My sail canvas went moldy so I had to wait and wait for more to arrive in Veracruz; finally it came in and I have sprung into action, my blade singing, my hands a blur. I spent today on Victor and Peter’s balcony which is the only place I know flat and clean enough to lay out a sail six metres on a side. I have been dreading this job; sailmaking is an art and beset with fiendish complications like ”adverse stretching in the leech” and ”bias elongation”. It’s all about building in curve and making use of a cloth’s natural stretching ability. Plus of course really fine seamsmanship. I have no experience with any of these things but I have been amply provided with reading material, needles and string by my father. He’s a bit of a sea dog himself.

           Yesterday was raining and there was a power cut so I did little. The day before I went to Veracruz, found the sailcloth, visited Professor Santiago and shopped about for groceries, paint, sandpaper (always more sandpaper), and gin, ate some guacamole with Ben and Carmen, finally returned in the evening with the bike fully loaded; I’m sure I could not have carried one more thing without disaster. I had three potted plants stuffed up my jacket, purchased from the owner of this cart I found in the centro:

Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous

 Quite the loveliest vending cart I have ever seen. For a vertical strip of three plants, each a perfect living gem, with the thing that holds them $3.50 USD!

    The plants are for Marbella, who makes the best picadas in Mata de Uva and is sewing my canvas kite for me. I know she would sew my entire sail too, by hand, bless her, If I let slip it’s existence.

    It chucked it down raining on the way back. I had to jam the camera bag up my jacket with the plants. I arrived in Playa Zapote bulging grotesquely, streaming water, my boots overflowing. I poured some dish soap into the shoes and squelched around in them for a while to clean them. This weather is as the English would say, ”doing my head in”.


        It turned out quite satisfactory, the day’s work. Fortunately this is not a complicated sail. The Crabclaw, or Oceanic Lateen sail, is normally a flat triangular sheet and needs no built-in curvature. Traditionally it is made by women from woven pandanus leaves but I didn’t have any of those so I am using cotton canvas, some rather nice thin, tough stuff I found in a department store in Veracruz. I mean, sure, we’d all love to use polyester Dacron by DuPont but it is five times the price of canvas, (over $10 USD per square metre) and that means my screwups would cost five times as much. There are many screwups; much of my boatbuilding time is spent concealing them.

         And then, this off-white canvas looks really nice. I like it more than Dacron but it will require a lot of care if it is to last.


This is the fruit of today’s work, pinned together ready for sewing as soon as I can track down a skilled person with a capable machine.

         Thankyou everyone for your lovely feedback. I’ll get back to you personally soon. I know, I know, I’m supposed to tell you the story…left you hanging back in January in Veracruz.  And I haven’t shown you what I’m building. I’m such a tease.


2 thoughts on “Sailmaking

  1. such a tease yes.. – but you failed – as I was too inept to find the new blog pages until – now.. and so muahahaha! I have before me untrammelled joy – like getting a box set for christmas. Who says rank stupidity has no reward. (My actual rank is imbecile – but I’m working on stupid) “much of my boatbuilding time is spent concealing them” brought tears to my eyes btw 🙂 😛

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