Whole Earth Nautical Supply

The Artful Sailor’s Blog

Reuse, Recycle and Resail!


“The sail, the play of its pulse so like our own lives; so thin and yet full of life, so noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.”

So said Henry David Thoreau and so thin and eager to be full of life again are the several dozen sails in the inventory of The Artful Sailor’s newly established Sail Exchange! In response to inquiries and a need for used sails, sailcloth and sail hardware, The Artful Sailor established the Sail Exchange as an eco-friendly way to assist and encourage self-reliant and thrifty sailors in their quest for sails as well as fabric for other projects.

There is some hard but rewarding labor involved surveying, categorizing and matching sailors up with the right sails. Sometimes there’s even a perfect fit, though the sail was originally made for a completely different boat. Some sails are just too new, useful or historical to merit being chopped up for handbags. Yet, a painter’s cloth is about all a few other sails are good for. Then, there’s everything in between:  opportunities to recut sails, or make tarps, awnings, rain catchers and canvas projects.

It is interesting to study the sailmaking techniques of various sailmakers and the evolution of sailmaking over a long period of time during which technology, materials, boats, sail design and construction have changed so radically.

Looking at the cotton and flax sails in our collection is like stepping into Professor Peabody’s Wayback Time Machine. There are century-old sails, some of which are in much better shape than many of the recently made Dacron ones. What an aesthetic difference between a soft, cotton sail and a crinkly, stiff, heavily resinated Dacron sail that sounds and feels like a potato chip bag!

The whole sail survey process is a good study, too, in what materials and construction techniques are appropriate and seaworthy for what kind of use. In addition, the importance of good sail care, maintenance and sail repair is clearly visible.

Donating, swapping, buying and reusing sails through The Artful Sailor Sail Exchange is doing several good turns at once:

  • Raising funds for the maritime education of young sailors at the NW Maritime Center.

  • Keeping sails out of the landfill.

  • Learning self-reliance and how to repair and alter sails.

  • Turning sail fabric into other useful items.

  • Saving sailors big bucks.

One good turn deserves another, and the greatest reward will come when seeing the thin sails you’ve saved full of life again and noiselessly laboring their hardest to drive your boat on exciting voyages of discovery.

For inquiries call (360) 344-8120.

Adrienne Robineau