water was way too cold…. I was trying not to think about such eventuality. I curled in the corner of the cockpit, crunching tightly the wood of the boat’s tiller in my hands, holding my breath every time I heard the next swell nearing. I shivered with each bang, and then with greater intensity strained my ear trying to decipher the meaning of all the squealing coming out of the hull. All the while, the 10-horse power motor seemed to struggle while pushing us forward against the swells and current.
This struggle seemed to last forever, but after about two hours, as first tiniest amount of twilight availed itself, I took courage and decided to set the sail up. Slowly, I worked my way to the cabin top, to raise the main sail. I struggled to keep my balance with the constant swaying motion of the boat. Wind was blowing steadily from the west, I knew that it wasn’t too strong for the boat, but I was not sure how will Attraction react to it under these conditions. Slowly the sail started to climb up the mast, and as it did the amazing thing has happened! As the sail has filled up, the motion of the boat changed instantly! Amazingly, she stabilized herself, as if she grew deep roots down to the bottom and held fast against the angry swells. I just had eureka moment –my Attraction was a sailboat; she needed her sails up to feel her best, no lousy motor will do! Afterwards I also raised her head sail and she felt even steadier. I was elated! At that moment, the black, angry waters of the bay were no longer scary, for my boat cut through them powerfully, with beautiful grace and confidence! The eastern sky took on more shades of red then orange and yellow, offering more light. Water started turning from black to deep navy and blue with shy sparks of light starting to reflect along the ridges of swells. The wind was steady, sails were full and we were SAILING!