Everybody makes their own "rules" for their cruising. Everybody's rules are right for somebody, but nobody's rules are right for everybody.
It is important to remember, there is no reason that a well cared for sail should ever
chafe itself to death--even if you have no engine at all. If your sails are "tearing up", it is the equivalent of your engine dying from not changing your engine oil.
Even the best dacron sails are NOT maintenance free. They are really expensive, and deserve to be taken good care of.
They need to be taken down at least every 70 to 100 sailing days--and very carefully inspected. Every seam Every inch of luff and leach. Every place where a seam shows thread wear needs to be resewn, and maybe taped over. Every place the cloth shows chafe, needs to have a sacrificial patch installed. If you can't do that yourself, then a good sailmaker needs to do it. If that is done properly and regularly, your sails will live a normal life. They will not die because you sailed in light winds.
If you do not maintain your sails, then be sure you only use them in winds of between 8 and 20 knots. Motor in all other conditions to save money.
Sails should only die for one of two reasons:
Sun exposure. Nothing can be done about it, unless you just decide to motor all the time. There is nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want to. You'll save lots of money on sails. Based on my experience in charter fleets where boats were used every single day, sun rot kills dacron sailcoth in 400 to 800 days of sailing. A little slower in temperate latitudes, a bit faster in the tropics. If a sail is sun rotten, it will tear at the slightest provocation, and really isn't worth fixing.
Sails can also die when they stretch out of shape to the point they really don't work well any more. That is a huge function of conditions you sail in. Light winds stretch sails very little, strong winds stretch more. This is an insidious problem. Because it happens so slowly, you don't notice the change over time. When you do finally get new sails, you feel like the whole boat is new it sails so much better!
Annapolis, MD, USA
, wrote :
Motor or motor-sail when you need it to exceed 4kts is my rule. And, never tear up sails for the sake of "purity." A motor rebuild because of high hours is much cheaper than a set of sails. And, today, with the state of modern diesel fuel, burn that fuel in your tank in 6 months or less.
You don’t miss much. (grin) I wonder sometimes when I am slatting in light winds if the engine would cost less to cover the same number of miles as the wear and tear on the sails, blocks etc. I find sailing to be much more enjoyable than motoring so unless there is a good reason to rush I am usually willing to pay the possible extra cost per mile for the peace and quiet.
May I ask what your experienced thoughts are on when to motor or not on a long passage?
Exactly. I didn't want to be the one to say it. I have a friend that goes through sails in 5 years, but puts almost zero hours on his engine.
CW Bill Rouse
Admiral, Texas Navy
Amel School www.amelschool.com
720 Winnie St
Galveston Island, TX 77550