A Set of New Sails

One of the big questions with our six hundred dollar rig was always: “How long are those tarp sails going to last?” Standard tarp exposed to the sun and wind starts to wither within a couple months and after nine or ten is reduced to a disintegrating sieve of loose fibers. I bought the sturdiest tarp I could find. The distributor touted its UV resistance superior to all competitors. And it has stood the test of time! The answer to the question is: Three plus years. Aluna still sports the original sails made back in the San Francisco Bay Area on the industrial sewing machine I had found on Craigslist. A garden furniture grade black belt was hemmed around its border to which a ¼” line was stitched at half foot intervals to receive another one of the same size spiraling around the spars. Done! It can’t get any simpler than this. Implicit in having found a definite answer to our question is of course that by now those sails are approaching their end of life. Not that they’re totally gone. I’m confident that they will still bring us to New Zealand. They have a couple of patches in some high wear areas and one corner was always sticking out from underneath the sailcovers, which we put on religiously as soon as we are anchored or in port. That had to be cout out and patched eventually. But just in case, should the poor old sails decide they must go bust in a gust or two, and so we wouldn’t have to spend a week bumping up and down drifting on the high seas, we decided it was time to make a second set, so that they would be ready to fit to the spars should the worst come to happen.

A new set of sails sets the average cruiser back a couple throusand dollars at the very least. They are made from high tech sail cloth, have complicated shapes and all kinds of fittings must be attached to them. Too complicated for a homemaker they must be ordered from a professional sailmaker. Even the sails for Wharram cats, famous for their economy and simplicity, are a veritable challenge for the do-it-all-yourselfer. Now take an educated guess what our new set of sails costs us misers by default. Only one thousand? Less than one thousand? The simple fact is we did not spend a single penny, although it took a good two weeks of work and quite a few sore fingers since this time there was no sewing machine. All the materials were already on board. Wisely enough I had purchased a giant piece of tarp, 30 by 50 feet, before leaving consumerland and stowed it amongst the many other things we thought we would be using later on in the journey. Since we had to do everything by hand we simplified the process. The rim of the tarp is hemmed over a line. For this we used the decrepid line from HomeDepot that had desintegrated after only two months in the sun. Since there is no need for great strength and inside the double fold it would be eternally away from the sun, and any eye thirsty for refinement and style, this was a perfect opportunity for recycling a piece of otherwise useless junk. UV resistant thread we have also plenty on board. For the outside line I used a roll of polyester line bought from a fishing supply store in Pago Pago, tough black stuff that looks like it will outlive anything else attached to it. Allright, allright! There was of course a cost associated to all that, you say. What? Maybe two hundred dollars US all together? That’s still pretty darn amazing!

3 Responses to “A Set of New Sails”

  1. Paul Says:

    How do you lash the sails to the spars?

  2. Tom Vogt Says:

    We are starting our tiki38 build very soon and although it may be premature in thinking, I also would like to use the CC rig. Do you have any step by step article/ pics of what you used and exactly how you made these sails? I am very interested. Btw maybe I missed it in my reading, but what kind of performance did you get from the rig…ie.. light winds, speeds, ease of.use, tilting of sails.on various points sail… etc etc. I look forward to hearing from you
    Thanks ahead of time,
    Tom Vogt
    South Carolina

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