We just learned that we will be building another set of sails for a square rigged early 17th century replica ship. This will be our second full suit of square sails over the last ten months. We will be ordering materials soon, getting started sometime in late May, and working on the project over the summer. Stop by the loft sometime and see how sails were made 400 years ago!
Our friends at the Southside Sentinel are running a piece about the sailmaking tradition in Deltaville and talk about a couple of our recent traditional jobs. Here is a link and be sure to check out the two videos! http://www.ssentinel.com/index.php/rivah/article/sailmaking_tradition_continues
The Down the Bay Race is back after a 10 year hiatus. On May 22, Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, the starting gun will send boats off on a 120 nautical mile, non-stop race down the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis, Maryland, to Hampton, Virginia. This race will mark the 60th running of the event and the first since 1999.
For information and entry form go to the website at www.hamptonyc.com/downthebay. Event Chairmen are Vince Behm, (757)876-7778 and Wayne Bretsch (301) 332-6773.
I am very pleased to report that we have finished up the repair work on the Eagle sails. The job turned out to be a bit more involved than we originally thought but went smoothly. We replaced all of the edge ropes on four of sails, and replaced the sun covers on all five. We also made a number of minor repairs. The project was a lot of fun. the new sewing machine is really proving its worth. These big sails are almost easy to sew with it. We are now getting caught up on our regularly scheduled work that is all coming due as the weather warms up.
We recently started a project to overhaul five of the sails from the USCGC Eagle. The sails are about ten years old are in need of new edge ropes and sun covers. The project will involve replacing all of the ropes on several of the sails, installing lots of small patches, and replacing the sun covers on all five of the sails. Check out our crew blog for more comments on this project, or stop b y the loft and have a look!
We had to take last week off from square sails to build a couple of laminate race sails, a cruising spinnaker, and a boom furling main. But we have pushed most of that to the side to put in a good chunk of time on the square sails. Lance and Justin are getting more time on the sails than I am, but in between sail sale calls I have been able to sew ropes, install some cringles and re-cut the mizzen bonnet. We are actually in the home stretch on the first three sails. Things are going much more quickly as we have all become competent at roping and the other basics of making these sails.
I got a shot today of Justin in the act of worming, parcelling, and serving a clew and Lance running the computer driven cutting table. It is amazing to see how much sailmaking has changed in the last 400 years! Not only have the processes changed but the basic structural design of sails has changed.
Square sails are essentially a membrane that floats inside a rope frame. The roping around the edges provides much of the structural strength of the sail as well as providing the 3D shape. When sewing the ropes we gather the cloth so that when the sail is hoisted and the edges stretched the cloth is stretched less and takes a shape. Structurally the sail "membrane" is mostly a single layer with a tabling around the edges and a a double layer along the leeches. These reinforced areas primarily provide a transition from the membrane to the edge rope which carries the heavy loads.
In modern sailmaking the membrane of the sail not only carries the loads but also provides the shape though broadseaming and luff curve. The corners of a modern sail are built up with multiple layers of cloth to transition the loads from the corners into the body of the membrane. The leech and foot edges on a modern sail are merely finish details and the luff is reinforced enough to interface the sail with the spars. Shape is imparted on a modern sail membrane by attaching two curved edges(or a curved luff to a straight mast) to create a 3D shape. All of the seams between panels and the luffs of modern sails are shaped this way. the computer has made 3D shape easily repeatable and sails have become very consistent in shape. One of the great things about this classic sailmaking project is watching the shape being created inch by inch by the deliberate use of needle and thread by human hands.
And today was a very good day as the hands in this loft kept all blood on the inside!