Exterior Fabrics When thinking about exterior fabrics, you immediately think of sails, the engines of our boats. Two main types of cloth are used in most production sails. The first is ripstop nylon, starting at .5 oz./yd. The second is polyester (Dacron), starting at around 2 oz./yd. and going up to as much as 10 oz./yd. for heavier sails such as storm jibs.
A word about that sailcloth weight. It is expressed in ounces per yard. You might think a yard would be 36 x 36 but you would be wrong. A sailmakers’ yard is 28.5x 36. (Evidently sailcloth was woven 28.5 inches wide back in the day.) Sailcloth comes in a wide variety of weights, sizes and colors.
Production and custom sails are assembled from precut panels. By controlling the taper in panel ends and panel orientation, a sail designer can build in desirable sail features, such as sail camber, twist and shape. In addition, the sail designer specifies stitching, reinforcements, bolt rope or lufftape size. Some sailmaker suppliers, such as Sailrite (www.sailrite.com) can supply DIY sail-making videos online. Make sure to view these before buying a sail kit.
New nylon or Dacron sails tend to be a bit pricey. For a lower cost option, investigate a used sail loft. There are several companies, such as Bacons in Annapolis, that specialize in selling used sails. Most have online websites listing available sails, their size and estimated condition. I did a recent search of the Bacon site for a used genoa for Ternabout, and found 22 sails that matched her dimensions. Prices ranged from $150 to $275. A comparable new sail would be around $650.
Don’t give up on your old sail, either. The Sail Care company can professionally clean your old sail, do any needed repairs and apply new resin. I had the sails cleaned for Bryn Awel; they came back like new and are still in use.
Before we leave the subject of sails, we need to talk about another sail material, polytarp. Polytarps are tarps made from polyethylene plastic. We are all familiar with those ubiquitous blue tarps. However, the tarp material used for sails is a heavier, more UV-resistant type, usually white but also available in a number of colors. Polytarp suppliers can provide the tarp material, accessories, sail kits or even completed sails.
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Getting in Touch with Reality
As part of my usual in-depth research for this column I decided to ask Google whether sailing was safe. “In fact, it can be deadly,” came the response, “A study from Rhode Island Hospital concluded sailing is more dangerous, and has a higher fatality rate, than skiing and snowboarding combined with NFL football.”
Five Days in the Turnbull Islands
I rowed out of the marina at Blind River, Ontario, and raised the sail just offComb Point. It had been a ten-hour drive from Wisconsin, followed by the usual scramble to launch and load the boat.
The Worst Sailor Still Alive
Upon retirement I decided to learn how to sail, so I bought a little dinghy and taught myself how to efficiently capsize, founder on rocks, and embarrass myself in front of large groups.
SMALL BOAT CRUISE: Tobyhanna Lake by Sunfish
Tobyhanna is a Native American word for “a stream whose banks are fringed with alder.”
PLAN STUDY: Kombi Sail and Paddle Canoe
The first boat I designed was the Beth Sailing Canoe, which, for better or worse, made me a marked man.
An 1881 Bowdish sailboat, abandoned in a northern Michigan junkyard, is rescued and restored to museum condition by John Parlin, wooden boat surgeon extraordinaire
AUSTRALIA THE HARD WAY
The David Pyle Interview
Amateur Boatbuilding: What if I Make a Mistake?
Everyone makes mistakes. If we try new things we will make mistakes, an essential part of the learning experience. It’s nice to learn from mistakes of others, but we learn more lessons and they stick better when they are our own. The more painful the mistake, the stronger the lesson learned.
Reader Boat: Precision 165
During my three years of ownership, here are just a few things I’ve observed about my P165. Most of these features have contributed to my joy of sailing this little boat.
Are Power Tools Corrupting Us?
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” —First Baron Acton, 1904