Monday, January 4, 2010

Reef Nettles

As those who have built a boat will attest, some days seem almost like a time warp. Little details can far out-reach their apparent significance.

Take reef points for instance. You sew a reinforcing patch and poke a hole in the sail, then tie a line through it. Easy.


First we had to sew reinforcing cringle rings on each reef patch. Then, there are two ways of attaching the line, called a nettle, to each reef point. One way is to simply tie an overhand knot on each side of the sail, at the center of each nettle.

But around here we always set the bar a little higher.

The preferred method for attaching reef nettles to a cruising sail is to stitch them to the sail and to each other.

Simple enough? In theory. But in practice, a bit of a challenge. By design, the reef points are placed in the midst of a lot of heavy fabric. Reaching alternately from one side of the sail to the other to lash the nettle down involves an aerobic amount of exertion and zen like concentration to avoid sewing multiple layers of the sail together in a bunch or stitching fingers to a cringle.

The reef nettles on Mistral's new main are seized on each end, then lashed to the sail with a double figure eight loop, which is then tied off with a sewn shank on each side.
A good days work!



Unknown said...

I'm curious why sewing them in is the preferred method. Does it make a difference in ease of use or longevity? My under-experienced imagination makes me think I'd rather have nettles which couldn't tear the sails if they were overstressed and could be easily replaced 'on the fly' without needle and thread.

doryman said...

Ah, Greg - always the inquiring mind! I have this on no less an authority than "the Sailmaker's Apprentice" and unfortunately Emiliano Marino gives us no reason, something he is wont to do when he believes there is no discussion necessary.

My guess is that a knot can always come undone and no knot is prettier.

The nettle is not actually sewn to the sail. It's lashed through the sail to itself. The thread does not go through the rope. Tension on the nettle will pull it through the stitching loop and be taken up by the sewn ring.

I thought someone would ask this question and I'm glad it was you!

Anonymous said...

I would be tempted to heat up a nail and melt a small hole through a dacron sail, about 1/2" below the reef cringle, through which I would tie the figure 8 lashing.
Knots on each side of the grommet add a lot more wind resistance, especially when there's several reefs in the sail.