Installing new acrylic fixed ports

I finally tackled the leaking fixed ports this weekend. Removing the old leaking windows took much more effort than I had anticipated, but other than that, the entire project went well, and I managed not to stain the deck with too much black Dow Corning sealant.

Step 1: Remove old fixed ports.

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The screws came out easy, but the sealant did not want to let go. As you can see, I didn’t manage to get either window off in one piece. Note that the factory method for mounting these windows required painting the edges and the center black, so that you couldn’t see the sealant through the window. However, that means you’re now bonding to the paint instead of the acrylic, so we decided not to do the painting. We also decided not to use screws.

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The center sections were completely coated in sealant. While this made the old windows ridiculously hard to get off, it did nothing to actually keep them from leaking.

Step 2: Scrape and clean the mounting surface.

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Step 3: Apply 3M mounting tape

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Step 4: Level the new plexiglass window and pop it on the mounting tape.

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Step 5: Mask around the freshly mounted fixed port.

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Step 6: Goop it up with Dow Corning 795.

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Step 7: Smooth the sealant into all the cracks, wipe up the excess, and then pull the tape and peel the paper off the plexiglass.

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Step 8: Admire your new fixed ports that no longer leak when it rains.

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Removing the radar tower

After literally YEARS of deliberation, we finally decided to remove the radar tower from the cockpit of Gimme Shelter. The aged JRC Radar 1000 still worked but was hard to read, and the tower support poles caused a major complication when it came to designing a new bimini.

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The entire process was relatively painless. I had to clip the plugs off the ends of the cables to slide them down through the helm, but once they were clear, I was able to just unbolt and lift out the pole.

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Then I had to mix up some thickened epoxy to fill the holes.

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I was extra careful to mask around the holes after I got in trouble for dripping epoxy on the gel coat while replacing the winches.

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The only tricky part was bending my arm down through a hole and back up into the transom to tape up the bottom of the big hole, but even that worked out.

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Next weekend I’ll have to add just a little more epoxy to the big hole to build it up even with the rest of the stern. Then we can sand everything smooth and gel coat back over the repairs.

When the budget allows we may eventually add a Garmin radar, but if we do we’ll use a self-leveling backstay mount that won’t take up a bunch of space. In the meantime, the cockpit is now clear for our new bimini project!

When did you last inspect your rigging?

We had several blocks and lines meet the end of their useful lives during this year’s Icicle Series, but it wasn’t until we finished race four that someone on my crew said, “Hey your forestay pin is really bent.

Sure enough, the furler and the forestay had loaded up the pin that held it all together and put a nice curve in it. There was no pulling it out.

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Since I know very little about rigging, I consulted our friend Alex over at Bahama Rigging as to why the pin bent and the best course of action to take, so that it doesn’t happen again.

He suggested adding a toggle and re-tensioning the forestay. Then if there was still a little bit of slack, he could adjust the backstay. It might rake the mast back an inch or so, but it was the most inexpensive option.

Normally I do all the boat work, but we had a huge crew of people coming to sail with us the next weekend, so I let Bahama Rigging have at it.

Apparently cutting out the forestay pin and adding the toggle wasn’t too bad. However, the backstay adjuster was completely frozen. It also had to be cut out. Then the backstay had to be re-swaged with all new hardware.

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Lesson learned: Always check and lubricate your standing rigging!

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But we now have a beefier pin in the bow as well as the correct toggle below the furler.

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And the backstay is once again adjustable.

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I made sure to clean and adjust all the shrouds before we went home. I prefer to keep the mast in an upright position.

Folie a Deux: Another boat saved!

Here’s a little story about the madness of two people. When we moved Gimme Shelter to Watergate Marina three years ago, we ended up sharing a slip beside a rundown O’day 25 in need of some serious elbow grease and TLC.

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After almost a year on the market, the owner finally donated her to Boat Angels, and we thought that would be the last we ever heard of that vessel.

Then came along these two crazies, TJ and Kayla, who decided it was a great idea to buy a sailboat on eBay for $900 — much like my brother and myself who decided it was a great idea to buy a derelict flooded sailboat for $1000. I liked them right away.

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They quickly discovered that there is no such thing as a cheap boat as they tackled a rotten floor, quirky electrical system, and an outboard that just wouldn’t run. However, they persevered.

Eight months later we were honored to be invited, along with our friends Kelly and Jennifer of MV Celtic Cross, upon the maiden voyage of the now running and aptly named SV Folie à Deux.

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The outboard purred like a kitten as we motored out of the marina.

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Various projects and high winds had kept us all at the dock Saturday morning, so there were smiles all around once we were out on the water.

Once we made it across the lake, Mary and Kayla dropped anchor, and TJ broke out some champagne to celebrate the event.

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I think we’re even starting to convince the motor boaters that it’s time to trade up to a sailboat.

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As Folie à Deux doesn’t have working running lights yet, we had to hurry back in before dark, but a great time was had by all.

Congratulations TJ and Kayla, your sailing adventures are about to begin!

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Hanging out at the sail loft

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At the end of 2015 we decided it was time for a new mainsail. As you may remember, we did some exhaustive research on the topic.

After talking with all of the sail makers we finally decided to go with Banks Sails, both because they matched the 10% seasonal discount all the other companies were offering  and because they are the only sail loft still doing all the cutting and sewing right here in Kemah.

Trent, Keith and Chris at Banks invited us to watch them cut out and sew our sail, but unfortunately that happened the same week as Mary’s accident, so we had to take a raincheck. However, we finally got a chance to visit and watch them working on some other projects.

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Trent showed us how each sail is designed on the computer. The design is then split into panels, which are plotted onto a roll of sail cloth in a pattern that will minimize waste.

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The seams are marked and the panels are cut out on the big machine at the back of the loft.

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Then the pieces get stitched together. The entire floor of of the loft is raised to table height and the sailmakers sit in pits, which are the actual floor of the building.

We had one tiny issue with our new main. During our second time out, the slug on the clew popped out of the track.

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By the time we got back to the boat the next weekend, Banks had already replaced the slug with a larger one and added a velcro loop just as an extra precaution.

It feels good to support a local business, and we’ve been so happy with their service, they’re now helping us design a new stack pack and bimini for Gimme Shelter.

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Banks will be at the Southwest International Boat Show at South Shore Harbor March 17 – 20, so stop by and ask  Trent his trim secrets. There’s a rumor that if he’s on your boat during a rum race, you’re guaranteed to win.

2016 Icicle #3: A little bit rainy

The forecast said the thunderstorms wouldn’t start until 3 p.m., but the rain came early Saturday.

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The first leg of Icicle #3 had us close-hauled in 13 knots of wind, so we tried reefing in the jib to drop it from a 130 to a 100 to see if we could point a little higher this week. We made good speed and had a more neutral helm, but we still couldn’t point as high as most of the fleet.

It probably didn’t help that just before we started the race the slug on the back of the mainsail jumped out of the track on the boom, and we had to do some quick rigging with an extra line to tie it back down. I guess we’re going to have to put a larger slug on there.

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The wind then shifted to right off the mark during the second leg, which sent everyone tacking. I saw a couple boats choose to make about 10 short tacks instead of 3 or 4 long ones, and we caught up to a few of them.

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The last leg shifted back and forth between a broad reach and a run and got quite rainy. I wish I had a photo of all four crew members and the dog huddling under a leaky dodger.

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Judging by the time between lightning flashes and the thunder, it was never THAT close to us, but it was still a little unnerving when it would light up the sky.

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Based on performance in the first two races, our PHRF got shifted from 180 to 186, which moved out start time from 11:56 to 11:55. However, due to the mainsail issue we didn’t get started until 11:59. We finished at 2:16 with three boats behind us, which might be the best finish we’ve had so far. More importantly, we didn’t break anything, but we will have to work on the main. I’m also going to have to replace the halyards soon as they’re stretching and chalky, but my budget says we’re going to have to wait a few months on that.

Thank you to Brian, Matt, Shari and Tony for crewing, and special thanks to Shari for bringing kolaches and pulling her phone out in the rain to take a few photos for the blog this week.

2016 Icicle #2: A Spirited Sail

I took to the bay with a crew of 4 (5 if you count Dixie Belle) for the second race of the GBCA Icicle Series in the most intense wind Gimme Shelter has seen since we’ve owned her.

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We had 18 – 25 knots WNW the entire race, so it’s not a surprise that we finished almost an hour faster than last week with an end time of 1:46.

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Our first leg went well with the main double-reefed and our speed over ground averaging 7 knots. When we made the turn into the second leg we were still towards the front of the fleet.

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Daniel and Andy set to work shaking out our reef.

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We even set an official Gimme Shelter speed record while surfing a wave during a gust!

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However, the rest of the fleet was closing fast. The J-boats were absolutely flying.

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Until they weren’t …

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I wish I’d had a video camera running because there was some spectacular broaching going on behind us. We saw at least three boats go down.

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Meanwhile, our crew was suffering a bit. Dixie Belle was really tired of heeling, and one member of the crew, who shall remain nameless, spent some time feeding the fish on the third leg.

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Unfortunately with our shoal draft and 160 genoa, we just couldn’t point as high as the rest of the fleet on the last leg. I pinched up too much and our average speed dropped to about 4.5 knots. Then we still had to tack twice to finally cross the finish. That was bad driving on my part.

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But at least we finished fast enough this week that Scott Lacy was still there aboard Tramp to snap our photo. Thanks, Scott!

Of course, this wouldn’t be a real boat story without something breaking.

With the new blocks and all the cam cleats working correctly, we started paying more attention to the actual lines — and they were in bad shape.

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The outer sheath on the starboard jib sheet was completely broken, and the port sheet was almost as bad.

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The outhaul and reefing lines also had big problems. I had planned to spend Sunday removing the old radar tower, but instead I spent the day checking and replacing lines.

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By the end of the day we ended up with new jib sheets, new reefing lines, a new outhaul and a new boom vang.

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My time in Boy Scouts obviously paid off because 25 years later I can still whip the end of a rope.

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I just wish I knew how to splice eyes into the ends of the line. Maybe learning to splice will be a goal for 2016.

Big thanks to Daniel, Shari, Andy and Brian for crewing with me, and an extra special thank to Mary for letting us play on her boat in high winds.

 

 

Our visit to Doug Jackson and SV Seeker in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The boat the Internet built — that’s the slogan emblazoned atop the website we’ve visited the past few months watching Doug Jackson’s progress as he continues to build SV Seeker, a 74-foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer in his front yard.

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Doug has come to the conclusion that the best way to realize his dream is to share it with everyone around the world. Readers from across the globe comment with their ideas and expertise, and Doug is willing to house and feed anyone who wants to make the trek to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work on Seeker.

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As we made our way back to Houston on a cold, rainy Sunday after spending a week visiting family, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a small detour to meet Doug and actually see SV Seeker for ourselves.

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When we arrived we met Dave Fickle from Arizona who had spent the week of Thanksgiving helping Doug with wiring the ROV and welding the propeller shroud. He began welding cable guides onto the rudder quadrant while Doug took a break to give Mary and myself the grand tour.

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After a very busy summer the pilot house and hull are mostly constructed and some of the hatches are in place.

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The cabin is also beginning to take shape as Doug continues to leak-test his keels and tanks.

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The pile of portals is growing. If you look back at the hull photos, you can see that Doug has drawn in their future locations.

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The water-tight doors to be installed in Seeker’s cabin are also a sight to behold.

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We even got to check out Doug’s dinghy design, complete with seasonal elf captain.

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The tour was great, but no trip to visit SV Seeker would be complete without doing some work. Mary took an interest in the welding.

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Doug was kind enough to explain to her how the welder worked and gave her a quick lesson.

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And suddenly, Mary, who had never welded before, was attaching a cable guide to the rudder quadrant.

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And it turns out, her welding isn’t too bad!

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Doug said he estimates at least two more years of work before Seeker is ready to hit the water, and you’re probably wondering, how will Seeker get to the water.

Tulsa is actually an inland port city, and just 15 miles away from where Seeker sits is a shipyard on the Arkansas River where she’ll eventually be launched. Then it’s just a matter of making her way through the Oklahoma lock and dam system until eventually she’ll hit the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

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We could have stayed all day, but with dogs sitting in the car and another eight hours of driving to do, we had to say goodbye and get back on the road.

Special thanks to Doug for his incredible hospitality. We hope to see you again on the water.

Make sure to visit Doug’s site at www.svseeker.com. There’s also an SV Seeker Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/svseeker/?fref=ts

 

Guitar Comparison: Gibson Hummingbird versus Epiphone Hummingbird Artist

The Gibson Hummingbird has always been my dream guitar. It had that rock and roll pedigree, mellow mahogany tone, and just enough flamboyance to make it a legendary instrument. There’s just one catch, it’s really expensive.

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I fell in love with the Gibson back in my teens, and more than 20 years later, I finally have one (used, of course, I’m not crazy). However, needing another guitar for boating and camping, I was very curious as to the real differences between the Gibson and the very affordable Epiphone Hummingbird Artists. In fact, I found a blueburst B-stock Epiphone Hummingbird Artist for only $169.

Aside from the headstock you’d think the Epiphone would be a spitting image of the Gibson, but it’s definitely not. First off, their bodies, while both mahogany, are not quite the same size. The Gibson is slightly wider and deeper than the Epiphone with a more pronounced curve to the back.

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Both guitars have a 24.75″ scale neck, which is probably my favorite aspect of the guitar. It really helps me reach some of those chords with wide spreads. While the Gibson neck does feel more refined, when switching back and forth between the two guitars, you essentially feel like you’re playing the same instrument.

The Epiphone has a synthetic bone nut and a truss rod cover with three screws while the Gibson has a real bone nut and a truss rod cover with only two screws.

The rosewood bridges are similar, but once again, the Epiphone has a synthetic saddle while the Gibson has a real bone saddle. However, the Gibson still has cheap plastic pegs to hold in the strings. Being outside of the saddle, I know they don’t affect tone, but for the price, you’d think Gibson would spend $1 for real bone there as well.

There’s a HUGE difference in the tuners. My Hummingbird has sealed grover tuners, and the newer Gibson models have sealed Gotoh tuners. Epiphone doesn’t even mention the brand of their cheapo tuners in any of their collateral. They’re pretty terrible. I had some serious trouble keeping the Epiphone in tune for the first few weeks I owned it, although it has gotten better. With the Gibson, it’s usually in tune when I open the case, and it never goes out. With the Epiphone, I have to make sure and tune it before I start playing, and I might need to readjust it once or twice throughout the course of a three-hour jam. (This is about on par with every sub-$400 guitar I’ve ever owned.)

Of course, the real signature of a guitar is it’s tone, so I made a short video comparing the Gibson Hummingbird to the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro. Both guitars have Elixir Custom Light strings, and the audio was recorded on a Zoom H2n set to 4 channel mode. If you’re reading/watching this on a phone or laptop, you’ll probably have to plug in some headphones to really hear the difference.

So there you have it, a detailed look at the differences between a Gibson Hummingbird and an Epiphone Hummingbird Artist.

What does it cost to replace the mainsail?

Gimme Shelter is a 1982 O’day, and she still has her original mainsail. Yes, our main is 33 years old and so baggy that you could probably cut a storm jib out of it, re-stitch, and never even notice the material was gone.

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Unfortunately there is no cheap way to replace a sail. Sure, you can scour eBay and resale shops for used sails approximately the same size that might be in slightly better condition, but you’re still going to spend several hundred dollars and wind up in the same boat as you were before (both literally and metaphorically).

Therefore, I’ve begun the quest for Mary’s Christmas present by contacting several sail lofts in the area and overseas. Locally I contacted North Sails, Quest Sails, and Banks Sails. We know at least one person who has had sails made by each of those shops. Nobody gave any of them absolutely glowing reviews, but nobody gave them poor reviews. It was generally something like, “Well, I wanted local support and service, so I went with X, but they measured the Y wrong the first time, but they fixed it, and it turned out really nice in the end. I’d use them again.”

Yes, we heard tales of both a strong track being mis-measured by one company and a sail cover being mis-measured by another company. Both companies fixed the issues, but on the sail cover you can definitely see where it originally ended, then they stitched on another 18″ of fabric to make it reach the end of the boom.

To give you perspective of the sail size versus cost, our current sail has a 37’4″ luff, 11’6″ foot and a 39′ leech. A quote request was made to six different sail lofts with the following specs:

  • A new cruising mainsail for an O’day 34
  • P (height of mast from boom) = 38′
  • E (length of boom) = 11.75′
  • 2 reef points
  • Bolt rope foot
  • Logo
  • Sail numbers

Here are the results we got from the local lofts:

Quantum Sails (10% seasonal discount) $2,037.09

Construction: Designed using Quantum’s, iQ suite of computational tools, constructed from Charter 7.0 CC woven polyester. Cross Cut panels are laser cut, and assembled with oversized, tear drop shaped corner and reef patches, wide seams with triple throw stitching, extra layering and extensive reinforcement of high load areas throughout, with multiple webbing straps, stainless steel rings or Rutgerson press rings at head, tack, clew and reefs.

Includes: Hand sewn luff and foot hardware, spreader patches, pre-stretch or high modulus leech and foot cords with cleats and purchase systems as necessary, telltales, draft stripes, cunningham, sail ties, drawstring sailbag, 1 Full, 3 Mid Batten Pockets, RBS Epoxy 15mm Battens, Reefs (2), 2 insignias, 4 sail numbers

North Sails (unspecified seasonal discount) $2,170

2 standard reefs, 1 full batten, 3 leech battens, cunningham, integral foot skirt, insiginia

Banks Sails $2,230 – $2,685

We’d like to thank you for the opportunity to build a new mainsail for your O’Day 34. Our Cruisemate Plus would be great performing sail for your boat. Your sail would be constructed from Dimension Polyant’s OC, CB or AP cloth. This is a superior woven Dacron material that surpasses the longevity and performance of other cloth manufactures. The biggest difference between them is that the AP has more of a UV inhibitor (like sunscreen) to help it last longer, a slightly tighter weave and the highest quality yarns available on the Market. Dimension’s QA procedures grade their yarns in 3 categories (A, B & C). ‘A’ yarns are used in the warp and fill of the AP cloth. Our prices also include custom measurement and design to provide a guaranteed fit to your boat. Additionally, unlike other lofts, you would be welcome to stop by during construction and see your sails being put together. Also, if you have any specific thoughts about the design of your sails you can talk/visit with Trent, our designer, to have input on the sail design to get the exact performance that you desire. Also removal/disposal of your old sails and installation of your new ones are included as well. We are the only loft in the area doing 100% of the work right here in Kemah!

  • Cruisemate Plus Main Sail: Crosscut Cost
  • Mainsail @ 257 sq/ft, 4 Full Battens, and 2 Reef Points
  • 308 OC Cloth @ 7.0 oz (Standard) $2,230.00
  • 301 CB Cloth @ 7.0 oz (Upgrade) $2,415.00
  • 280 AP Cloth @ 6.5 oz (Superior) $2,685.00

Here are the responses from the overseas sailmakers:

Rolly Tasker  $1,570

Standard Mainsail Coastal Cruising                                                   US$

  • 7 oz US Dacron Crosscut                                           1,168.00
  • Luff 38:  Foot 11.75:  Area 250 sq ft 
  • 2 reefs                                                                            180.00
  • Logo (both sides)                                                             60.00
  • 4 numbers both sides                                                       48.00
  • 1 sail UPS door to door USA                                          114.00

Hyde Sails Direct $1,313 – $2,915

Note: The Hyde website has a huge database of vessels, and you can just choose your boat model and then spend hours selecting fabrics and adding all the bells and whistles to your sail. The breakout below was the the Cruising Mainsail (Challenge Hi Modulus Dacron) option with full battens.
Sail Cloth: Challenge Hi Modulus HA 7.3 Dacron
Design: Crosscut
Wind Range: Usually under 20 knots, occasionally to 25
Reefs: 2
Batten Type: Tapered Fiberglass
Battens: 4 full battens
Trim Stripes: Yes
Free Shipping
$1,628.00

Then there was the Do-It-Yourself option. We also got a quote from SailRite for a mainsail kit.

SailRite (10% custom discount) $1,126.48

Obviously the big catch to this option is that Mary would have to sew it together, which means purchasing a much heavier duty sewing machine. I’m not going to make her assemble her own Christmas present, but it is worth noting that if you wanted to make your own sails, the cost of the mainsail kit and a SailRite sewing machine is about the same as having your sails made by a local loft — but when you’re finished you still have a SailRite machine for the rest of your projects.

O’Day 34 Main Kit, 8.4oz SC Dacron, crosscut, two rows of reef points, 2+2 full battens, RBS tapered E-glass batten set, leechline, boltrope on luff and foot, slugs on luff, outhaul slug at clew, P 38’, E 11.75’
Subtotal $1,225, Custom Discount -$122.50, Shipping (UPS Ground) $23.98

As you can see, the difference in price between our local lofts is negligible, $2037 – $2,230. Yes, Banks came in highest, but they bid 4 full battens while the others bid 1 full, 3 leech battens. All of them offer a 1 year warranty on their sails.

However, the mail-order sails do create significant savings — they’re almost as cheap as a SailRite kit. The scary part with the overseas sail lofts is that if it doesn’t fit correctly, I could be looking at hundreds of dollars spent and weeks of waiting to ship it back to them for alterations. On the other hand, if the mail-order sails do fit, we’d have enough money left over for solar panels or a nice chunk of change to put towards upgrading the autopilot. Is it worth the gamble?

I’m continuing my research. I have to decide by Friday if I want 4 full battens, 2 full battens and 2 leech battens, or 1 full batten and 3 leech battens. Then I have to pick a sail loft and pull the trigger.

What would you do?