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!