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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Passage mainsails, "the sail your sail maker won't tell you about?" When I purchased "Shearwater," part of the sail inventory was a "passage mainsail." I didn't use it on the delivery of the boat from Miami to Newport Beach because the winds were too variable and we motored a lot. A couple of years later when we were making the passage from Newport to the Marquesas I found it invaluable. I had novice college kids crewing for me and the thought of an accidental jibe with the 26 foot, two hundred pound boom and thousand square foot mainsail in the middle of the night was a bit nerve wracking. After a couple of near jibes as we entered the north east trade winds I dropped the big main and set the "passage mainsail." It is shaped like a tri'sail but is about as big as your full mainsail with one reef in it. It bends on your sail track and is loose footed like a jib. Mine also had a set of reef points so I could use it for a storm tri'sail if I wanted to. I grew to love this sail and used it 80 percent of the time as we circled the globe. A gal named Jill that I picked up in New Zealand would almost always jibe the boat once every night when she was on watch. "Something is wrong with the compass", she would tell me as I scurried on deck, sorted things out and got her back on course. No problema, I would think. The "passage mainsail" would back like a jib, no damage was done and I didn't have to get upset with Jill for nearly dismasting my schooner. Another great thing about "passage mainsails" is that they can be made out of your old mainsail or a good used mainsail from another boat. On a long passage in the trade winds your main is up sometimes for twenty or thirty days. For me, Cape Town to Barbados was forty days. Why be cutting your stitching and chafing holes in your $5000.00 new mainsail on the spreaders and shrouds when you could be doing this to one of Minney's $500.00 used mainsails that you had re-cut for a couple of hundred bucks. You will not only get a great nights sleep knowing that the kid you picked up at your last port and is paying you $10.00 a day to sail with you is steering your boat can jibe any time he gets confused and the jibes and will do no damage: but, you will be saving your $5000.00 new North mainsail for going to weather, coastal work and cruiser races in various ports.

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