Sunday, July 19, 2015
Our little Oday 19 needs a new mainsail. The old one is blown out and is starting to really show its age. Since we replaced the gas outboard with an electric trolling motor, we really need sails we can rely on.
If you ever shop for a used sailboat, carefully consider the condition of the sails. Good sails are not cheap. A "good deal" on a sailboat can suddenly become a lot less of a deal if you need to replace the sails.
I knew the sails were far from new when we bought the boat, but they were sound. After over 5 years of hard sailing they are much worse for wear. Most people don't put that kind of wear on a small sailboat. Here in New England the sailing season is short. If stored properly, sails that are pretty long in the tooth can still be in good condition. By hauling the boat south in the winter we greatly extend the sailing season. Add to that the fact that we actually live on and cruise with the little boat for weeks at a time.
So now I'm looking at the price of sails and the state of our diminishing sailing kitty. I figure I've only got a few more weeks to decide what to do. If I have a sail made, it's going to take a good six weeks before we get it. I'd like to try them out before the weather gets too cold for sailing.
There are other options. One is to buy a used sail. That's a bit tricky as the Oday 19 is not a super common boat so I'd have to find something designed for another boat. That's where knowing the key dimensions of your sail comes in handy. There is one priced right just a tad smaller in very good condition that should work. However, my lovely wife hesitates to give up even a square foot of sail.
Sail size is like horsepower. Some consider my version of the Oday 19 to have been designed with too much sail for its size. Maybe, but it is nice to be able to move around in even very light winds. That comes with a price as a good gust of wind can just about stand the boat up on its side. It's lively. One must really pay attention to what's going on and be prepared to deal with changing conditions. As this is the boat we learned on, for us that sort of thing is normal.
Another option is to build your own sails. However, that's a skill set I'm not quite ready to acquire. While not rocket science, it is science, and art for that matter. There's also the investment in a sewing machine that can handle sailcloth. I've seen people use regular sewing machines to sew canvas. The look for older machines with metal gears instead of plastic. Even so, you are lucky if the machine lasts the job. Learning the skills and getting the tools to do the job makes economic sense if you are doing enough sail work. In fact, there's a good little side business in turning old sail material into carry bags and backpacks.
At some point, if I'm going to remain serious about sailing, I'm going to have to learn about sail construction and repair. After all, a sailboat without sails is just a slow motorboat with a big stick in the middle.