From coast-to-coast, we asked our experts what sail maintenance and projects you should be doing right now.
Annual inspections and service are easily the best way to protect your investment and the lifespan of your sails. “It’s always better to try to repair, rather than replace, when possible,” says Quantum Annapolis’ Sail and Design Consultant Andrew Waters. “It's good practice to get the sails off the boat annually and have them inspected for wear and tear.”
But, the environment and conditions sailors face are so varied from east to west and north to south, blanket advice just won’t do. So, what should you be doing when, where? Our experts from across the country give us the inside scoop on Autumn service.
THE NORTHERN CLIMES: THE GREAT LAKES TO NEW ENGLAND
Sailing conditions may be wildly different, but the similarities in climate and season length mean sailors from Chicago to Bar Harbor will follow a comparable schedule.
AVERAGE SAILING SEASON: May-September.
Bitter winters mean there is a clear off-season for our cooler-climate sailors — but don’t sit on your haunches. A defined season means there is usually a service rush at the lofts right before sailing kicks up again, so the earlier you can plan to bring your sails in for inspection or repair, the more time the loft will have to turn your projects around and get you splashed as soon as it's safe in springtime.
BEST TIME FOR SERVICE: September-December.
WORST TIME FOR SERVICE: May-June.
COMMON SERVICE NEEDS: Sail removal and storage.
When the end of the season comes and you’re arranging winter accommodations for your boat, you should also be planning storage for your sails. Even if you have a cool, dry, rodent-free place to store your sails, it’s best to get them into the loft first, before you forget. Once they’re away for the season, they’re often “out of sight, out of mind,” and you may be in for a not-so-fun reminder when you’re prepping in the Spring — when suddenly, there’s a backlog of service from folks who forgot their list of to-do’s until last minute, or stored their sails poorly. Instead, take the sails in as soon as you’ve ended your season to give yourself — and our team — plenty of time to repair, replace and resolve any issues.
Get your sails inspected and serviced in the Fall, and then you can enjoy the rest of your off-season pastimes, knowing your sails are ready to rock once spring rolls around.
THE SOUTHERN CLIMES: CALI, GULF, CAROLINAS TO THE KEYS
This is a huge swath of sailing paradise; however, just because your boat doesn’t come out of the water doesn’t mean your sails don’t need a little love.
AVERAGE SAILING SEASON: Year-round.
Spring and Fall tend to be the favored sailing seasons, and some of the hotter locations, like Seabrook, Texas, tend to slow down for a bit in July and August when the heat is prohibitive.
BEST TIME FOR SERVICE: September-November.
WORST TIME FOR SERVICE: April-June and right before any major regatta.
COMMON SERVICE NEEDS: Maintenance and repairs, recuts, UV cover repairs, and replacements.
Even though there isn’t a huge seasonal swing in these areas, fall is still the best time for lofts to take a look at your sails. Quantum Sails Gulf Coast’s Farley Fontenot advises his customers to get into the habit of taking their sails off the boat regularly — ideally in the summer when the weather is too hot to sail, but if you’ve missed that, there’s no time like the present. Depending on your level of use, you may be able to do every-other-season or a longer interval than annually, but get into a pattern where you’re having your sails checked over at regular intervals to head off any issues before they become catastrophic – but if you’re taking this tack, make sure you’re keeping an eye on your sails yourself to catch any issues.
Fontenot reminds us, don’t neglect to check your UV covers for wear and tear as well. Prolonged exposure to the sun can wreak havoc on your UV and sail covers – especially the stitching – and impact their effectiveness. If the covers aren’t stitched on, make sure you bring in your covers with your sails during your sail inspection. If they are, snap some photos or have a team member from the loft come out for a look.
Additionally, Fontenot points out that one of the worst things you can do for your sails is leave them sitting on your boat for a long period of time. He recommends, “If you know you’re taking more than a month off, take the sails off the boat and store them somewhere out of the sun and weather.” On the same note, if you’re going to be away, make sure your boat is secured to handle strong weather and keep tabs on the forecast — hurricanes and nasty storms can pop up quickly. Contact the local loft if nasty weather is on the way – we’re happy to help get your sails down and stored in a safe place.
THE IN-BETWEENERS: MID COASTAL
Heeding advice from both the northern and southern climates, there are some variations that affect your seasonality. So whether you’re coastal, in-shore, marina based, transient, or traditional, our service recommendations apply.
AVERAGE SAILING SEASON: May-September (Potentially added bonus months of April and October) or maybe year-round.
East Coasters from Virginia to New Jersey, including Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay, have come to expect a wild game of deciding if or when to put the boat away for the off-season. The increased popularity of transients and liveaboards migrating to extend the season, and regional racing through the winter months to satiate competitive drive, can also affect traditional definitions of “season.” No matter, keeping up with maintenance will keep you on the water whenever you want to be there.
BEST TIME FOR SERVICE: September-January.
WORST TIME FOR SERVICE: April-June.
COMMON SERVICE NEEDS: UV cover replacements, sail removal and wash and storage.
When the end of the season comes (or you’ve picked a few weeks or months to take a break) or you’re arranging the winter accommodations for your boat, you should also be planning storage for your sails. Quantum Annapolis’ Sail and Design Consultant Andrew Waters says, “Get the sails off your boat, into the loft, and inspected. While we go through the inspection, we check for wear and tear, chafing, UV damage, and webbing structure. We’ll look at the feel of the fabric for strength and stretch. Then we devise some recommendations and options— it’s much like popping your car into the garage for service.”
It’s best to tackle everything early, adds Waters — as soon as you’re finished for the season —and get your sails into the loft right away. Come spring, you don’t want to be in line along with the other last-minute sailors looking for a quick turnaround, when the backlog can be 2-3 weeks.
In the end, no matter where your boat calls home, making service part of your annual routine will ensure you get the most out of your sailing season, whether it’s four or twelve months long. Contact your local loft to schedule your service. Not near a loft? No worries - submit a service request online and we'll make sure you're taken care of!