(computer drawings of Chebacco sails courtesy
Been doing some research on sails
for the Chebacco I’ll be building.
(wife says "I would have started it
different..." So, Hi, I'm your editor. My name is Richard Spelling, I
make boats. Among other things. I'm making a machine shop from scratch
right now. I'll post an article about me later. I have the plans for
the Chebacco light cruiser (the one with the pilot house that kind of makes it
look like a car) and will be building it. I've been doing some research on
As I understand it, there are
basically two options if you want good dacron sails for your Chebacco. Well,
there are actual three options, but I did say “good sails”.
The first option, the one I have
concerns with, it to have your local sail maker make you some sails for your new
I have two minor issues with going this
route for my boat. The first is price, which from what I've heard, would put this
option on the high side. Never actually asked for a quote from one, though. I'm a
guessing it would be high. This would be a custom, one of a kind, never made
this type of sail before job for your local sail maker. 99.9%ish of the sails
made around here are the familiar triangle, high aspect, sloop rig sails. Which
brings me to the second issue I have with going this route. It appears that
cutting gaff sails, and mizzen sails as well, is something of a lost art. The
cut of the sails is nothing like the cut of the main or the jib on a sloop. I
find it unlikely the sail makers here in Tulsa, Oklahoma know the proper way to
cut a gaff and a mizzen sail. Actually, at the local lake, I had one person
comment that my AF2 Entropy was the only boat on the lake with a gaff rig.
Also, I've seen Micros, the venerable Bolger cat-yawl, with
to much draft in the mizzen. The higher entry angel on the mizzen causing the
boat to self-steer about 15 degrees lower than the Micro can go.
So, if the local sail makers are out, where does that leave
one? There is one firm I'm aware of (there may be others) that make a lot of the
sails for Bolger boats. Bohndell.
To see if they were up to speed, I sent them an email asking
for the specs on their Chebacco sails. Here is what they wrote back:
The Chebacco is not a
stock sail. Price for the gaff sail plan is $978 and $850 for the sprit plan.
Please allow four to six weeks for delivery. Please call or write if you have
any questions. Sue Chace
Can you send me the specs on the Chebacco sails, the gaff version?
How much hollow in the leach?
How much round in the foot, luff, and head?
Where is maximum draft located?
for the mizzen.
What kind of provisions are on the sail for connections to the mast hoops?
What kind of grommets?
Available in any colors other than white? If so, what price?
What kind of warranty comes with them?
Dear Mr. Spelling, Here are the
specs you requested. Please understand that gaff sails cannot be designed on a
computer, they must be done by floor layout, so these figures are approximate.
Main: 3/4" head round, 3" foot round, and 2" on the luff. Leech hollow about 4".
Maximum draft will be about 40% aft of the luff. Mizzen: 2" leech hollow, 1"
luff round and 2.5" on the foot. That sail will be fairly flat. We would be
installing #l brass spur grommets on the luff for lashing on the hoops. We do
not provide hoops. We would not recommend colored Dacron for these sails. The
gaff main will be leech planked, the best fabric for this purpose is warp
oriented, and is not available in colors. Furthermore, it would be difficult to
match colors in two different weights, the main is quoted in 5.1 oz. and the
mizzen in 3.9 oz. As for the warranty: We guarantee that if you have built the
spars to plan, the sails will fit. After that, owner use and abuse will have the
most effect on the longevity of the sails. Sail covers, or removing the sails
will greatly increase the life of any sail. At this point, our earliest delivery
date is August 15th. Thank you for your inquiry, Sue Chace
So, it appears, to my admittedly
limited experience, that Bohndell knows what they are doing. Ignoring the part
about “gaff sails cannot be designed on a computer”. I assume that means “gaff
sails cannot be designed on a computer on the software we have”.
The next option I’m thinking
of is a Sailrite kit. I went that route for the main on my AF2 Although, next
time I won't do it on the floor. OUCH!. I bothered Jeff at Sailrite for a couple
of months with emails, finding out EXACTLY how he would design the sail for
Entropy. Actually, I got enough information out of him to cut the sail myself if
I had wanted to. The kit price was reasonable, not a whole lot more than the
price of the raw dacron.
So I bought the kit, for about twice
the amount I had already thrown away on poly tarp sails. It went together easily
with the seam stick tape, and I sewed it on my cheap Wal-Mart sewing machine. At
one point I was punching through 11 layers of dacron, with no problem.
I have to say that I am happy
with it, and with the experience of making it., so, a Sailrite kit for the new
boat was definitely a consideration. I wrote Sailrite, and asked them basically
the same questions I asked Bohndell. Here is their reply:
Thanks for your questions,
Richard. If you have not found our web pages on the Chebacco, check out the
The fabric is 4 oz Dacron
from Challenge. The shape of the sail can be anything you desire, i.e., leech
hollow, edge round, draft location. But these are not matters that can be easily
described without the 15 or so pages that the computer prints out on each sail
we do (output that you receive when you order a kit). I hope you will just tell
us for this first sail that you want the sail a bit fuller or flatter than
normal or the draft a bit further forward or aft of normal or the leech hollow a
little more or less than normal.
We provide #2 spur grommets in the kit for use in securing the sail to its spars. These sails are normally laced in place but you can use hoops if you desire.
Dr. Richard Burnham of Cummington, MA, just finished a set of Chebacco kits. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Jim Grant at Sailrite
basically he says “we can make it any way you want, buy it and we will tell you
how it’s made, see our web page”. Kind of a disappointment, especially as how
their web page says “Gaff mainsail made from 5 oz. white Dacron© using the
designer's plans”, and I was wanting to get info on the “designer’s plans” for
Also, Sailrite has the sail kits
available in various colors. Perhaps they aren’t aware of “We would not
recommend colored Dacron for these sails. The gaff main will be leech planked,
the best fabric for this purpose is warp oriented, and is not available in
colors” Actually, I think the leech on the Sailrite kit either uses tape, or
is folded down a bunch of times like on the sail for my AF2. Maybe that is what
”leech planked” means? Have to ask.
Leech planked: The panels are
parallel to the leech of the sail rather than the foot (cross cut), eliminating
the need for battens. Let us know if you have any other questions. Sue
So, it appears the Sailrite kit is
“cross cut”. Wouldn't’t “Leech hollow about 4" eliminate the need for battens?…
Still, I had such a good experience
with them doing the sail for my AF2, I decided to give them the benefit of the
doubt. I contacted Dr. Burnham and picked his brain.
He even volunteered to write a couple of paragraphs for the
Here goes on putting the sails
Sailrite kits were suggested to us
by Phil Bolger who said that the Chebacco needed a full main and that he had
information that Sailrite did it right. My wife, Ulla, and I got the three sail
kits in the dead of winter and were looking things over when we called Jeff at
Sailrite who suggested an order of making: mizzen, jib, main. The mizzen is flat
and easy to make, the jib has a steel cable and some draft, and the main is the
I must mention the "why" of the jib.
My wife and I like to sail together but she is not about to be a knitter at sea
-- she too wants to be part of the sailing. In years past tending the jib on a
racing sailboat was her part as I handled the main and the tiller. We hope to
carry on this good working relationship aboard our Chebacco-to-be.
We used our venerable home sewing
machine which handled every single job that Sailrite suggested for it --
patches, edging, seaming, hemming of boltrope and cable, reef points. The
machine is a Husqvarna some 23 years old and when we had it serviced as we
started the sewing adventure there were some broken gears but the machine had a
25 year warranty! The after-sail servicing showed that the machine did the job
without stress. The material for main and mizzen was 4.9 oz. dacron and the jib
was 4.0 oz. Sometimes we sewed through 7 or more layers of cloth --
clunk-clunk-clunk went the Husqy.
The way we built the sails was
this: I used the sticky-tape to stick the seams together. Patches were given to
Ulla who ran them through the machine. The sail panels were sewn using a
Sailrite genius-stroke: we got a 10' long 4" diameter cardboard tube from a
local carpet supplier (free), cut it longitudinally so we could slip a rolled up
sail inside it. I would hold the tube on the port side of the machine while Ulla
guided the taped seam through the machine (she rolled up a small amount of sail
by hand and ran it under the machine's arm. She didn't care for sewing on the
floor so mostly she stood up at the table feeding the sail through while I
slow-walked the tube along.
Whenever we had questions, Jeff at Sailrite's 800-number was there
with more than enough information to keep us on the right path. All
ingredients were supplied for the sails although we bought a small die set
and rented the large #6 set for a week. Now the sails are in the loft, Ulla
is looking after her weaving and sheep, and I'm building the boat.
that’s about it. I think both Bohndell and Sailrite will give you a good set of
sails. If you have more money than time/skill, the Bohndell sails are a good
deal. For me, though, I’m thinking the Sailrite kit for the new boat. The
deciding factors over going the Bohndell route being the much lower price, and
the availability of the colored versions, and the fact I think they do the best
design work on gaff sails.