Spring Commissioning 101

Spring has sprung — whether you put your boat to bed for the winter or spent a chilly season frostbiting, Quantum Chicago’s Todd Basch has tips to help get your sails in shape for spring.

Sails are like cars and need regular service and maintenance. The more attention you give to your sails, the longer they will perform like new. Here are some tips for how to bring your sails out of hibernation and give them a springtime refresh.

Inventory Your Sails and Their Condition

Hopefully, you checked your sails for damage and wear and tear before packing them away for the winter−just like you check your sails between regattas or at mid-season (right?). If not, now is the time. Check for water damage, mold, rust, or signs that a mouse or squirrel made a meal of your sail. This happens. In Chicago, we have a special relationship with spiders that find sails and rigs to be a great place for homesteading. Get rid of them and keep your sails clean.

Here is what to look for when you conduct a sail once-over:

  • Are there any holes or tears?
  • Is the stitching on leech and foot tapes secure?
  • Are all the slides on the mainsail still there and in one piece?
  • Does the bolt rope have any tears?
  • Are the batten enclosures and tensioners functioning properly?
  • Do the corner webbings feel dry and brittle and in need of some stitching or replacement?
  • How is the stitching on the seams? Tip: If a light pull on a stitch with an awl or similar tool breaks the stitch, a stitch-over would be a good idea.

If you have questions about sail condition, call your local sailmaker. They will help diagnose problems and fix anything that is not quite right.

Repairs and Modifications

Ideally, you would have addressed any repairs or modifications with your sailmaker before you put your sails away for the season. If they’ve been at the loft over the off-season, make plans to pick them up or arrange shipping as soon as possible, so your sails are ready to go as soon as you want to hit the water.

But, best laid plans, right? If it slipped your mind to get your sails in, or you discover that you missed a tear back in November, there’s still time to bring them to your loft for a little TLC. The sooner the better, though, as spring is definitely the loft’s busy season.

Storage – Now and Later

During your spring check-over, take note of the creases in your sail and try not to repeat them every time you fold it up, and don't fold sails any tighter than necessary. Folding the sail differently will prevent weakening at particular spots. If you have a sail small enough to roll, go for it, and prevent creases altogether. Make sure you have a sail bag big enough to let in some air to reduce the risk of mold.

If you want to look good, you wash and iron your shirts and put them nicely into a drawer. You don’t just stuff it in the drawer or under the bed and walk away. Take care of your sails in the same way.

Sails, Check. Now What?

Once your sails are in shape, turn your attention to the running and standing rigging. When was the last time you checked your halyard sheaves to assure that they are clean, lubricated and running smoothly? Do your sails hoist easily?

Friction is an enemy: the more there is in blocks, sheaves, leads, on tracks, and in winches, the more wear and tear there is on the sails and rig and the more difficult it is to trim with precision. Make sure that anything moving on your boat is moving smoothly and easily. This will save both energy and money.

Ask For Help

When in doubt, call your local loft. Our team is ready to help advise and service sails of every size from any brand. Our goal is to get you out on the water safely and quickly with the best possible equipment for maximum fun and performance.

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