Wednesday, July 31, 2013

sail struggles

Part of our preparations for offshore cruising include modifications to the headsail and mainsail. We are converting the headsail from a furling sail (rolls up on the forestay or the wire brace at the front of the boat) to a hank-on sail (drops to the deck like a shower curtain). We are also converting the trailing edge of the mainsail from a roach (edge curves outward) to a hollow leach (edge curves inward). This change allows the elimination of the battens (short narrow wooden slats in pockets at trailing edge of the sail).  These are actually fairly controversial changes. 

The advantage of a furling headsail is that when the wind gets too high, the sail can be stowed without leaving the cockpit by simply pulling a line and rolling it up. The disadvantage is that if the furler fails, the sail can't be stowed and the flogging headsail could cause a dismasting in high winds. The advantage of a hank-on headsail is that it is simple and you can always get the sail down. The disadvantage is that you have to leave the cockpit (no matter how wildly the boat is pitching and rolling) and go forward to lower the sail. 

The advantages of a mainsail with a trailing edge roach and battens is that the sail size and efficiency are slightly increased. The disadvantages are that the battens can hang up in the rigging unless the boat is headed directly upwind when the sail is raised and lowered and, over time, the battens cause a lot of wear and damage to the sail. The advantages of a hollow leach are that, in rough weather, you don't have to turn upwind to reduce sail and the batten maintenance problems are avoided. The disadvantage is that the sail size and efficiency are slightly reduced. 

We really don't have the experience to guide our choice on these options. Instead, we have to rely on the recommendations of the "experts" and there are many experienced sailors who argue both sides of these potentially life threatening choices. 

So, our approach is to take the simplest and most reliable alternatives. We would rather take precautions to avoid being thrown overboard than experience a catastrophic equipment failure. 

So, that explains why we are modifying the sails. The picture at the top shows the problem that we ran into today. In trying to maneuver the large headsail through the new sewing machine, the needle bent and was driven into the bobbin carrier shown in the photo. It is also damaged and will have to be replaced and the machine will have to be adjusted. Dang!!


Karen said...

ok, that kind of sort of made sense! I'm amazed by your knowledge of sailing already. Sorry about the new sewing machine -- that stinks!

BenH said...

Keep up the blogs, I love reading them.