Truth be sewn

Truth is more unbelievable than fiction I’m sure someone has written.

Fortunately Jill has been chronicling all the travails of Dragonfly’s passage south to the Virgins but we don’t generally see the copy as we’re too involved in the making of the story.

Sewing the Sail should be the title of this missive as we’ve just spent two whole days remedying a rent ripped clear across 12’ of main sail near the top, about 60’ in the air above deck.  As happens on Dragonfly, many of these challenges seem unwarranted.  We had just left Samana harbor in the Domician Republic to stage ourselves for a pending weather window to move south to the western coast of Puerto Rico.  We had just cleared the basin, when shortly after having hoisted the main while heading into the wind and setting for a starboard tack the sail simply “popped” and parted leaving a clean horizontal opening on a seam from the leech line to luff bolt rope.

In the air it looked like a 6 or maybe 8’ tear, but once down on the cabin top it proved to be almost 12’ and simply the parting of two panels once held by triple stitching and most recently paid to have re-enforced.  On inspection it seems that the sailmaker concentrated his 40 hours billable time elsewhere even though the invoice states “all seams” were re-enforced.

Undaunted, our captain continued under jib alone, across the Samana Bay and we found refuge in the lee of a spit across from this region’s famous caves.  The following two days were divided into first gluing the sections of material back into alignment and then the 2nd day the four of us stitched from one side to the other in pairs.  It’s possible to pass a needle thru two (and in the case of re-enforced patch areas four to six) layers only after drilling the fabric with a needle-sized drill bit.  Experience told us that you must run the drill bit in reverse, so as not to unravel the fabric, and essentially burn your way thru. Fortunately the trauma to the sail was swift and minimal so it was mostly a matter of arranging work-space on the cabin top and effecting a material-stretching mechanism.  Using contact cement, including the 30-minute curing times, we crept across the seam using bodies, slings and water jugs to keep the wind from prematurely separating our efforts.  In addition to just gluing the seams back we fashioned a number of semicircular patches to bind the fore and aft sections of the rent so that our next day’s stitching would suffice until a proper sailmakers zig-zag sewing machine could finish the job.  And as is always the case once you start looking for weak spots we found several more in the area that got similar treatment.

Day two we once again cozied up to the shoreline to cut the wind and began about six hours of stitching for the four of us.  Two drills, four sets of pliers, two needles and waxed thread enabled teams to work from each end to the middle and back again leaving a double row of stitching 12’ long.