Sails Are Not Fashion Items, but They Can Look Good
‘Red sails in the sunset’ says the old song and a boat decked out in good looking sail does look good, sails are far more important than just something to amuse the rest of the sailing club, although eye-catching sails are great fun.
Sails have been used to propel boats since man first set sail. Put a boat in the water and paddle it, Welsh coracles, canoes and kayaks for example are ingenious small boats that are paddled by the occupant. However, the realisation that the wind could be harnessed to move a boat more easily and over larger distances cannot have been far behind, as people quickly learned the value of trade larger boats under sail began to appear. True some peoples preferred to have ranks of rowers to propel their boats for similar uses plus going to war when a loss of momentum was not a good idea.
Early sails were fixed to a pole that was mounted in the boat and some of the earliest recorded examples of sail boats go back to 3000 BC as the ancient Egyptians knew then how to build wooden hulls using planks. NB. We welcome input from people who wish to add to this conversation.
Canvass sail was predominant during and since the golden age of sailing ships, although more rigid materials have been used including split bamboo. Canvass is a strong, coarse unbleached cloth made from hemp, flax, or a similar yarn, used with ropes – as discussed in an earlier article – and being a natural fibre cloth it is heavy especially in large amounts and when wet becomes exceptionally heavy, and rigid, for those raising and lowering the sails.
Modern sails are much lighter, far easier to handle, and very much stronger as they are fabricated using man-made fibres from low cost nylon right up to state of the art and expensive carbon fibres including Kevlar which is stronger and lighter than steel! Top quality sails are likely to serve serious boating people and competitors well and may turn out to be very cost effective.
Types of sail on a boat include,
Mainsail, that is the big triangular sail just behind or aft of the sailboat’s mast. This is the boat’s largest and most important sail. Running along the sails bottom edge, the mainsail has a thick pole called the boom, make sure you know which is the boom and mind your head when changing tack.
Some boats carry a mizzen sail, this is a small triangular sail at the stern of a boat.
A spinnaker is a sail designed specifically for sailing off the wind. The spinnaker fills with wind and balloons out in front of the boat when it is deployed, this is called flying.
Some boats have just one sail, others – larger ones – will have more. Even small boats, dinghy’s for example, are great fun to sail and good for learning the ropes, many sailing schools across the globe teach new boating people and youngsters in a dinghy before working up to a larger sail boat so they can get the hang of it before moving on to more challenging and larger boats.
We recommend people new to boating take professional training before buying a boat, talk with the experts in your nearest sailing club or Marina, and seek out the best deal possible. Should you buy a used boat with a plan to renovate it as you sail seek out a top-quality Boat Chandler and check out the items that you need to replace, cost isn’t everything, select good quality sail and fittings as they will serve you well and save you money.
Author : Roger Langley