Keeping Sails on for the Winter

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Was just curious how many North Westerners leave their sails up all through the winter? I've always removed mine and stored them indoors about this time of year. My main concern about leaving them up is that they'll never get a chance to properly dry out during our long rainy season. A properly flaked main under a sunbrella cover seems like it might fare okay, but a furled headsail must get damp beneath the UV-strip. How would it ever dry out? Do those that leave their sails up have problems with mold?
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
The solution is to sail year round! Take advantage of those sunny, plus 5 - 8 degree days to enjoy the boat, get everything moving again (blocks, lines, engine, and yourself ☺), and dry out the sails.
I've left our sails on for the past 13 years on Vancouver Island with no issues. If you don't have time to sail, even raising sails at the dock gives them a chance to dry out.
But if you really won't use the boat from November to April, you are better off removing them, checking them carefully for wear and loose threads, and storing them in a warm, dry place.
Frank
 

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
I pull mine (I did it last weekend). They're currently sitting dry and folded in my (semi-heated) workshop.

I also "tie up" my halyards - I pull them out of the deck organizer and tie them up off the deck, largely because if I leave them down they get green with grunge and leave ugly stripes along the deck.

It takes... less than an hour to go from this state to ready-to-sail if I happen to be free on a day nice enough to sail.

Dunno that it makes sense for anyone else, but having spent much of my life taking all the "race gear" off a boat at the end of each race, it doesn't bother me to take care of the sailing gear at the end of each season. Especially if it means I get a few more seasons out of the sails. Plus I've seen more than a few furled jibs become unfurled - even just a little - and then converted to scraps in winter windstorms around here.

As a counter-point, my next-slip-neighbor leaves his up all year, both main and furled headsail tightly wrapped with a few layers of bungie cords, and it doesn't seem to be harming their sailing shape... although it is "just" a Catalina (sneering)

$.02
Bruce
 

Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
I liveaboard and sail all winter so I keep mine on. I did just get a laminate headsail, though, and have heard that you are much more likely to encounter mold/mildew issues on a roller-furled laminate sail than you are a roller-furled dacron sail. Just gonna have to make sure to get out and sail when I can :)
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Well, for what it's worth, 95 percent of the cruising boats around me leave sails on all year. Includes me.

I get nervous if the sails aren't aired at least once a month (but then this isn't a psychiatry forum--or is it?).

People here get mold, evidenced as small spots. Its appearance defies logic. A scrupulous dockmate got it on his brand new genoa after one season furled in the slip. Boy was he unhappy and ranting up and down the dock. But I , next to him, got very little if any. Many old beat-up genoas have none despite years of 24/7.

The new sail materials don't rot or discolor, and are basically impervious to water. But not to sun and dirt.

We are told dirt and mildew/spots/discoloration are linked and that dirt is a medium. So I scrub the dirt off the sails all winter during any 90-degree day, as it also excerises the hose, and me.

People in Boston are too lazy to do that, and that's probably why they have to take their sails home.
 
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supersailor

Sustaining Member
When asked if my sails needed cleaning by a sail cleaning firm at the Seattle Boat Show, I said no. She asked if I cleaned them. I said no, I take them off the boat every winter and store them in the men's master closet. She said they would be out of business if everyone did that.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
As Bob points out, our damp and cool NW weather is not kind to sails left on. I take off our RF jib in late November, each year, for 25 years.
I used to take off the main also, but a few years ago put on a new "split" cover with incorporated lazy jacks. This lets me now use my older larger cover as a secondary cover over the whole thing, put on when dry of course.
I got this idea from another friend that has been using his old cover over his "newer" one in the winters for at least 15 years.
Only caveat is to start out with a dry sail - and then keep it that way.

And the few times I left the RF jib up into the rainy season it did indeed have some mildew on it where rain water followed the spiral windings down inside. Not a pleasant sight.

No slight on those hardy souls that sail their boats throughout the winters; everyone has different priorities.
Some folks that I know brag about being out sailing in snow storms. Oh My. :rolleyes:
 

Wannasailsoon

Member II
FB85B27C-04B9-4E69-BDDD-C7A2C09134C0.jpg
...Some folks that I know brag about being out sailing in snow storms. Oh My. :rolleyes:[/QUOTE said:
I did make a snowman last year on the boat post snowstorm, but not sure about sailing in the snow. Although, I have been know to kayak in the snow :rolleyes:

This will be our first full winter with our boat, but we were sailing from January last year and plan to sail as much as we possibly can on weekends, but the short days will reduce our ability to get out during the week.


Shannon
 
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toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
There are often some glorious sailing days in winter. There are also some winters where the marina freezes over for a month. The trick is to rub the crystal ball properly to determine what will happen next month.

If I'm sure I won't be sailing for a month, I de-rig the boat. I don't always guess correctly though. After there's a foot of snow on the deck and everything's frozen, it gets difficult and a little dangerous...

IMG_1694.jpg
Actually, just the week before this photo was taken, we had some great sailing. But IIRC, it took at least a month after that before the ice cleared out of the marina.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
When it's good, it's very good

Sailing this "late" in the fall has its good days tho. Yesterday afternoon I and a couple of friends took our boat out for about 2 hours. Only used - or needed - the 97% jib. Winds in high teens to mid 20's out of the east and we tacked up the river in fine style.

Without the slot effect of the (furled) main, we had to dial it in, to weather, slowly. When pointing high we were over 7 kts often. Slower on the reach and run.
Temps in the 40's and sunny. That wind finally chilled us enough that we decided we'd had enough fun for one afternoon.
:egrin:

Biggest challenge was exiting and re-entering our slip! :)
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
First time I ever sailed in Puget Sound it snowed. Working bow on a 6-meter, and those things are hard enough to stay on when they're level and dry...
Several years ago, we were out on the lower river during Xmas week. It was a little freaky - frost was forming and melting on deck every few minutes, in the fog. What was firm footing one minute was frictionless, the next. At the same time, one of the boats forming up nearby for the lighted boat parade lost a man overboard. Nobody saw him go. The body didn’t float up until April...

Even thought it’s “inland waters,” jacklines and harnesses might be a good idea for winter months.

On a lighter note, back in the 90’s my friends and I made it a rule to get over to the San Juans for a dive trip at least once every month, all year round. The friends with the nicest, warmest, mobo had so much nice carpeting and stuff in the salon that they instituted a “no wetsuits inside” rule. But I didn’t have a drysuit at the time. Numerous times, I was out in the cockpit, stripping down to my speedo in the snow, trying to get it (the wetsuit) off before hypothermia set in. Then I’d drop down into the engine room and sit in between the twin diesels for a while... at least until my skin wasn’t blue any more.

This is a primary reason why I never want to have a boat that is too nice. If it’s too delicate to have fun on, what’s the point?
 
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toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Sailing this "late" in the fall has its good days tho. Yesterday afternoon I and a couple of friends took our boat out for about 2 hours. Only used - or needed - the 97% jib. Winds in high teens to mid 20's out of the east and we tacked up the river in fine style.

Without the slot effect of the (furled) main, we had to dial it in, to weather, slowly. When pointing high we were over 7 kts often. Slower on the reach and run.
Temps in the 40's and sunny. That wind finally chilled us enough that we decided we'd had enough fun for one afternoon.
:egrin:

Biggest challenge was exiting and re-entering our slip! :)
Yeah, the Gorge Wind Engine reverses itself somewhat in the winter, and you guys get a little taste of our daily blow. Those are generally kayak days here. Except yesterday... it was 20 @#!*& degrees F. Not even November yet, and I’m already tired of long underwear. Sunday, we had a nice little 5-8 knot east wind and everyone was out with all the canvas flying. One of those “Grey Poupon” days!
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Thanks for the input. Frank's idea of sailing year-round was clearly the best. However, I still travel sometimes half the month for work, which is probably more dry days than we'll have every month around here until March. Miss one dry spell, and my sails could be sitting damp and unused for weeks.

I pulled them last last Thursday.
 

Kevin A Wright

Member III
<This is a primary reason why I never want to have a boat that is too nice. If it’s too delicate to have fun on, what’s the point? >

Boy I'm with you on that! Never wanted a boat that I had to worry about mud from a crab pot, ding from a weight belt, or blood from a salmon messing up the finish. Sure be careful and clean, but boats are made to be used, not stared at.

I guess I'm in the middle on the sail question. I leave the main on year round, but like to take the genoa off for the winter. However, as I store it folded in the quarterberth the timing of this removal is a big question. Need to do it on a dry day but the later in the season you wait the less chance of getting a dry day to do it on. I missed my normal slot this year being out of the country for work the last 3 weeks. Now I've got to get a weekend with good weather lined up. If I'm not careful it will be left on all winter this year.

Kevin Wright
E35 Hydro Therapy
 
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