Says right there in that old article I saved from a long ago issue of Cruising World: "Beginning with only basic sewing skills, this author converted his hank-on headsail to work with new roller furling gear. Here's how you can do the same thing". How hard can it be?
Lulu started with our staysail because it's the smaller of the two sails she has to convert. They neglect to tell you in the articles just how hard it is to wrestle a sail through a sewing machine. And this is our small sail. And it's a full-blown Sailrite sewing machine. I can't even imagine how hard the wrestling match with the yankee sail is going to be.
To be fair, many of the problems associated with this job are directly related to the sewing machine. First, the needle pierced this leaf spring leaving a jagged thread-eating hole. Why? Who knows? We ordered a new part (and a spare) from Sailrite but didn't want to waste a bunch of time waiting for it to arrive so I finally fixed the piece with some J.B.Weld (don't leave home without it). Got the repaired piece in place and adjusted so the needle wouldn't hit it again and Lulu started merrily sewing away. For about 2 minutes. Then, some other problem was causing the thread to get frayed and break. We dove into the sewing machine manual to try to figure out the problem. Never really isolated one problem as the definite cause so we went through the whole needle height/stitch timing/rotation timing/gib hook placement procedures. Got everything adjusted just so.
Now, the above paragraph plays down how hard it was to actually do these things. Sailrite includes these two cheesy little fifty cent screwdrivers with their $900 sewing machine and then tells you not to use them for some of the maintenance. Huh? Well, I have a pretty nice complement of tools (although most of them are at the boat) but the tools required to reach some of the machine screws and socket head set screws put my collection to shame. There is almost nothing on this machine that you can reach with a normal 6" screwdriver. Even stubbies are too big for some of the most basic jobs, like removing the plate that covers the feed dogs. You need an offset screwdriver, which I have but which is at the boat. Next best candidate: my SOG multitool with the screwdriver sort of bent over. Either that or the driver from one of those 4-in-1 screwdrivers and a 5/16" open end wrench to turn it. And even that didn't work in a bunch of the spots! And the set screws! I swear they built this machine from the inside out, tightening things as they went along and then covering them up. I would love to see what the techs at Sailrite have in their toolboxes. And, as if this wasn't all bad enough, we had to take the machine apart and put it back together at least a half a dozen times yesterday and again today. Finally, late this afternoon we found what may have caused all the problems in the first place: a loose set screw that allowed a bushing to drop and let everything go all loosey-goosey. After finally locating the set screw, findng the appropriate allen wrench and then holding my mouth just so, I managed to get the bushing back in place. With my fingers firmly crossed, I can say that we've had no problems since (and that's been nearly 3 hours with an hour out for dinner. Wow!
Lulu just finished sewing all the sacrificial Sunbrella on the foot and leach of the staysail. Tomorrow: the luff tape and then, if there's time, start on the yankee.
So, if you run across us in a faraway anchorage somewhere and you have a ripped sail please don't ask us to fix it. If, on the other hand, your Sailrite sewing machine is giving you fits, we just might be able to help.