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Care of old cotton sails

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Living aboard is great fun, but as most well know, it does make it more difficult to go out for the odd evening sail. That's why I've been looking for a simple sailboat, that I can basically just jump in and go.

I came across an old traditional Frisian Scow, with leeboards and no draft to speak of, ideal for pottering around the many lakes and rivers around here.

She's 14' long, built of steel and generally in great shape.

But the sails are cotton, and seem to be quite old, but in great shape - the stitching is fine all round, the bolt ropes are good as are all the grommets etc.

But my question is, how suitable are cotton sails for the type of use I want to make of it? Of course they will not tolerate abuse like modern materials, but as long as you don't stretch them or store them while wet, they should last a fair while...

Or am I deluding myself and I'll end up with a rotten mildewey mess in a few weeks time?

What do we think?

Friese schouw 2.png

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If you're talking about leaving the sail rigged to mast and boom, it won't last long. BITD, sails and spars for small boats were carried ashore and stored in a shed or under an overhang. . On larger boats that left sails rigged, the paid crew hoisted and dried them after each rain. A Dacron sail for that boat won't break the bank. Put a sail cover over it and it'll last a very long time.

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Has a cotton sail even been made in the past 50 years?

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Thankfully the rig is very simple, and the main is only laced to the gaff, which is easily removed - so removing the sails and storing them under cover is a given...

Of course should I go for new sails, I'd obviously go for dacron.

Thing is, this boat is already a bit more than I wanted to spend for what I was basically looking for, i.e. a toy, so new sails are not on the planning for the near future.

But I'm beginning to get a weakness for these traditional type boats...

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9 minutes ago, alphafb552 said:

Thing is, this boat is already a bit more than I wanted to spend for what I was basically looking for, i.e. a toy

That's what all our boats are. ;)

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2 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

Has a cotton sail even been made in the past 50 years?

From time to time. A guy at DIYC in Tampa did a several year restoration on a 65'ish fisherman styled schooner. Made his own canvas sails, hand sewn. I don't know why. IIRC the Kennedy's schooner Mya had canvas sails made by a local (to them) sailmaker a while back. . There's a sailmaker in East Boothbay that will still make canvas sails, inc hand-sewn seams (if you're willing to pay). It's part of the 'WoodenBoat' magazine mystique, I suppose. Several years ago I did a bunch of repairs on the canvas sails on a big schooner, they prob weren't that old. When they finally replaced them (with Dacron) I got enough scraps out of the old canvas to make myself some pretty styling hull and deck covers for my Europe Moth. 

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2 hours ago, RKoch said:

From time to time. A guy at DIYC in Tampa did a several year restoration on a 65'ish fisherman styled schooner. Made his own canvas sails, hand sewn. I don't know why. IIRC the Kennedy's schooner Mya had canvas sails made by a local (to them) sailmaker a while back. . There's a sailmaker in East Boothbay that will still make canvas sails, inc hand-sewn seams (if you're willing to pay). It's part of the 'WoodenBoat' magazine mystique, I suppose.

If the boat was going into a museum I could see it.

Otherwise it's just a ridiculous level of OCD.

Some of those 'WoodenBoat' magazine types are completely nuts.

Some car people have caught it too - washing the dirt off a "barn find" lowers its value and that sort of nonsensical crap.

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Sailing canvas is made from linen. Cotton is used for bed sheets.

 

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21 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

Has a cotton sail even been made in the past 50 years?

IIRC, there's a sailmaker in the NE USA - somebody like Nathaniel S Wilson, who found a mill in Scotland that had old enough looms to be able to weave traditional canvas sailcloth. Give him (or whoever it is) enough money, and they'll build you something for your classic boat.

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15 hours ago, GBeron said:

Sailing canvas is made from linen. Cotton is used for bed sheets.

IIRC, one of America's big advantages is that her sails were made from cotton, not linen.

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16 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

If the boat was going into a museum I could see it.

Otherwise it's just a ridiculous level of OCD.

Some of those 'WoodenBoat' magazine types are completely nuts.

Some car people have caught it too - washing the dirt off a "barn find" lowers its value and that sort of nonsensical crap.

I think that Peggy Bawn has an old canvas topsail. I remember being at a lecture and the owner saying that it's a lovely sail. Silent, and the way the light shines through is beautiful.

If you're going to sail a boat with a gaff rig, I see no harm in going whole hog and having a set of cotton sails for occasional use. Too much faff for me, though.

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51 minutes ago, Presuming Ed said:

IIRC, there's a sailmaker in the NE USA - somebody like Nathaniel S Wilson, who found a mill in Scotland that had old enough looms to be able to weave traditional canvas sailcloth. Give him (or whoever it is) enough money, and they'll build you something for your classic boat.

Yes, Nat Wilson is who I was thinking of. East Boothbay, Maine. Does beautiful work. 

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10 hours ago, Presuming Ed said:

IIRC, one of America's big advantages is that her sails were made from cotton, not linen.

Another is that it didn’t have to be built strong enough to cross the North Atlantic to Race 

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22 minutes ago, Sail4beer said:

Another is that it didn’t have to be built strong enough to cross the North Atlantic to Race 

Must be thinking of a different America.

"Crewed by Brown and eight professional sailors, with George Steers, his older brother James, and James' son George as passengers, America left New York on June 21, 1851 and arrived at Le Havre on July 11. They were joined there by Commodore Stevens. After drydocking and repainting America left for Cowes, Isle of Wight, on July 30. While there the crew enjoyed the hospitality of the Royal Yacht Squadron while Stevens searched for someone who would race against his yacht.[7]

The British yachting community had been following the construction of America with interest and perhaps some trepidation. When America showed up on the Solent on July 31 there was one yacht, Laverock, that appeared for an impromptu race. The accounts of the race are contradictory: a British newspaper said Laverock held her own, but Stevens later reported that America beat her handily. Whatever the outcome, it seemed to have discouraged other British yachtsmen from challenging America to a match. She never raced until the last day of the Royal Yacht Squadron's annual members-only regatta for which Queen Victoria customarily donated the prize. Because of America's presence, a special provision was made to "open to all nations" a race of 53 miles (85 km) 'round the Isle of Wight, with no reservation for time allowance."

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8 hours ago, Ishmael said:

Must be thinking of a different America.

"Crewed by Brown and eight professional sailors, with George Steers, his older brother James, and James' son George as passengers, America left New York on June 21, 1851 and arrived at Le Havre on July 11. They were joined there by Commodore Stevens. After drydocking and repainting America left for Cowes, Isle of Wight, on July 30. While there the crew enjoyed the hospitality of the Royal Yacht Squadron while Stevens searched for someone who would race against his yacht.[7]

The British yachting community had been following the construction of America with interest and perhaps some trepidation. When America showed up on the Solent on July 31 there was one yacht, Laverock, that appeared for an impromptu race. The accounts of the race are contradictory: a British newspaper said Laverock held her own, but Stevens later reported that America beat her handily. Whatever the outcome, it seemed to have discouraged other British yachtsmen from challenging America to a match. She never raced until the last day of the Royal Yacht Squadron's annual members-only regatta for which Queen Victoria customarily donated the prize. Because of America's presence, a special provision was made to "open to all nations" a race of 53 miles (85 km) 'round the Isle of Wight, with no reservation for time allowance."

I think S4B forgot the sarcasm font.

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;). I believe it was about the same time that the brits realized that they were designing their boat the wrong way. They thought the mullet shape was proper for a yacht’s underwater profile. I never saw a fast mullet...

 

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A few things about America's win....a couple of large fast boats collided after the start, and withdrew with some broken spars. Many (most?) of the yachts rounded an extra mark that was commonly used, but not included in that particular race. A yacht ran aground, and another withdrew to stand by the grounded yacht. There were a couple of very fast small cutters that would have beaten America on corrected time had there been any kind of handicap system.

In summary, America had a better hull form and better sails. She stretched her legs out on a close-hauled course when the breeze picked up. However, attrition eliminated much of the British competition, and there was no handicap. 

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13 hours ago, Sail4beer said:

Another is that it didn’t have to be built strong enough to cross the North Atlantic to Race 

How did it get there?

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It was. I was sarcasm fronting without using the color. Sorry about that.

Afterward, some Competitors complained that their boats were slower in Newport because they had to be built strong enough to cross the Atlantic to compete. That’s the hook...

I’m sure it had nothing to do with Capt.Nat

0B5F92B4-9068-4693-9B2C-47264D473658.jpeg

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That was the original "cheating" the NYYC engaged in to get an unfair advantage.

They did a lot of it but the story about Buddy Melges was the ultimate in that though.

The NYYC were no gentlemen.

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