New sails on the horizon?

The lakes and rivers aren’t even froze yet, and I’m already thinking about getting back on the water. Naturally, my mind wanders toward the next Lake Pepin Messabout. I enjoyed attending the 2015 one quite a bit, so Serenity and i will be making another voyage. Between now and then she’ll be needing new a sail. Her current polytarp one has about had it.

I’m currently thinking about making a switch from the 65 sq foot Leg O Mutton sail that she currently has to a 76 sq foot balanced lug… I’m hoping to take advantage of the larger footprint to gain a tiny bit more speed out of her, while at the same time having the option of reef points. Which is something her current sail doesn’t offer, but would likely be helpful.

Now to price out material options. On one hand there’s polytarp, which is semi cheap, but seem to have about a 2 season shelflife. On the other is dacron sailcloth, a considerably more expensive option, but far more durable. I’m leaning towards the dacron because if I’m putting in the time and effort to sew together a fancy sail, it seems prudent to make it out of stuff that’s gonna last.

Sail repairs and cramped hands

Winter continues to loom heavily here in Minnesota. The high today was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 degrees F. Gross. As the stir crazy began to set in, I noticed my sail bag leaned in the corner and decided now was as good a time as any to make some repairs. The boat I acquired had a broken leech line and a couple small holes on the main. I had picked up some sail repair tape months ago, knowing a day like today would approach. I unfolded the sail as best I could in my basement and got to work.

Making do with limited space. I don't know how tall this sail is, but it wasn't getting unfurled in my basement.

Making do with limited space. I don’t know how tall this sail is, but it wasn’t getting unfurled in my basement.

Once I had it spread out, I found the two holes and went about patching them. My plan was to try to get about 1″ of tape on all sides of the holes, give or take. The holes were fairly small, and the tape is 3″ wide, so that worked out nicely.

Hole one.

Hole one.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Hole #1 repaired.

Hole #1 repaired.

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top...

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top…

And then the back... Hole two fixed.

And then the back…
Hole two fixed.

With the holes now repaired, it was time to check out the leech line. I’d picked up some replacement line that I’m hoping will not fall apart on me, though only time will tell. Yes, I cheaped out. What can I say? I’m a broke college kid and marine anything is expensive.

The purpose of a leech line is to give the sailor the ability to tension the trailing edge of the sail (leech) which stops the flutter. This, in turn should allow for more efficient and less noisy sailing. The line in this sail had snapped somewhere about 4 feet from the clew on the leech. Additionally, I’d somehow managed to pull most of the line through the foot, meaning I couldn’t just attach the new line and pull it through.

Lacking a better idea I decided to attach a safety pin to the new line, and attempt to feed it through like a drawstring in a pair of swim trunks. I ripped open the seam on the line pocket, and fed in the new line through the eyelet near the tack of the sail.

Line fed through to the other side.

Line fed through to the other side.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn't close it again!

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn’t close it again!

Fed the slack through this  deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Fed the slack through this deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

At this point I had some decisions to make. It took me about an hour to slowly get that line across the foot. My estimate of that distance is about 8 feet. The leech is closer to 25-30 feet. Since my pin barely made that fist trip, I didn’t want to risk a failure halfway up the sail. I knew the original break was about four feet up, and if I could fish the line to that point, I should be able to bend the new to the old, and pull it the rest of the way to the head. This course of action decided upon, I began the process of fishing it through.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

View from the clew to the new opening.

View from the clew to the new opening.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

Once the new line was pulled through to the broken line, those were securely tied together. I enlisted the help of my brother, Jeff, to tension the edge of the sail to keep it from binding up while I pulled the line all the way through.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

Like so many of my projects, I ended up putting this away for the day unfinished. Since I really do not want to do this again, I need to do a bit of reading on the proper way to lash the old and new ends together. All said and done, the project took about 2.5 hours, and I didn’t even draw blood! Not a bad way to spend a very cold day.

Drift Anchor

As I was thinking about possible issues that could occur during my river trip, an idea occurred to me. In the case of light winds, perhaps I could utilize the river’s current to help pull me downstream, and it turns out there’s a commercially available device that could work for that, the drift anchor. It’s actually meant to keep a boat’s bow pointed into the waves in the case of losing power in rough weather. What I am hoping to do with it is use it in reverse.

It looks pretty rough, and it should. This is more of a prototype at this point.

Fabric, marker, cork trivet, ruler, and tack.

Fabric, marker, cork trivet, ruler, and tack.

Slid the trivet under the fabric, and tacked the ruler to it.

Slid the trivet under the fabric, and tacked the ruler to it.

Circle drawing time!

Circle drawing time!

Pac Man? Om nom nom nom!

Pac Man? Om nom nom nom!

Hemmed the outer rim.

Hemmed the outer rim.

Zig-zag stitched the hell out of all the seams.

Zig-zag stitched the hell out of all the seams.

Made some loops to attach to lines.

Made some loops to attach to lines.

Serenity Update

It’s been too long since I posted about Serenity. A few things have happened since the last post, first of which being the finished fiberglass bottom. It held up marvelously, and none of the areas I thought might leak have done so. At this point it seems safe to assume it’ll be good until she gets sailed into a stump or huge rock.
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No Wallace, lots of Grommets…

HOORAY!

As of this evening, the sail for S/V Serenity is now complete. The grommets have been added, and they feel quite sturdy. I’m fairly confident it’ll hold, even without being sewn. I had nothing but trouble trying to sew through the double stick carpet tape. It was binding every 1/4″, and I quickly gave up on that.

Perhaps before making the next sail, I can do some test sewing, sans tape.
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Surviving doldrums

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Doldrums as such:

  1. a spell of listlessness or despondency
  2. a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds
  3. a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump

This winter has certain been the first and third. With warmer weather on the horizon, I decided to stop dragging my feet on the sails for the Puddle Duck. As with everything else in life, this first run is a learning experience.

Before I start getting into the build, I want to acknowledge David ‘Shorty’ Routh and David Gray of PDRacer.com and PolySail International respectively. Both have great resources online, and they also were forthcoming with advice over email. So, Daves, if you read this: Thank you, sirs.

Being a poor college kid, a PolySail kit was outside of my budget. So I opted to make this first sail myself. (For the next PD, I might splurge. We’ll see.)

Materials:

Here’s how it went down:

I cleared as much space as I could in the basement, since my garage is a sloppy, icy, salty mess. Then I started unfolding the tarp, and getting it stretched out as much as I needed for the sail.

Not the ideal work space. Make do with what you got, right?

Not the ideal work space. Make do with what you got, right?

Then attempt to use a far-too-short 1×1″ to make the luff curve.

IMG_0498

Then draw out the leech and foot using the tape measure and 1×1.

Trigonometry, I hate you.

Trigonometry, I hate you.

Second guessing myself, I decided to move the luff line back 2 inches. You can see the original lines nearest the wall. This shot has the tape along the curves of the luff and foot.

Double stick tape in place, ready for cuttin'!

Double stick tape in place, ready for cuttin’!

All cut out along the outside of the tape edges.
IMG_0502

Starting to look sail-ish...

Starting to look sail-ish…

I put a v-dart at the tack to give the sail some belly. On my next one, i think I’ll be adding a much deeper dart. Here’s the double stick tape adhered to me with the pattern for the darts: It’s a 12″ piece that will be cut on the diagonal, so when the tape is laid next to the dart, it gets folded in. Nice and neat.

Removing my hand from this was harder than I want to admit.

Removing my hand from this was harder than I want to admit.

Up next, the reinforcing rope. This runs the length of the sail to give it strength, and also works as a means to control the shape. I picked this up on the cheap at the local hardware store this morning. Also, 100′ means I’ll have plenty to make additional sails.

Twisted. Just like my back after sitting on the basement floor for hours... :(

Twisted. Just like my back after sitting on the basement floor for hours… 🙁

I anchored the rope about 8″ past the bottom of the tack, and started sealing the double stick tape over it. In hindsight, I could have likely gone halfway into the tape with no issues. Perhaps the next sail will have a different style. Once I got a rhythm down, I was able to seal up the rope fairly quickly.
IMG_0507

Super sweet action shots!

Tucking the rope deep into the fold.

Tucking the rope deep into the fold.

Pulling the backing off the tape and smoothing as I go.

Pulling the backing off the tape and smoothing as I go.

Aww yeah... Smooth.

Aww yeah… Smooth.

Once I made it all the way around the sail, I realized I would need to connect the ends together somehow. But what way? Knot? Lash? How about a splice? It’s been years since I’ve done a splice, but with the help of the internet I managed to get it done. I started with the left side, which looks janky, the right is a bit better. Either way, I pulled as hard on it as I could and it held fast. That’s all I was after.

If anyone wants to donate an Ashley Book of Knots, I'm totally willing to receive one!

If anyone wants to donate an Ashley Book of Knots, I’m totally willing to receive one!

I added a bit of extra vinyl tape for support at the head. Molly picked brown as the color of choice, in reference to the Browncoats, in keeping with the boat’s Firefly theme. The tack and clew still need to be finished off with more tape.

Stripey, how stylish!

Stripey, how stylish!

So what’s left for the sail? Not much, tape and grommets. Sadly, the grommets that Molly was nice enough to purchase have gone missing. Those need to be found, or new ones will need to be purchased. Aside from those two relatively minor delays, it’s looking pretty much like a finished sail!

IMG_0514

    Puddle Duck To-Do List:

  • Finish sail.
  • Assemble rudder, make sure it’s heavy enough to sink with the current weight.
  • Add blocks and cleats to the tiller.
  • Mast step and deck
  • MOAR PAINT
  • Go sailing!

Sewing Projects on Study Breaks

All the sail making supplies have arrived from Amazon, and I’ve been completely swamped in homework for the last two weeks. Not that I mind so much, really. Physics this semester is WAY better than last, I even got a high B on my first exam. (As opposed to last semester, 30% was my average on the first two exams. Yuck.)

I’m still plugging away at schooling, as it comes first, so when there’s time for breaks, I try to sneak something productive in there. Tonight’s task: Figure out what to do with this HUGE spool of poly thread. After much research online, I had picked up some V69 Poly Thread for my sails. It’s high tensile strength, UV resistant, and I fully expect it will outlive the sail itself.

Also, the spool it came on is made for a much more robust machine than mine. As you can see here, there is NO was that was gonna work on my trusty Kenmore…

Large spool is large.

Large spool is large.

I had to Google “How do I use an ENORMOUS spool of thread with my sewing machine?”. As it turns out, there’s a device that is made to solve this problem. You can buy a “Cone Thread Holder” for less than $10.

That simply would not do. Since I needed a study break, I decided to scavenge my office for parts to make one of my own.

  1. Old CD Spindle
  2. Zip ties
  3. Steel wire (~12 gauge)
  4. Rubber feet

Construction was pretty simple. After bending the wire to fit around the inside of the base, I fed about 16″ through one of the holes in the spindle and twisted a loop into the top. Then, zip-tied the wire to the base, and added the feet to help keep it in place.

Mmm. Rubber feet.

Mmm. Rubber feet.

And the finished product sitting in my Buffalo Bill-esque sewing room:
IMG_0493

The smaller loop in the wire was intended to cut down on the thread swinging all over the place when running at higher speeds. Unfortunately, it was eyeballed, and thus about 2 inches too low, and the thread binds on it.

First tests runs winding bobbins went very well. I managed to get 4 of them threaded without a single snag. I’m still troubled by how much the thread “dances” on the wire. It seems to have a tendency to wind itself backwards over the loop in the wire. If there’s one major annoyance when running a sewing machine, it’s having the thread bind or break mid-stitch. Eventually, I’ll want to work out a solution there.

Here is winding the last bobbin, and the basic setup:
IMG_0495

Back to physics homework!

Sewing Machines and Sails

The last couple of weeks have found me obsessed with sailing again. Perhaps it’s the insanely cold weather we’ve been having. Cabin fever mixed with a healthy lust for summer days and daydreams of warm breezes on my skin… Yes, that would explain it nicely.

At any rate, I’ve been trying to find things to work on until the snow melts. The sail was the first thing that came to mind. It is also one part of the project I’ve been least looking forward to. Maybe it’s the fear of screwing it up, or over-complicating it in my mind. To alleviate those concerns, I’ve spent a LOT of time milling over articles about sail design at the Puddle Duck Racer website, as well as the nice instructions over at PolySail International

I’d decided on a Bolger 59 (aka: Leg o’ Mutton) a long time ago. It’s an extremely popular sail for Puddle Ducks for a number of reasons; a nice high spirit boom and ease of construction being towards the top of that list. Getting down to design, I started by plotting out the rough shape on some graph paper.

IMG_0479

What I ended up finding out, was that I should have enough poly tarp to make TWO sails from that one sheet. Not a bad thing to discover if one is as cost conscious as I am! Something I need to keep in mind before cutting, is that the sail only has ONE straight edge: the leech. Both the luff and the foot have a slight curve to them to shape the sail. Meaning the layout on the bottom will need to be shuffled around with the leech edges along the length of the tarp.

IMG_0488

Most of the supplies I need to make the sails are here now, after a hefty order to Amazon. I might get a sail kit for PolySail next time around. We’ll see how these sails turn out first. (Why yes, I am planning to build a second PDR!)

After a couple email exchanges with Shorty (from the PDR site) and Dave at PolySail about the sewing the sails vs only taping them, I settled on sewing. That meant making sure the sewing machine was ready for the task. I quickly discovered that my machine, while capable of zig zag stitching, simply was not. Adjusting the stitch width would move the needle laterally, but it would still only make straight stitches.

Frustrating… I popped the cover and then spent about 20 minutes with the manual going over every oil point in the machine from top to bottom. There was a considerable improvement in the smoothness in the machine’s operation, but still no zig zag stitch. I’d resigned myself to taking it to a shop but continued doing some research online. Most people with similar problems seemed to fix it by going over every linkage and making sure nothing was binding. No point in taking it to a shop to do that, so joint by joint I traced all the movement to an actuator that was gummed up with lint and oil. A bit of oil and wiggling and voila, the needle is now dancing side to side. Time for a test!

I've seen worse, I think...

I’ve seen worse, I think…

Wonder how the back looks?

OH, NO...

OH, NO…

At this point it was getting late, and far more progress had been made than expected, so I left the nasty stitches for tomorrow. A new day and some further research into thread tension settings and I came up with this beauty:

Hey! That's looking better!

Hey! That’s looking better!

I set the tension to 3, and toyed a bit with the stitch length control and came up with that. Here’s the back:

IMG_0483

YES! No birds nests, all the stitches look clean and even… I think we’re ready for the real thing. Just waiting for my V-69 thread, and I’ll get to cutting the sails. More updates to follow!

The softer side…

Spent the day out at Minnesota Renaissance Festival with the girlfriend’s band, The Dregs. Ran into Jeff from The Ridiculous Puppet Company and was inspiried to get back to work on a puppet project I’ve had on the WAY back burner for months now.

13 - 1

I probably won’t be posting a lot of updates on this one until it’s done, since it’s supposed to be a semi-surprise.

This is my second puppet build, and this one has an increased pattern size. My hand doesn’t even fit into the first one I built. So far, I’ve been using the Glorified Sock puppet pattern from Project Puppet. Strictly speaking; I’m still not finished with my first one, though he’s close. Kind of a disappointment that his neck is so narrow, since he’s kind of adorable in a doofy sort of way.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I’ll get back on the Puddle Duck tomorrow. Until then, a little tune to head to bed…