It’s been crazy sails these last few weeks, and I’m talking the noun, not the verb. MY genoa is in terrible shape and I took it to a couple of local sailmakers to get quotes on possible repairs or worst case, replacement via insurance. What an education this has been.
I’m reluctant to name names here as one nun does not a convent make, but I’m not at all happy with the service I received at one of the lofts. I had my main repaired at UK Halsey a few years back and the experience was fine, but this time I had several promises made re. communication and estimates, none of which happened. It’s disturbing when I proprietor looks you in the eye and says he will do such-and such, but it never happens. I know they are busy but then you should be vague, or not make the promise.
But more of a concern is his assertion that my genoa had been made of an expensive laminate called Vectran, which accounted for it’s unusual yellowish tint. When I asked for a replacement via insurance, he gave me three estimates, the highest of which was almost $9,000.00. The sailcloth and the sail itself would be imported from China.
My experience at Lieche and McBride was vastly different. The sailmaker spent a great deal of time with me stretching out the sail, going over it and describing what could and couldn’t be done. He also suggested the sail wasn’t worth repairing.
What happened next was startling. He assured me that the fabric was merely good old fashioned 8 oz. Dacron, possibly yellowed by age and the time the vessel had spent in the tropics. An ancient character showed up at the loft (the original owner) and he recognised the cloth immediately. Apparently, sometime in the 80s a batch had been turned out of the mill discoloured. This cloth had been sold to a broker in eastern Canada at a discount, who then flipped it, touting it as an expensive new high-strength cloth and 50% more expensive. Doyle bought up a lot of this and unknowingly turned out “premium” sails that were in fact quite ordinary.
The old sailmaker gleefully recounted names of guilty parties involved.
The story gibes with what I know about the sails. They were in fact purchased out east at the correct time, and sold to a PO as premium sails. Apparently more than a few folks got taken in this scam.
OK, so by chance this old guy was around when this went down and so knew why the sails were yellow. But calling it Vectran? He showed me a sample of Vectran, and it’s usually sold as part of a laminate – strips of cloth with a clear mylar film, not a solid sheet of the stuff. UK Halsey insisted this was a laminate cloth, yet every laminate I’ve ever seen shows two clearly distinct materials, not a solid, uniform sheet.
L&M then turned out a replacement estimate for an offshore-quality 8 oz 140 genoa for $3400.00, made out of US cloth in either the US or at the Sydney loft.
Talk about a bad taste in my mouth. It sure goes to show the importance of shopping around.
After talking with my insurance broker, I decided to not go with a new sail right now, as if we made a claim our deductable would then double to $2,000.00! I’ve got a lead on a good used 150 out east that I think I will scoop when I get back from this sailing trip.
And talking about sails! I left Victoria because I needed to get away (God did I need to) and since I have a job started next Friday I figgered there was no time like the present. There are times when I deplore the fact that I don’t have an anemometer aboard. I checked the winds reported around Victoria when I headed out, but they weren’t very accurate. I was expecting to find winds in the mid teens, but it sure didn’t feel like that when I got out.
I’ve come to realise that this boat is significantly overcanvassed, especially for our area, which regularly blows up to gale force in fine weather. Anything over 15 knots and you should be looking at putting a reef in, and yet other boats around me will still be sailing under full main and genoa. Even though I’m sailing with a storm jib these days, I still find that rule holds.
Anyway, I read AFTER the fact that there were gusts in the 24 knot range in the area that I was passing through when I ripped the head right off the main.
You read that correct – it came clean off during a gybe. The only thing holding the rest of the sail aloft was the leech line and the luff boltrope.
This wasn’t an ugly gybe at all; the main was dead centred when I swung the stern through the wind. At the time I was doing over ten knots through Enterprise channel, but there was a good flood at the time. Nothing felt untoward and I was shocked to look up and see the sail ripped through like that.
I’ve had a while to think this through and I’ve come to a few conclusions.
One is that I had too much canvas out, although I think that was a minor issue. After all, it ripped at the first seam, at a batten, and if it were really a loading issue it would have happened much further down the sail where the stresses are at maximum. I was also sailing a broad reach at the time.
I think the real mistake was with the halyard. I had recently replaced the halyard with a larger line of special low stretch double braid. The old halyard was quite stretchy and while grinding in the sail it would squeal and make all kinds of noises. This one is silent and makes no indication of tightening; the winch just gets harder to turn. With so little stretch and me expecting (and not getting) some kind of aural feedback, I fear I severely overtightened the luff of the sail. A good hi-tension whack as the sail gybed was all it needed to rip the old sail at the seam.
It was a not a good day.
When I left the harbour and turned off the wind, the vessel heeled right over (again, too much canvas), and it turned out that Tracy and I had neglected to properly affix drawers and lockers. It’s not usually part of my departure protocol to go through all the drawers and locker doors to make sure they are properly latched, but it sure is now!
Three drawers full of crap flew open and spilled over the cabin sole. A locker that we use for all our papers and magazines and documents flew open. Everything in the first 1/3 of the quarterberth also hit the sole. In short, it looked like a bomb had gone off down there.
Oh, and the bilge pump stopped working.
I went as far as Cadboro Bay, dropped the hook, and grabbed myself a beer. What else could I do?
Anyway, I spend the next day repairing my main. 5 hours of hand sewing and it was if not good as new, as strong as it was before I ripped it. The next day we sailed to Monetgue and the following day to Ganges. The sail works fine and I’m a lot wiser. From now on I keep a permanent reef in the main unless it really is “light air”. I’ve been making great time under a #3 jib and reefed main even sailing a broad reach and with winds below 15 knots.
I’ve gotten into the habit of cruising like I was racing and that explains my anxious wife and some of the sail damage I’ve encountered over the years. I’m gonna cool it and go a little slower (most of the time).
A shot of the ripped sail. Ripped right apart just above a seam and a batten. In the picture is my sailmaker’s palm, whipping twine, scissors, sail needle and clear, reinforced duct tape. I’ve tried “official” sail tape, but its very expensive and just falls off.
In this picture I’ve traced lines where the cloth will be trimmed and where the seam will be.
A nice clean edge and the sail seams ready to sew. I might not have needed to fold the cloth over but I wanted it to be as strong as possible.
I taped the two parts together just to hold it while sewing.
Starting at the luff. Thank God for my sailor’s palm or I wouldn’t have gotten through all that material. Like 6 layers of 8 oz cloth.
One entire seam done. Another still to go.
The one downside to this repair is that by folding the cloth at the seam, it shortens the upper section a bit. Since we are talking a triangle, the leech no longer matches. Oh, well. It’s over 40 feet up; hopefully it won’t be too obvious (as it turns out, you can’t see it).
Starting on the second row of stitches. A rather long and tedious process. I think I could have used a smaller needle and twine.
The sail is back together again. 5.5 hours later. I’m not glad it ripped, but I am glad that I was able to repair it. One more developing skill in the toolbox.