Once you sail, chances are that you will experience sail damage. Whether it be the weather, user error or just plain age. At some point you will have a sail get damaged on your watch. Depending on the severity of the damage, your sailing adventure may be cut short. Some damage is only reparable in a sail loft, but other minor damage may be repaired on board. Having a good sail repair kit could mean the difference between ending your day prematurely. Or, getting to prolong your day and/or get you home safely.
Your on board sail repair kit can be as basic or as extensive as you want. Depending on the type of sailing you do or the area and conditions that you sail in. It can consist of just a needle and some thread. Or, it can include lots of materials and maybe even a sewing machine. I’ve seen both on different boats. So what should a good sail repair kit have?
Basic Sail Repair Kit
I once repaired a sail using an ice pick, a piece of seizing wire and some dental floss. A seam had opened so I stitched it back together so that we could finish enjoying our day sail. It worked well too and held up until we got back home and could send the sail to the sail loft for re stitching.
A sail repair kit at it’s most basic should be a good sail needle and some waxed thread. Amazon sells a basic sail repair kit which includes needles, waxed sail thread and a sewing palm. This is a good start to a sail repair kit and is good for boats that do mostly day sailing or the odd overnighter in coastal waters. In other words, where you have good access to sail repair services. It can allow you to do basic repairs where stitching has failed eg on seams or on corner webbing on your sail.
Miniature Sail Loft
On the other end of the spectrum is what I call the miniature sail loft. This is what real adventurers and world cruisers may have on board. They normally sail in remote and out-of-the-way places where sail loft access is not readily available. These guys have to be self-sufficient so will have a very comprehensive sail repair “kit”. This could include a sewing machine, rolls of sail material, tapes and webbing as well as hardware and tools. I’ve seen these guys repairing their sails on the deck of their boats or on the dock. They also normally have a good understanding of sail repairs and many formally worked in sail lofts. This is the other extreme and is not wanted or needed by the vast majority of sailors.
A Good Sail Repair Kit
Somewhere between these 2 extremes is what I would recommend for your sail repair kit. We will start with the basic kit as mentioned above. If you want, you can add a sewing awl. This is really helpful if you have a lot of sewing to do eg. resewing a whole seam. Also, included here is a sewing palm which helps with sewing especially in thicker sail fabric. One thing to note here is that they come in both left and right-handed versions. This covers your sewing tools. A good pair of scissors, or shears would also be good to have but not absolutely necessary. I’ve used the scissors in a multi tool many times with no problems.
You should also have some spare material in your kit. This is mostly for boats that do extended cruising and are not always close to a chandlery for resupply. Here are some of the materials you should include.
- Polyester webbing. This is really good, strong webbing that has better UV resistance than the popular nylon or polypropylene webbing. It’s good for reinforcing or replacing worn webbing in rings or at the corners of your sails. Also, good for making straps.
- Dacron: It’s good to have some Dacron sail cloth to use if you have to do a small patch or reinforce your sails. You should also have some adhesive Dacron Insignia tape for quick repairs. If you have spinnakers then some Nylon Ripstop tape as well. Basically, you should have some spare material available for repairs for your canvas, upholstery or leather work.
- Adhesives: There are adhesive products on the market now that make emergency sail repairs easier without the need for sewing eg Dr Sails. Having a good two-sided tape is also good for holding patches in place for sewing as well. Best to check your sail maker about these products.
- Spare slides, rings and hanks for your sails are good to keep as well as any other hardware or attachments like shackles or webbing.
- Tapes. Rigging tape, Teflon tape, Duct tape, Electrical tape, Self Amalgamating tape.
- Messenger cord. Light cord (3mm) to use if you have to replace halyard or for any other boat projects.
- Hot Knife. This is very useful but not absolutely necessary. A sharp knife and a lighter can also do the job.
- Splicing Fids. These are extremely helpful if you are a do-it-yourselfer and can save you time and headaches when it comes to doing rope work.
So there you have my ideas for a good sail repair kit. So here goes the recap.
- Sailmaker’s needles
- Sailmaker’s sewing palm
- Waxed sail thread
- Shears and/or sharp knife
- Polyester webbing 1/2″ and 1″
- Dacron Insignia adhesive sailcloth
- Nylon Ripstop adhesive sailcloth
- Spare sail and canvas material
- Spare sail slides and hardware
- Various tapes
- 3mm Cord
This is what I think you should have in a sail repair kit. It is by no means a hard and fast comprehensive list. I personally also have splicing fids and a hot knife in my kit. You cannot prepare for every eventuality but with this kit you should be able to handle most minor repairs.
As always using common sense and what materials you have at hand to effect repairs is up to the individual. I’ve seen all manner of innovation in emergency repairs. One guy repaired his sail with denim which he cut off from his jeans! It was the strongest fabric he could find on his boat. It lasted a few hundred miles until he could get to the loft and have it repaired. Another guy hand sewed all the seams in his Jib while crossing the Atlantic. He had lots of thread and time. His stitching was so neat that I didn’t have much to do to finish reinforcing the sail for him.
It is amazing what can be done with even the most rudimentary of tools and materials. Having a good sail repair kit gives you many options. Hope that this has been helpful and please feel free to contact me if any questions. https://socasails.com/