My youngest honored me for Father’s Day by pledging to assist me for one day in the activity of my choice. So I ordered a sail kit from Polysail International and scheduled a Saturday for the work. I’m not sure my 3rd mate would’ve been so generous if she knew it would take more than 8 hours.
The sail is not made from traditional Dacron sail cloth. Rather it’s made from tarp material, not unlike what you’d buy from a home improvement store. Both Dave Gray, proprietor of Polysail International, and other inventive home builders have promoted this material as a cheaper alternative.
That much is true. My queries for the 74 sq. ft. balanced lug sail called for by the designer produced the following options:
- Traditional custom-made sail by professional sail loft: $450-$550
- Do-it-yourself Dacron kit by Sail-Rite: $250+
- Made-to-Order tarp sail by Polysail International: $219
- Polytarp Kit for Polysail International: $85.00
Since the $500 cost for a shop-made Dacron sail roughly equals the materials required to build the rest of the boat, that was definitely off the list. The risk of screwing up an expensive Dacron sail kit also seemed high. Ultimately, my cheap skate and do-it-yourself attitudes prevailed and I ordered Dave Gray’s kit.
Polysails are fairly well-reviewed among home builders and frowned upon by traditionalists. From my reading, polysails seem strong and have proven themselves in events like the Texas 200 and the Everglades Challenge. The workmanship in crafting the sail seem more critical than the actual use of the material. Reviews suggest that Dacron lasts longer. But for $85, the kit is cheap enough that I can always switch to an alternative if I don’t like the results.
The fabrication steps are as follows:
- Layout fabric.
- Measure and mark perimeter of sail.
- Tailor the sail for depth by measuring and marking “rounds” (material added at edges) and “hollows” (material subtracted from edges).
- Apply double-sided tape OUTSIDE of the sail’s perimeter.
- Cut along the outside edge of the tape.
- Install rope along the inside edge of the tape, then tension.
- Fold the taped edge along the rope into the sail, encapsulating the rope.
- Pound the sealed edge flat with a rubber mallet.
- Fashion and install reinforcements at the corners.
- Sew the corner reinforcements in place.
- Install grommets through edges and corners.
- Install reef points (ties that allow sail reduction in a strong wind).
Eight hours of careful work got us through Step 9. That step was kinda’ unclear in the instructions – the diagram was hard to read and the accompanying photos showed various configurations without instructions. As a result, I did my best, but I’m not sure anyone will be impressed with my reinforcements.
On the balance, the sail looks like it will come out fine and I was proud of daughter’s diligence and effort throughout the day. She keeps fine company. Here’s some more pix: