Sail repair is a daunting thought for me. Unfortunately, when you travel to remote places if you damage your sails you are often stuck repairing them yourself. The longer you are out sailing the higher the chance of needing to do a sail repair or sail maintenance. If you are lucky you may find a boat in the anchorage that offers sail repairs, or possibly a local will have some skills, but this is rarely the case. There are some sail repair essentials you should keep on the boat.
When we first started cruising, I got myself stocked up with what I thought was everything I needed for a sail repair. I was by no means a seamstress, the last time I sewed was in high school, and then only because I had to. I bought a Sailrite LSZ-1 machine and have found it very useful. Over the past 2 years, I have made a new stack pack/lazy bag, recovered my salon cushions, cockpit cushions, and most recently replaced the sun protection on our genoa sail.
The Sailrite is a great sturdy sewing machine. I find that I have to take the time to ensure that the stitches are properly centered for every new set of materials I am going to sew. Getting the stitches set up perfectly is time-consuming and irritating, although, once all is set up the sewing machine does a wonderful job.
I have had the machine go out of timing which is fiddly and difficult to fix. Fortunately, my son is very good at resetting it, so he normally does it for me. I love the fact that you can adjust and repair the machine yourself. The guidebook has great instructions for those times when you are away from internet access. Would I buy one again? Yes absolutely. It has more than paid for itself and has saved me a ton of money. I recommend a Sailrite as one of my sail repair essentials.
Whether you are interested in splashing out for a Sailrite or not, I highly recommend buying a speedy stitcher for your sail repair essentials kit. In my opinion, the speedy stitcher the best sail repair tool I have come across. When I was replacing my genoa sunshade a few weeks ago, my Sailrite was not able to sew through the Clew, Tack, and Head of the sail. It was so thick that it didn’t even fit in the machine.
Luckily for me, a friend of mine was anchored in the same bay. We were talking about my sewing job, I was saying how I had no idea how I would stitch through the thick parts of my sail. She told me about the speedy stitcher and let me borrow hers. She said, “No one should leave shore without a speedy stitcher on their boat.” I totally agree!
When you buy a speedy stitcher buy some extra needles for the speedy stitcher as I, unfortunately, broke one of them on the Head of the sail where the sail was too thick, even for the speedy stitcher. After breaking the needle, I used a drill with the smallest drill bit I could find and drilled through the sail. I then put the speedy stitcher into the tiny holes I had drilled and sewed up the sail with the speedy stitcher.
I would never have been able to finish the job in time for our weather window to Tahiti had it not been for my wonderful friend loaning me her speedy stitcher.
Other Sail Repair Essentials
The only other way I would have been able to repair the sail without the speedy stitcher is by using a sailmaker’s palm (these come for left and right-hand use make sure you buy the correct one for you), needles, and wax covered thread.
People also recommend having Awls in your sail repair kit. But, I found that using my drill with a tiny drill bit was an easier, faster solution. If you are using a drill, make sure the holes aren’t too big, you still want to struggle a bit to get the needle through the hole. If it is difficult, use your pliers to pull it through the hole.
Make Sure to Included In Your Sail Repair Kit
- A good pair of Scissors, seam rippers, and thread snippers are essential, you can buy this on Amazon.
- Sail Material, Sunbrella, and a patch of leather are always good to have on hand if possible.
- Basting tape is very useful to hold your patch in place so it doesn’t move while sewing it.
- Adhesive Dacron repair patch, There are two large patches in the kit one for each side of the sail for larger repairs.
- Ripstop nylon repair tape is fantastic for small fixes and where the sails have chaffed.
- Sail patch repair tape, is clear tape that gets stuck directly onto the rip, remember to put it on both sides of the sail.
- Culinary Torch to burn lines and frayed material. Our culinary torch is also one of my essential galley tools
- If you are heading offshore it is good to have a grommet kit with a few extra grommets.
With the right tools, sail repair jobs don’t need to be daunting. I hope that this list of sail repair essentials is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any other sail repair essentials that you wouldn’t want to leave shore without. I’d love to hear from you.