Sail and Canvas Work

(Posted 10/28/2016)

(See bottom of page for post-voyage updates)

We have 5 sails for Minimus including mainsail, 2 working jibs, genoa and storm jib.  None of them were actually made for a Cape Dory 25, so we recut two of them to fit the boat.  All of the sails are somewhere between reasonably good and excellent condition.  We're also planning to add a light-air headsail. 

Most of the sail work was in recutting the mainsail, which was in very good condition, but too large for Minimus.  In the process of cutting the sail to fit the boat, I also reduced the draft and added 3 sets of reef points. 

New tack for recut mainsail.
Leather was then sewed over the bolt rope.

Handwork on one of the reef points before covering with leather.


Canvas work:
Years ago I (David) spent 10 years in the marine canvas and sail-making trade.  Business was good, insofar as staying busy is considered good.  One of the reasons was that I had an ally in the sun.  The ultraviolet portion of sunlight is hard on synthetic fabrics and thread and guarantees repeat business over the years.  In terms of UV resistance, the standard of excellence in marine fabrics is Sunbrella, an acrylic fabric highly resistant to UV damage.  Unfortunately, it's also expensive.  Since I no longer have a wholesale supplier, we began looking for alternatives.  Although not as UV resistant as acrylic, polyester has decent resistance and is stronger and less expensive. 

Perusing online offerings, we came across a PVC coated polyester fabric that we've been quite pleased with.  It's about 8 ounces per square yard and the quality is very good.  The price is also great, at around $4 per 60" wide yard from Online Fabric Store.

With it, we equipped Minimus with sail covers, a cockpit awning, a sailing awning, lee cloths, collision mat, series drogue cones, etc.

New mainsail cover, jib bag and cockpit awning.

Sun awning for use while sailing.  This is a new design, but so far looks promising. 
It's much less expensive than a bimini or dodger. 

Sailing awning, top view.  The fabric is quite tight and doesn't
flap even in a strong wind.  There's no interference with the mainsheet
and it's quick and easy to set up or take down.

Companionway hatch cover rolled up.  It can be unrolled to to keep rain out. 
In heavy weather, it  gives an extra layer of water tightness if waves come aboard. 

Companionway cover unrolled.  In heavy weather, we'd first secure the upper
washboard in place. then open the drawstring collar and lean out to fasten the
two quick release buckles on the lower corners of the cover.  Finally, we'd tighten the
drawstring from inside and slide the companionway hatch closed.

As an added layer of UV protection for canvas work that would see the most sun, we decided to take an additional step.  We painted it with acrylic paint.  Although this made the fabric somewhat stiffer, it has the advantage of covering the stitching as well as the fabric, thus protecting both.  The cockpit awning, mainsail cover and jib bag are all painted.  We'll see how it holds up and will be reporting here at a later date. 

Painting the mainsail cover with exterior semi-gloss latex acrylic paint.
The paint protects both the fabric and the stitching from damaging UV light.

After cleaning with acetone, we used latex acrylic paint on the vinyl cushion
covers.  They looked like new afterwards and so far still do.  This is another
area we'll be reporting on during the coming year. 

Post-voyage comments (updated 10-14-2017):


Despite frequently squally conditions during the passage and afterward, the sails held up well.  We spent a surprising amount of time under some combination of working jib, storm jib and double or triple reefed mainsail and were glad for the ability to reduce sail.    

Canvas work:

Our low-cost approach to canvas work gets a big thumbs up.  The combination of inexpensive PVC coated polyester fabric covered with latex paint for UV protection, as described above, was a great success.  Given such a viable option, there's no way we'd ever consider buying Sunbrella or one of the other expensive marine fabrics.  While the paint made the canvas a bit stiffer, it was still very easy to handle and wasn't objectionable.  The painted canvas work showed no noticeable fading after 7 months in the tropical sun. 

The sailing awning worked out well and was a life saver in the torrid heat near the equator.  At anchor, the larger cockpit awning provided welcome protection from rain and sun.  Next time we'd be inclined to build some type of rain catchment into the cockpit awning, as capturing rainwater was much easier than hauling water from shore. 

We were also quite happy with the companionway hatch cover shown above .  We frequently used it at sea and at anchor to keep rain and spray from entering the cabin.  We never had occasion to use its drawstring feature.    

Painting the vinyl bunk cushions didn't work well.  It looked great initially, but in daily use the paint soon wore off of the more heavily used portions and the cushions began to look dingy.  Eventually we made lightweight cotton covers for them.  

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