|suncover-all 150' of seams needed restitching|
We noticed that the sun-cover on the Genoa was flapping in the breeze back around the equator. Our initial plan had been to lower in then and stitch up the panel while at sea. But wrestling down a huge heavy sail is not the easiest at the best of times and on a bucking, heaving boat covered in salt-spray the chance of causing more damage—to the sail, our Sailrite machine or us--seemed pretty high. So we looked at the sail more carefully, determined the damage was superficial, and decided it would be safer and easier to wait until shore.
So we waited. And waited. Wrestling down a huge heavy sail at anchor isn’t fun either.
We’re pretty diligent with sail care. We had all our sails out for inspection several times this past year and did some extensive work on the main (which is probably nearly as old as the boat). The Genoa though is new, it’s only two—but sailing in the tropics takes it’s toll and as we lowered it to resew the sun-rotted seams on the suncover we discovered a significant amount of sun rot and a small tear on the luff tape at the head of the sail.
This is the sort of early damage that you can’t see from deck level, so it’s easy to miss. But had it been left for another long passage, or two, it could easily have caused a significant problem.
Considering the number of boats that arrived in port with some degree of sail damage or another (nearly all of them…) having a good sail repair kit is essential.
The other essential is learning how to inspect sails. Several people were shocked that relatively new sails (like ours) could have so much damage. But sun rot happens pretty quickly in places where it never rains (i.e. Mexico…) and once a seam goes, the pressure on the next seam kicks in and pretty soon you’re flying an expensive rag…
Our habit is to inspect all the sails at deck level a few times a year: With the main we start at the battens--removing and examining them and the batten pockets for signs of wear and damage. Then we look carefully at the stitching along the seams, leech, and luff, and reinforcement patches; and examine the slides; and the hardware on the corners. The top of the bolt rope or luff tape tends to get the least protection from the sun and is most likely to experience damage (this is how WGD lost their main and how we could have lost our Genoa). You should have the skills and material to repair most of the problems you find yourself, but our luff tape (for example) goes through too many layers of fabric for our machine so we’ve taken that to the sailmaker.
So now we're rudderless, sailess and our outboard is irritable (although the local mechanic got it working...) Seems like progress...