New Sails for an Old Boat

12 Jan

When we bought this boat last year we knew the sails were going to need replacing. That was never a question. The question was how soon, and how much? Our goal with this boat has been to sail it this year without going overboard on the outfitting and then deciding just what needed to be done. So when I set off from San Diego pointed for Puerto Vallarta in June it was with fingers crossed. Fortunately I was single-handed as the eight-month pregnant wife and one-year-old baby might not have appreciated the humor of the situation to come.


The main promptly blew out on day two. In eight knots of wind. No, not eighty knots, EIGHT. It tore right in half like a piece of paper. Actually paper wouldn’t have torn in that wind. Anyway.


The jib was never a consideration. It had been in the Sacramento Delta sun for twelve years. It was dust. That left me with a questionable yankee as my only sail for the thousand mile trip. No problem. Downwind run, fifteen knots, plenty of diesel.


Twenty-five miles north of Cabo my shaft coupler snapped, leaving me with just the yankee to propel the boat. Fortunately there was twenty knots from behind at the time. I cruised the coast a mile off, rounded the point and waved to a passing sportfisher who very kindly took my line and towed me to the anchorage. No problem.


Within forty-eight hours I’d worked with a local transmission guy to take a new coupler and machine it to work on my boat. I finished my “sail” to Puerto Vallarta under power with the yankee still intact.


So it looked like sails had now been moved to the top of the list. I had talked to a prominent sail maker in San Francisco who had quoted me at least five grand for the mainsail alone. At that rate three new sails would have constituted thirty percent of what we paid for the entire boat. That wasn’t going to work for me.


I started to look overseas and eventually stumbled on Rolly Tasker Sails of Thailand. I found almost nothing but positive reviews of them on the internet and after e-mailing them decided to go with it. The quote for all three sails, with the yankee in tanbark, a mainsail lazy jack bag, and shipping, was $6,700.


I know the old saying that you get what you pay for, but in this case I figured I could afford two or three sets of sails for the price of one back home. 


Another consideration was that I am in no way to be considered a good sailor. I’m a cruiser. I travel the world by boat. I do not race, I don’t much trim, I tack as little as possible, and I’m not afraid to use the iron to keep my boat moving. I put up sails when they’ll move the boat at four knots and then mess with them as little as possible.


I also don’t sail them hard. They may go long distances with me but I tend to reef early and often and pick my weather windows very carefully to present me with the most mild conditions possible. 


All of this actually makes me sound as if I’m not a sailor at all I know, but amongst the cruisers out here I am not an outlier, I am the norm. Nine out of ten cruisers have the same approach. Stay away from big seas, keep the family harmony, keep the boat from breaking. If you do these three things you can consider it a successful passage.


So anyway, I placed the order communicating entirely by e-mail. They were always prompt to respond and answered any questions I had. Three weeks later I received confirmation that they were done and ready to be shipped, they just needed an address.


Since I was now in Mexico and really didn’t feel like going through the rigamarole with customs, especially since the customs office they would have ended up at was in Guadalajara, five hours away, I decided to use a forwarder in the States. Rolly Tasker has some sort of agreement with the U.S. that no duties are due on their sails, so when they were shipped to San Diego they arrived on the doorstep of the forwarding agent three days after leaving Thailand with not a single hassle.


The agent then took them across the border with a copy of my Temporary Import Permit for Bumfuzzle, had the sails added to my boat’s inventory, took them to the Tijuana airport and sent them on their way to Puerto Vallarta where I picked them up from the freight office with nothing but a tracking number and without a word being spoken.


Back at the boat I opened the boxes and found sails that appear to me at least to be very well made. The hardware used is every bit as good as any sails I’ve owned before. The main and jib are made with nine ounce Dacron and the yankee with eight. These sails, being used the way I tend to use sails, should last a very long time. And hey, they look pretty too.


All in all I have to say that I was very pleased with Rolly Tasker Sails. They were easy to deal with, quick, and best of all, cheap. And now Bumfuzzle is a sailboat again.


Oh, and for the record, I'm not pimping this company, they didn't give me anything, I just had a good experience. There are other overseas sailmakers out there and a quick Google search will turn those up for you. Do a little research, compare the pluses and minuses. The big minus of course is that you don't get the hands on help and expertise of your local sailmaker. The plus is the cost.


Good luck, it's a big purchase.



  1. Benito

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