Sail repairs and cramped hands

Winter continues to loom heavily here in Minnesota. The high today was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 degrees F. Gross. As the stir crazy began to set in, I noticed my sail bag leaned in the corner and decided now was as good a time as any to make some repairs. The boat I acquired had a broken leech line and a couple small holes on the main. I had picked up some sail repair tape months ago, knowing a day like today would approach. I unfolded the sail as best I could in my basement and got to work.

Making do with limited space. I don't know how tall this sail is, but it wasn't getting unfurled in my basement.

Making do with limited space. I don’t know how tall this sail is, but it wasn’t getting unfurled in my basement.

Once I had it spread out, I found the two holes and went about patching them. My plan was to try to get about 1″ of tape on all sides of the holes, give or take. The holes were fairly small, and the tape is 3″ wide, so that worked out nicely.

Hole one.

Hole one.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Hole #1 repaired.

Hole #1 repaired.

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top...

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top…

And then the back... Hole two fixed.

And then the back…
Hole two fixed.

With the holes now repaired, it was time to check out the leech line. I’d picked up some replacement line that I’m hoping will not fall apart on me, though only time will tell. Yes, I cheaped out. What can I say? I’m a broke college kid and marine anything is expensive.

The purpose of a leech line is to give the sailor the ability to tension the trailing edge of the sail (leech) which stops the flutter. This, in turn should allow for more efficient and less noisy sailing. The line in this sail had snapped somewhere about 4 feet from the clew on the leech. Additionally, I’d somehow managed to pull most of the line through the foot, meaning I couldn’t just attach the new line and pull it through.

Lacking a better idea I decided to attach a safety pin to the new line, and attempt to feed it through like a drawstring in a pair of swim trunks. I ripped open the seam on the line pocket, and fed in the new line through the eyelet near the tack of the sail.

Line fed through to the other side.

Line fed through to the other side.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn't close it again!

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn’t close it again!

Fed the slack through this  deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Fed the slack through this deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

At this point I had some decisions to make. It took me about an hour to slowly get that line across the foot. My estimate of that distance is about 8 feet. The leech is closer to 25-30 feet. Since my pin barely made that fist trip, I didn’t want to risk a failure halfway up the sail. I knew the original break was about four feet up, and if I could fish the line to that point, I should be able to bend the new to the old, and pull it the rest of the way to the head. This course of action decided upon, I began the process of fishing it through.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

View from the clew to the new opening.

View from the clew to the new opening.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

Once the new line was pulled through to the broken line, those were securely tied together. I enlisted the help of my brother, Jeff, to tension the edge of the sail to keep it from binding up while I pulled the line all the way through.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

Like so many of my projects, I ended up putting this away for the day unfinished. Since I really do not want to do this again, I need to do a bit of reading on the proper way to lash the old and new ends together. All said and done, the project took about 2.5 hours, and I didn’t even draw blood! Not a bad way to spend a very cold day.

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