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Sailing

2014_July-Window-Cleaning

Making a full boat enclosure, dodger or other project that uses a large amount of clear vinyl requires an investment of both time and money. The best way to protect your investment is to take good care of your canvas and vinyl to ensure that they stay looking nice for years to come. Good clear vinyl care doesn’t take a lot of work. Today we’re going to share how to clean and store your vinyl goods to keep them looking shiny and new.

Be diligent about cleaning and protecting your clear vinyl, it’s easier to keep it looking nice than it is to try to reverse clouding and spots. When out in saltwater, it’s a good idea to frequently give your clear vinyl a freshwater rinse to remove salt residue. When it comes time to clean your clear vinyl, our favorite method is the triple punch of the Imar system for clear vinyl. These soaps and protectants will clean, polish and protect your windows and are not harmful to vinyls with a manufacturer’s protective coating like Strataglass or O’Sea.

Start by washing your clear vinyl thoroughly with Imar’s Yacht Soap Concentrate (this product is a bonus, because you can also use it to clean other hard surfaces on your boat) and follow up with Imar Protective Polish. We recommend fully cleaning your clear vinyl every 3-4 months. In between cleaning, about once a week, protect the polish by spraying on a protectant like Imar Protective Cleaner or 303 Aerospace Protectant. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the steps involved:

How to Clean & Protect Clear Vinyl

Clean

  1. Cool off your clear vinyl by rinsing it with fresh water before cleaning.
  2. Mix 3 oz. of Imar Yacht Soap Concentrate per 1 gallon of freshwater.
  3. Gently scrub the clear vinyl using a clean, soft cotton cloth.
  4. Spray with a hose to rinse clean and gently dry with another soft cloth.

Protect

  1. Apply Imar Protective Polish directly to a clean, soft cotton cloth and buff the clear vinyl in a circular motion.
  2. Allow the polish to dry completely.
  3. Using a new, clean cloth, buff out the polish until the clear vinyl shines.

Touch Up

  1. Lightly spray Imar Protective Cleaner on a soft cloth (a little goes a long way!).
  2. Briskly wipe into the vinyl.
  3. Use a separate, clean cloth to buff the vinyl dry.

To help keep your vinyl looking its best between cleanings, be careful to keep it away from unnecessary contaminants like sunscreen and bug spray with DEET. Also, when restoring water resistance to your surrounding canvas, be sure to keep 303 Fabric Guard off your clear vinyl.

If you need to store your clear vinyl when not in use, roll up the vinyl with a soft fabric. This extra layer will keep the vinyl from resting against itself and possibly causing abrasion.

What have you found to be the best method of care for your clear vinyl windows? Any horror stories of cleaning gone wrong? Share your options and experiences with us in the comments!

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Create a comfortable double bed in your v-berth by adding a keystone filler cushion. This small, irregularly shaped cushion may look tricky to make, but we’re going to break down the steps for you to make it easy to pattern and sew. If you need to make all new cushions for your v-berth, check out our post on how to make V-berth cushions.

The keystone cushion we made for our Islanders 37 sailboat is a trapezoid shape, which is pretty common, but yours might be a different shape depending on your boat’s v-berth configuration. Our keystone cushion sits in its own tray with trim board between it and the main v-berth cushion. If you have a similar set-up, you’ll want to add extra width to the top of your foam so the filler cushion will be flush with the main cushions. To do this, measure the width of the filler board and add that width to the top of the foam width measurement. The end result will be a cushion with an angled edge.

The key to making a great fitting keystone cushion is careful patterning and attention to detail. In the video, we break down the patterning steps slowly with calculations so you can get the best fit possible for your filler cushion. When patterning your fabric, be sure to take into consideration any designs on the fabric. You’ll see we were careful to match up the stripes on the fabric with the existing v-berth cushions for a cleaner look.

For the full video and materials list, visit Sailrite.com and search #200647XHT.

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Find all the materials needed to make your own full set of v-berth cushions at Sailrite.com.

Do you have a filler cushion in your v-berth? Have you ever re-covered it? Share your tips and advice with us in the comments!

2014_April-Window-Protector

When installing clear vinyl on boat structures like dodgers, biminis or enclosures, it’s important to remember to not let the clear vinyl sit against the metal support poles. If the window material is allowed to sit against the metal it could get scorched, which can cause the vinyl to shrink and discolor or even harden and crack over time. Today, we’re going to show you a simple and cost-effective way to protect your clear vinyl.

The key to keeping your clear vinyl off the metal support poles is to attach something to the poles to keep the clear vinyl lifted off them. You can purchase sun blocker clips that are made for this purpose, but if you have scrap Boat Blanket fabric, you can easily and affordably make your own anti-scorching dividers. Boat Blanket is a great choice for this project because its plush, piled fibers allow air to flow through between the clear vinyl and the pole, plus it is soft and durable.

To create your Boat Blanket anti-scorching devices, cut a long strip of the material and sew hook Velcro to one side. The Boat Blanket is fuzzy enough that it will act as the loop side for the Velcro. Wrap the tubing with the fabric and Velcro it to secure. The wrap doesn’t need to run the entire length of where the clear vinyl contacts the metal frame because the thickness of the Boat Blanket material will create enough of a gap to hold out the vinyl between wraps.

If you don’t want to order a yard of Boat Blanket just for anti-scorching dividers, there are a lot of other projects that the fabric is perfectly suited for; recover your trailer bunks, make fender covers, mooring and anchor line chafe guards, or pier post covers with Boat Blanket, too!

Find Boat Blanket material by the yard at Sailrite.com.

How do you protect your clear vinyl from touching metal support poles? Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments!

In our previous post, we shared the history of the series drogue and how it works to keep your boat steady and upright in breaking storm waves. In this blog, we’re going to share simplified instructions on making a series drogue and answer some common customer questions.

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How to Make a Series Drogue

1. Cut Out Cones: Cut out your desired number of cones from ripstop nylon fabric. We use approximately 5” diameter cones, based on recommendations in the “Complete USCG Series Drogue Findings & Recommendations.”

2. Attach Straps to Cone: Position the straps along each cone piece and baste in place. Then sew a row of zigzag stitches down each side of the strap to secure.

3. Assemble the Cones: Sew each cone assembly together so it forms a tube. Sew with the straps facing in, and then turn the cone right side out.

4. Determine Line Needed: Based on your boat’s displacement, determine the length and diameter of line needed. The series drogue is designed for larger boats, so smaller boats may require a bit of testing to find the correct line amount.

5. Install Thimble: Install a thimble on one end of the smallest line. Create eye splices at all of the other line ends.

6. Mark Cone Position: Using a felt tip pen, make a mark on the line 2 feet from the thimble end. Place marks at 16-inch and 4-inch intervals on the rest of the line, avoiding the eye splices. The cones will be placed between the 16-inch marks.

7. Position the Cones: Slide all the cones onto the line. All cones should face the same direction with the small end of each one closest to the trailing end of the line.

8. Attach the Cones: Use a latch hook to attach the cone straps to the line starting at the small end of the cone. Insert the latch hook so it’s facing the cone into the first four to six strands of the line’s outer braid, turn the hook 45 degrees and push it out through the braid. Insert the strap into the hook and pull through the braid. Tie a figure 8 knot at the end of the strap. Repeat for all straps, but at the large end of the cone, secure with an overhand knot.

9. Joining the Line Sections: After all the cones are attached, join the line sections. Pass the forward end of the first line (that will be attached to the bridle) through the forward eye end of the second line and then through the trailing eye end of the first line. Attach the two bridle legs the same way. Bridle legs will typically connect to the stern of the boat. Remember that the cones should face the same direction, with the large end forward.

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Common Series Drogue Questions

We get asked a lot of questions from customers who are considering making their own series drogue about the process, materials and use. Here are some of the questions we get asked the most.

Q: Should I reinforce the cone openings of my series drogue?

A: This is really a matter of personal preference. A typical series drogue will only last through one strong storm, so reinforcing the cone openings could give you a second use from your drogue. However, making a drogue is time-consuming, and since you may never have to actually use your drogue, many sailors don’t find it worth the extra effort to reinforce the cones.

If you want to reinforce the cone openings, we recommend using the same grosgrain tape that is used for the straps. Sew the tape to both sides of the cones prior to sewing the cone sides together. A binder attachment for your sewing machine will make this process easy.

Q: Does the material matter for the drogue cones?

A: There is no specific material that you must use for your drogue cones, but you do want something that is fairly strong, dimensionally stable (no fraying edges), and lightweight for packing and retrieval. We recommend using ripstop nylon.

Q: Do I have to use a double braid line? Can I use a 3-strand line instead?

A: While many sailors would rather use a 3-strand line, it simply won’t be effective for a series drogue. A 3-strand line will not splice properly and doesn’t have the same composition for locking the cone straps in place. When put in the water, the cones would shift on a 3-strand line and bunch together. The braid of the double braid line keeps the cones securely in their place.

Q: Can I use the series drogue in shallow water?

A:  The series drogue was designed for deep water cruising and its long lead line makes it ineffective in shallow water. Other sea anchor designs would be better suited for shallow water use.

Do you have any questions about series drogues? Any tips to share about making a drogue? Share them with us in the comments!

The series drogue has been called “the sailor’s airbag,” because, similar to the airbags in your car, it is a device that could save your life, but one that you hope you never actually need. A series drogue is a sea anchor that is used during storms to prevent capsize in the event of a large breaking wave and to improve the motion of the boat and reduce drift. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss the history of the series drogue, what it is, and how it’s used.

 

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A single series drogue cone

What Is a Series Drogue?

A drogue is a sea anchor that is launched from the stern of the ship as opposed to the bow. A conventional drogue or sea anchor is usually shaped like a cone or a parachute and is very large. The series drogue, as the name implies, is, rather, a series of cones that work together to create constant drag in the water.

The series drogue is launched from the stern from a two-legged bridle. When in the water, a series drogue looks like a parade of jellyfish in single file, but really it’s a series of 100 or more 5-inch-diameter nylon cones that are attached every 20 inches along a large rope. A 15-25 lb. anchor is attached to the end of the line to keep the drogue securely in the water. The exact number of cones and the length of line varies from boat to boat and are based on the displacement of the vessel.

The series drogue design of a long lead line, multiple cones and a weighted tail ensures that there are always cones in the water, filling and grabbing hold to keep the boat properly positioned for the next wave strike. It offers the best capsize protection in breaking waves. In simulated fatigue testing, the series drogue was subjected to 15,000 cycles (the equivalent of a giant hurricane) without a failure.

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Diagram of a series drogue

A Bit of Series Drogue History

The series drogue was conceived by Don Jordan an aeronautical engineer and sailor, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard. Jordan was inspired by the 1979 Fastnet Race Disaster, in which 15 lives were lost and 24 boats were either sunk or abandoned. Working off initial research and engineering data from the Fastnet Disaster and the 1998 Sydney- Hobart race (which also ended tragically with five ships sunk and six sailors dead), Jordan and researchers at the Coast Guard built scale models of yachts that were tested rigorously with various storm anchor set-ups. The team even tested full-scale at the Coast Guard’s motor lifeboat testing facility where boats were subjected to breaking waves formed on the Columbia River Bar, between Oregon and Washington.

From these studies, the series drogue was created. Together with the Coast Guard, Jordan published the results of their testing in a report. The team also outlined standards for series drogue creation and recommended sizes based on boat displacement.

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Completed series drogue in a drogue deployment bag. Photo by: Robert Marcus MD

How to Use a Series Drogue

To deploy the drogue, first attach the bridle. A series drogue attaches to the stern of the ship at two points via its “Y” shaped bridle. Attach the bridle to either: the furthest aft and outboard corners of a monohull, the furthest aft or forward and outboard corners of a catamaran or trimaran, or a fitting of adequate strength with a secondary attachment to distribute the load to the hull structure.

Next, attach the anchor to the drogue end. Using a lazarette or a secured drogue deployment bag, slip the anchor overboard to pay out the drogue. Once the drogue is set, the cones will fill and begin to produce drag. Steerage will be locked, so the rudder should be locked amidship and the crew and helmsman should go below.

Retrieve the series drogue hand over hand or use a winch. The drogue cones will collapse around a winch without damage. To reduce the load on the drogue for retrieval, head into the seas so that the drogue’s velocity relative to the water is zero.

Do you have any experience with drogues? Have you ever made one or used one? Share your stories, ideas and opinions with us in the comments!

2004 was a big year for Paul Seeberg. It was the year that he and his wife, Millie, bought a MacGregor26 sailboat and started sailing with the North East Trailer Sailor’s Club. It was also the year that Paul began sewing for his boat. Ten years later, Paul is still hard at work on boat projects and sharing his passion for sailing and sewing with others.

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Paul aboard his Olson38 s/v Mildred Rose

Paul’s sewing projects began humbly when his wife wanted some curtains for the cabin of their boat. Paul had some basic sewing skills he had learned in 8th grade home economics class and he figured he could sew curtains. Along the way, he had some difficulty with the project and called Sailrite, where he got some helpful advice for his project.

On completing his curtain project, Paul figured that sewing for the boat was something he could do more of, so he bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and started working. He started sewing sheet bags for himself and then for other members of the yacht club.

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Red Sunbrella Lifesling Cover

In 2009 Paul bought a bigger boat, a 1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose, and got to work creating new canvas covers for her.

“Following [Sailrite] videos, I made a hatch cover, curtains, pillows, a really nice binnacle cover, and a lifesling cover,” Paul said. “We’re the only boat in the harbor with a red Sunbrella lifesling!”

Some canvas projects he made mostly for the fun of sewing, not because they are a necessity on his boat.

“Some times I make things just for fun, like the hatch cover. But it made a big difference keeping the cabin cooler,” he said.

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Two of Paul’s Projects: Binnacle Cover & Hatch Cover

After getting all of those projects under his belt, Paul felt ready for a bigger challenge. He needed a new dodger. He had the project quoted by a few canvas shops, but they were asking too much money. Paul knew that after all the projects he had done so far he could make his own dodger for less.

Paul watched Sailrite’s How to Make Your Own Dodger DVD 10-20 times before even started the project, wanting to make sure that he understood every detail.

For large-scale projects like this, Paul believes it’s important to learn everything you can about the project before starting.

“You need to be able to see things in 3 dimensions in your mind. I don’t sew one stitch until I’ve thought through the project beginning to end,” he said.

Paul’s dodger design would test all of his sewing skills. He was going to have to sew zippers, install fasteners, and even make a roll up window.

When Paul started sewing, the dodger project brought on the challenges. The scale of the dodger made it difficult to maneuver and all the material proved tricky to roll up under the arm of the Ultrafeed.

“Making something that’s 10-12 feet long in your basement is difficult,” he said. “It grows quite big.”

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The finished dodger installed on s/v Mildred Rose

Paul credits the video with helping him accomplish such a large-scale DIY project.

“The tips I learned in the video were invaluable. There’s no way I could have made it without it,” he said.

All of Paul’s hard work paid off and his dodger looks great. It’s now the project that he is the most proud of.

“The dodger is the most accurate. It’s done the best,” Paul said. “Because of the sheer scale of the project I’d have to say it’s the one I’m most proud of…it was harder than I thought.”

As with a lot of DIY projects, Paul would do somethings differently on his dodger, but it has been met with rave reviews from his friends and fellow sailors.

“People who go on the boat can’t believe that I made it,” Paul said. “I can see all the flaws, but someone casually looking at it thinks it’s beautiful.”

Paul’s advice to fellow DIY-ers is to know your skill level, to not be afraid of a sewing machine and to be confident.

“Just have confidence. If you don’t have confidence, then forget about it.”

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Paul’s dodger and “flying awning.” He made the awning himself and modeled it off other awnings he had seen around the harbor.

Paul feels like he’s had a lot of help becoming a sailor and DIYer and he likes to share the knowledge that’s been shared with him. One way he does this is by teaching seminars at the Boston Boat Show each spring. His current seminar is about transitioning from a small boat to a larger one, but he hopes to teach a sewing class in the future.

“Sewing is not as scary as people think it is. I think a lot of people have the skill set. I want to show them what a Sailrite machine can do,” he said.

For himself, Paul has a list of projects he’s waiting to try next like a sail cover, cockpit cushions and a main sheet bag.

2014_May-Rope

Your boat’s halyard lines are exposed to harsh weather conditions and near constant handling, so after years of use they will start to wear out. If your halyards are showing signs of wear and tear, it may be time to replace them. Replacing a halyard line can be a delicate process, but it’s really pretty simple to do. We’re going to show you how to replace the line for a mainsail halyard with the mast up, and without climbing the mast.

 

Select Your Replacement Rope

First, you’ll need to decide which type of rope to use for your halyard. We used 5/16” Sta-Set X by New England Ropes for our Seaward 24, because we wanted a very low stretch line. New England Ropes Sta-Set is also a great choice for a weekend cruising boat like ours.

Measure Length of Rope Needed

You can refer to your boat’s owners’ manual to determine the length of halyard rope needed, if it’s available. If not, you’ll have to measure the height of your mast. An easy way to do this is to attach a metal tape measure with a loop end to the shackle at the end of your halyard line. Then raise the halyard to the top of the mast and note the measurement of the mast at the mast step. That’s your mast height.

To determine the length of your halyard, pull the halyard so the shackle is down to the mast step. Now your length of line along and inside the mast is equal to 2 times the mast height. Then, measure the segments of line between turning points and to the end of the line. Add all these measurements together and that’s the total length of line.

Sew the Ropes Together

Untie the shackle from the old halyard and use a bowline knot to attach it to one free end of the new halyard line. Then, take the other free end of the new line and butt it up against the old halyard line’s end (that previously held the shackle). To replace the line, you want to feed the two lines secured together up the mast. So the lines don’t separate it’s important to make sure you connect them strongly. To do that, we suggest sewing and whipping the two lines together with waxed twine. It doesn’t matter how you connect the lines exactly, as long as they are secure. We do not recommend using only tape, however.

Pull the Ropes Up

Send your new halyard rope up and through the mast by raising your existing halyard line. Be sure to straighten out any kinks in the rope as you pull up the new line. If you feel any resistance while pulling, slowly back up and pull gently again so as not to disconnect your new and old lines. When your line is pulled all the way through, use a hotknife to cut off the old line, just past the butt joint. Run the line through your cleat and tie a figure eight knot to finish it off.

Find high quality New England Ropes for halyards and any other application at Sailrite.com.

Do you have any helpful tricks for replacing your halyard lines? Share them with us in the comments!

Hand sewing might not be every sailor’s go-to sewing method, but from time to time it makes a lot of sense. For example, if you need to repair heavy or cumbersome items, it might not be worth trying to maneuver them to your sewing machine. Or, for high stress applications, you might need to use a heavy twine rather than a thread, leaving hand sewing as your only option. For these, and all the other times you find yourself sewing by hand, we’re sharing five helpful tips to make hand sewing a little bit easier.

5 Tips to Improve Your Hand Sewing:

1. Use a High Quality Needle

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The best hand needles for sailors are forged from cast steel and feature reduced edges, triangular points, and long eyes for easy threading. A great brand that has all of these qualities is William Smith & Sons. It can be tempting to try and save a some money by using cheaper needles, but inexpensive needles will break as you try to push them through thick fabric assemblies, so buying a high quality needle right off the bat will lead to fewer headaches and improve your hand sewing experience. It also helps to use a sailor’s palm when hand sewing. Not only does this hand thimble make it easier to push the needle through heavy fabrics, but it also helps to prevent needle breakage.

2. Pre-Punch Holes in Thick Applications

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In really thick assemblies, use a standard awl to pre-punch holes in the fabric for your needle to slide through. The sharper point on the awl will puncture the fabric much easier than your needle, and will save you a lot of effort. This will also help you create uniform and evenly spaced stitches.

3. Avoid Tying Knots

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Knots can abrade over time and fall off causing your stitches to unravel. We recommend avoiding knots altogether. To do this, leave an inch of starting twine exposed and lay it where you will be sewing. Then, carefully sew over the tail, trapping it under your stitches.

4. Try Using a Speedy Stitcher

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The Speedy Stitcher is a sewing awl that makes quick and easy work of seaming repairs. This tool can sew both heavy threads and twine in canvas or leather. The Speedy Stitcher can manually create lock stitches just like a sewing machine. Best of all, they are really affordable and the convenience of having one is really worth it.

5. Use Flat, Waxed Twine for Seams

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When you need to sew a seam, use a flat, waxed twine. Twine typically has a round construction, but a flat twine will lay closer to the fabric and therefore be less likely to chafe away. Flat twine is also great for sewing rings, because the twine will sit closer to the ring. This makes it less likely to get cut when an eyelet is installed.

Find hand needles, sewing awls, twine and many more tools and supplies for sewing by hand at Sailrite.com.

What are your best hand sewing tips? Share them with us in the comments!

2014_April-Adding-Cockpit-Cushion

The cushions in your boat’s cockpit see a lot of wear and tear. They are frequently sat on and exposed to wind, rain, and sea spray. So it’s no surprise that after years of use or when you purchase a pre-owned boat, you almost always need to replace the cockpit cushions. Making your own cushions not only will save you money, but will also allow you to choose all the materials to create the most durable, longest-lasting cushions possible. Our latest how-to video will walk you step-by-step through the process of making your own custom cockpit cushions.

Cockpit cushions have to be more durable than your typical box cushions, so the performance qualities of each of the materials you select for your cushion should be carefully considered. For the cushions on our Islander 37 sailboat, we chose Sunbrella Marine Grade Fabric in Jockey Red to match the rest of the canvas on the boat. Sunbrella Marine Grade is the perfect choice for cockpit cushions because it is water resistant, durable and breathable.

Since the cushions will see a lot of moisture, we used Dry Fast foam, which is an open cell foam that won’t trap water and moisture. We also used a cushion underlining material as the bottom plate of the cushion. Cushion underlining is an open weave polyester with a vinyl coating that keeps the cushions from sliding around and also allows for water to drain out of the bottom of the cushion. It’s also a great way to save a little money, because the cushion underlining fabric is very affordable.

In this video, you’ll learn how to pattern your own cushions from scratch, sew piping, create a zipper plaque, and assemble your own cushions.

 

Materials List:

All of the materials needed to make cockpit cushions, including Sunbrella Marine Grade Fabric by the yard, are available at www.sailrite.com.

Want written instructions to read along with the video? Full written instructions for this project are included in the 2014 Sailrite Marine Catalog! Request your copy today!

Have you ever made your own cockpit cushions? How did they turn out? What weather proofing techniques did you use? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments!

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Have your sail numbers or insignia seen better days? Old sail numbers and insignia were made of vinyl that would dry out and crack in the sun. If your numbers or insignia are cracked or faded, or if you have a new-to-you sail with someone else’s numbers, then you’ll want to replace them. It’s not hard to do, but it does take a little patience. Let’s take a look at removal and installation of sail numbers.

Before you remove the numbers or insignia, you’ll want to buy or pattern your replacements. For numerals, you can purchase pre-cut numbers or a Computer Eight, which you can cut into any number 0-9.

To replace the insignia, you’ll want to use a clear patterning material, like monofilm or Dura Skrim, to trace the shape of your existing insignia. Cut out the shape and use this pattern to trace your logo on to Adhesive-backed Insignia Dacron and cut it out with scissors. Be sure when you do this that your shape will face the correct direction when applied to the sail. To see demonstration of patterning insignia, watch our How to Make a Sail Logo Video.

Removing the Old Numbers

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  1. Peel off the old numbers.
  2. To remove the sticky residue, use 3M Adhesive Cleaner. Apply solvent to a soft cloth and rub over the adhesive until the solution can soak in. Leave the sail for a bit while the solvent soaks in.
  3. Using a terry cloth or other soft towel, scrub off the glue residue.

Adding New Numbers

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When adding your new numbers or insignia, be sure to refer to class rules on where to position the markers on your sail.

  1. Allow the sail to dry out.
  2. Starting at a short edge, peel back a small section of the backing paper. Stick the corner in the desired location on the sail and smooth it out, making sure there are no air bubbles.
  3. Working slowly, continue to peel small portions of the paper off and smooth out the Dacron. Take care on numbers with a hole, to not stretch the Dacron material as you apply it.
  4. When you are satisfied with your placement, allow the adhesive to cure for 24 hours. After this time, the glue will be permanent.

You can find adhesive remover, sail numbers, insignia material and more at www.sailrite.com.

Have you ever had to remove or install sail numbers? Do you have any helpful tricks for the process? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

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