New Sails

In the middle of April, Steve and I set out from Comox bound for Port Townsend. Our mission was to pick up and ‘bend on’ the brand new, custom made sails which had been made for the boat by Port Townsend Sails (Hasse and Company).

The boat had not been out of the harbour all winter. Steve had spent the winter up the river in Courtenay completely redoing all the rigging and ticking off countless other things that needed to be done. These tasks, along with work, leave little time for frolicing. There was no wind as we pulled out of the harbour, but as we came up between Denman Island and Vnacouver Island, a breeze from the SW picked up and we decided to tack in order to tension the rigging properly, and, well, to sail.

On Gabriola, the next night, we chatted with a couple who spent two seasons on their (bigger) boat in Chile. They shared with us their enthusiasm for the area, some tips on onboard canning and four CD’s of electronic charts.

Barb joined us in Oak Bay and the next morning we set out into approximately 30 knots of wind for the border. While Barb and I chattered away about knitting, Steve watched anxiously as the boat set out into the first rough weather it (and we) had been in in quite a while.

We tied up right below the sail loft in Port Townsend and Carol Hasse was immediately down at the boat with a wheelbarrow full of sails. We hoisted the staysail and the genoa, noted points where new chafing material would be added, and Carol and Steve puzzled out the new track system for the mainsail.

Port Townsend Sails makes between 150 and 200 sails every year, all by hand. Of the 15 or so people who work in the loft, all but 1 are women. The next morning when I went up to visit I was struck by the open, warm, sunlit space and the Old Crow Medicine Show singing out from the CD player in the corner. Along one wall are four or five industrial sewing machines, covering another is a map of the world. That morning, just one of the maches was being used while on the floor two or three other women sorted through yards and yards of sailcloth. Their work is beautiful  Рthere is an artistry and a creativity to sailmaking that I had not known about before I visited.

The sails they make are meant to go to faraway places – it is their purpose and design – and it is exciting to think of where these sails will take us.