Saturday, November 29, 2014

Making Sails: I'm not as clewless as I used to be?

One of the interesting things about building a boat like this is that you have to always be thinking several steps ahead of where you are. For example, while planking the outside of the hull, you have to plan for and make the cockpit seating. Why? It is so much easier to get the fit and curves right if you don't have installed planks blocking your access and view.

Likewise, as I finish up the top layer of planking I thought to myself, "I need to finish the inside of the bow compartment. Waterproof it and paint it. And then working back from there, make sure that my mast step and holes for the mast are in the right place." Which made me think about the diameter of the mast at its entry point through the deck, and the angle at which it needs to sit relative to the waterline. Which got me thinking about the spars in general and that I ought to make them before I actually cut any deck boards, And then of course, before I actually cut wood for the spars, perhaps I should know the exact size and shape of the sails that will be attached to them.

All of this is to say that I decided I had better make the sails sooner rather than later. Then make the spars. Then test position everything so that I can finish building the hull. It's like building the boat in reverse order from what logic might otherwise dictate.

ANYHOO...I originally thought to buy a suit of sails. There are some excellent choices for ready-made Navigator sails. And then I came across the Sailrite site, which encouraged me to make my own. For giggles, I submitted for a materials quote from Sailrite, and discovered that the materials cost was actually quite reasonable, IF I stayed away from the rainbow of sailcloth colors available. I sent in the dimensions, so kindly provided by Mr. Welford on the sailplan drawings, and within a few days, I was busy down in the sail loft (neé basement). I was fortunate to commandeer the ping pong table, and my daughter's Singer Stylist sewing machine. Over the course of the next 2 or 3 weeks, as time allowed, I knocked a pretty white suit for Puffin. A few photos and comments follow.

I had never used a sewing machine before. The hardest part was figuring out how to load and thread the bobbin. Given the small size of my boat and her corresponding sails, a little consumer machine, like my daughter's Singer worked just fine. I might otherwise have said "worked great" except for one thing: the volume of sail cloth for even a small gaff main like mine is bulky and heavy for a small, lightweight machine like our little electronic Singer. I found that as I was feeding cloth into the machine, I was pushing the machine all over the table. Yeah. Pain in the rumpus. Also the throat depth of the machine was •almost• inadequate for the job. But other things like the myriad choices of stitch style (including a customizable 4-point zigzag stitch!!), tension adjustment, and even power to push through up to 8 layers of 5 oz dacron, plus 2 layers of nylon webbing were just fine.

Laying out the sailcloth panels for the mizzen sail. Decided to start with the smallest sail first, so if I really screwed up...well less damage done.

This is the mizzen head patch. Made up of 5 layers of dacron. Once it's all sewn together I'll appliqué it to the main body of the sail.

Cutting the batten pockets.

Here's the mizzen head patch and first batten pocket attached to the mizzen sail. 

Jib. Laid out and stitched up. No luff wire yet, and no grommets.

Detail of the jib clew patch. Here you can see the 5-layers of  dacron that reinforce this part of the sail that carries the greatest load.

Mainsail laid out and stitched. You can see two rows of reef points.  While JW's plans call for two full battens, the sail designer at Sailrite suggested partial battens throughout, which would not impact performance, but would make it much easier to furl and flake while at her mooring/anchor.

Detail of reef points and batten pockets.

Puffin logo. I wanted something that was reminiscent of a puffin without actually *being* a puffin. The logo is 5 oz dacron  appliquéed to both sides of the sail. Mistake here. I should have pointed the beak a little bit more to the level. I did it perpendicular to the head luff, forgetting that this is a gaff main, the head luff will not be perpendicular to the hull but rather at a slight 10-15˚ angle off vertical. Oh well. Call it Puffin Triumphant. Or Puffin Rising. 

Three finished sails. 

Detail of the jib luff edge. I opted for a roller-furling jib. So the luff of the sail is 3/16" stainless wire spliced to thimbles at each end. The luff also serves as the forestay. The corners of the sail here are hand reinforced with waxed poly sail twine.

Finished Jib clew. Nice leather dressing on the clew will prevent chafe from a flogging jib. Hand-sewn to the nickel #4 grommet.

Mainsail clew. Finished and dressed. Here you see the 5-layer patch, the edge tape, the nickel grommet,  the load-bearing nylon webbing, and the leather edge dressing. I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing this thing could lift 3,000 lbs. It's crazy robust.