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Proper Sail Storage

When you know that you are not going to be using your sail for months at a time, for example over winter, there are some steps you should take. You should take your sails off your boat, wash them (something everyone should do once a year), fold them and put them in a dry area for storage.

Sounds easy right?

Well, it is.  The problem is, those who do this often make several basic mistakes.

Mistake #1: Skipping the wash.

Many people believe that since the sails are out on the boat rain, hail or shine, they get washed well enough in the weather.  This is incorrect.  The rain will certainly get rid of surface dirt and salt, but only when the sails are up and being used.  After use, chances are they are being put away wet, which only leads to the development of mould.

The rain does not help much in the way of getting rid of encrusted dirt or salt, bird excrement and the stains from their nesting material.  It certainly doesn’t help with mould. To address these issues, you want to thoroughly clean your sail.

For regularly cleaned sails (two or more times a year), hitting the sail with a hose and gently scrubbing the bad areas is generally enough.  Make sure you leave the sail out to dry before folding it up and putting it away.

For sails which don’t get regularly cleaned, it’s a more in-depth technique, involving bathtubs (or a wading pool if the bath is too small), lots of suds, elbow grease and time.  After you manage to wash the sail you then have to rinse, dry and fold them.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?  Well, I won’t lie, it can be, however; it can extend the life of your sail.  Remember: if you don’t wash all the gunk off your sails, that gunk rubs against the sail, which causes damage to the cloth and stitching.

Mistake #2: Folding your sail incorrectly.

How can you fold a sail incorrectly? Well… there’s a couple of ways.

The first way is to keep folding the sail in the same place every time you fold it (I’m looking at you Laser sailors!).  When you look at where you are putting the folds into your sail, think of your sail as a piece of paper.  When you want to tear a piece of paper in half on a straight line, you fold the paper back and forth, creating a lovely crease which is weaker than the paper around it.  Guess what? Sail cloth is the same.  The more defined that crease you’re folding into your sail, the more likely that your sail will tear along it.

Well, that’s the first way to fold a sail wrong.  The second incorrect folding technique has to do with how small you fold the sail.

The only time you should be folding your sail as small as possible is for storage on board, where there is little spare room, or when you are transporting it.  When storing your sail long term, say a couple of months, you want to fold it loosely and put it in its bag.  The reason for this, again, has to do with those pesky creases.  On a tightly folded sail these creases are more defined than on a loosely folded sail.  For the short term this is not much of a problem. Long term however; this leads to weak points in your sail which can significantly impact the life of your sail.

Mistake #3: Stacking during storage.

Many people don’t think about how they store their sail.  They find a nice dry spot and dump all their sails there.  Well, they got one thing right, the area is dry.

When storing sails long term you need to take some precautions.  First, find that dry spot, then put down some rat sac.  There is nothing worse than pulling your sail out and finding that some rat has eaten holes through your sail.  Second, avoid stacking your sails on top of each other as much as possible.  If you can’t avoid it make sure the lighter weight sails are on top.  This again comes back to those creases.  The more weight that is placed on your sail, the more defined that crease and the weaker that line in your sail.

Fixing these three simple mistakes can make a huge difference in prolonging the life of your sails. Your sails are an integral part of your sailing and as such, should be given as much care as you are able to provide. Please remember that if you’re not comfortable or unable to do any part of this process, there are services available to help, including here at Ryan Sails.

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