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Old 15-02-2013, 09:35   #1
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Buying Used Sails - How To

I am new to owning a cruising boat and will need to replace some sails on a 40 year-old 42' mono-hull ketch to be used for cruising in the Bahamas. In shopping for used sails what questions should I be asking and what particulars of a used sail need to match my old sail exactly versus what can be modified to work at reasonable cost. What minimum weight cloth should I be looking for? Is it cost prohibitive to purchase a larger sail and have it re-cut? If I purchase a larger sail do I need to find a sail with the exact same P/E ratio as my old sail? Aside from weight, what other characteristics of a sail distinguish it as a "cruising sail" versus a "coastal sail"? Does anyone know of a good book or article that covers this subject?

Thanks for helping a newbie.
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Old 15-02-2013, 09:42   #2
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

Also, make sure you figure cost of half used sail vs cost of new sail.

check sailwarehouse.com for prices of new, so you know if the used sail is actually a deal or if it is overpriced.
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Old 15-02-2013, 10:12   #3
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

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Originally Posted by Sailor 1842 View Post
I am new to owning a cruising boat and will need to replace some sails on a 40 year-old 42' mono-hull ketch to be used for cruising in the Bahamas. In shopping for used sails what questions should I be asking and what particulars of a used sail need to match my old sail exactly versus what can be modified to work at reasonable cost. What minimum weight cloth should I be looking for? Is it cost prohibitive to purchase a larger sail and have it re-cut? If I purchase a larger sail do I need to find a sail with the exact same P/E ratio as my old sail? Aside from weight, what other characteristics of a sail distinguish it as a "cruising sail" versus a "coastal sail"? Does anyone know of a good book or article that covers this subject?

Thanks for helping a newbie.
I would try to get a sail that fits without modification as far a luff length goes. a foot or more shorter is not a big deal really.
Or if you find a like new one that is longer on the luff, then it may very well be worth having modified. You would need to ask a sailmaker for how much it would cost.
If you are heading off cruising, rather than local sailing, look at sails that are Triple stitched, have good wear patches and reinforcing around the attachment points. In a main sail, you want very good reinforcing around the reef points and the batten pockets. Finding a mainsail to fit is probably harder than finding a headsail that will work.
You might try Bacon's in Annapolis (are they still around?) they used to have a lot of sails and inspect every one.
Another thought.regarding a headsail; if you are cruising off shore etc, having a pendent at the bottom (maybe 2 ft)is good for visibility and to keep from the sail taking on green water; so this allows you to look for a sail that is a couple feet + or - shorter than your actual luff length.
Pictured below are a nicely done head with leathered protection, a nicely done roped corner and a simple pressed in cringle that has failed.
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Old 15-02-2013, 10:46   #4
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

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Originally Posted by Sailor 1842 View Post

42' mono-hull ketch to be used for cruising in the Bahamas,

minimum weight cloth

Is it cost prohibitive to purchase a larger sail and have it re-cut?

If I purchase a larger sail do I need to find a sail with the exact same P/E ratio as my old sail?

Aside from weight, what other characteristics of a sail distinguish it as a "cruising sail" versus a "coastal sail"?
Cloth weights are related to sail type and area and to expected wind range. The bigger the sail, the stronger the wind (apparent), the heavier the cloth. (Looking up online sailmakers' recommended weights might help you chose your options).

Re re-cutting costs much depends on how much your sailmaker charges per hour.

One is often best off (moneywise) to find a s/h sail that is slightly smaller or else one that is too long in the luff - one that would not exceed the foot max length when the luff is cut to fit.

I do not know any differences btw cruising or coastal sails. It is new to me. But I like at least two reefs in the main, I also like small sails to be heavier than the big ones. Big overweight furling genoas may be the sin No 1 of many boats I sailed on.

b.
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Old 15-02-2013, 11:34   #5
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

42, you'd have to ask a local loft, or local independent sailmaker if you can find one, about costs. A loft may be reluctant to touch someone else's product at all, which leaves you shipping a bulky/heavy object out and back again. $$

Your best bet is an exact match, so you can avoid that. And an exact match that's not all blown out or worn, which can be harder to find. Sometimes, especially if you have a popular boat, someone ahs simply upgraded or a boat was totalled out, and there's a decent sail available. Other times, it is available because it was used up.

Personally, I think I'd avoid used sails unless the vendor was selling it as "really great shape" and it was an exact match. I know someone who spent a lot of time trying to get a bargain sail "just one more month" until his friends all chimed in and said "NO MORE" to just buy a new sail and enjoy all the life it would have instead.

But, some people do very well with used sails. I just don't think I'd go that way unless it was one really great deal and the price of returning it was minimal.
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Old 15-02-2013, 11:39   #6
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

Here's the kind of info you get for each sail at Bacon's:
Bacon Sails & Marine Supplies

Big overweight furling genoas may be the sin No 1 of many boats I sailed on.

I agree, sometimes people get overzealous in making things bulletproof... and forget the intent of use! If the OP is doing the bahamas, I suppose any reasonable sail is fine. Too much reinforcing and the sail looses shape....
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Old 15-02-2013, 13:24   #7
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

could be just me, but bacon sails prices for what they offer are kind of expesive.
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Old 15-02-2013, 14:28   #8
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

yeah, I agree. It's amazing how cheap a sail can be a a nautical swapmeet. If I wanted one from them I would just make an offer. I think they are mostly consignment, so what the heck...
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Old 16-02-2013, 19:13   #9
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

Hi Sailor 1842,

If you owned a J-24 or some other one design racer, you'd have an abundance of good slightly used sails to choose from that would fit your boat without modification. Some might only have a regatta or two of use on them. But you have a cruising boat and it's an older one at that, probably with a fairly low aspect sailplan.

When you need cruising sails, you need to know that most cruisers don't get rid of good cruising sails. I've been in the sailmaking industry for some time, and if I had a dollar for every time I met someone who had bought a used sail and then ended up with having to pay for modifications, new suncover, luff tape replacement, new slides, etc., my boat would be paid off. In many cases people buying used sails will spend 80-90% of the cost of a new sail by the time the loft is done with the work. And since most lofts make more money doing a major service project than selling a new sail, few will discourage you.

Another problem is you have a ketch, which means that your sail plan is divided. In other words, your mainmast is shorter than the mast on a similar sized sloop or cutter. That means most used sails will be off smaller and lighter boats.

May I gently suggest that you are forgetting that sails are your engine and that a good set of properly fitted cruising sails is essential?

The good news is that usually ketches are not that expensive to buy sails for. A main for my boat is about 40% less money than a main for a similar sized contemporary racer cruiser.

What kind of old ketch did you buy?
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Old 16-02-2013, 19:39   #10
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

Don't forget Minneys in San Diego CA. they will probly have what ya need and they ship anywhere ! Ive orderd from them a bunch over the years! they have a BIG STOCK of used and almost new sails in many different materials and makers! they have always been very truthful about what they have to sell and Ive had great service and good products from them. I have no part of this company except as a very happy long time customer
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Old 16-02-2013, 19:42   #11
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I found a sail maker that. Was almost 40% less if he used their phillipines loft to make a new one vs their stateside loft. Same material same thread same cut ot cheaper overhead out of country. This was after i unknowingly wasted 75% of the cost of new one for a used sail the "reputable" used sail loft said had 75% odlf its life left and it was worthless junk. I would scrimp save and do what i had to for new. Its not like buying a new diesel over a used high hour one. The difference sometimes isnt that bad. Pm me and ill tell you who we used for the freat priced new one.
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Old 16-02-2013, 19:59   #12
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Re: Buying Used Sails - How To

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Don't forget Minneys in San Diego CA. they will probly have what ya need and they ship anywhere !
If he's really bent on a used sail, another one to check out is Masthead in St Pete which is also way closer to him.

Fun browsing the listings at Minney's as it's like a trip down memory lane with some of the sails there having been produced by lofts that went out of business over 20 years ago.
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