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  #1  
Old 10-26-2013
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Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

I finally had a chance to go out for the first time, and didn't capsize, fall in the water, or otherwise have too bad of a time. On the contrary, I had a fantastic time, despite all of the errors, mishaps, and feeling like a dummy. (I definitely need to get lessons soon)

But I'm left with questions about the condition of my boat (American 16).

First, my mainsail - There's a lot of sag, even once I've snugged both edges. I'm guessing this means it should be replaced? If so, is it critical to do so? Can I continue learning with it as it is for a while, or is it going to hinder me?

Second, I seem to have a small leak. Pulling the hull drain plug after two hours on the water drained a cup or two. I don't see any cracks in the hull, so this sort of worries me. It's slow, so it's not that bad now, but I'm worried that it could get worse if left unchecked. Is there an easy way to find it?

Thanks!
Bill
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Old 10-26-2013
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Bill,
Do you have a topping lift? If so, you need to loosen it when the sail is up so the leech of the sail carries the weight of the boom. Otherwise, you're going to have slack in the sail. That being said, you may have slack in it merely because it is old and stretched. If that's the case, then you'll want to replace it, but how soon you do so is up to you. In many cases, you'll see performance issues with blown out sails, but the boat will still move along OK. She won't point as high, and you'll have trouble getting an optimal sail shape, but as long as you're OK with this, you should be OK for a while.

As to the leak, a cup or two doesn't sound like much water. It may be coming up through the centerboard trunk, and "merely" splashing out the top and into the cockpit. To look for leaks, dry the boat out, then drop her back in the water, but tie her off somewhere. You could try getting some of the blue chalk that they use for "chalk lines" and making some light lines across the boat at regular intervals. That should help you find the source of the leak. But I'd check a few common stress areas, such as around the CB trunk and along the transom (especially near the gudgeons). It's also possible that the drain plug has an obstruction (debris) that allows it to slowly leak.
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Another common problem that causes a baggy sail is that you have the mainsheet tight while you are tightening the halyard.

The luff of the main sail may not get to the correct tension unless you slack the mainsheet.

Another common problem on an older sail is that the bolt rope, the rope sewed into the luff, can actually shrink a lot, several inches is not unusual.
This means that when the luff is as tight as you can get it the sail material will still be baggy.

It should not cost too much to have the sailmaker check the bolt rope and the general condition of the sail.
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Last edited by davidpm; 10-26-2013 at 09:21 PM.
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
Do you have a topping lift?
No topping lift.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
That being said, you may have slack in it merely because it is old and stretched.
That's my thought. As far as I can tell, it's the original sail for the boat (from '76).

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
If that's the case, then you'll want to replace it, but how soon you do so is up to you. In many cases, you'll see performance issues with blown out sails, but the boat will still move along OK. She won't point as high, and you'll have trouble getting an optimal sail shape, but as long as you're OK with this, you should be OK for a while.
Good to know. Based on my research, replacing the sails will probably cost almost as much as I paid for the boat. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. On one hand, it might improve my experience, but on the other hand, it's more money that I'll never get out of it when I sell and trade up.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
As to the leak, a cup or two doesn't sound like much water. It may be coming up through the centerboard trunk, and "merely" splashing out the top and into the cockpit. To look for leaks, dry the boat out, then drop her back in the water, but tie her off somewhere. You could try getting some of the blue chalk that they use for "chalk lines" and making some light lines across the boat at regular intervals. That should help you find the source of the leak. But I'd check a few common stress areas, such as around the CB trunk and along the transom (especially near the gudgeons). It's also possible that the drain plug has an obstruction (debris) that allows it to slowly leak.
I may not be fully understanding the chalkline part. Is it just to see which end (or side) starts to sit lower as she takes on water? Or is there more to it?

Also, to clarify - the water isn't leaking into the cockpit, but rather, the empty(?) space in between the hull and the deck (not sure of the proper term for it).

Also, thanks for "gudgeons." I hadn't heard that term before

Bill
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Another common problem that causes a baggy sail is that you have the mainsheet tight while you are tightening the halyard.

The luff of the main sail may not get to the correct tension unless you slack the mainsheet.
I don't *think* that was the case, but I'll verify the next time I go out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Another common problem on an older sail is that the bolt rope, the rope sewed into the luff, can actually shrink a lot, several inches is not unusual.
This means that when the luff is as tight as you can get it the sail material will still be baggy.
Interesting. I wonder if this is why I wound up with a several inch gap between the head of the sail and the top of the mast.

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Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
It should not cost too much to have the sailmaker check the bolt rope and the general condition of the sail.
Oh, good. I didn't know that was even an option. I'll start calling around.

Bill
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Sorry, I was under the impression that the water was winding up in the cockpit. The idea was to run lines of chalk "across" the boat. When the water hits the chalk, it will wash the chalk away. That lets you determine from where the water is coming.

Do you know if the Americans have plywood cored hulls? If so, the water could be a problem. I wasn't aware that those boats had a separation between the hull and the cockpit liner, but maybe that's true. If that's the case, and there isn't a core, I don't think I'd be overly worried about a cup or two of water.
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Many main sails do not hoist all the way to the top but some do. It depends on how they were fit so you can't go by that.

Also does your boat have an adjustable goose neck. The goose neck is the part of the boom that connects to the mast. Some of them can go up and down.

If it is adjustable you can get the luff tighter by leaving it loose and letting it ride up.
then after tying off the halyard their is often another line that lets you pull the boom down making the luff tighter.

Also check the shive (wheel) at the top of the mast.
If it is frozen or not working properly it is hard to get the sail to set right.

Lastly get some McLube Sailcote from West Marine and spray the sail slugs and track.

What does your main sail feel like:
1. old t-shirt
2. Really good oxford dress shirt
3. Really thick brown paper bag
4. Heavy stiff plastic.

The newer a sail is the more hard, stiff and crinkly it feels.
If it feels soft it is severely worn.

If it has no rips or tears the sail-maker may be able to refresh it for you for something you are willing to pay.

If not it will work just not optimally until it breaks.

Then google for used sails and see what you can find.
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It is a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.
If you have an engineering problem solve it.

Last edited by davidpm; 10-26-2013 at 11:57 PM.
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
Do you know if the Americans have plywood cored hulls? If so, the water could be a problem. I wasn't aware that those boats had a separation between the hull and the cockpit liner, but maybe that's true. If that's the case, and there isn't a core, I don't think I'd be overly worried about a cup or two of water.
I know there's *some* plywood, but I don't know if it's just in certain places, or if it's throughout the boat. For example, the lockers below the cuddy have glassed plywood walls. I only know this because there are some deterioration/holes that will allow water to flow between the lockers and the space between the cockpit and hull.
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Also does your boat have an adjustable goose neck. The goose neck is the part of the boom that connects to the mast. Some of them can go up and down.

If it is adjustable you can get the luff tighter by leaving it loose and letting it ride up.
then after tying off the halyard their is often another line that lets you pull the boom down making the luff tighter.
There's a small loop of line that goes from the boom over a small knob/button/whatever on the lower part of the mast and prevents the boom from riding up. So, I could potentially do what you suggest by leaving that loop off until the sail is raised, but there's no downhaul or anything to bring it back down, except for the mainsheet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Also check the shive (wheel) at the top of the mast.
If it is frozen or not working properly it is hard to get the sail to set right.
Yep, definitely frozen. I noticed that before, but decided to go sailing anyway
I was thinking about trying to get some lube in there and see if I could free them, but wasn't sure how it would affect the halyards. They also don't seem to be attached with normal fittings - it seems like they'll have to be pressed or drilled out if I go to replace them. Is that typical?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Lastly get some McLube Sailcote from West Marine and spray the sail slugs and track.
Will do!

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
What does your main sail feel like:
1. old t-shirt
2. Really good oxford dress shirt
3. Really thick brown paper bag
4. Heavy stiff plastic.

The newer a sail is the more hard, stiff and crinkly it feels.
If it feels soft it is severely worn.

If it has no rips or tears the sail-maker may be able to refresh it for you for something you are willing to pay.

If not it will work just not optimally until it breaks.

Then google for used sails and see what you can find.
As a newbie, it's tough for me to say. Based on your descriptions, I'd say somewhere between 2 and 3.

I've started looking up sailmakers and will start calling around next week to see if someone is willing to take a look at it. Unfortunately, there aren't any near me, but the coast is only an hour away, so...
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Re: Newbie questions after first time taking out sailboat

More than likely the sails are tired. But I am sure they will not stop you from having fun and learning. Keep in mind you never run a flat sail...EVER! The sail needs curve, just like the wing of a plain, a sail is a plane wing on it's side. But works the same way with lift and pressure created by the shape of the sail, the curve. There are many good sail trimming instructional video's on U-tube about it. Use "sail trimming" for search.
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