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Buying Sails

4434 Views 23 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  jbzeichner
I am purchasing a boat that needs a new mainsail. I live in Olympia Washington USA. I am looking at the best combination of price vs. quality within a reasonable distance. I buy a lot online, but I am unsure how that would work with sails, but I am willing to entertain the possibility.

The other sails need inspection and repair/restitching/refurbishing. Any help, direction or advice would be appreciated!

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What kind of boat?
My suggestion is buy local, and deal with a sail maker who comes out and measures the boat. If they give you a quote without measuring, make very sure they plan to come measure before processing the order. I got four quotes, and only one guy came up to measure before quoting. We discovered my rig is not exactly standard.

One guy told a friend of mine that for the head sail on his Tanzer 22, "I don't measure for that little money." Who would do business with a guy that says that?
Having bought a new main over the internet the last time, my sage advice is to take JARCHER's advice
Interesting, SF... care to share which "loft"?

I can see buying a headsail or a spinnaker that way (on-line), but the fit on a mainsail is much more critical, and there I agree with Jarcher and others re: buying local. If you're not racing look for a small independant loft; they are often less expensive than the major players like Quantum, North and others.

Comparatively the prices of on-line providers are very tempting... but...

As for touch-up and restitching, you've little choice but to go for local. You'll probably get a better deal getting your repairs done by the same guy you buy the new sail from. Hopefully some of the other local members here will chime in with some suggestions!
I have bought a new main and new headsail. I also had my sailmaker modify my existing headsails to fit my furler and make a new sail cover. I looked at all my options including online and "mainstream" sailmakers like North. I chose a smaller local shop for several reasons. First, he came to the boat and took time to talk with me about the type of sailing I am doing and want to do. He looked at the rigging, talked about all the different options and ultimately built me sails that I felt are specific to my needs and my boat.

The sails were made locally, not in a foreign country which meant that any changes, adjustments, warranty problems were handled right away. I could drive to the loft and watch the work being done. Delivery time was quick. He wasn't the cheapest but also wasn't nearly as expensive as North Sails. The head sail had a small problem (one I created and one was a build problem). They fixed both in 2 days at no charge. When I finally got sail numbers 6 months after my main sail was delivered, they installed them for me at no charge.

I first went in only to get a main and have now had a lot of business with this shop. A good sailmaker will make you a sail to fit your boat. A GREAT sailmaker will become part of your team to work with you to achieve the type and level of sailing you want to do with your boat now and in the future.

As an aside, I also felt good supporting the local guy over the big commercial shop. North made me feel as if I was being sold a used car while the guy actually designing and making my sail is always available to talk.

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What kind or size of boat is it? If not a daysailor here are 2 good choices near you.

Port Townsend Sails - new sails and repair for all sailboats

Lidgard Sails - world class sail design, technology and production through our sail lofts internationally.

Both are excellent in everything I've heard. As a matter of fact my neighbors in Victoria sail to Port Townsend specifically for sails by Carol Hasse. Lidgard has been around for years and includes John Guzzwell as a customer and outfits a lot of custom Perry designs. I think with a mainsail you have to pick between cheap and good.
Interesting, SF... care to share which "loft"?

FX...when my new main arrived just in time for the season, I got it half-unpacked and noticed there were only four numbers on the sail---the middle number was missing. So it went right back.

After four weeks of cajoling (and no sailing...) it arrived again, this time I bent it on,,, and it was six inches short in the foot...The whole mess went on for over a year.
Theres an online sail sales spot near you actually in Washington state, do a google for used sails. This guy is great, couldn't believe the sails I got for sooo cheap.
FX...when my new main arrived just in time for the season, I got it half-unpacked and noticed there were only four numbers on the sail---the middle number was missing. So it went right back.

After four weeks of cajoling (and no sailing...) it arrived again, this time I bent it on,,, and it was six inches short in the foot...The whole mess went on for over a year.

Those are exactly the sort of problems I've worried about whenever I was tempted by the "on-line" pricing. And believe me, I've been tempted.

We ended up going with local lofts for the three new sails we purchased for our boat. We ended up getting what I felt was a fair price, good service (they measured at the boat), and good follow-up after the fact. It's almost inevitable that the sails will require some tweaking -- there are just so many variables involved.

And, you'll need repairs and maintenance from time to time. So it's nice to have a "relationship" with a local loft, too. Plus, I really enjoy stopping by the loft every so often to hear the latest racing news and see their big projects under way. It's a great way to get a "fix" during mid-winter when sailing season has shut down.:)
I bought a main from Cruising Direct (now NorthSailsDirect) about 8 years ago. It fit perfectly from day one and still looks great. They require you to make lots of measurements (the same ones a loft would do), not just assume a standard sail will fit your boat. I would buy from them again.
Thanks SF and JimsCal... good information. Like JR I find on-line (esp FX's) pricing attractive - roughly 1/2 of a Quantum "deal" locally... but haven't had the nerve to risk SF's experience.
As for 'refurbushing' your other sails I just got an email from SailCare about their annual 15% off sale. October -December. I have not used them but have seen their work at the boat shows. Looks like an inexpensive option.
Schattauer in Seattle is another great local loft. They are not cheep, but provide great service and have been in the same location for 2 generations.
I'm in Seattle. I just bought 3 new sails. The Main I got from the local North loft. I cashed in on their 25% off recycle deal (which sadly I think is over now...). The other two headsails I ordered for spring delivery from the local Ullman dealer (loft is in San Diego) using their 30% off Spring Delivery sale.

I just received the North mainsail (about 5 weeks for delivery). They were great at the start. They came out and measured the boat. I also order a StrongTrack system so they messured for that as well. Then I didn't hear back from them for 5 weeks. After 6 phone calls (no returned calls) and another week and a half I finally got a hold of them and was told it "Just showed up this morning". 3 more phone calls and I was told that the track that was shipped was the wrong size. 2 more phone calls to set up a time to have them come out and setup the track and sail. Overall I'm happy with the sail, workmanship and customer service. I'm not very happy with the communication (or lack of).

So far I've been having good luck with the Ullman sales rep and loft. Their prices are very competitive, and the sales rep has been easy to deal with. The rep wrote up the quote, answered a ton of questions and was happy to show me another clients boat that had a set of the sails I was looking for. We'll see how the workmanship and customer service stacks up over time but so far so good.
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I've worked locally with Jack at North, a 110 norlam and G2. Jeff at Ullman, got two sails last spring also on there 30% off order now, get in March/April. a 140 CAL, a laminate for the same price as a dacron, with less stretch etc, and a 130 drifter. Also have a fiberpath 155 too that I got last Oct. Main is a UK tape drive 2 full top and 2 partial. The Anacortes yard measured that one. Two boats near me also had UK sails made recently.

One local with a C30 had a FX155 genoa made, and had Schattauer put on numbers etc. He seems happy with it.

It really depends upon what type of sail, what purpose etc, as to which loft to get sails at. Haase used to work at Shattauer, both sell excellent dacron cruise sails, that will take you thru a hurricane. Talked with carol re puget sound lighter wt laminate race type sails, she said go elsewhere! North actually!

Ullmans CAL sails, is a laminate base panel sail. SO far really nice for daysailing/cruising etc. WAY better than my old original dacron. One person with a 155 roller furling I know with one, says it rolls way tighter than his 140 dacron did, and sails better too. BUT< the dacron may have been a bit blown out like my original 140 from 85 that came with the boat.

TO a degree, you will get what you pay for!

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Banks Sails, Portland Oregon

Since the OP is near to local, I'll mention Banks/Waagmeester Sails in Portland, Oregon. Waagmeester Canvas Products, Inc. - Home Page. They have an excellent reputation around here, for non-racers at least. My sails were made by them (main & genny); I have no idea how old they are, but probably much more than 8 years. I had the UV cover for the 150 genoa re-stitched this summer ($90); turnaround was 5 days.

While there I asked about pricing for a 110% jib. Banks' quote was $15% less than FX Sails online; but I don't know how comparable the specifics might be.

I= 36.5; J=11.75
Thank you! And a question about roller main.

The boat is a Mercator Offshore 30 built in 1970.

The jib, genoa and drifter are OK but need to be repaired (small tear), restitched and cleaned (which I'll do).

The cloth of the main is just plain old.

The boat is a cruising boat and if I race it is as crew, so I'm looking for cruising sails.

I always try to do business locally. Anymore experience close to Olympia?

One more question - the boat has roller reefing on the boom - the boom rotates with a crank (spruce spars) and the sail rolls around. Does anyone have experience with this set-up. Should I get rid off it?
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I'd get rid of it and convert to 2 line slab reefing, either from the mast or led back to the cockpit if you wish. Easy to use and better setting sails. All the old cruising books where the boat had roller reefing like you have mention the towels they had to stuff in as the sail was rolled to get even a reasonably good setting sail. Here's a link describing reefing the main and what works best.
Agree with Brian that you should convert to "jiffy reefing"... hardly anyone uses the old style roller reefing anymore. It's difficult to get good shape and precludes using a proper vang without special hardware.

A standard slab or jiffy reef setup won't break the bank - esp if you order the new main with proper reef points installed.

btw- the Mercator looks like a comfy boat.. reminiscent of a fiberglass version of the L36.
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