Sail Loft Visit

February 12, 2014

A few weeks ago, Sea Scout Ship 90, Renegades, substituted a sail loft field trip instead of their weekly Wednesday meeting. After the business portion of the meeting, Mr. Kettenhofen, an adult leader for Ship 90, explained the different uses of several large sewing machines. Two of the sewing machines used the straight or running stitch and made anything that would not be strained, such as a sail bag or pouch for spare line. The next machine utilized a zigzag stitch, which is commonly used for high quality sails. The final machine employed a three step zigzag stitch. This stitch increases the strength of the stitch and can be used to make heavy-duty sails. One particularly surprising characteristic of the final two machines are their amazing capability to punch through several inches of thick material. Obviously, this is important when hemming the edges of the large sails because the strands of Kevlar or carbon are concentrated in one area. Often, the corners are significantly thicker than the middle of a Kevlar or carbon sail. Watch your fingers…

After the sewing machine demonstration, the scouts listened to a short talk about how the draft of a main sail is determined (this produces the camber which turn this cloth into a wing-like device to generate lift and forces to propel a sail boat). This section included a comparison of modern and past sail assembly processes. The three factors a sail making must consider are heat, pressure, and time. Different sail makers control and tweak these factors in order to create, what they believe, is the most efficient and effective product possible. The entire system is completely fascinating. The final portion of the field trip was interactive. The scouts were allowed to walk across a main sail from a 60-foot racing yacht, Dare. Then with the help of some string, the draft of a main sail was demonstrated. The field trip proved to be rather educational and piqued the interest of many ship members.