(computer drawings of Chebacco sails courtesy Sailrite)

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 Chebacco sails...)

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 Chebacco.
 
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?
What weight sailcloth?
How much hollow in the leach?
How much round in the foot, luff, and head?
Where is maximum draft located?
Same 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 following:

http://secure.Sailrite.com/searchprods.asp?searchstring=CHEBACCO
 
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 dick@talkingcrow.net.
Jim Grant at Sailrite

So, 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 these sails.

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 Chace

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 new Chebacco!

Here goes on putting the sails together:

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 most challenging.

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.
Cheers,
Dick

Well, 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.