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Old 25-01-2018, 16:33   #1
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Sailrite - Yes or No

We will be traveling to our boat the first of April and will once again live aboard and hopefully full time for the next few years. My wife would like to buy a sewing machine with one big immediate task the replacement of all the curtains in the boat. She is pretty handy and a sewing machine would be good to have but a big one sure would take a lot of space. She is wondering if a Sailrite sewing machine good enough for heavier fabrics would be the way to go? Or would we be better off hiring someone local to sew for us? We will start in Croatia and end up this year in Greece and perhaps beyond. Would anyone care to give us any advice?
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Old 25-01-2018, 17:36   #2
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Check out Ruby Rose video on YouTube. They do a good job comparing Sailrite with another brand and the pros and cons of each.
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Old 25-01-2018, 17:59   #3
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Sailrites and comparable take up a lot of storage space and weight. They are also finicky to keep in tune. We've lugged ours around for 7 years now with only sporadic heavy use. If I had to do again I don't think I'd take it along.
If you have lots of dedicated time and are just setting up a boat, then you can get a lot of projects done. Of course, for curtains you don't need a heavy machine.
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Old 25-01-2018, 19:29   #4
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

I got one for Christmas this year and am pleased so far. I figured I better learn how to use it before we take off to go cruising. It is a fare bit heavier than I anticipated but it works well. I would recommend it for getting your boat ready to cruise but am on the fence about taking it due to the size and weight. I would realistically evaluate the amount of usage you think you will have and make your decision based on that. If you think you will have lots of projects you could spend a lot of money getting someone else to do them.
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Old 25-01-2018, 20:00   #5
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Thought about a Sailrite, then noticed my Ranger a Tug has no sails. Bought a $60 Brothers to do some Bimini work, sew 4 thicknesses of Sunbrella with no problem. For $60, I can throw it away if it wears out. Sees like New since it is new.
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Old 25-01-2018, 21:37   #6
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No


I used to have a Pfaff 130, now have a SailRite, BUT, I think any older (all metal insides) sewing machine will do for most of your work. The big problem with doing your own sail repair is that you need a really large space for big boat sails, for lofting the repairs. Most of our sail repair has been done by the pro's. Most other canvas work was handled adequately by my Mom's Pfaff. It is unhappy with 6 layers of sunbrella, but could handle Weather Max. Imho, you don't need a new SailRite, you might want to have an older heavy duty home portable one. I also, besides canvas work, sewed garments. It is kind of fun to make wrap around skirts, for instance, out of local fabrics. This may not apply much in Europe for a use, but can in the South Pacific. I would always want a sewing machine, I mended other people's sails, mainsail covers, whatnot, with it. I sewed for friends, things for local people w/o sewing machines. If you or your good lady likes those kinds of things, then yes, a sewing machine. Using it will give satisfaction. Yes, they are heavy, and hard to find a home aboard for. Worth it to me! I would add that I had had many years to learn workarounds for the old Pfaff's idiosyncracies. To me, my SailRite has not needed adjusting since I bought it used, 2 yrs. ago, but it's a real PITA to oil properly. A friend here on CF, Sapient Sue, has even sewed silk dress pants on hers, it is a question of tension adjustment, and proper size needles. SailRite has a training video about tension adjustments. You have to learn it anyway.

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Old 26-01-2018, 09:50   #7
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

We had purchased a zig-zag Thomson mini-walker which was the basis for the similar Sailrite. That design is like free-ware that is picked up by various manufacturers and then sold.
The mini-walker was a disaster and constantly needed adjustment and parts replacement. The castings were poor quality and often cracked at crystalline grain boundaries. Whenever replacement parts were ordered, the Sailrite parts were well made and the castings were fine grained. Our impression is that Sailrite has greatly evolved and undergone continuous improvements that make for a reliable present-day designed and manufactured product.
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Old 26-01-2018, 09:52   #8
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

In Croatia you should find a good seamstress at a favorable cost.
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Old 26-01-2018, 10:28   #9
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

We did not want to spend a lot of money on a sewing machine, and after researching a little decided to buy a Molly A-Line Series Sewing machine. We bought Model BL30A. It is suprisingly powerful and able to sew several layers of Sunbrella cloth. She made, on a cruise to Mexico, wind screens for the cockpit, a full cabin and cockpit awning, a small cockpit awning, winch covers, a sailbag, new settee cushions, a stack pack mainsail cover, a curtain to separate the main cabin from the pilothouse, custom sheets for the berths and a headliner for the forward cabin held in by snaps. Although she hadn't done a lot of sewing during our 35 years together before casting off, everyone asks where we had the stuff made. She also sewed a main for our dinghy and is about to replace the 4 cushions that make up the 2 quarter berths. I think we paid about $300 ish for the machine.
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Old 26-01-2018, 10:32   #10
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Any decent quality "metal" type home sewing machine in decent tune ought to be able to sew most boat projects other than sails.
Typical machines from the 70's/80's may be found in thrift stores for $25.
They probably need a tuneup but afterward, most will run forever.

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Old 26-01-2018, 10:50   #11
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

We bought our Sailrite two boats ago. When we made new sails for our Raven (small racer) the machine made the task a snap - what a pleasure. Now we're living aboard a larger boat and we need cushions and sailbags and, well, you know the list, I find that my talents are not up to inside rounded corners, and all the seemingly tetrahedron shaped stuff I have to make for the boat.

Thank goodness the thing was paid for 15 years ago or I'd really regret it.
  • The machine is amazing, smarter than I am when it comes to sewing.
    The machine is very very heavy. You're probably not going to tuck it away every night for neatness' sake.
    If you are sewing more than straight seams, look realistically at your talents - I'm eating some humble pie right now.
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Old 26-01-2018, 12:40   #12
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

You might also want a copy of The Big Book of Boat Canvas, by Karen Lipe; available from Amazon:
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Old 26-01-2018, 13:03   #13
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

First off, I've been buying stuff from Sailrite for many years and it is an excellent company in all respects. Watch their online instructional videos to learn how to do just about any sewing project.
Having said that, just about any sewing machine will sew curtain material, and the vast majority will sew Sunbrella, but it's a different story when you try to sew heavy dacron sailcloth with its tight weave. For that you will need a heavy, metal-body, walking-foot machine with a lot of room under the arm for the rolled up sail when you're repairing the middle of seams. I have an ancient Pfaff, which would probably sew through sheet metal if I asked it, but even that needs frequent adjustment by the one true expert I've found in my area (Palm Beach County, Florida), when I'm repairing sails, which I do in my garage or on the driveway when it's not too hot. I can't image trying to machine sew sails inside the boat, it's hard enough wrestling with them in the garage and on the driveway.
So, you can't go wrong with a Sailrite machine, which will sew everything, and outlast you and the boat, but I recommend doing your sewing projects on shore, and using hand tools, tape and adhesive for repairs that must be made at sea.

Good luck
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Old 26-01-2018, 13:22   #14
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Another big thumbs up - purchased one a couple of years ago and endless use and working perfectly with little more than keeping it clean and the odd oil. Really robust.

It is a proper semi industrial and if that is what you need buying a non semi industrial will be a mistake.

Of course it has it limits. I have taken on some big projects (the largest a cockpit tent) and with large pieces of canvas it can be a struggle working it through the gap between arm and machine. Obviously it also had its limitations with material. Multiple layers of canvas are fine, the thickest hardest webbing it will struggle with and multpile layers of really heavy duty sail cloth (around clew and tack) but that is about it. Generally if you can get the material under the foot it will go through it.

The heavy duty wheel is worth the extra and so, probably is the light, otherwise nothing else really needed unless you intend to do any piping or zip fitting. Definitely worth the extra cost of the zig zag and I guess the reverse is standard.

PS no problem tackling anything on board but then it must depend on yacht size the IP is 55 foot so roomy to work on projects and plenty of mains power as well. It might well be more of a challenge with a small cockpit and saloon.
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Old 26-01-2018, 13:34   #15
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Re: Sailrite - Yes or No

Had ours for 17 years and done tons or sunbrella projects include large sail covers. Great product and company.

I agree with Ann about sails, best left to a loft except in emergency perhaps
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