Weekend Pictures

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This weekend was pretty busy. On Saturday we had Ben’s birthday party at a local park (Sawmill Park). It was a perfect location for a game of capture the flag. And with only 6 kids at the party, there was a lot of running. Even without a large turnout I think it was one of the better birthday parties that we have thrown.

Ben hanging out waiting for the party to start
Ben hanging out waiting for the party to start

The weather this weekend was perfect, not too hot and a nice breeze.

And more hanging out on the rocks at the park...
And more hanging out on the rocks at the park…

On Sunday, Susanna took Ben to the Drunken Pallet in New London for an afternoon of paining. Will and I took the afternoon to motor/sail the boat from the mooring on the Niantic River to the boat launch on the Thames River.

The weather was perfect for sailing with a good breeze on Long Island Sound and the tides were with us. The trip took about 4 hours, plus time to retrieve the boat and unstep the mast. We didn’t get much sailing done this year. With a new family member next summer and lots of family visiting we won’t put the boat in the water next season. If things work out we will sell the boat and in a couple of years look for a bigger one. I think having the boat in the water every summer is a bit much right now – I have too many things I like doing in addition to time on the water. Anyway, Ben has a power boat that we need to finish up and try to get in the water one of these summers.

Enjoying the motor down the Niantic River (photo by Will Curtis)
Enjoying the motor down the Niantic River (photo by Will Curtis)

How to Buy Cruising Sails by Judy Blumhorst

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After reading my post about my experiences buying a cruising sail for the O’day 22 online, Judy Blumhorst of Hyde Sails Direct offered to provide her perspective on purchasing cruising sails online. I think that it is a good summary of what I found through my searches online for information when I was researching new sails.


How to Buy Cruising Sails Online

Understanding the basics
of Sail Design, sail cloth & construction

By Judy Blumhorst, June 2015

One of the biggest expenditures a recreational or cruising sailor ever faces is replacing their sails. As the owner of an online loft (www.HydeSailsDirect.com), I know that cost and longevity are the biggest concerns of most customers buying new sails.

The cheapest sails, however, aren’t always the best value over the long-term. They don’t hold their shape for very long and will need to be replaced much sooner.

Understanding the basics of sail design, sail construction and sail cloth engineering will help you get the most bang for your sail-budget buck, and keep the wool from being pulled over your eyes by unscrupulous online lofts.

Q: When do I need new sails?

A: When your sails were new, your sailmaker designed an ideal shape for your boat and your rig, the type of sailing you enjoy, and your local conditions. Over time your sail cloth deteriorated, and the sail lost the shape your sailmaker intended it to have. The loss of shape makes your boat harder to sail and reduces your sailing enjoyment. When your boat won’t point as well as it used to, heels more than it used to and is harder to control, it’s time for new sails.

Even though your sails may not have any tears or rips, you will enjoy sailing much more if you replace your sails when the original shape is lost.

Q: Why is good sail shape important?

A: Obviously good sail shape is important for racing, but increasingly cruisers are realizing the benefits of good shape. Good sail shape translates into less heeling, better pointing, easier boat handling, and the ability to handle higher winds comfortably.

Q: What difference does the sailcloth make to me?

A: High quality, name brand sailcloth has low stretch, holds its shape for a long time, and is durable so it has a long, useful service life. Sails that are made from low quality Dacron last a long time without ripping, but they lose their shape quickly.

Q: Woven Dacron or Laminate? What is the Difference?

A: Since the 1950’s, woven polyester (Dacron) has been the most popular material for cruising sails. Over time, boats grew larger and cruisers demanded better performance from their cruising boats. Sailmakers and cloth manufacturers needed improved fabrics that could resist higher loads and retain their shape better.

In the 1960’s and 1970, laminate sailcloths were invented to fill the need for better shape-holding. The early laminates were plagued by durability problems, and didn’t last very long. Laminates and Woven sailcloth have come a long way since then. Today, modern laminated sailcloth is more durable than the old laminates.

Laminates are made by gluing layers of different materials together to form a sandwich. Basic laminates consist of two layers of plastic film sandwiched around load-bearing yarns. The fibers are carbon, Spectra/Dyneema, Twaron, Technora, Kevlar, Pentax and polyester. For cruising laminates, an additional layer of polyester is laminated on the outside to improve the fabric’s resistance to UV, tears and abrasion. Generally speaking of durability, most sailmakers assume that three to five years of frequent use is a reasonable lifespan for laminated cruising sails. With less frequent use, cruising laminates will last longer.

Today, highly advanced woven Dacrons can carry much greater loads with less stretching. The most advanced Dacron sails hold their shape as well as cruising laminates and last longer.

In the past 10 or 15 years, Challenge Sailcloth developed a Dacron named Warp Drive for use in radial-panel sails that holds its shape as well as most cruising laminates. Contender Sailcloth and Dimension Polyant Sailcloth invented high-tech ways to blend polyester, Vectran, and Spectra/Dymeema yarns together into hybrid woven Dacron. (Challenge Sailcloth makes Hood Vekton , Contender Sailcloth offers “Hybrid Fibercon” and Dimension Polyant offers “HydraNet Radial”).

Q: Why are the new radial woven fabrics so important for cruisers?

A: Woven Tri-Radial cloths are a big deal because they let sailmakers design and build tri-radial sails in woven cloth. Dacron is still the most durable fabric in absolute terms. Tri-radial construction deforms less under loads. Tri-Radial sails of Dacron have excellent shape retention and excellent durability. That’s a powerful combination for long-term performance and long-term affordability – a lot of “bang for the buck” for cruisers.

Sailmakers orient the panels to resist all the loads better and retain shape over time better, compared to cross-cut sails. Dacron Tri-radial sails offer owners excellent durability for long service life as well as excellent shape life, at a price that would have been inconceivably low in past years.

One important point to remember if you are buying a new sail is that the cloth used for a tri-radial sail and the sailcloth used in a crosscut sail are not interchangeable. Modern woven cloth for tri-radial construction is considerably more expensive than sailcloth for cross-cut sails. Name brands are Challenge Warp Drive ($$), Contender Hybrid with dyneema ($$$) and HydraNet Radial with dyneema ($$$$).

Q: Who manufactures the best Woven Sailcloth?

A: In the United States and abroad, four major suppliers of sailcloth—Dimension Polyant, Bainbridge International, Challenge Sailcloth, and Contender Sailcloth—provide sailmakers with Dacron, Dacron blends, and laminate cloths and related materials to build strong, state-of-the-art headsails and mainsails.

Q: WHY ARE THERE SO many different Dacrons?

A: There are many reasons for the multitude of cloth styles and prices.

Sailcloth manufacturers build cloths to meet a wide range of price points, from budget to premium.

Sailcloth engineers design dozens of different types of cloth so the sailmaker can choose the best cloth that will have the best shape under load.

Q Why do some Dacrons cost much more than another? Aren’t they all the same.

A: The more expensive Dacrons generally stretch less. They cost more because the raw materials cost more, the technology is more complicated, and they take longer to weave. Also, cloth manufacturers can demand a higher price because low stretch Dacron makes a better sail.

However, economies of scale during production greatly affect the price of sail cloth. Popular cloths which are produced in greater quantities cost less.

Also, production lofts that buy in massive quantities get lower prices from the manufacturer, and save on transportation costs too.

Q I’m a Cruiser, not a racer. What is the best value in sails for Cruisers?

A: As a sailmaker, customers frequently tell me that they want to buy the least expensive sails I sell because “I’m not a racer. I don’t need fancy sails”. I think that’s the wrong perspective to have when you’re buying sails. The less expensive sails don’t retain their shape as long as better quality ones. You will have to replace the sails sooner because your boat sails poorly sooner

Here’s a better way to look at it: In general, you should buy sails made of the lowest stretch cloth you can afford. The only time this doesn’t apply is when you are going to sell the boat within one or two seasons. All things being equal, the less expensive fabrics don’t hold their shape as long as the more expensive ones. When your sails have lost their designed shape, it’s time to replace it — even if it hasn’t ripped.

Q: I’m on a budget. What cruising sails should I buy if I can’t afford the “best Dacron”?

A: The answer is the same as before: Buy the lowest stretch Dacron that you can afford! It will give you several years of good service. But in the long term, you will need to replace them sooner than the less expensive Dacron.

Q What should I tell my sailmaker when I’m buying new sails?

A: I’m sorry, but that’s a trick question! You can tell your sailmaker whatever you like, but it’s the sailmaker’s responsibility, not yours, to get all the important information necessary to select the right sail for your needs. At the least, the sailmaker should interview you to find out the following important needs:

  • Your sailing experience and level of skill
  • Your expectations about performance
  • Your expectation about durability
  • Your expectations about ease of use (Are you willing to “baby” the sail or are you more casual about how you treat your sails?)
  • Your time horizon for using the sails
  • Your sailing style (eg race vs cruise, set-and-forget cruiser vs string-pulling-trimming cruiser)
  • Budget
  • Miles/hours sailed per year,
  • Climate (humidity, UV)
  • Wind range and sea state on your cruising grounds.

Q: How do I avoid “getting the wool pulled over my eyes”

Unfortunately, there are a scam artists on the internet who sell inferior products, misrepresent the goods or use counterfeit imitations of name brand cloth. I have personally examined sails that were made of a less expensive, inferior Dacron sail cloth than promised. Those owners told me their horror stories when they hired me to be their sailmaker after being ripped off by a dishonest online loft.

It’s particularly easy to scam people buying new sails because the average sailor can’t tell the difference between cheap sailcloth and expensive sailcloth once the sail has been delivered. The crook substitutes cheap cloth for expensive cloth and pockets the difference. The substitution isn’t obvious for a year or longer, when the shape of the sail deteriorates rapidly. By then, it’s too late for the buyer to do much about it.

Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing your sailmaker is their reputation. Make sure you carefully check the reputation when you hire an online loft.

  • Do some research online about the firm. Check the Better Business Bureau and Google. There are very few complaints online about honest and competent sailmakers.
  • If you discover numerous complaints about quality or service during your online research, don’t buy from that business. As the saying goes “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire”.
  • Do some comparison shopping, but don’t be seduced by super low prices. There are several well established online sailmaker lofts with good reputations on Google. If a small non-name brand loft claims to be able to sell the same sail for 30% less than the other online lofts, exercise extreme caution. If the price at one online loft “is too good to be true” be very, very cautious. Don’t let the promise of a low price cloud your judgement.
  • Get the name of the person advising you on cloth selection online and check his sailing resume online.
  • Get the name of the person designing your sail and check his sailing resume online.
  • Get the name and physical address of the loft building your sails. Honest lofts don’t hide where their sails are built.

CAUTION IF YOU ARE BUYING SAILS ONLINE: The cost of the cloth is the biggest factor in the price. Protect yourself against a “bait and switch” on the cloth. Insist that the invoice shows the brand name and manufacturer’s style number of the cloth in writing. A weight designation is not a style or part number. Don’t accept vague descriptions that don’t include the style or part number!

Understanding loads on Sailsi

Challenge makes two versions of many of its super-premium & premium woven dacrons: High Aspect and Low Aspect. They engineer different constructions to align the strength of the fibers with the load direction of the sail. One is not better than the other. They are both engineered for a specific application.

Loads on High Aspect Sails

Loads on High Aspect Sails
Loads on High Aspect Sails

A high aspect sail is tall and narrow. By definition, the luff is at least 2.9 times as long the foot.

It generates the most load along the leech. A High Aspect cloth generally has larger fill yarns and is very strong in the fill direction. The warp yarns almost touch each other in the weave, creating tunnels in the construction which keeps the fill yarns geometrically straight and low stretch.

Loads on Low Aspect sails

Loads on a Low Aspect Sail
Loads on a Low Aspect Sail

A Low Aspect Sail is short and wide. By definition, the luff is less than 2.9 times the length of the foot. The loading directions are not parallel, and run more toward the center of the sail.

Low Aspect cloths generally have larger warp yarns than in a high aspect fabric, and while the fill yarn is bigger than the warp yarn, they are closer to equal size than in a High Aspect Cloth.

There is more even crimp between the two fibers. The even crimp allows the yarns to grab each other, thus creating a strong resistance to bias stretch.

Understanding How Panels for Sails Are Cut
Aligning loads with Low-Stretch Yarns

CrossCut Sails

Cross Cut Sail
Cross Cut Sail

Crosscut sails have long panels that go horizontally across the sail, perpendicular to the leech and the heaviest loads on the sail. The yarns that go the length of the cloth are called fill yarns. The warp yarns, which cross at 90 degrees, are woven over and under the straight fill yarns. The technical term for bending the yarn is called “crimping”.

For crosscut sail panels, yarns in the fill direction have minimal stretch because they are relatively straight. The yarns in the warp direction are comparatively stretchy because they are crimped.

Tri-Radial Sails

Tri-Radial Cut Sail
Tri-Radial Cut Sail

Tri-Radial sail panels align the straight warp yarn with the load direction. The panels must be cut parallel to the length, not width, of the sailcloth

The best Dacron cloths for Tri-Radial sails, like Challenge Warp Drive or North’s Radian, have zero crimp in the warp yarns. Challenge Warp Drive costs 200-300% as much as entry level Dacron for CrossCut Sails because it is very time-consuming to weave and produced in lower quantities than crosscut Dacron.

Designers cannot use fill oriented cloth to cut panels for tri-radial sails. If you do, the loads are being carried by the heavily crimped fill threads, and the cloth will stretch badly.

Beware of “knock-off” Tri-Radial Dacron sails at unbelievably low prices. Dishonest sail lofts sometimes use ordinary inexpensive fill-oriented Dacron to build Tri-Radial Sails and pass it off as Warp Drive. They get away with it because most buyers can’t feel or see the difference. The highly-crimped yarns are too stretchy to resist the loads in the sail, and the sail will stretch out of shape very quickly.

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Portions of the post above were reproduced or borrow heavily with permission from Challenge Sailcloth http://www.challengesailcloth.com

A Weekend On The Water With William

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Will came over on Saturday morning to spend the weekend sailing and camping in Long Island Sound. We decided that there was room for Targa to join us, so it was the two of us plus one dog for a trip across the sound. Susanna got to enjoy peace and quiet. Well as much peace and quiet as one can have with Tucker and a bunch of chickens and ducks.

We headed out around noon to catch the ebb tide out of the Niantic river. We had debated going across the sound to Gardiners Bay, but decided that was too long of a trip and too much heading into the wind. We opted to catch a left and head east to Fishers Island sound and find refuge in East Harbor (Fishers Island, NY) for the night.

The wind didn’t pick up until late afternoon, so after heading downriver we motor-sailed east. Will took the helm and I went below to make lunch. Then crunch. We grounded off of Two Trees Island. Nice thing about a shallow draft boat is that isn’t too big of a deal. Except that I got wet. I jumped off and after a few moments, pushed the boat off the gravel. Then the boat drifted towards deep water before I could jump back on. So there I was hanging off the bow of the boat, not quite able to get myself lifted into the boat. Luckily, Will was good in an emergency. He killed the outboard and got the ladder out for me to ungracefully clamber back onboard.

Of course, Will noted that Two Trees Island is a dumb name. There are no trees at all on the island.

The rest of the day went better. The wind picked up and we were able to sail most of the way to East Harbor. It even got to the point as we passed Chocomount Cove that we decided to take the jib down before the wind picked up too much.

We took Targa ashore (the joy of cruising with a dog), and ate a camping dinner of freeze-dried meals. After dinner we took Targa ashore again, and Will decided to spend time swimming at the beach. We got to enjoy an evening of fireworks. First from the submarine base, then from what looked like was Stonington. A cool breeze kept the boat comfortable that night.

The next morning I woke to a foggy stillness. There was no wind, not even a slight breeze. And the fog thickened as the morning stretched on. We ate a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. I’m sure Will found some cookies and chips to supplement his meal.

We started up the motor and meandered along the Fishers Island coast in the morning fog. We kept close to shore, and luckily the fog started lifting before we entered Long Island Sound, and was completely gone before we had to pass the Thames River mouth.

We made it back to the mooring by noon, with only a short hiccup. The outboard stopped and wouldn’t restart immediately just off of Millstone nuclear power plant. We took the opportunity to drop the anchor and eat lunch. After a few more tries, I got the motor running and we were on our way. We enjoyed the end of the trip with a short swim in the Niantic River at our mooring before heading home.

A foggy morning at East Harbor, Fishers Island, NY
A foggy morning at East Harbor, Fishers Island, NY
Will preparing lunch on Sunday, after deciding that it was better if he cooked and I drove by Two Trees Island (just so we didn't have to revisit the shallow gravel bar just north of the island)
Will preparing lunch on Sunday, after deciding that it was better if he cooked and I drove by Two Trees Island (just so we didn’t have to revisit the shallow gravel bar just north of Two Trees Island). Please ignore the disaster int he cabin after a weekend camping in the cramped spaces of an O’Day 22 with at 12-year old and medium sized dog.

FishersIsland

A few questions with Judy B at Hyde Sails Direct (or Purchasing Sails for the Beginner)

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I mentioned in my last post that I had been contacted by Judy Blumhorst from Hyde Sails Direct. She had read my post about my sail purchase this spring from a competitor. I asked her a few questions about her business, and her thoughts on purchasing sails for the novice. She took the time to write a lengthy response to my questions, and I figured I would share her responses.

I did tell her that I wasn’t in the market for a new sail at this time, but she still took the time to respond and discuss her business.

I spent a lot of time searching the internet for information on buying sails online, however, I found no good guidelines or discussions about purchasing sails on the internet. Most of the material out there are long discussion threads on sailing message boards.

Judy has promised a primer on sailcloth in a few days and is sending me some samples of the sailcloth used by Hyde Sails – so expect more posts on online sail buying in the near future.

And for future reference, I’ll take a close look at Hyde Sails Direct the next time I’m in the market for sails. To be honest, I am happy with the sail I ordered, and I loved the payment plan offered for the sails from Peak Sails NA. Ordering from Hyde Sails Direct would have cost a little more (but not a huge difference). However, I am very impressed with the dialog I have had with Judy.

If any other online sail retailers have comments or more suggestions, I’d be happy to consolidate comments and try to put together a consolidated recommendation post for purchasing smaller sails online.

Though the words below are from Judy from her perspective as an online retailer of sails, the answers fit with what I had read online (which is always true) and with my experience purchasing a sail. My vast experience of purchasing one sail. One time.


Are you part of Hyde Sails, or do you an independent business that sells Hyde Sails?

Hyde Sails Direct partners with Hyde Sails International, but we operate as a separate entity. Our mission is to deliver Hyde’s renowned quality at internet prices. Like other internet sail lofts, we don’t have staff that travel out to your boat to measure it for you. Our customer measure their own boat; that’s the first way they save. We don’t have a design staff, office staff, or a shipping department. All of that is provided by Hyde Sails International, at huge savings compared to local lofts. Instead of a paid repair staff, we have a network of affiliated, full service U.S lofts. We don’t pay rent for loft space on the waterfront, a huge savings. We advertise only via the Internet—no expensive booths at boat shows, no big ads in the glossy sailing magazines. Our unique situation allows us to be a sail loft within a sail loft, and the money saved is passed directly on to you. Our customers get world-famous Hyde quality at affordable, competitive prices.

What happens to the sails when they arrive in the USA? I’m assuming that they are sent to a shipping partner and then mailed out from the shipping partner.

Hyde owns the production loft in Cebu Philippines and controls the manufacturing and shipping from the day the cloth arrives at the factory to the day it is delivered to the customer. Quality control starts with testing each roll of sailcloth that is delivered to the factory. At each step of the process, the sail is checked by our quality assurance team. Each sail is checked carefully before being packed for shipping. Our shipping department packs each sail at the loft for delivery to the customer. Once a week, Hyde sends a “consolidated air” via UPS directly to our US customers. When the sails arrive in the USA, UPS takes the shipment through customs clearance as a single lot, which saves hundreds of dollars in administrative customs fees. After the shipment clears customs, UPS sends each sail to the buyer via UPS Air. Time in transit from the loft to the customer’s doorstep is usually 3-5 business days.

How long is the lead time for sails? I’m guessing that some times of the year are better than others for ordering sails.

Lead times vary according to the time of year. The longest lead times are generally for orders from February through April. Hyde operates 6 production lines which can have slightly different lead times depending on the time of year. so the answer can vary depending on the size sail. Our loft is almost the size of a football field, and the production lines are separated to specialize by the size of the machines needed to sew the sails, as well as the floor space needed.

The shortest lead time that’s practical at any time of the year is 3 weeks including shipping, but can stretch to 6-8 weeks in March and April.

One word about “winter sales”. The biggest and highest quality Production Lofts don’t offer sales in February, March and April — all the top large production lofts are fully booked in starting in January.

Any other suggestions you would give to someone owning a smaller boat and looking for a new sail?

1) The biggest factor in the cost of the sail is the sailcloth. In general, the less stretchy the cloth is, the more you will have to pay for it. There are two important properties of the stretch: initial stretch resistance, and retention of stretch resistance over the service life of the cloth. Over the whole service life of the sail, lower stretch means the sail holds a better and more stable shape that is closer to the original designed shape.. A sail that holds the designed shape better translates into a boat that heels less, points higher, and handles gusts better. The boat will be able to handle higher winds before needing to reef, and have better manners in challenging conditions.The sails will make an old boat sail like a new boat, and hold their like new performance much longer than entry-level sails.

2) There is a lot more to cloth than weight . There are many different styles of weaves that are engineered to make specific compromises between low stretch (performance) and durability and price. Hyde Sails Direct offers sails at several different price points, chosen to give the best performance and shape life at each price level.

3) As for the construction details, all Hyde sails are all built to hold their shape when used for coastal passage making. We build every sail to be a competent passage making sail with a long service life. Regardless of the cloth selected, we build each and every sail to top standards, to meet the work the owner will expect it to do. Our sails hold their shape longer than lesser built sails when made of the same cloth.

The construction details vary by the size of the boat and displacement of the boat. Sails for bigger boats are built to beefier standards because they are subjected to higher loads. All the sail are fully featured and include every high-end feature we think is appropriate for a sail capable of serving you well for many years. We don’t sell “entry-level” sails. Even our pocket cruiser sails are built to last as long and perform as well as sails built for 40 footers.

Hyde’s market niche is emphasis in on providing the highest quality of design, construction and materials at a price that represents the best value for a cruiser. We are not at the “bleeding edge” of sail design, but we do stay at the “leading edge.” Our market niche is to provide the very best of established sail technology at the most competitive price possible.

We are not the lowest priced loft, but we believe our sails are the highest quality at a keen price. There are other online lofts who compete with each other to sell the lowest priced sails, which are not the leaders in industry quality. That is not a market we want to sell to.

Hyde Sailmakers are one of the worlds largest production sail lofts, building over 40,000 panelled sails per year. We buy sailcloth by the container load, at the lowest cost. The economies of scale permits us to build sails at the lowest cost. We have 50 years of experience building cruising sails, and we know what goes into a sail that performs like new for a long time. The smaller lofts cannot acheive the same economies of scale that Hyde can.

Another Source for Sails

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I was contacted today by Judy from Hyde Sails Direct. She had seen my earlier post on my mainsail purchase for the O’Day 22. I had missed her business when I was looking at new sails which is a shame, the website is a great place to start.

She said she would send me samples of the fabric they use in their sails to compare with what I got from Peak Sails North America. Hopefully I’ll be posting a comparison early next month between the fabrics. Of course, already having a mainsail, I won’t be getting a second one, so I won’t be able to compare the construction.

It was great to hear from another sail loft, The prices are a little more than at Peak Sails, but not by too much, and you may get what you pay for. The customer service promises to be good at least – taking the time to contact a purchaser of a competitor’s product.

I’ve asked Judy a few questions, and will hopefully learn a little bit more about the process on purchasing a new sail online – so far I only have one data point from one business. When I was searching for a new sail, I found that there wasn’t a lot of information out there that was really relevant to buying smaller sails.

New O’Day 22 Mainsail!

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New mainsail from Peak Sails North America
New mainsail from Peak Sails North America

The new mainsail for the O’day arrived by FedEx today. It has been nearly 9 weeks since I ordered the sail from Peak Sails North America.

The sails look nice, but of course I’m not an expert on sails – I used the rags that came with the boat for the past two seasons.

How do I rate the purchase experience?

1. Price: Peak Sails couldn’t be beat for price – which was the primary reason for choosing them.

2. Quality: The sails seem pretty nice – I’d rate them a 4 out of 5 on quality. The insignia isn’t perfect, but it is a drastic improvement from the existing mainsail. I’ll have to see how well it holds up and how well it sails.

3. Processing Time: Not the best, but it is what I expected. I would rate it a 2 out of 5. If I needed the sails in a hurry I wouldn’t use them. But I didn’t need them in a hurry. I think the best bet is to order new sails at the end of the season to have them ready for the next season.

4. Customer Service: No problems with customer service. I would rate it a 4 out of 5. The time frame I was initially given was under 4 weeks to deliver, but I also understand I had a small order and picked a discount sailmaker. However, whenever I called and to get an update on the sail, Chris Stevens (Peak Sails customer service) was always pleasant to talk to and helpful on the status of my order. He didn’t always answer the phone, and I didn’t try leaving a message – however it wasn’t hard to get in touch with him. I only had to call two or three times each time to get him to pick up.

Now to get the boat cleaned up this weekend, and put it in the water Father’s Day weekend.

New Sails (I hope)

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The original mainsail.
The original mainsail.

Okay, I’m done complaining about the snow. At least until the next time it snows this spring.

I have had the O’day 22 in the water for the past two summers. The mainsail is (I believe) the original. Which makes it older than me. But not by much. And in worse shape than me (I hope).

The luff (front edge that goes along the mast) is fraying and needs a new boltrope. I think I could probably replace the boltrope – a replacement is only $2.50/foot at Sailrite. It shouldn’t be too difficult to sew the rope in a straight line. But the last time I tried to sew something in a straight line it didn’t work as well as I though. And maybe the mainsail isn’t the best thing to learn on.

Even if I fixed the boltrope, the rest of the sail is a mess. One of the seams on the luff (trailing edge) is coming apart. One or two of the battens are missing. And overall the sail is tired and stretched out and my windward performance is terrible – though, honestly, that may be due to my lack of sailing ability.

It was time to replace the mainsail. It was time to replace it two years ago. But I finally placed an order this spring. I decided to go with Peak Sails North America. I placed an order with them because they were inexpensive and allow me to spread the costs of the sail over 4 months (the sails are made after the first payment). They also had mixed reviews about how long it took for them to make the sails and for their customer service. However, I figured that the price was right and that I would have some leverage with their sail payment plan, so I placed an order on Monday.

They were pretty quick to send me an email back and send me the first bill. I hadn’t heard from them by Friday to confirm the sail size and number, so I gave them a call. Chris Stevens (Peak Sails Customer Service) picked up on the 2nd or 3rd ring, and quickly looked up my order and took the information down (sail number). He said the sail would probably go to production this week and be delivered in 3-4 weeks. It was a much better response than I had expected.

Chris explained that the production line gets backed up in May and June and could take a lot longer – people get their boats in the water in May and June and when their sails fail it is a crisis to get new sails.

So far I’m happy with the customer service at Peak Sails. They may not be the most responsive by email – but they did answer the phone and answered my questions. Hopefully the sails show up promptly and this summer I will only be able to blame my lack of sailing skill (and the boats shallow keel) when I have poor windward performance.

Yet another sailing post!

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Maybe a month ago I complained that we had hardly used the sailboat this season. It wasn’t any one person’s fault in particular. We just had a busy summer. However we have been out each of the past three weekends, with two overnight trips. Not a bad way to finish off the season. Hopefully next weekend I’ll get one more final sail in – the trip from Niantic River to the Thames where I will pull the boat out of the water.  Maybe I’ll even raise a sail (or two) if the winds are favorable.

Ben enjoying his backpacking dinner (freeze dried chicken and mashed potatoes).
Ben enjoying his backpacking dinner (freeze-dried chicken and mashed potatoes).

This weekend we did a quick overnight on Friday (after work and school). We had originally planned to go to Giants Neck again, but we got a late start, so we camped maybe a 1/4-mile south of the mooring on the Niantic River.

We had the boys and the dogs this time around. It was a little crowded. Okay, very crowded. We did get all six of us below for a period in the middle of the night, but Targa gave up and he slept in the cockpit most of the night. I got up about every hour because either one of the boys was up and about (going to the bathroom, or just hot) or the dogs were restless (because they are dogs and at times annoying).

I think next year if we all go camping again we will have to make some modifications to the boat. We need a little better storage, and it would be very nice to leave more supplies on the boat (such as plates and silverware).

Susanna taking the dinghy ashore in the late evening.
Susanna taking the dinghy ashore in the late evening.
Will and Targa sharing a bed. It wound up being too tight for Targa to spend the night on the settee berth.
Will and Targa sharing a bed. It wound up being too tight for Targa to spend the night on the settee berth.
Will walking Tucker on Saturday morning after sleeping on the sailboat.
Will walking Tucker on Saturday morning after sleeping on the sailboat.

Tomorrow is a ‘hang around the house and take it easy’ day!  I can’t wait.

Camping off of Giants Neck Beach

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The sunrise over Giants Neck beach and our anchorage. You can see our boat on the horizon.
The early morning light over Giants Neck beach and our anchorage. You can see our boat on the horizon.

After work on Friday, Susanna, the dogs, and I headed down to the sailboat for a short overnight trip.  We again loaded up gear and headed south down the Niantic River. We passed under the Amtrak bridge and raised the mainsail. We motor-sailed across the Niantic Bay and rounded Black Point and headed into the anchorage around Giants Neck Beach. We dropped anchor around dinner time in about 3-feet of water.

Susanna enjoying the evening light at anchor.
Susanna enjoying the evening light at anchor.

I rowed the dogs over to one of the many rock islands that inhabit the region and let them wander a bit and go to the bathroom. Susanna pulled out sushi and some red wine for dinner. We sat at anchor and watched the sun set over East Lyme. The swell picked up around 2 am, waking both of us and making it difficult to get back to sleep. Anyway, I think the v-berth bounces around a bit more than the rest of the boat. However a while later the sea calmed down and we both drifted back to sleep. I was up with the sun, again taking the dogs ashore and then making coffee for the drive back to Niantic. We were back on our mooring by 9 am and home 30 minutes later.

The goal for the night was to get some time away from the house together as well as see if we enjoyed camping on the sailboat. I think the trip was a success in both areas.  Hopefully next time we won’t have commitments early the next day and I will be able to sleep in a bit.

Targa and Tucker enjoying the early morning sun as we motor towards home while Susanna sleeps below.
Targa and Tucker enjoying the early morning sun as we motor towards home while Susanna sleeps below.

Another Day Sailing on Long Island Sound (Pictures)

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Today we took the final sail of the summer break. Susanna, the boys, and I loaded the dogs up and headed down the Niantic River and out to the sound. It was the first time that we have taken the dogs sailing, and they did better than I expected. Targa spent most of the time in the cockpit either sleeping or just watching. Tucker preferred to be below.

We headed out into Niantic Bay and took a right around Black Point and back up to Long Ledge and Griswold Island. We dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water and used the dinghy to row everyone (including the dogs) to Long Ledge. We all spent time exploring the rocks and swimming (the dogs needed a little “extra” encouragement to get in the water.

After a short swim (it wasn’t the warmest day) we rowed back to the boat and headed home. We were off the water just in time to catch a not-so-healthy dinner at McDonald’s on the way home.

Susanna, the boys, and the dogs enjoying Long Ledge. All are trying to avoid sitting in the bird poop (except the dogs - they didn't seem to care).
Susanna, the boys, and the dogs enjoying Long Ledge. All are trying to avoid sitting in the bird poop (except the dogs – they didn’t seem to care).
Exploring Long Ledge. Griswold Island is in the background
Ben and the dogs exploring Long Ledge. Griswold Island is in the background
Ben and Tucker in the cabin of the O'Day 22.
Ben and Tucker in the cabin of the O’Day 22.
Will and Targa enjoying our motor-sailing around Black Point.
Will and Targa enjoying our motor-sailing around Black Point.