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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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  #1  
Old 09-08-2006
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Red/Brown sails

Why do some, usually older boats (classics), have redish brown sails? My only two thoughts were:
1) dark colors are more resistant to UV and older work boats whos sails saw a lot of sun, would benefit.

2) Dark sails on work boats don't show stains and dirt.

I have seen these sails on some of the old scallop boats. The scallop boats needed sails because there was a law that prevented harvesting scallops under power.

Thoughts?
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Old 09-08-2006
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Called Tanbark for the reasons given in the passage below from a sailmaker who makes such sails. For traditional styled boats it's more to present an "authentic" appaerance.
"Back in the days of cottons sails, some sailcloth was tanned - dipped in tannins, usually derived from tree bark. The process was used to protect the sails from rot, mold and mildew. Nowadays, Dacron is dyed a reddish brown to simulate the 'red sails in the sunset' look. Sail buyers pay a premium for this or any dyed Dacron. There is no analogous protection provided by the dye."
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Old 09-08-2006
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That pretty well sums up the history of Tanbark sails, but it does not touch on the fact that when you dye dacron to simulate tanbark cotton sailcloth, you end up with cloth that is a little stretchier (not a good thing) and shorter lived, (dark colors absorb more UV than lighter colors). Tanbark dacron is pretty much an aesthictic thing now days, an affectation meant to impart a historic feel to a modern material.

Jeff
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Old 09-08-2006
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Could the stretchiness be caused by the dark color absorbing and holding heat? I know that dacron does perform differently at various temperatures but I am not sure this would be a great enough temp. change to make any difference.
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Old 09-08-2006
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As I have had it explained to me the increased stretch comes from the way the fibers are treated in order to get them to accept the red dye. From what I gather structural grade polyester does not take dye very well.

Jeff
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Old 09-08-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H
As I have had it explained to me the increased stretch comes from the way the fibers are treated in order to get them to accept the red dye. From what I gather structural grade polyester does not take dye very well.

Jeff
Indeed it does not accept the dye with out some loss of the hard case on the cloth.

The cloth is a very heavy one and is not available in lighter wieghts. It is quite stiff enough to hold shape in very heavy air. It is of no interest to racers or those interested in getting the tweakiest windward ability in light air.

Tanbark are very servicible sails, there is not a hint of delicacy about them.
Good heavy material lasts a long time. Not suitable for modern racer/cruisers.

Dewey
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Old 09-09-2006
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I would say that traditional watercraft need higher quality, low stretch cloth than performance sailors. With heavy cruiser's typically higher drag to stability, having low stretch sail cloth can mean significantly less heeling and weather helm.

I respectfully disagree with Dewey on the durability issue. When this topic came up a few years back I spoke to quite a few sailmakers about its durability. There was universal agreement that tanbark cloth was a novelty cloth that has significantly less of a lifespan that an equal weight white dacron.

Jeff
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Old 09-09-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H
I would say that traditional watercraft need higher quality, low stretch cloth than performance sailors. With heavy cruiser's typically higher drag to stability, having low stretch sail cloth can mean significantly less heeling and weather helm.

I respectfully disagree with Dewey on the durability issue. When this topic came up a few years back I spoke to quite a few sailmakers about its durability. There was universal agreement that tanbark cloth was a novelty cloth that has significantly less of a lifespan that an equal weight white dacron.

Jeff

LOL! Jeff,

thats kind of funny! Need higher quality? The concern for asthetics is the primary goal of Tanbark sails. It would be nice to enhance the windward abilitys of say, a Sea Witch ketch (a typical candidate round here for the stuff) but it aint gonna happen short of redisigning the vessel which would then no longer be a Sea Witch Ketch.

Durability can be expressed in a couple of ways, Longevity, or brute strenth.
I cannot speak too much of the longevity as I have not experienced owning Tanbark sails personally for a period of time (or any period whatsoever).
The cloth is only available in the heaviest of weights, damn near the same as a storm jibs. Pretty crappy set in winds of less than 3 knots. I can attest personally to the brute strenth. Fairwinds Marine Northeaster 30 Between San Nicholaus Island and San Miguiel Island. Force 10 (mid 50's) gusting to 11. The tanbark working sails ( high probability of low useage from previous owner) not only performed nicly but upon later examination where not in the least bit "blown out".

Sure it ain't for you. But there is a loyal cadre of woodie guy's who spit on fiberglass and aren't interested in your uberlight sails.

There is nothing wrong with either opinion.

By the by, a funny little vignette associated with that little blow. "Pugnatious" the Northeaster 30 sailing out of Santa Barbra had her vhf scanning during that time and picked up a coast guard cutter comunicating with the shore base. "Theres only one idiot on our radar out here and we are heading over to check him out" the cutter opined. Mike the owner of "Pug" shot back "coast guard cutter I'm that idiot, and unless you need some assitance you needent bother". LOL!

Dewey

Last edited by Dewey Benson; 09-09-2006 at 01:48 PM.
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Dewey,

You forget that while I do own a glass boat today, I also sail and have owned traditional wooden sailing craft (a 1949 folkboat, and a 1939 Stadel Cutter) and actually originallly looked into tanbark for replacement sails for the Stadel Cutter. She actually had a couple tanbark sails which did not hold up that well.

But beyond that, in talking to owners of boats with somewhat traditional designs who have purchased higher quality sails for boats such as H-28's, Westsail 32's, Tayana 37's, and the like, the biggest sailing improvement that they say that they have made to their boats was to buy decently cut, lower stretch sails. The benefit that they most often reported was being heeling less, bether weatherliness, and getting by with less sail exposed than would have needed with their stretchier sails. I still say that boats whose sail plan and hull form make good performance difficult, generally benefit more from good cruising sails (and I don't mean gosimer racing sails) than more modern boats which can often get by with mediocre sails due to their more easily driven hulls and better sail shaping gear.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 09-10-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H
Dewey,

You forget that while I do own a glass boat today, I also sail and have owned traditional wooden sailing craft (a 1949 folkboat, and a 1939 Stadel Cutter) and actually originallly looked into tanbark for replacement sails for the Stadel Cutter. She actually had a couple tanbark sails which did not hold up that well.


Respectfully,
Jeff
Jeff,

Nooo I didn't forget. One cannot forget what one has never known.

When you were talking with sailmakers did you speak with any who might have some experience with the tanbark sails? Lets see, you are somwhere in the chesapeke area, yes? How about Bacon and Assoc. they may have some inkling of the longevity of Tanbark sails.

Agreed, replaceing old blown out sails is definatly one of the biggest improvments one can make in improving the performance of a sailing vessel, and it wont matter a wit what color the sails you are replacing were.

Or for that matter what color the replacments are. The largest detriment ot the tanbark is that they are too heavy for most areas prevalent winds.

Iv'e never owned a woodie just been aboard a bunch. Know the folkboat well, have seen some Stadell designs. What manner of craft was the Stadell Cutter? Beamy, narrow, transome style, where built? How long had the sails been on her when you purchased her?

Dewey
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