It takes a lot of diligence to keep any boat in good shape. But sailboats require attentional attention. The last thing you wait is damage to the sails because you could not be bothered doing some simple maintenance tasks. It would be a very expensive lesson to learn, so here are some basic tips to avoid ruined sails.Also, remember that it is much easier to keep a problem from starting than it is to deal with something after it develops.
Salty air and sea spray can damage sails. You need to hose down your sails with freshwater after every use, and allow them to dry. This will keep your sails clean, free of damaging salt crystals, and prevent mildew from forming. Once your sailsare dry, roll them. Don’t fold them like an article of clothing. The creases you make when folding will damage to the material. Protect your sails from the elements. They make bags and covers for this express purpose. Buy one that is good quality and consider the money well spent. When choosing a location to store your sails, choose somewhere out of direct sunlight. Other things to avoid: locations where animals or bugs might nest and places that get excessively hot.
Inspect your sails frequently. Make sure the stitching is holding up. Look at the material to see if there are any wear and tear damage. Check the hardware for corrosion. This is especially important if you sail often and as the sails get older. At the end of the season, take a really good look at the sails. Inspect everything. The hardware. The battens. Examine the batten pockets, any elastic, seams, leech, luff, and reinforcement patches. Inspect bolt ropes, slides, or luff tapes if you have them. That is always a likely spot for wear damage. If you can, repair it yourself. If you are unsure or it looks like a big job, take it to a sail maker. You want to be sure that when the sailing season rolls around next year, your sails are in good shape and will be ready to perform.
Taking sails back out of storage is always one of my favorite days. It means getting back out on the water! Even your best efforts can sometimes not be enough to prevent mildew; it has happened to me once or twice. If you spot some mildew on your sails, you can either try to get it out yourself using a solution mixed with diluted bleach or hydrogen peroxide. You can find a recipe that will be the most efficient based on what your sail is made out of online. If you don’t want to chance it, you can always bring it to a facility that specializes in cleaning sails. You may also find some corrosion on the hardware that wasn’t visible when you looked last, or elastic might not be as snug as before. It is easy to get these things repaired before the season starts so that you don’t have to worry about them. It helps or minimizes issues with the sails when you are on the boat, where it is harder to fix.
Putting a little extra time and effort into your sail maintenance is good for your wallet and will keep you out on the water longer. Take care of them, and enjoy!