09 December 2013

Sail Repair: The Theory

We have an approx. 3 inch tear in our mainsail which I need to repair. I tried to convince Scott that sail repair was a manly, "blue" job but then he tried to tell me that hoisting the anchor and rowing the dinghy were girly, "pink" jobs. I reconsidered. Sail repair is now my new specialty. I have absolutely no idea how to do this and clearly no experience. Thank goodness for the internet. Not only can you find out how to repair a sail, you can also find some truly weird and random stuff. So thanks to the internet, here is the theory on sail repair. Check back in later and we'll see if reality is anything like theory. I've found that the two don't always align.

From what I can tell, there are two types of patches - a cut-away patch and a "bandaid" patch. The cut-away patch is where you sew on a new piece of sail cloth on one side and then cut away the damaged part of the other side. This is what your professional sail maker would do, for a price of course. I'm cheap and certainly not a professional, so I'm going to go with the "bandaid" approach. You basically apply adhesive backed cloth or tape on both sides of the tear - like a giant bandaid.

Step 1 - Buy sail repair tape. 

I'm thinking of getting this Seasure heavy duty sail repair tape (1.5mmx100mm) at Foster's Chandlery. It says it is suitable for all sails including heavy spinnakers and you can edge stich it for permanent repair. It will cost me NZ$16.01. Which is funny because they don't have pennies in New Zealand so where the extra cent is going to come from is beyond me. But that's where Swedish rounding comes into play.

Step 2 - Make sure your sail is dry and clean. 

The adhesive won't stick to damp cloth. This shouldn't be a problem as we took the main sail off when we put the boat away for the winter.

Step 3 - Apply the tape. 

You should make sure the tape extends beyond the hole by 2-3" in each direction so cut the tape accordingly. Make sure the area is flat, peel the backing off and then lay the tape on the sail and rub it down firmly. Turn over the sail and repeat.

Step 4 - Do some sewing. 

You should reinforce the patch by sewing a zigzag stich. You're supposed to do a zigzag as it allows the stich line to stretch with the cloth. The instructions I found on the internet (see link above) talk about using an awl to punch holes through thick areas of cloth. This doesn't seem like the dresses and pillow covers I'm used to sewing on my old sewing machine.

Step 5 - Figure out what sewing equipment you need. 

Based on what I learned in Step 4, it doesn't look my household sewing kit is going to cut the mustard. You can buy this super expensive sail sewing kit at Foster's Chandlery. Give them NZ$80.26 and in return you will get a leather sewing palm, assorted needles, waxed sewing thread and beeswax. Do I need this stuff? It seems like a lot of money to invest in sewing. Although to be fair, I've probably spent more on materials for my various arts and crafts projects in the past. It would probably be so much easier if I had a sewing machine like these folks, but buying one of those isn't on the cards for us just now. 

Step 6 - Admire your handiwork and go for a sail.

Have you ever repaired a sail? How did you do it? What sewing equipment do I need and it is really that expensive?

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  1. I agree with Scott. Pink job. Here's my pink solution - call the sail maker, he can do it.

    1. Love it! The best pink solution ever! We actually just went to Foster's Chandlery today in Wynyard Quarter and just bought sail tape. The guy there thought using that alone might work for us. If it doesn't hold, we'll maybe invest in a proper sewing kit and stich it up as well.

  2. Thanks for sharing your findings with us. It’s not bad to give that easy and cheap DIY project a try. Also, if one or the other doesn’t work, maybe a combination of the two might prove more effective? Anyway, I hope you guys are having a great day! Cheers!

    Kent Garner @ Whites Marine Center


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