Our Loft Manager Sharon McBride is often asked by clients and boating groups to share some of the wisdom she has gained after so many years making and caring for sails. Sharon has taken the time to provide the following notes on the most common questions she hears.

Don’t see any info on something that you’re curious about? Be sure to use the ‘Ask a Pro’ feature below to send your question to Sharon.

Cleaning your sails

  • use a kid’s wading pool or make a tub with sawhorses and plastic
  • use only pure soap flakes. Ivory Snow is one brand that’s available in many locations. Most detergents and cleaners have additives that will damage the fibers and finish of the sail cloth. We NEVER advise clients to use bleach when cleaning sails.
  • dissolve soap in warm water, add to tub
  • add cold water till tepid
  • soak sail, you can scrub with a soft brush
  • rinse, rinse and rinse again with fresh water- it is vital to get all the soap out
  • dry completely, fold and store

Battens

  • to avoid batten “memory” in the sail, release tension by popping the battens out at the leech or removing and stowing
  • when flaking the sail on the boom keep all battens lying parallel along the boom to avoid them twisting

Storage

  • if you are not sailing for some weeks remove your sails from the boat and store in a warm dry place
  • always ease the tension off on outhaul, leech and foot lines to avoid memory that may cause leech and foot hook
  • if you are leaving the headsail on the furler be sure you have some UV protection, either a jib sock or UV cover sewn on the sail, check that the UV cover completely covers the sail. Ease the halyard to avoid stretching the luff and make sure the furling line is secured well
  • flake the main on the boom after releasing the outhaul, and leech and foot lines, and batten tensions.
  • be sure your mainsail cover does not allow any UV to hit the sail
  • furling mains can suffer UV damage if the slot allows sun to hit the main, you can get a slot cover or simply turn the boat in the slip so the slot is shaded
  • if you have laminate sails try not to expose them to extreme temperature by leaving aboard in sub zero temp or leaving in your closed car in the summer.

General care

  • avoid excessive flogging when raising and lowering your sails
  • avoid stepping on sails dropped on deck for sail changes
  • “help” the flying sails out of their launchers during hoisting
  • always look aloft when raising and lowering sails to watch for catching on rig
  • tape off all pins and “sharps” on the rig
  • check furling foils for sharp corners or edges at the feeder and loose connectors at joins
  • if possible give your sails (and boat) a fresh-water rinse after using, but be sure to allow your sails to dry before covering or bagging
  • do not “fly” your sails at the dock. While you will never sail it away, the force or your sails tryng to can stretch them