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Washing of sails.


Michael Bradshaw
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Salt water is a good preservative (before "colour fast" dyes it was used to "set the colour dyes into fabrics) and as such it is a lot better for the long life of sails than any "tap water" that has so many chemicals in it that are actually harmful to the fabrics IE chlorine, fluoride, etc, so I have always just dried my sails for the last forty years before putting them away and never washed/rinsed them down with tap water. I have sets of sails at home that were put away in the early eighties and never had the salt washed off of them, and they are still in excellent condition.

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Darryl, so you have never washed your sails? I was always told that you should rinse them often to get the salt off. Is this an 'old way of thinking' due to new materials used for the sail? I have always given them a final rinse at the end of the season, let them fully dry and then put them away. Have always found the sails kept well this way.

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I wouldn’t drink most “tap” waters with all the “crap” that is put in them to try to kill all the other “crap” that is already in there, let alone smear all those chemicals over my sails. Not only do I not wash off the salt but at least once a season I will lay out the sail in sea water with the batten tension off until it is thoroughly “wet”, then run it up the mast to dry pulling on all the luff tension that I can to stretch out the bolt rope as bolt ropes tend to contract over time and the sail becomes much harder to “flatten” whilst sailing. This saves loosening off the boltrope and restitching it into a new position. I only do this when the boltrope is a “rope”.

With the “push up” luffs, which are basically high pressure hydraulic tube it is not necessary, As far as the stitching is concerned, all stitching is polyester/synthetic thread and should be unaffected by salt water. The stitching will usually wear out by “rubbing” or being over extended or just long exposure to UV light, well before it would break down through contact with anything in seawater.

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