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Eastport Pram Build #13: Sailmaking 101…

Making the sail was probably the most challenging part of the entire build as it was a totally new skillset for me. I bought the Mark II kit from Sailrite. The Mark II kit is the higher aspect ratio (pointier peak) and in my humble opinion, considerably more attractive than the original almost square sail. With the sail, grommets and the grommet installation tools, it was about $250. The wind is free, but nothing else is…

It takes a few minutes to lay out all the parts to understand where everything goes…

I also have to make a confession that at this point in the build, I was under a time crunch to get it done so I could hit my target date of my previously scheduled vacation (the state park was going to close for the season). Add to that the difficulty of wrangling the large panels of Dacron and there are considerably fewer photos taken of this step. Sorry.

Let’s talk about the link above. When I was buying, I didn’t know that link existed, or it’s pretty new. Either way, there are a whole lot more options as I’m writing this than when I busted out my credit card six months ago. I got the regular Dacron with one reef point (doubt I’ll be dinghy sailing if it gets much over 16 knots). I did not know about the batten options, but full length battens for $100 on an 8′ pram seem kinda silly to me. I did have a tanbark upgrade option for $100, which I opted out of, but I have another confession: before I sewed a single stitch, I traced each panel in the kit onto painter’s poly tarp so I can make another exact copy of the sail out of any material cheap and easy. My kit came with the Dacron tape reinforced luff and I didn’t know about the boltrope option. A boltrope luff is a nice feature on a classic boat. I opted for a loose-footed sail because I feel that gives me more control of the sail shape. Adding a clear plastic window was not discussed with me at the time of purchase, but the lug is above my head and there’s no jib, so it was also a non-issue. A sailbag for less than $30 would definitely be worth it, so I’ll contact them to see if I can maybe opt in on that one after the fact. My kit was “cross cut”. I did not know that vertical cut was an option, but I don’t really know if that would’ve made much difference. I think horizontal seams look more traditional. Having them build the kit costs an extra $250, so it was worth it for me monetarily, learning a new skill and for the bragging rights to do it myself. Please don’t misconstrue any of the comments in the above paragraph in any way to mean that Jeff and the whole gang at Sailrite aren’t the best. They are always great to work with and very patient with sharing their esoteric knowledge with newbies like me. I did also buy the grommet cutter and anvil tools (which aren’t cheap) because I don’t plan on this being the only sail I ever make.

Reef point reinforcement patch = 7 layers!

The good news is that I used my domestic sewing machine, not an industrial one. My Brother CS6000i cost considerably less than $200. I also got the UV resistant thread from Sailrite, so I had to get the appropriate needles for the machine. I think they were “denim” needles. Anyway, before sewing anything together, I read the instruction manual twice. It was very confusing. They talk about strategically sewing together sub-assemblies to make sewing the larger panels together easier. Then they contradict themselves on the timeline of certain steps. My sewing machine had considerable trouble punching through the 7 layers of Dacron in places. More than half way through the process, I discovered that I could “help” the sewing machine by pressing on the foot with a flat-bladed screwdriver. Before that, there was much cussing and fussing. At one point, I didn’t think I was going to be able to actually make the sail with the machine. I almost took my machine in for a tune-up, which cost almost as much as the machine. In the end, I had to tweak the thread tension adjustments numerous times to get a decent stitch. Good thing they include a bunch of scrap with the kit!

So back to the critical path, basically if you can sew a reef point reinforcement patch or a batten pocket onto a single panel, do it first! In some cases, those features span two panels that need to be sewn together prior to installing the feature, but it’s still better. Toward the end of the assembly, you’re dealing with 40 square feet of super slick, stiff and heavy cloth that’s over an arm span long in any direction. I was using my giant bench at work and it still kept falling off and getting dirty. Sigh…

Batten pocket with elastic sprung batten semi-permanently installed…

Ironically for an almost 2D sail, you have to be good at imagining what this damn thing is going to look like in 3D as a finished product. All the seams on the flat panels are slight arcs which when sewn together make a curved surface. That was kind of a mind blower. Anyway, there were a few places where I had to bust out the seam ripper and start over. But like with most boat building blogs, there’s always the “next boat”.

With regards to the “next boat” syndrome, it looks like I might be tackling the Passagemaker, the larger version of this pram. It will most probably be outfitted with either Egyptian cream or tanbark sails!

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