Friday, November 30, 2012

off season work, new sails

On a beautiful day for sailing Spartina looked a bit forlorn sitting in the driveway with no masts, sails or lines.  With a three day weekend that will probably be the nicest (warmest) weather that we will see for a while I decided to start the winter maintenace.

The masts are on the front porch as are the dock and anchor lines.  The booms, gaff, sails, and other gear are up in one of my daughter's rooms (wonder what she'll have to say about that when she comes home from school).

I unscrewed the bronze half oval from the mahogany rub rails.  The silicone bronze screws and four lengths of half oval are now soaking in a ketchup bath where they will remain until Sunday, a nice trick that I picked up along the way to clean bronze with little or no effort.

With 60 grit sandpaper I started sanding down the rub rail.  Overly ambitious, I expected to do the sanding today, clear epoxy tomorrow and then the first coat of varnish on Sunday.  Now I'll be happy to just get the sanding done by the end of the weekend.

I did spend a good part of the morning taking sail measurements and going over the Pathfinder's sail plan as I put together an order for a new set of sails from Dabbler Sails.  The loft, a one-man operation just south of the Potomac River in tidewater Virginia, specializes in traditional small craft sails.  I have seen some of his work and it is all first class.  Above you see a Dabbler sail on one of Barry's Melonseed Skiffs, which I have only seen in photographs ( I need to fix that next year).

And here is a screen shot showing tanbark Dabbler sails on my friend Tom's Pathfinder - again I've only seen photos of Tom's boat but don't the sails look great.

My only chance to see the workmanship first hand was a few years ago when we met up with Kevin on the Navigator Slip jig at Dividing Creek in Maryland.  You can see Slip Jig's beautiful cream sails above.

I remember thinking back then that I would love to have a set of sail's like that.  Well, it's time.  Spartina's current sails, made by a loft in main, have seen seven seasons on the water.  I'm happy to say that those sails have carried us a lot of miles in some pretty windy conditions.  Last summer I had a schooner captain out sailing with me on Spartina and I asked him what he thought of the condition of our sails.  "They look a bit tired" he said.  There is some stretching in some of the panels and a tear in the jib.  The tear cold be repaired, but replacing the stretched panels is, I'm told, is too expensive - I might as well get a new set.

Dabbler sails does a steady business.  I'm told by Stuart, the sole proprietor and sailmaker, that he is booked solid with work through February.  But an early spring delivery for Spartina is possible.

Something to look forward to over the winter.



EyeInHand said...

Glad to hear Dabbler will be the tailor for your new suit. He does great work, and he's much harder to please than I am. Kevin's rig, a very tricky one to make sails for, looks and performs really well, too. I'm sure you'll be pleased.

Bill said...

She'd look absolutely stellar with tanbark sails!

If those sails are considered "tired" after 7 seasons, my head sail is downright zombified. It definitely is time to get a new one... maybe next year. Or the year after that...

Curt said...

She deserves a great new set of sails after all those miles. My Annie has the European-style tanbark... very dark. I have a friend in Bradenton, Florida that sports cream colored on his Penobscot. They are beautiful. There is nothing quite like crisp new sails.
On ketchup... reminds me when I was a kid and we would soak old pennies in Texas Pete hot sauce to make them look new. Fun but no practical use.

Anonymous said...

I've played with the idea of moving the bowsprit forward a tad and adding a jib boom.
Any thoughts on that idea?

Steve said...


I don't know enough about sail plans, center of effort, center of lateral resistance, etc to be able to answer that question. Might be a good question for John W.


Anonymous said...

Steve, get your deposit in asap. Stuart gets booked up fast. Next WoodenBoat has my Pelican build with a comment on Stuart who make the sails. He should get a bump from that too.

Steve said...


got my order in last week, set for an early spring delivery. Congrats on the Pelican build and Wooden Boat piece.


Shawn Stanley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawn Stanley said...

New sails will give Spatina new life!! Congrats.

One suggestion I have from a guy that has sailed Lasers forever & worked in a sail loft in a former life..I've seen lots of pictures of your boat/rig/sails and this blog post is the appropriate spot to comment on this.

I'd recommend lashing down the mainsail (& mizzen) clew eye to the boom directly, in addition to the outhaul control you have on it already. It 'marries' the boom to the clew and provides greater control over sail shape if/when you adjust the outhaul...this way the clew isn't 'floating' over the boom. On Lasers, they now even have a class legal 'sleeve' that slides along the boom with the clew eye thru a pin.

However, for years and years a velcro strap or spectra strop (1/8" wrapped two or three times around) worked well on Lasers. The spectra strop might be better suited to keep with the traditional look of your beautiful vessel. You could spray some McLube or similar dry teflon on the spar to help.

sorry about the first post. Deleted due to lots of typos.

Shawn Stanley said...

And I still had typos in the 2nd post..I couldn't even spell your boat name correctly...Sorry for that oversight.

Steve said...


I consider this blog a celebration of sailing, food, books, bad grammar and typos. Thanks for contributing!

I do appreciate your comments. I'm really pleased the way Stuart at Dabbler is going about making the new sails. He has asked me for a lot of detailed information about the rigging, stays, goosenecks, etc. I'll do a post about that soon.


Shawn Stanley said...

Oh man, you are not kidding about the food...I enjoy your recipes & pictures of food as much as the sailing stuff.

I usually snap a picture of the meal I've prepared when the wife isn't home..sometimes scrolling back thru the pictures reminds me of the visual when you walk into a chinese takeout place.:)

Steve said...

Presentation is not my strongest suit in the food business. But sometimes dinner comes out tasting pretty good!