The flapping was the clue. A dark overnight passage from the island of Tahiti to Ra'iatea was the precipitating event. As we rounded the reef past Moorea, the wind rose in strength faster than we realized. And the flapping was the sound of our aged mainsail with a 12' tear in it, from one side to the other. We were fortunate that we found a decent sail repair loft in Ra'iatea, near the Moorings base. But after we got the patched up sail back, and looked up along the trailing edge (the leech to you sailors out there), we found evidence that this sail was really on its last legs. It was 25 years old after all, and it had carried us thousands of miles – and we really planned to replace it in Australia. Honest.
|The new sail - note we don't have a "#1 reef". We just go right to #2, or #3 if it's really hairy.|
Clearly it was time for a new sail, and hopefully before the sometimes windy passage to Australia. We had met Dave Benjamin of Island Planet Sails a year previous in La Cruz, Mexico. He was running his mail order sail business from his boat, often sitting with his laptop for hours in the cruiser's lounge. We met a few people who had ordered sails from Dave and were very happy with them. So I emailed him a 1 page list of requirements for a new sail and he got back to me immediately. I have to say I was rather shocked when a lot of my “wish list” items were standard with his sails. For example:
- I wanted s.s. slides at the headboard and reef points. Dave says 'I had assumed all s.s. - they never wear out in the sun like nylon'
- I wanted a particular style of seam stitching. Dave: that's our standard, but we use Goretex thread. Sailmakers NEVER want to use Goretex thread because (a) it's a bit more costly (b) it's slippery so it's harder to sew with (c) and it doesn't rot in the sun, so the sail doesn't need to go back to the sailmaker for repairs!
- I forgot to ask for the little triangular reinforcements at the ends of the seams. They were included anyways. Lots of sailmakers don't bother
- Tapered battens – no extra charge
- better full batten hardware – original quote didn't go up
- Shipping to Fiji – included in the price. And I didn't realize it and was going to be happy to pay the quoted price for the sail and whatever extra the shipping was going to cost me. (Dave you can ignore that bit dude)
I could go on and on but you get the idea. I've never worked with a sailmaker who was so happy to discuss why we want to do this and would you like that. I think we each had about 20 emails back and forth over details before it was all settled. I'm a picky sail buyer.
The final price: with better full batten hardware than he had originally quoted us, with shipping to Fiji included, and all those little extras that mean the sail will last longer – was less than his first price. You have to love that sort of service. There are a few little details to fix that weren't quite right but Dave is already there for us, and we will sort those out when we get to Oz when we are closer to a sail loft again.
Our last passage from Fiji to Vanuatu we finally got to hoist it and sail with it. Before we had been motoring around Fiji's islands in little or no wind. With a very slight adjustment to the upper batten tension the sail sets very nicely and is of course more powerful than the old one. I found myself reefing about 2 knots of wind sooner, because the boat was just that much more powered up. So great job Dave, and thank you very much. (No, Dave didn't give me a special price for this blog post. But do check out www.islandplanetsails.com for your next sail purchase)
p.s. To other sailors crossing the Pacific. Make sure your sails are in good shape before the crossing. Proper sailmakers are non-existent, and sail repair lofts are not that great (found them in Tahiti, Ra'iatea, Vavau group Tonga, and maybe in Denarau, Fiji). Shipping the sail and clearing through customs in Fiji was almost painless. Cost me about $60 including the ride back from the airport with the customs officer to make sure it got put on the boat.