How to maintain sails on a sailboat
Some people believe that by having a sailboat they have somehow managed to escape the prices associated with power boats, but let me assure you that sails are very costly and have to be continually examined the proverb of “a stitch in time saves nine”.
Sail maintenance is essential in order to maintain the integrity and performance of the vessel. Over time, even the most carefully tended sails can become sun-bleached, start to leak, lose their shape and become worn. The following are some essential steps for maintenance of sailing vessel’s sails:
- Inspect your sails before and after every outing: The most obvious yet most important step to maintaining your sails is to inspect them for any major wear and tear before and after every outing on the waters. Carefully inspect each sail for any rips, tears, frays and any other major wear. Catching damage early will save you from having to entirely replace the sail. One key are to look at is where the sail rubs up against the spreaders that come out of the mast, this is a high chafe area from changing points of sail.
- Clean and dry your sails: Keeping your sails clean will help maintain the original shape of the sails and make them last longer. After each outing wipe your sails down with a soft cloth (thats if you have a small boat) but with a larger boat only do such a thing if they are noticeably dirty to an extreme. This will also help enhance the aesthetics of the sails by removing any dirt and stains. Once cleaned, allow the sails to dry before storing them away in an area that is not exposed to extended sunlight.
- Store your sails in a cool and dry place: Storing your sails in an area away from direct sunlight when they’re not being used is the best way to ensure they preserve their shape and integrity. Storing the sails in a cool and dry place will also help avoid mould, mildew, and dust. Many a sail has been brought down do to mold deteriorating the sale overtime.
- Check for UV ray damage on a regular basis: Sails are subjected to a lot of sunlight while sailing, and as such sun bleaching, fading and deterioration are most likely to occur. It is important to check the sails from time to time for any UV ray damage and consult a sailmaker for more advice on how to keep them in their best condition. A sail that has been exposed to sun over many years will become brittle and the stitch will come undone which leads to major damage. I once had a front sail that had UV’d out and taking it out on one breezy day allowed it to completely rip in half, lets say it was a costly replacement.
- Use a sail stop and sail ties: Using a sail stopper, or sail ties, are a great way to maintain the shape of sails, especially when sails are left unattended for a long period of time. Sail stoppers, also known as boat ties, are also useful when sailing, as it keeps the sail from flapping around and getting in the way during an outing. Be sure to purchase a sail cover to protect the sail when it is not in use, it is a total waste of money to allow your sails to be so freely bleached by the sun, let the sacrificial sail cover handle that.
- Performing regular sail servicing and repairs: Sail servicing must be done regularly in order to maintain the performance and extend the life of the sails. Repairs must also be done when needed. Its best to consult a sailmaker. Generally every year I’ll bring the sails to a sailmaker in order for him to see if there is anything I missed when I inspected the sail.
Keep up with your sail maintenance and you’ll enjoy many years on the water before having to fork up some serious cash