The following is an excerpt from Dan Neriï¿½s book ï¿½Sail Care & Repair,ï¿½ recently published by Beowulf Press.
Your onboard sail repair kit is in many ways a lot like the life-raft ditch-bag: The items that make up the repair kit are not commonly available in remote ports; they take up a fair amount of space; you have to be diligent about keeping it all dry; and if all goes well, you will never get to use any of it. But it would be irresponsible to go to sea without a well-equipped sail repair kit.
This chapter has lists of supplies for two very complete sail repair kits, one intended for a boat planning coastal sailing trips typical of a two-week vacation, and the other for an ocean passagemaker. Some of the tools and supplies suggested for these kits are likely included in the ships tool supply or other spare parts bins. There is no need for duplication, so if you carry scissors in the galley drawer, vice grips and razor knife in the tool kit, and Spectra cord in your rigging bag, then cross all those items off your sail-repair-kit list.
The Bluewater Kit includes suggestions for large cuts of sailcloth that is compatible with each of your sails. This fabric can be used for window patch repairs to your sails when you have access to a sail loft or portable machine in port. The Coastal Repair Kit does not include sailcloth other than a selection of Dacron tapes. Our thinking is that the coastal sailor will be able to find a reasonably well-stocked sail loft close by most ports of call. However, a few yards of sailcloth will not take up any more space than a roll of navigation charts. While not a necessity for coastal sailors, it might make the difference between having your sail patched with an exact match or slightly off-spec fabric. Large pieces of sailcloth can also serve as emergency supplies for covering a hole in the hull.
Sail repair tools and materials are not waterproof. Metal rusts, and adhesives degrade when they sit in damp conditions. The best way to keep your gear dry is to have it sealed with a vacuum-bag machine. But that is only good until the first time you need to use something in the bag. A more practical solution is to bag everything individually and then put it into waterproof bags or Tupperware containers. Metal items like scissors, awls or sewing needles do well if they are oiled periodically and then wiped off before you use them. Sailcloth should be rolled and stored in watertight plastic chart tubes. Finally, resist the temptation to store your repair materials below the floorboards.
Even if you are lucky enough to never use your sail repair kit, you should open all the containers and inspect the supplies periodically. Adhesives in particular will need to be renewed every year or two. If the adhesives are cycled through extreme heat and cold or wet and dry, they wonï¿½t stick as well, and the paper backing may no longer come off cleanly.
Most of the materials listed in the Coastal Repair Kit and Bluewater Repair Kit can be purchased directly from the stock of a sail repair shop. Some marine chandleries carry small sail repair kits that contain some of these items. Any full production sail loft will carry most everything on the list, and if they donï¿½t have something, they can order it and get it in a day or two. You could also buy most of these supplies online at http://www.sailrite.com.
These lists are written up with a description of the item and then a part number from the Bainbridge International catalogue. Bainbridge is the leading sail hardware supplier to the sail-making industry. They only sell parts on a wholesale basis, so you canï¿½t order anything directly from them, but most sail lofts will have their catalogue, so they will know exactly what you are looking for when you reference the Bainbridge numbers.