Monday, May 2, 2011

Where do *you* do it?

No, not that.  This is a family-oriented blog (shame on you for what you were thinking).

Where do you work on your sails?  Because of the proportions of boat and sail which have been fixed by time-tested rules, it is a truism that the foresail will be much too big to fit on the deck, regardless of the size of the boat.  So, if you had to work on your foresail, where would you do it?

For us, the answer is some clean grass - grass not recently cut (and therefore littered with clippings) and free of dog-exhaust.  Admittedly, this is not always easy to find.  Yet, because we had to have our foresail off of the boat for our just-completed haulout, this weekend was the perfect time to find some clean grass and go after the algae and mildew growing on the sunshield, and to do some minor repair.

Here, Jane is taking her turn at playing seamstress, while I am taking pictures instead of  getting out the vinegar and starting to work on the sunshield.  (Non-sailors:  when the sail is rolled up on the forestay, that green border is all that is exposed - it's there to shield the sail from UV-deterioration.  And to provide a home for wayward algae.)

White vinegar is an excellent treatment for algae and mildew.  Being a 5% solution of acetic acid in water, the pH is low enough to kill off the single-celled life forms, and yet it is weak enough to cause no harm to the fabric.  Bonus:  both the water and the vinegar eventually evaporate - no rinsing is required.

To prevent colonized algae and mildew from surviving the onslaught of the vinegar by sacrificing their outer members to protect those inside, it is good to break up the colonies while doing the vinegar treatment.  I used a small brush, originally designed to strip cornsilk off of raw corn-on-the-cob - it is soft enough to be kind to the fabric and the thread, yet it does yeoman duty in destroying colonies (look for one in your grocery store).


Tom said...

Awesome tip on the vinegar Bob. We had some colonies in our cabin when we opened her up this spring. Unusual but due, I am sure, to the La Nina weather system.I was thinking bleach.Does the vinegar leave much of an residual odor?

bob said...

Tom -

I don't think I can answer that for you. Both the bleach and the vinegar leave residual odors for a while, but I personally prefer the odor of bleach to that of vinegar. However, both will dissipate over time. And then there is the substrate you are treating. It is unlikely that it would be harmed by vinegar, but with bleach? Well, you need to test. Some fabrics are not color-fast against bleach. And unless you rinse effectively, the bleach leaves some residual chemical behind which will continue bleaching, while the vinegar does eventually completely evaporate.


Drew Frye said...

Never spread a sail on a lawn or driveway with oak acorns. One hundred small tanin stains are a bugger.

Guess how I know.

Reguarding bleach, I just did a series of nylon (not polyester)rope bleaching tests for Practical Sailor. While there are many variables, expecting a loss in strength of 3-15% is reasonable. All the samples lost somthing measurable.

One of the big problems with bleaching rope--not sails--is that it is next to impossible to rinse the bleach out of the core, so a hypochlorite residual dries in the rope. Not good.

bob said...

Drew -

Thanks for the acorn warning. Tho it would be a pain to do it, oxalic acid should take out the tannin spots.

I had always heard that bleach was not good for nylon - now there is empirical proof! Did you do any tests on polyester?


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