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Wintering sails

» Posted on 16 Jul 2012

Winter is almost here, what about the sails? … exactly.

The old Polish custom is to remove the sails with the onset of winter, throw them into storage, put an anchor on top… and forget about them until May.

It is a dark scenario, not widespread, but it certainly happens sometimes. For us, however, it has become proverbial when it comes to the attitude of a large part of our customers towards to issue of winter storage of sails.

It does not always look so bad, but neither does it look rosy.

The basic issue in deciding on the winter storage of sails, is to put away fully functional sails, not torn, not wet – in such a condition, so when removed from storage they are immediately suitable for sailing.

The vast majority of those who hope that they will get their sails in order in the spring, and not now, end up with the short end of the stick in the spring (in May). This is because, firstly, there was no time to take the sails for repair, secondly, if the time to take them to the sailmaker’s was found, it turned out that the price is … “how much???? ” – and the sailmaker with Olympian calm responds – and where were you in the autumn?, it would be much cheaper, and now please take a look, here are stacks of sails to be ready yesterday. And that’s why the price has to be so high.

And what now – do you pay, or sail with damaged sails and just wait until the damage will increase, because this is usually the case?

This scenario is often repeated at the sailmaker’s shop in the spring.

Conclusion? – I leave to you.

I will write the same thing again next autumn.

And now, a few comments for those who treat their property with respect.

 

  • Remove the battens – leaving them in the sail in case of a small mistake when folding the sail will create a new product, i.e. a propeller from the twisted batten. This will cause chafing of the pocket in the sail, which does not look good. As to the propeller, now we just need to purchase an aeroplane to go with it.
  • Inspect the sail in search of minor chafing and tears. When they happen on a single or double layer of the sail, they can be easily sewn on a home sewing machine. If they happen on a thicker part of the sail it is better to take the sail to a sailmaker’s shop. There, such a thing will be easily sewn.
  • Bolt rope. If you see that the mainsail luff is heavily wrinkled due to contraction of the bolt rope, then you can try to fix it yourself – you have to unravel the bolt rope attachment to the sail on the tack, hook the head of the sail to a tree or a pole, and pull the tack. The bolt rope should be drawn to the sail, and the sail will thus be extended, which will cause it to become flatter and certainly more efficient. If you can sew the end of the bolt rope in a new place to the sail, that’s good, if not, it is not a major issue. Just do not use the capstan in this case to tense the mainsail halyard on the boat.
  • Hardware such as halyard winch, eyelets at the corners – you will probably not be able to fix these elements yourself. If something is not right with these elements, a visit to a sailmaker’s shop will be required.
  • Dry the sails well!
  • Folding the sail – if it is very old, it is enough to fold it properly. If it is new, it is better to roll it (if there is space for its storage in such a form). If there is no space, then fold it evenly, without creases, pressings. Put it in a dry place, do not place other hardware on top.
  • Rips – as in the case of the mainsail.
  • Hardware – slides, wire rope – inspect the seizings, replace those that look weak. Check the wire rope – if you can, take it out of the luff, if not, move your hand over the Dacron strip shielding the wire rope. What are you looking for? – Cracked stands. If there are some, then I suggest to replace the whole wire rope – do not look at the number of cracked stands. “Two are cracked – there is no problem, it will hold” – this is an example of wrong thinking. If two broke, others will break as well.
  • Soft rope on the luff to the rigid stay – if there is chafing on the Dacron belt shielding the rope, then either sew patches in these places, or replace the entire belt with the rope.
  • The rest is the same as in the mainsail.
First of all, we look for tears, chafing. Most of them can be fixed by gluing self-adhesive Dacron over them. It can be found in sailing stores in different colours (white, red, green, blue, yellow, black, grey). If you can’t buy it there, order it, or buy it from a sailmaker’s shop. To seal a tear, dry the torn place, stretch on a hard surface – preferably on a wooden board. You can then pin the sail material in several points to the board. This creates very good conditions for evenly applying the patch made of self-adhesive Dacron. After applying the patch, press the patch with a hard and obtuse tool (the outer part of the blade of scissors), so that the glue catches the fabric better.

 

And that’s all.

The rest of the work with these sails is drying and folding. Spinnakers are usually folded without rhyme or reason. However, despite all I recommend to fold the sail for the winter with care. Although the spinnaker fabric is quite resistant to such treatment, it is not indestructible. And its destruction mainly consists in removing its hardening layer by repeatedly breaking and crushing the fabric in the use of the sail.

When the hardening layer is crushed, the fabric itself begins to be less stable, it will stretch and let wind through. To be convinced of this, please perform an experiment – place a piece of fabric from an old spinnaker on your mouth and blow through it. The same must be done with the fabric from a new spinnaker. With the old spinnaker, the air will pass through the fabric, in case of the new one – it has no right to do so.

 

 

Andrzej Kiełsznia