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Old 12-12-2007, 20:48   #1
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Sail Life

Hi all,
Now I am not a sailor but have found a sailboat that I might be able to buy. My question is how long can you store sails in a dry area and out of the sun will they last. The reason I ask is the ones for this boat have been stored for a long time but the owner states they are in good serviceable condition no rot ,tears or thing like that.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
David
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Old 12-12-2007, 21:20   #2
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I am sure a lot depends on the original materials, what condition the sails were in when stored (i.e. salt free, mold free, clean and dry), and what the storage environment has been (i.e. temperature and humidity controlled)

You can learn a lot by laying them out and having a look.
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Old 12-12-2007, 21:34   #3
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Abuse/use and the UV radiation are the two things that limit the life of a dacron sail. If the sails weren't blown out/worn out and left in the sun for extended periods of time before they were stored, they should be okay. You are going to have to unpack the sails, take a close, and then fly them. Might not be a bad idea to pay a local sail maker to have a look at them.

Mildew, dirt, etc. may be unsightly on dacron but don't hurt them.

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Old 12-12-2007, 21:50   #4
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My first car was a 20 year old Saab, dubbed the grape due to the faded color. The previous owner stated that it was "serviceable". It was, well sort of. To start it I would connect 2 wires under the dash board; it was much much cheaper then replacing the ignition assembly that was not operable. Serviceable.

It would be helpful to know what type/size of boat, approx. age of sails, etc. Storing sails in reasonable conditions will not adversely affect them. You cannot be sure how they were stored (Dry is good, out of sun is good, mouse family living in sail is bad); and just as important, you cannot be sure of their condition when they went into storage. So, here are a few tips on inspecting the sails yourself.
1. Stretch out each sail flat
2. Start with the broad view: any big tears, stain, excessive wrinkles (cloth distortion), etc.
3. Walk around the sail looking for big areas of broken stitches, distortion in the head, tack, or clew hardware, small tears, chafe, broken luff/foot hardware, missing or broken battens, etc.
4. Disclaimer – do not “ruin” a sail you have not bought. With that said, run your finger nail across areas of stitching, does it break? If you put an edge tape (leach tape) or seem edge under tension do you hear (and/or see) a tear?
5. Lastly, how do they fit the rig/boat? If your satisfies on the issues of age/wear/tear, then make sure you are looking at sails made for your boat. I remember once getting sails in from a “new owner”. He spent some money cleaning and doing minor repairs. Turns out the previous owner bought half of the inventory used –as in designed for a different rig. They didn’t fit the boat; though the owner had a FIT when he learned how much it would cost to recut them.

Sailmaking 101 is very intuitive. Inspect the sail. If you have concern, take pictures and post back.
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Old 12-12-2007, 22:52   #5
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Thanks guys for the replies. She is a 1970 MacGregor Venture 22 Sailboat. The only picture of the sail I have at this time is this one and not very good.

From what I understand she sat on the hard for 20 years. Has a new bottom and deck job along with a 15 horse long shank motor. No soft spots or blisters. My main worry is the sails. She is priced where I can afford to buy her but not if new sails cost a bunch of money. I'm hoping to get down over the weekend to look her over real good. I'll know more then.

Again thank you for the replies,
David
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Old 12-12-2007, 22:59   #6
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Useful sail life depends on many factors.

The quality of construction will often determine how long a sail is serviceable.

Our catmaran had a ten ounce mainsail that lasted for eleven years. It was a high quality ten ounce dacron sail with heavy rows of stitching. We placed chafing patches in critical areas, and we never had a seam fail and the sail never ripped in strong winds. What finally destroyed the sail was dacron rot. The dacron nearest the leech could not take a full load, and the sail cloth developed separations in the area of rotten cloth where there had been the most UV exposure.

Sail life depends on sail shape as well. We replaced our headsail after a couple of years because the cloth was stretched out of shape. We had a newer tougher sail constructed that did a good job of holding its shape for the next nine years.

Old sails can be in excellent shape or they can be junk. You have to inspect them closely for signs of wear and examine their shape with a critical eye. I wouldn't reject an old sail out of hand just because of its age. And I wouldn't accept a newer sail just because it is only a few years old if it's stretched out of shape.
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Old 13-12-2007, 03:40   #7
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I have no way to prove it, but I have a strong belief that the mainsail at least, on my boat is the original one. Nearly 40 years old. It is definately showing signs of wear and will probably have to be replaced soon and is definately not the same shape it was originally, but it still works. and it still seems incredibly strong to me. It has been restitched at least once but I'm pretty sure the fabric is the original other than a couple of patches here and there. The only big problems I see with it are the edges are wearing out in areas that can't be restitched or patched easily. I think my next big purchase, when I can afford it, or when I absolutely have to do it will be to get a new used mainsail and a new used working jib.

If things are well taken care of and well maintained, they can last much longer than you'd expect.
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Old 13-12-2007, 10:37   #8
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David – The info and pic helps. I think it’s safe to say that you don’t want to count on big cruising plans with that mainsail. The photo is small, but I do see likely issues putting the sail into the tail end of its life. Now, that does NOT necessarily mean this sail is beyond hope for average weekender type use.

Focus your inspection on the cloth and stitching. If they have some integrity you may buy yourself a year or two building your sailing skills before absolutely needing sails. If the stitching fails when you scratch you fingernail across it or there is rot or chafed sailcloth (the picture shows signs of chafe), then make a case with the current owner to drop the price accordingly.
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Old 13-12-2007, 11:06   #9
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Thanks for the replies. I'll give it a close inspection. In the mean time I'm going to check on the price of a new & used main along with the jib. That way if need I can make a fair offer to the owner if the main will not last one season.

Take care
David
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Old 13-12-2007, 12:19   #10
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Originally Posted by sluissa View Post
I have no way to prove it, but I have a strong belief that the mainsail at least, on my boat is the original one. Nearly 40 years old. It is definately showing signs of wear and will probably have to be replaced soon and is definately not the same shape it was originally, but it still works. and it still seems incredibly strong to me. It has been restitched at least once but I'm pretty sure the fabric is the original other than a couple of patches here and there. The only big problems I see with it are the edges are wearing out in areas that can't be restitched or patched easily. I think my next big purchase, when I can afford it, or when I absolutely have to do it will be to get a new used mainsail and a new used working jib.

If things are well taken care of and well maintained, they can last much longer than you'd expect.
It's so cool that you have that boat now!
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Old 16-12-2007, 19:14   #11
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Theres more to a sails life than the age.. and I've used up a sails life in one season of racing.. they still looked good but the shape was gone and the draft had moved drasticly rearward.. They would have had to be completely re-built..
A good way to check the sail, other than age from rot or sun, is to put a draft tape on the sail so you can see the shape. and watch the tape in different points of sail, If the draft of the sail moves rearward in light wind, its finished..
You'll want to keep the draft in the 30 to 40 percent area of the fore of the sail.
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Old 16-12-2007, 20:31   #12
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This is a 22 foot sailboat. Don't worry about sail efficiency, worry about sail integrity. An inefficient sail means you sail a bit (or a lot) slower. Big deal - I don't think you are going to enter this boat in the Americas cup.

There are also used sails available if you have to purchase one.

Just make sure they aren't torn, frayed or otherwise physically damaged.

Buy the boat, go sailing, have fun!
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Old 17-12-2007, 07:50   #13
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Thank you for all your replies. Sailing slow is the first thing on my list. Gotta learn and really want to learn.

Happy Holidays All
David
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