What lies between us and saltwater sailing? 1300 miles of rivers!
Before we can get underway, we need to unstep our mast. For this leg of our journey south, we turning our sailboat into a motorboat. There’s a fixed 19’ 1” bridge in Chicago that forces sailboats to ditch their sticks. Besides that, rivers don’t offer the best sailing opportunities. 😉
Some sailors opt to carry their masts on deck, others, like us, decide to ship it via truck. In this episode, we pull into Skyway Yacht Works at the mouth of the Calumet River to have our mast unstepped and pack it for shipping.
Even though we’re packing away our sails for now, we’re already thinking about a new headsail for sailing in the trade winds. Our 155% genoa is old, stretched out and much too big for where we’re headed next: the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.
After Kirk spent hours researching the type of sail we wanted (115% Dacron tri-radial), we contacted over a dozen sail lofts for quotes. We received the best information from Mack Sails and Precision Sails. In the end, we ordered our new headsail from Precision Sails, as they were the most responsive, their quote form the most detailed, and their price the cheapest. Hard to beat.
Interested in a new sail? Precision Sails is having a Black Friday Sale: https://www.precisionsailloft.com/lpd
Hope you enjoy!
Lauren & Kirk
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[Lauren Narrating] Last time on Sailing Soulianis we talked money.
[Lauren] We’re gonna focus on how much it cost to actually buy the boat.
[Lauren Narrating] We discussed our financial planning, how much the boat actually cost after often overlooked transaction fees, how much we spent on immediate upgrades and the financial tools we developed to help us make decisions. If you haven’t seen it, put a pin in it. Its a good one. Now lets get back to where we were on the boat. After saying goodbye to Chicago, we put the sails up one last time, for a short 12 nautical mile trip to the mouth of the Calumet river. Here we began our 1300 mile journey down the inland river system from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. Thing is not all the bridges along the way are as tall as these, nor do they all open. Because of this, we have to take our mast down. Our first stop is just one mile down river at Skyway Yacht Works, where we would have our mast unstepped.
[Lauren] We just took all the sails off our boat.
[Lauren] She looks so naked.
[Lauren] And our boat is naked.
[Kirk] It is naked.
[Kirk] Looks sad.
[Kirk] Alright we will take the lazy jacks off last ’cause if we take them off now these pulleys are just going to be banging around.
[Lauren] Unstepping our mast was something we had never done.
[Kirk] Not only were we unstepping our mast for the first time, we were also shipping our mast via truck down to Mobile, Alabama.
[Kirk] So we had to understand the process for unstepping the mast and figuring out how to organize everything and where it all went and how it was all put together.
[Lauren] And then we needed to figure out how to properly pack the mast for its thousand mile journey on a truck down to Alabama.
[Kirk] So we wanted to protect the mast, protect the boom, protect the standing rigging.
[Kirk] We also had to catalog and organize how all of the running rigging went together, so that we could put it all back together in three months time when we were reunited and became a sail boat again.
[Lauren] The best way that we figured out how to do that was to take a ton of pictures.
[Kirk] The furling unit on the headsail, all of the reefing lines on the boom and the mainsail, all the rigging like even down to which little pin went to.
[Lauren] In which direction.
[Kirk] What direction and in what cotter pin and like it was everything we took photos of everything. ♪ Has it taken what is best of us ♪ ♪ this electric ♪
[Kirk] Everything you do is always a little bit more scary the first time. And since we had never had a mast unstepped we just, we didn’t know how any of it would go. You know what it would look like when it was coming out of the deck.
[Kirk] The chocks.
[Lauren] That was a big thing was what to do with the chocks. We had no idea, we were supposed to get them out before the mast came out or
[Kirk] or did they come out with the mast through the top. Just like every little question you can imagine we just we didn’t know how it would go.
[Kirk] And it was quite windy that day.
[Lauren] So we were cringing at every jolt and every dramatic movement of the mast. We were like is everything okay. ♪ Is there anybody left to trust in this ♪
[Kirk] And at the same time while we’re being overly protective helicopter parents for our boat, the guys that are working here have done this a thousand times a season and are probably just were sick to death of us by the end of it.
[Man In boat] Hold up.
[Man On Deck] Want us to loosen it?
[Man In Boat] Yeah.
[Man In Boat] Some of them, they go from the top. Here we got this other one. We just need the fore and aft one.
[Kirk] Okay, yeah we can try it, go for it.
[Man On Deck] What’s happening?
[Kirk] We’re just moving the chocks.
[Man On Deck] Alright so are we.
[Kirk] I think were good now.
[Man In Boat] Alright were good.
[Man On Deck] You got your centerboard rope?
[Kirk] I gotta grab it in a minute keep going up. ♪ I thought I knew you ♪ ♪ I thought I knew you ♪ ♪ I thought I knew you ♪ ♪ I thought I knew you ♪ ♪ I thought I knew you ♪
[Lauren] How did it go?
[Kirk] I don’t know that was sketchy.
[Kirk] It’s blowing like 20 knots in here.
[Kirk] I don’t think we damaged anything. So that’s a plus.
[Lauren] What do you got there?
[Man On Deck] Are you shipping your mast or are you carrying it?
[Kirk] I got all the instruments of the top of our mast.
[Lauren] There’s a hole in our boat dear Kirk, dear Kirk.
[Kirk Narrating] So after we had sorted the mast and rigging it was time to pack up our sails and put them away for a few months.
[Lauren] We were going to be turning our sailboat into a motorboat.
[Kirk] Which is not what got us into all of this. We really truly love sailing, but with 19 foot air draft on bridges there was no way that we could continue on down the river with our mast up. Yes.
[Lauren] Why are you still smiling?
[Kirk] Cause I love you.
[Lauren] So even though we are packing up our sails and we wouldn’t be using them for the next two to three months, we are already thinking about what type of sail we would need once we got down to the Gulf and beyond.
[Kirk] We talked a little bit in Episode 21 about the struggles we’ve had with our big genoa.
[Kirk] Our only head sail is 155% genoa. We reach hull speed at about 13 knots of wind and are quickly overpowered. It’s old and its blown out and we are heading to the trade winds. So this sail has been sort of a big source of anxiety when the winds are up for us, because we know that its not the right sail to have. In any case.
[In unison] We need a new headsail.
[Kirk] So as with any project, we start researching. The first place we started was the Tartan 37 owner’s forum. I wanted to see what other people who had sailed our boat in the places that we were headed to had done for their headsail. There was a pretty good consensus around 110, 115%.
[Lauren] So once we figured out the type of sail that we wanted we had to figure out who we wanted to make it.
[Kirk] So we asked all of you guys.
[Kirk] We created a poll on our YouTube channel. We turned to our patrons and posted questions on our Facebook page.
[Lauren] And we got a ton of recommendations.
[Kirk] North sails and Quantum and Doyle, Precision Sails, Mack Sails, Evolution Sails. Literally we probably contacted between 15 and 20 different sail lofts. And we got a total of three quotes.
[Lauren] I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise that it was so hard to get anyone to talk to us, because that just seems like how it is in the marine industry. You try to get someone to do a job and man, it is like pulling teeth.
[Kirk] It is.
[Lauren] And it was kinda crazy because we had a bunch of referrals from people who already had sails made from all of these lofts.
[Kirk] Right, and we name dropped.
[Lauren] Yeah, make sure to mention my name so and so will take care of you. And we were like, sweet this is going to be great. We contact so and so and then radio silence. Or that person did get back to us and said
[Kirk] We will get in touch shortly and we just don’t care for people.
[Lauren] Yeah and then nothing so anyway.
[Kirk] The few people that we did talk with we learned a great deal from and we realized there are way more options when ordering a sail than just figuring out how big your sail should be. Do we want dacron or a laminate? What are warp and fill fibers? UV protection is important, but is it just the sacrificial cloth on the outside or are there differences in all of the different cloths that the sail is made out of? What about a rope or foam loft? Do we want crosscut or tri-radial sails?
[Lauren] I don’t know.
[Kirk] These were all the things that we had to figure out before we could order a sail.
[Lauren] That’s the thing that Kirk really dove deep into and we’re gonna talk about that a little bit in the future because Kirk could talk for like 15 minutes about sail cloth.
[Kirk] Out of all the sail lofts that we talked with, Precision Sails and Mack Sails kind of stood out above the rest.
[Lauren] Precision’s response time blew everyone else out of the water. It felt like we weren’t actually dealing with any sort of marine company. We felt like we were dealing with a regular company.
[Kirk] We had a really fantastic phone call with Travis at Mack Sails. He probably spent about 20 minutes chatting with us about different sail cloths and the sail making process and how they’re unique in that they are one of the last sail lofts that makes all of their sails in-house in the USA. And their highly rated amongst cruising sailors for building tough long-lasting cruising sails. But at the end of the day, we really decided that we wanted a tri-radial sail. There’s two things that stopped us from going with Mack Sails. One was they say they only make sail cloth with challenge marblehead, which is not an ideal cloth for tri-radial sails. And when I sent him back emails asking him questions we didn’t get a response. We turned to Precision Sails and they answered all of our questions. Of the three sail lofts that we got quotes back from, they were by far the cheapest.
[Lauren] They were also the only place that felt like they really wanted to make us a sail.
[Lauren] We really valued that.
[Kirk] Their quote was the most detailed out of the three quotes that we received. There was a ton of information and options to choose from and it included a followup offering for a free design consultation over the phone.
[Lauren] If any of you are interested in a sail, they are having a Black Friday sale at the end of this month.
[Kirk] And while it’s kind of strange to be focusing so much on sails as we’re converting our sailboat into a motorboat for the next three months. We are really stoked to be setting ourselves up for trade wind sailing with an appropriately sized, newly upgraded headsail for the future.
[Lauren] I think I strained a muscle putting it on my shoulder.
[Kirk] Oh no.
[Kirk] Before firing up that engine and droning on for the next 1300 miles
[Lauren] we still had a mast to pack. ♪ I come home again at the end of a lonesome day ♪ ♪ And when I listen closely ♪ ♪ All the voices seem to say ♪ ♪ That I still think of you ♪ ♪ While I watch the clock go round and round ♪ ♪ I saw the news today ♪ ♪ What a rodeo ♪ ♪ A grownup man thought it was ♪ ♪ Another little boys turn to go ♪ ♪ And I am wondering ♪
[Lauren] After two full days of unstepping the mast, packing it up, packing up all the sails and putting the boat back together again, it was a relief to finally be on the river. ♪ And I found you wandering ♪ ♪ All by yourself ♪ ♪ You grabbed me shook me hard ♪
[Kirk] There’s some cool shit behind you.
[Lauren] I did notice it was blue. What is that?
[Kirk] I don’t know.
[Lauren] Salt? ♪ Cause I saw them ♪
[Lauren] We only had a few miles to go that night because we had left Skyway Yacht Works pretty late. We went through our first lock, which was scary. Because we had no idea what to expect. Fortunately it was just a four foot lock and it really wasn’t a big deal.
[Kirk] It was nothing.
[Lauren] We only had a couple hundred feet to get to the marina where we were going to stay at.
[Kirk] And disaster struck.
[Kirk] Next time on Sailing Soulianis.
[Lauren] Find out why we didn’t make it to the dock.
[Kirk] Next time on sailing Soulianis, we are total newbs.
[Kirk] Next time on Sailing Soulianis.
[Lauren] Heading back to the yard that you just came from to get hauled out.
[Kirk] Next time on Sailing Soulianis. How to run aground in eight foot of water when you only draft four.
[Lauren] Oh that’s the best one. Next time on Sailing Soulianis.
[Kirk] We travel five miles in seven days. You can’t laugh right away though.
[Kirk] This isn’t funny.