Sail Removal 2014

Sail removal time....
Sail removal time….

Finally a day with sunshine, warmer temperatures and lower winds. Finally it’s winter sail removal time. I’ve been anxious about leaving the sails up while traveling abroad. And now I’ve been home almost a week, but the weather’s been rainy, cold and windy. Not optimal de-rigging conditions.

Of course, there’s still that pesky winter storage cover that I need to install. (Read: […] that I need to learn how to install.) But that will hopefully happen by week’s end. First, those sails need to come down and get stored for the winter.

Get the Sails Off the Boat!

No matter where you sail… if you’re planning to be away from your boat for any length of time, take the sails down and pack them up… That’s particularly true, say the sailmakers with whom I spoke, for seasonal sailors who store their boat for the winter, either on the hard or in the water.

English: Vessal seen from below
Vessal seen from below (Photo: Wikipedia)

“The biggest thing you’ve got to do is get them off the boat for the wintertime. Never, never leave a sailed furled or on the mast,” says UK Halsey Sailmakers’ Adam Loory.

When sails are left furled for long periods of time, water can find its way into them, and they won’t dry. Where there’s water, mildew soon follows, and eventually it gets into the laminates, where it can do serious damage and even cause the laminates to separate. Not to mention that winter gales can turn a mainsail cover to rags or find a way to unfurl even a tightly wrapped headsail. (Cruising World)

I know it’s true. And I probably should have had the boat hauled earlier so that I could remove the sails before exiting to France and Italy. But having bought her so recently I wanted to squeeze in all possible sailing time before abbreviating the season. Now I was paying the piper…

Once your sailing’s done, strip off the sails as soon as you can, advises Chris Pitts at North Atlantic Sails, in Newport, Rhode Island… [The Sails should] be stored in a dry place in which the temperature is relatively constant. A dry basement is ideal. Don’t leave them in the boat… In very cold climes, notes Pitts, the windows in a headsail can crack if the mercury dips too low. (Cruising World)

So today was finally my chance to remove the mainsail and headsail for the winter.

Early this afternoon I headed off to the marina where Errant is hibernating on the hard. I was surprised to discover how many boats and docks had filled in the boatyard. Not much space left! Fortunately I was able to drive to within about 20′ of my boat which made the afternoon’s chores easier. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You see, the trouble was that I’d never before removed the sails from a vessel this size. Smaller boats, yes, but this was new territory. I poured over the manuals, but nothing explained the process.

Sail Removal Instructions

So I turned to the internets. I searched for instructions on removing sails from a Catalina 310. Nothing. So I tried to find instructions on removing sails in general. I managed to garner some general pointers, but it was this video that helped most of all.

I would have preferred less Charlie Chaplin and more verbal guidance, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?

I also came across a pair of helpful videos posted by members of the Navy Sailing crew. Derigging the Main and Derigging the Jib offer detailed instructions for a smaller, simpler vessel, but both offered helpful instruction that accelerated my learning curve.

Time to head off to the Willsboro Bay Marina to remove my sails. I’ll post a progress report soon. I hope…

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