A sail pack is an excellent addition to your cruising boat and easy to make with Sailrite’s instructions. However I suggest some changes to make it stronger and to accommodate some common configurations not mentioned in Sailrite’s document.
Sailrite now offers an attractive booklet on making a sail pack, along with a rectangular and a throated sail cover, which you can buy on their site here: SailRite’s Instructions for Three Sail Covers. I apologize for not making my notes apply to this booklet, but as I am out of the country I cannot easily receive this mailing. I much prefer downloadable instructions anyway.
At the time I made my Sail Pack they offered a stand-alone PDF for the Sail Pack for the same price. That older, downloadable guide (as well as careful measurements of your own boat!) will make a fine sail pack that will be a huge improvement on your current sail cover. However a few simple changes make it more robust and flexible for use on a cruising sailboat.
You may notice in my images that my sail pack is red on the port side and yellow on the starboard side. Normally I would have made it all one color, but I was using up my spare sunbrella and I only had enough in stock for one panel in each color. Because of the height of our sail stack, about 42”, I could not cut both panels out of one sheet as I could on our former, smaller boat. So I wasted a lot of material. Our boat colors are red and yellow (What could be more appropriate for Phoenix, or firebird, than fire colors!) so I used both colors together for a rather wild effect. (We are retired, but not retiring).
What is a Sail Pack?
Let’s take a step back and make sure we all know what a Sail Pack, or Stack Pack, is. Basically it’s an upside down sail cover that fastens along the top rather than being secured under the sail and boom. By adding lazy jack lines from the mast to the sail pack, the sail can be dropped straight into the sail pack. The main sail will be prevented from blowing all over the deck by the lazy jack lines. Then it is easy to close up the top of the sail pack at leisure without sail ties or a frantic hurry before the sail escapes. The lazy jack lines can either stay in place while the sail is up, or, as we prefer, loosened and brought in and secured along the mast and boom. Likewise the sail pack can be left up, rolled down and secured along the boom, or removed entirely while sailing. The point however is to have it quickly available if you have to lower the main, so in general it should be left on the boom. However as you will see later I made mine removable (without having to remove the main) in case we want to store it during long passages. When we might go a month before lowering the main it might be useful to get it out of the way. On the other hand I’m hoping to collect water in it. We’ll see if that works or not.
What Changes to the Sail Pack might be Useful on Your boat?
The Sail Pack PDF is divided into 17 steps. For ease of understanding where and why I made changes I will discuss each change I made under the appropriate step.
Mast Boot changed to accommodate mast steps or winches. Step 12. If your mast has winches or mast steps then your mast boot will have to be designed to accommodate these “obstructions”. I choose to make simple reinforced holes for my winches rather than whole winch covers. If your boat is frequently docked you may want to incorporate covers for them into the mast boot cover.
Attachment between Mast Boot and Front end of Cover. Step 13. I chose to attach my mast boot with twist lock fasteners rather than zippers. I find them quicker to fasten and I didn’t like the idea of having half of the zipper exposed to sun all the time (although this can be helped with a deep enough placket). If your ratio of sails up to sails stowed is much lower than ours then you may wish for a more attractive closure that might be a little more difficult to fasten.
Aft closure. Sailrite does not provide a way to close off the aft end of the sail. I wanted to make sure no stray sun rays had a chance to make its way into the sail so I added a patch that wraps around the aft end of the cover. Mine just fastens with velcro which won’t last forever in the sun but is easy to replace. Anything else such as a webbing clip would possibly flail around and cause an issue. This can be done after the cover is finished.
Bottom closure type. Sailrite has twist lock fasteners on the bottom edge. I did not want a row of metal fasteners along the boom that would strike the boom or possibly a body part. However I did want to be able to remove the cover without taking down the sail. I decided on marine quality plastic buckles. Steps 9 and 10.
Robustness. I was concerned about wear at the Lazy Jack to Batten connection. Sailrite simply has a webbing loop for the lazy jack to fasten to. I replaced this with a metal D ring on a webbing strap. I was also worried about strain on the sunbrella where the lazy jack pulls it up. These “meridians” of force seem like they would wear faster than the sunbrella on other parts of the cover. I ran a webbing strap at each lazy jack connection from the bottom of the cover up and through this metal D ring. Therefore each lazy jack actually pulls the sail pack up by the webbing strap rather than by the sunbrella. Since you don’t want to sew these straps through the batten pocket they must be put in place before sewing down the batten pocket. Therefore this step is added between Steps 4 and 5 and it is useful to mark their eventual positions during Step 2 when you are laying out the entire cover.
Whew – that’s a lot of words. Take a break and then visit Making a Sail Pack: Part 2 when you want to go step by step through Sailrite’s instructions with the differences I discussed above.
About the photos on this site
As I am currently in the Bahamas working on a house, and my boat is in Washington state, the pictures I am posting are during the first fitting after 95% completion. The final changes and adjustments to make it look crisp and pretty had not been completed; the lazy jacks were being tried for the first time; etc etc. I will try to remember to post updated pictures when we are back. Hey – it took me two years to write up what I did!