By the very nature of the Vacuwash process, the factory is extremely clean. You can even smell how clean it is. Viral contamination/transmission within the factory must be low, I'm amazed that anything survives in the factory, including me, yet after 8 years I'm still here.
The initial Vacuwash business plan was for staff to do the work of cleaning sails/canvas/tents/campers while I went sailing, and drumming up business from various Yacht Club bars. Well as it happens, I'm still doing all the work and at times have no social contact from the time I arrive at work until the time I go home.
Compared to my previous career of meetings/trading floor/clients/lunches, non- stop social contact, all that stopped once Vacuwash opened its roller shutter door.
Given the current environment of social/self isolation I am by pure luck well prepared in more ways than just the face masks/gloves/protective gear that is used at Vacuwash, but also in working solo and in complete isolation.
The answer to the question I get asked most often 'do you miss the markets and banking?' It is always the same answer. The lack of social contact and discussion of new ideas is what I miss the most.
Swanky lunches, after work drinks, flashy restaurants were all fun, but not really missed. There were plenty of undesirables in finance that are certainly not missed.
Doing positive things, maintaining equipment, setting tasks and completing them and just finishing client jobs as they arrive, all add up to make working in isolation better than it seems.
Cleaning of sails and canvas is not an essential service. Fortunately I have been able to stay open for business in my own clean self- isolated factory.
Along the lines of really cool and interesting jobs that I have done while at Vacuwash, cleaning the sails off the Alexandra Shackleton back in 2015 is definitely number one. On the off chance you don't know about this boat, The Alexandra Shackleton is a replica of the James Caird that Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia, (which in itself is a great story).
The replica was sailed by Aussie explorer Tim Jarvis AM, re-enacting Shackleton's famous trip, the boat was thence exhibited at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Unfortunately the sails, which were also exact replicas, did not survive the storage and transportation back to Australia. When I received them they were a sodden mess of wet, thick mouldy traditional canvas and lines, even the Australian flag stitched onto the mizzen needed help.
As a display vessel only now, I was able to clean the sails to how they would have looked when new, much to the delight of the Museum.
The visitors to the exhibition were none the wiser to the previous state of the sails, unless they now read this blog!
Spinnakers also need to be washed regularly to remove built up salt and made sure they remain dry. As they are made from Nylon and not dacron, spinnakers cannot go through the Vacuwash process, instead they spend a night in our purpose built spa, this removes all dirt and salt, but unfortunately mould, especially in the seams is there to stay.
Smaller spinnakers are easy to DIY, just hose them down and dry thoroughly after use, larger ones are a bit trickier. Pulling them up the rig at the dock is not a good option, probability of ripping on something is greatly increased and the cause of much laughter from the bar.
We wash plenty of spinnakers for all sorts of boats, from tiny 2 sqm Manly Juniors to 400 sqm TP 52's, just removing the salt makes the sails lighter and feel much better, and whatever your method of delivery is, Sock, furler, bag, shute, they will all perform better with just a simple fresh water wash.
All spinnakers that we apply McLube sailkotePlus to are washed this way beforehand, unless new.
Boring topic? yes I agree, but it is vitally important to store your sails correctly. I myself years ago used to just put sails wherever they would fit, and in whatever condition that they happened to be shoved in the bag, now though after seeing some sails and canvas, I advise otherwise.
Not just used sails by the way too, I recently had a client whose brand new spinnaker went mouldy in the bag before he had a chance to even use it. In this case I told him that I can only assume that the sail was built in humid conditions, and then stored on the boat, again in a wet, hot, humid environment, that was all it took for the mould to grow in the seams where the double sided tape was yummy food for mould.
I'm seeing a lot more full sets of racing sails come in post a regatta or ocean race so that they can be washed of all salt and other grime that the race crew put on them as they were trampled on the cabin sole during the race.
Post the recent 5.5 World Championship, we had two sets of sails to wash and dry so that they were ready for their shipping back Europe, smart little Europeans.
So to finish this most boring of topics, store your sails clean, dry and in an environment that is also clean dry and well ventilated. All these same rules apply for canvas items too.
Most sailors know that late December and through January is regatta season for most classes of smaller boats. Including, but not exclusive, 16 ft, 13 ft, 29 er, Flying 11, Manly Junior and plenty more.
Yachts racing up and down the coast, and around marks in the ocean.
Vacuwash, Sail and Canvas Cleaning are here till Xmas and can prepare your sails with McLube SailkotePlus to give you every chance of being at the top of the fleet.
Spinnakers set faster, gybe faster, porosity is halved (they absorb less water) meaning they are lighter on the hoist and dry twice as fast, one or two pulls on the retrieving line back into the sock, Mexican drops are performed like a pro and plenty more advantages.
New kites or old kites, they all benefit from an application on McLube SailkotePlus, alson included in the cost is the jib and retrieving sock.
Last year we Mclubed the 100 footer Scallywag 1000 sqm code zero just prior to Hobart, we also recently Mclubed a MJ spinnaker, all 2 sqm of it, so we really can say "no job too big or too small"
Pricing is negligible in comparison to the effort to get to the start line, so why not give yourself every chance of winning, like current champions already have.
Climate change is again having an impact on your boat, this time it is the drought in Australia where the inland dust is blown to the coast, and coating everything in its path. This is not news, as anyone with a car will notice recently how dirty it is, now think to your boat, yep decks and canvas are covered in dust.
Water restrictions also mean you cannot hose hard surfaces, so I assume this means hosing boats is out, a salt water deck wash though will work, then follow with a bucket of fresh water.
Don't let this dust accumulate on your canvas, as it is nice food for mould to start growing.
Seemingly clean canvas that arrives in my factory can have very dirty rinse water highlighting the embedded dirt (rinse water pic below)
Furled headsails will also be coated in this dust, best remedy here is just go sailing and hopefully it will blow out, if not then I'll see you soon.
Thanks SeaLaunay for the pic of the dust storm a few years ago, current dust pictures are not as impressive.
Sometimes you just have to buy new sails, whether they are past their usable life and out of shape, or you have bought a nice European boat that arrives with less than perfect new 'cheap' sails.
If your new sails are going to be furled on the forestay, or the main left on the boom, furled or in a stack pack, then they should have McLube SailkotePlus applied.
Having now cleaned 1000's of sails, I can say that those sails that were McLubed previously were notably cleaner and cleaned up much better that sails that are not sailkoted.
Add in the benefits of removing friction, a 30% tighter furl and halving water porosity, then the small cost of McLubing your new sails is a no brainer.
This week we applied SailkotePlus to a new set of North 3Di Nordac sails for a spanking new Beneteau 41.1, the coating gave them an incredibly slippery finish, and my instruction to the owner was not to stand on them on the deck otherwise he will find himself in the water.
Row out to you boat in the coming weeks and you will be dive bombed by seagulls that have made their nest on the boat you happen to be rowing past.
I have mentioned before about this time of year and the need to get down to your boat to keep any nesting birds away, they will quickly find a less used boat and you will be safe.
One poor customer found this out, although he waited till spring this year after a year of bird action in his mainsail. He was very embarrassed about the sail, but I assured him I had seen worse, turns out I lied and this sail, (beware pictures below) is the worst I have seen.
Seaweed, sticks, dirt, poo, even old eggs had given this sail a patina that almost looked artistic. Too bad the sail was nearly new and worth $15,000!
It might be the first bird sail of the season, but I doubt it is the last.
Mmm, I never thought that I would see a sail that had been eaten by Rats on the boat!
Usually I'd give advice to prevent the issues I see with sails, but this time all I can come up with are not practical.
Get a cat, set a rat trap, spread rat poison, or even a one of those circular rat discs over the mooring lines.
Or just call him Stuart Little and keep as a pet.
Wow, hasn't glamping taken off! Belle tents are being made at great prices and are being used by rental companies for everything from, weddings, festivals, getaways or just general glamping. Do a quick internet search and it has to be the most popular new business in the past couple of years.
Glamping is just a mash word of glamor and camping, but there is not much glamor if the tent has not been maintained.
Yep, just like a yacht, these canvas tents need a lot of work.
Don't put away wet, don't leave up for extended periods, clean off any bird droppings or tree matter, clean off dirt and dust, etc Considering the number of phone calls I receive from tent owners, I know that not all the rules of tent ownership are being followed, and the tents are going mouldy.
I would love to show/tell how to clean a glamping tent so owners can do it themselves, but unless you have a Vacuwash machine yourself, then we are your only option.
The mould in the tent canvas will quickly spread everywhere and no amount of scrubbing/soaking will clean it, there is just too much fabric and all in a 3D shape. Even if there was a manual way to remove it, the shear effort to do such a large area is tiring just thinking about it.
We have cleaned hundreds of all brands of glamping tents, I even bought one myself to glamp in, then cleaned it and resold it.
They do look like new again after we have cleaned them, and your customers will be happy to sleep in them.
The question of waterproofing always comes up though. Firstly they cant be waterproof otherwise they will go mouldy as you watch, they need to be water resistant so the fabric can breath. Every manufacturer says to reproof after cleaning and all canvas is different.
We recommend talking to the tent manufacturer and reproof with the product whatever they recommend.
Apart from the odd polar vortex, Australian winters are getting warmer, thus extending the mould growing season. Cold dewy nights, warm days combined with seasonal westerly winds blowing organic material from inland Australia, mould is having a party all over your boat as you sip rose in France, or slide down ski slopes at Thredbo.
Winter is actually a great time to go sailing, not only are you having fun sailing on empty waterways, but you are also using your boat and helping to prevent mould from taking hold by drying your sails.
It might sound simple, but having seen hundreds of sails over the past few years, I have a reasonable appreciation of what goes wrong when the headsail is furled incorrectly.
A furled headsail lives outside in the UV, weather and pollution. There is a sacrificial UV strip down the leech and foot of the sail, this needs to be on the outside of the sail, yes many sails are furled incorrectly so the protected side is on the inside thus doing no good. The furl shouldn't have any folds in it either this will have the same effect of no UV strip. The easy way to see this is if you have a coloured UV strip, and your sail looks like the 'twirly' light outside a barber shop, then its furled incorrectly.
Wrap a few extra turns on the drum so that the sheets will go around the sail a few times, prevents the clew from being exposed even just a little bit and the resultant UV damage.
A tight furl will also help stop the cockys from gripping the sail and munching away at the UV, yep they love it, dunno why but I see plenty of sails damaged by cockys.
Not much you can do to prevent the pollution getting on the sail, but an annual Vacuwash of the sail will stop any accumulation of dirt. Combine a wash with a coating of SailkotePlus and many of the above problems will disappear.
Sydney in winter has some nasty east coast lows that can play havoc to even the best prepared boat.
Here is a forecast for the low of just a few weeks ago, 50 knot winds! that means gusts over 70 knots, serious stuff.
Just because your boat is tied up at a wharf or swinging on a mooring doesn't mean that you are any safer than a boat at sea in the same conditions.
If you can do so, take down your canvas biminis, dodgers and other bits that are there to protect varnish, otherwise you might find that what they are there to protect will actually be damaged by them as they flag in the wind after a fastening comes loose
Your furling headsail should be, removed (although I never see anyone do this) or at least tightly furled with no creases, an application of McLube SailkotePlus will ensure you achieve this furl, a few extra turns of the sheets around the sail too. Tie off tightly the sheets and the furling line. Its amazing watching a furled headsail unfurl and destroy itself from the head down.
Why are trimmers and sailmakers always full of work post these weather events?
Not really in Australia, our winters are some of the best times to go sailing, unless you are in Hobart that is!
Very different in the Northern hemisphere though where the water freezes and you have to take your boat out of the water, remove the rig and put anti freeze in anything that uses water.
That is where the Vacuwash process developed due to the sheer volume of sails that needed cleaning prior to winterising. Boat owners there know the benefits of a yearly sail clean and it is in their yearly boat maintenance schedule.
Over half of our business is from returning customers who also know the benefits of a yearly sail clean.
If you aren't going to use your boat over winter, then at a minimum get the sails off the rig and put them below, or better still send them to us for a wash. The same applies for your canvas.
This poor owner didn't get all his winterising finished off before disaster struck.
Vacuwash exhibits at many boat shows around Australia; here is a cheesy interview from Sail Expo at RPAYC
One of the most common questions we get asked is about the stitching.
The concern is understandable as the integrity of your sails and canvas depend on stitching.
In no way does the Vacuwash process have any detrimental effect on the stitching in sails and canvas.
This best way to prove this is to highlight that every sail/canvas washed is put into a bag, these bags over the past 5 years would themselves have been through the Vacuwash process thousands of times, well more than any sail over its lifetime.
The bags are still in perfect condition and can still easily hold the weight of your wet sails as they are lifted out of the Vacuwash tank. You are more than welcome to inspect the bags at the North Curl Curl factory, and there are pictures attached below.
Over half of our customers are returning ones, that says a lot of their satisfaction. My own sails have been Vacuwashed three times, they handled Bass Strait in 40 knots, easily proving that the stitching is not affected.
Canvas is slightly different as it always in the UV, it is the UV that kills the stitching in dodgers, biminis etc, these need to be re-stitched every 3-5 years (also depending on the stitching thread used). It follows that when I receive canvas to clean the stitching has been in the UV for a while, and thus will need re doing. Putting canvas back on the boat without having it restitched will usually result in it coming apart as point loading a zip will exert pressure on the stitching that is not normal, causing it to fail.
UV is the killer of stitching, not cleaning.
Sailmakers everywhere love using McLube SailkotePlus, below is a great summary from Ullman in the USA.
SAILKOTE Plus prevents mildew growth. Obviously the primary benefit to Sailkoting your cruising sails is the prevention of mildew. We probably dont need to mention mildew any more except to say that if SAILKOTE Plus is applied to your sails, you will have very little, IF ANY, mildew growth on your sails.
Furling and unfurling sails will be much easier. In addition to limiting mildew on furling sails your sails will operate with much less friction, and therefore will be easier to furl and unfurl. Sailkoted sails roll tighter. This is a real boon on systems such as roller masts/roller booms (where there is a limited cavity for the sail to fit in) the sail will fit better and not chafe as much when furling/unfurling. Also larger sails can be fitted or heavier more durable fabric used.
Cruising spinnakers will raise/lower more easily. A Sailkoted spinnaker/asymmetrical will be easier to raise and douse, especially when using a spinnaker sock, due to less friction. Often times when the nylon is wet, use of the spinnaker sleeve is made difficult by friction between the sleeve material and the nylon from the spinnaker (ever try to separate 2 pieces of wet glass?). If there is SAILKOTE Plus on at least one of the surfaces, friction is significantly reduced, creating an easier running spinnaker sleeve.
Key Benefits for Cruisers
SAILKOTE Plus prevents mildew growth. Nobody wants ugly mildew on their sails, whether you race OR cruise.
Less porosity and less water absorption on spinnakers. SAILKOTE Plus can decrease the porosity (less wind blows through the sail) of a nylon sail. This is particularly effective with older sails that you are trying to breathe new life into, as it will decrease the water absorption as well. Spinnakers that get wet during take-downs will dry much faster, keeping them lighter and faster.
Better spinnaker handling. Sailkoted spinnakers and asymmetricals are easier to raise and lower. In addition, asymmetrics are easier to gybe, due to less friction as the sail rides over itself during a gybe.
Genoas tack more easily. Sailkoted genoas will glide across the rigging and mast during tacks much more easily and sustain less spreader damage than un-koted sails. You should also consider spraying the lower rigging and mast as well. Telltales fly more freely, especially when sails are wet (or have you just been pinching all this time?).
Key Benefits for Racers
Winter in Australia is nearly here, and for some that means less time out on the water. Those in the Northern hemisphere have to remove their boats from the water as it becomes ice, yet herein Australia they are just left at their moorings soaking up the UV's and pollution in the air. As a result our boats will age a lot quicker as we perform less maintenance on them. This need not be the case, call us and we will remove your sails and canvas off your boat, clean and treat them, then put them back on when you are ready to go sailing again.
All sailmakers recommend yearly washing of sails, and canvas manufacturers state as part of the warranty that the canvas must be regularly washed.
Sails that look white and canvas that looks clean are not after a year of use, I'm always amazed at the dirty rinse water that comes out of 'clean' sails and canvas.
All you need to do is call us and the job will be done, one less boat worry and completely hassle free to you.
Sydney weather in March is perfect for turning your sails green. Rain, hot and humid.
You will be amazed at how fast those green lines of mould will appear on your nice white and expensive furled headsail.
Even sailing regularly is no guarantee of a mould free sail, the only thing that works is cleaning, once a year is the maximum time between cleans.
My own sails are used every week, yet even I find black spots of mould appearing, a yearly clean though has stopped it from becoming an issue.
Here is a recent picture of a sail before cleaning, I suspect that there was not much sailing going on here. Luckily this sail was sailkoted from new and has cleaned up looking that way again.
Modern yachts are fitted with a combo deck and steaming light, they look great yet the black plastic they are made from quickly becomes a black crayon in the UV.
You probably don't notice it from the deck, yet I see the damage done to the sail up close. Those black marks don't come off either, as in the first picture, the second pic the marks came off, but look at the damage on the sail.
What to do? put a wear patch on the sail like you do for the spreaders, or put a nice smooth stainless bracket over the light.
Hot in January, hot and wet in February, wet and humid in March. As much as you probably have had enough boating over the summer months, the recent weather we are having on the East coast of Australia will give you the excuse to get back to your boat and dry her out. For many it is already too late, I heard a conversation on the club tender the other day, 'the engine was half underwater as the bilge pump stopped working' there is always something on a boat!
A sail came in last week to be cleaned, and the owner said he had only left it for a month, i'm afraid that that is all it takes in this climate.
If you are not going to be using your sails for any more that a month, then take them off the rig and store them below, and off the floor to just in case the bilge pump stops working.
Sail below, clean to crappy in just one month, and yes the sail is spotless again after Vacuwashing.
Tis the season for SailkotePlus, a day doesn't go by now that we aren't spraying McLube onto some sail. Spinnakers both old and new, from Manly Juniors (2 sqm) to 30 meter maxi yachts (450 sqm), the word is out there on the benefits of sailkotePlus.
If you are buying new sails, then have them sailkoted. If you race a centerboard boat, get the spinnaker sailkoted. If your mainsail furls in the mast, get it sailkoted.
Happy to discuss any application and describe the benefits.
In the meantime, checkout this cool video I just did of a sailkoted spinnaker going back into its sock.
tIf yes is the answer, then there is a high probability that your boat has been an excellent nesting site.
We have already cleaned numerous sails and canvas that have nurtured some new chicks, the Vacuwash process is excellent at removing most of the evidence.
Pictures of bird stained sails are upsetting, so instead in this post I will give you a cute picture of a seagull chick so that you don't get too mad when the sticks/mud and other crap falls on your head as the main is hoisted.
Last weekend Australia's east coast was smashed by an what is termed an 'East Coast Low' other parts of the world they are Cyclones or Hurricanes, whatever they are called the results are usually similar.
We haven't had that much rain since the last time we had that much rain, and records were broken for the number of stories/news programs talking about records being broken.
So we have all dried out our garages/wet carpet, cleaned out the green swimming pools, grated the fallen trees, most households are back to normal, all except for boat owners!
These guys will be down on their boats this weekend, taking advantage of the 21C winter weather to dryout their boats. Boats leak, even new ones, there are no open windows, so that damp interior will be going moldy as I type.
Any sails stored below will need to be aired, as will bunk cushions and anything/everything else.
Then there are the sails furled around the forestay, or stacked on the boom. These will still be soaking wet even a week after the rain.
Only one thing to do, Go Sailing.
Any boat that doesn't go sailing this weekend will be a Vacuwash customer within the next couple of months, that's all it takes for those green stripes of mold to form on your nice white sails.
If you don't want you sail to look like the one in the picture, get down to your boat and go for a sail.
See you on the water, I'll be out there.
Today I just cleaned what should be a perfectly good jib. When I say 'should' I mean that if the sail is not that old, its cut is an expensive tri radial, the sail material is a top of the range laminate. The sail though has been left on a furler, in the weather and the sail has now gone to crap. I can make the sail look better, yet once the UV strip starts to break down, then the sail it is there to protect also breaks down. All this happens while your unloved boat swings at its mooring as you attend to other pastimes, it also happens a lot quicker than you think.
I'm not going to get into the furler vs put away headsails here, but here are the pointers if you are going to furl your headsail.
Air and dry the sail weekly even if just at the dock in calm conditions.
Dacron is a much better cloth to clean, so furl that please. Exotic laminates are great sails, yet I dont think they should be furled.
Make the UV strip out of 100% acrylic canvas, it lasts better than sticky back and looks better with age, and also furl it the right way so the UV is on the outside!
Make the cut a simple cross panel, tri radial sails cant be cut down to remove any leach that has UV damage.
Lastly, if your sail is small enough and you can handle it by yourself, then take it off the rig and put it below, it will last forever.