Sail Selection – Part 2 Budget & Materials

Colourful Sails

So the quotes have started rolling in for my new headsail and oh my! My cheap Scottish side is not happy! My new sail budget may have been a little off. Haha. On the other hand, I am getting SO excited at the thought of a nice, new, crisp sail to trim. Delish!

As I noted in Part 1, I requested 3 quotes in the end from Precision Sails, North Sails and Evolution Sails. The quotes have started rolling in and now I get to disect them and confirm my budget, materials and sail cut.

Evolution Sails, Vancouver BC

The quote process for Evolution Sails was pretty simple. I filled in an online form and provided basic boat dimensions and Jason emailed me a quote within a few days. For your boat dimensions you can either use your owner’s manual or this website.

Based on the information provided and the fact that I am looking for a cruising headsail, Jason suggested a Challenge 6.63 HA Dacron. What does this mean? Challenge is the manufacturer of the sailcloth. The number 6.63 is the weight of the sailcloth while the HA Dacron is the specific fabric used. HA is high aspect, meaning that it is a tight cross weave.

As I have a furling jib the sail would also have a UV cover (WeatherMax 80) to protect the sail from harsh UVs. Overall this quote is about $1,800 + shipping.

Precision Sails, Victoria BC

Precision Sails quoted me within a few hours of submitting my request online. “This could be good or bad,” I thought as I opened the email. To my surprise, it contained a 24-page PDF quote including links to YouTube videos about the various fabrics and sail cuts. This was great as I was still feeling like I was in the research stage of the game.

The Precision Sails quote included racing and cruising sails and covered everything from headsails that were $4,000 to sails that were $1,200. It really came down to what I want to do with the sail.

At this point I started waffling between the accuracy of the laminate sail (holds its shape longer) and the lifespan of the Dacron sail (being a cheapskate this enticed me). I called up their office to discuss the differences and what my needs were. After some discussion it was clear to me that the Dacron was the way to go and having a tri-radial cut (instead of a cross-cut). The tri-radial cut will decrease the “baggy dacron sail syndrome”. I’m looking at about $2,000 + shipping.

North Sails, Vancouver BC

North Sails took a few days to get back to me and they wanted me to call them to discuss my sail. I’ll be honest, at this point I had already decided whom I wanted to work with, so I said thank you for getting in touch and moved along. Hopefully that won’t come back to bite me! 

Who’s the winner? 

I have decided to move forward with Precision Sails. I am very impressed with their professionalism, vaste information and knowledge, and they seem eager to help me out. They also fit nicely into my expected sail budget. Now that I have made a decision and a downpayment, I need to get the measurements done… Part 3 here I come! 

Photo Credit: photo retrieved from https://www.puzzlewarehouse.com/Colorful-Sailboats-on-a-Beach-5800zz.html

Sail Selection – Part 1 Sailmaker

Alright, so I have finally embraced the fact that Spindrift needs a new headsail. There are 3 standard, or more common, sizes of headsail including: genoa (150%), jib (115%) and a storm jib (40% or less). The percentages refer to the triangular area between the forestay and the mast, so a genoa would come 50% aft of the mast.

I currently have a genoa that is 180% and a jib that is 110% and I believe I have an extra jib, but it is living in the garage. The boat came with a lot of odds and ends from my grandfather that I am still sorting through!

At this point in time I am looking to replace my 110% jib as it is really baggy. Spindrift does not like sailing with baggy skirts! The 180% genoa is way too large and it really overpowers the helm so I am hoping to cut it down to a smaller 150%. I’ll look into that at a later date — after I’ve digested the bill from my new jib!

Selecting a Sailmaker

The first order of business is researching the various sailmakers out there and determining which one meets your needs. You want to provide yourself with a pool of candidates. I researched several of the more common sailmakers to see what services they offer and checked on their reviews. I also looked into smaller lofts as sometimes they provide more quality. As I am looking for a cruising sail, as opposed to a racing sail, I am a bit more focused on budget than performance at this point and I have more options for getting quotes. Here’s who I looked into…

North Sails, Vancouver BC

North Sails is one of the more well-known sailmaker names in the industry. They have been around since 1957 and the company was founded by Lowell North (who actually recently passed away on June 2, 2019).

Their website is full of information including how to pick your material, sail type and requesting a quote. They have lofts around the world making them easy to access and leaders in the industry. Worth a look into if you are looking for racing or cruising sails.

Evolution Sails, Vancouver BC

Evolution Sails is a group of sailmakers from around the world with several lofts in Canada — Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Their website does not contain as much background information as North Sails, for example, about sail selection, but once you get to the loft website you are looking for (in this case I chose Vancouver), they are more than happy to chat with you about what you are looking for. Jason was more than happy to discuss options with me and seems eager to work with clients to help make sure they get the right sail.

Precision Sails, Victoria BC

Precision Sails out of Victoria have a very comprehensive website. There is a lot of information about materials, cuts, ad-ons and everything in between. Precision Sails also has a large library of videos on YouTube explaining their sails, materials and cuts, which was very informative. Their website is very easy to navigate and requesting a quote was a cinch.

Bay Sails, Hamilton ON

Bay Sails used to be our go-to for sails when I was teaching at Harbour West Sailing Adventures in Hamilton. They are a small loft out of a house and they always provided our school with great feedback and assistance when we had a sail to fix. If you are looking for a Canadian mom and pop shop, I would suggest Bay Sails. Your best bet for a quote and further information would be to check out their Facebook page or just call them directly to chat about your options.

Leitch and McBride Sailmakers, Sidney BC

Leitch and McBride is a Canadian sailmaking company established in 1976 by two partners (Rick McBride and Phil Leitch). Leitch & McBride were the most technologically advanced sailmakers in Canada for some time as they introduced state of the art tools to their loft to maximize their sail designs.

Their website is user-friendly and it is easy to request a quote online. The company has since been sold, but is still run by a Canadian who still uses the Leitch & McBride sail designs.

UK Sailmakers, Sidney BC

UK Sails are an extremely popular sail brand in the industry and they were originally founded in the US in 1946. They have many lofts around the world and have a lot of information available on their website for background and research. Requesting a quote online was next to impossible. Most sites have an online form that you fill in, however this website did not seem to have one.

There were a couple areas of the website that I really enjoyed namely Education and Encyclopedia (under Resources). The Education section has videos and articles about sail trim, safety at sea and others. The Encyclopedia is literally a treasure trove of information about sails.


Once you have looked through the websites and started to figure out what you are looking for, you can start requesting quotes and establish a relationship with the companies.

I decided to request 3 quotes in the end. One from Evolution Sails, Precision Sails and North Sails. At this point I had determined that I needed a jib (115%) for my Aloha 8.2, but I was still waffling between a laminate sail and a Dacron sail. I will talk about those options in Sail Selection Part 2.


All images retrieved from Google.

Gear Review – Base Layers

So, further to my blog on foul weather gear, I mentioned that I would follow up with a base layer gear review.

First we need to establish our wish list:

  • warm
  • breathable
  • low stink factor (since I’ll be wearing them a few times over the trip)
  • wicking
  • proper fit

Let’s look at the main fabrics used. The following information was retrieved from rei.com:

Synthetic Fabrics

One of the most common synthetic fabrics used for base layers is polyester. However, you may also find a combination of nylon, rayon or polypropelene. Synthetics have a bit of a spandex feel which give you a nice snug fit.

  • Super dry: Synthetics excel at wicking and dissipating sweat, so they give you the driest feel of any type of fabric.
  • Durable: No base layer is invincible; if you’re looking for your most durable option, though, then synthetics are your best bet.
  • Odor retention: Some synthetics add a finish that inhibits the buildup of odor-causing bacteria, which helps. If you’ll be going multiple days between washes, it helps to have some tolerance for stinkiness.

5/5 wicking             4/5 durability            3/5 odor- resistant

Merino Wool 

Merino wool is soft and has ultrafine fibers and is nothing like older wool clothing and blankets. Wool can also be blended with other fabrics, like spandex to enhance fit and flexibility. Merino wool has the following characteristics:

  • Wicks well: Some moisture in wool is retained in its core, which won’t chill you, but wool will not feel quite as dry as a synthetic fabric. It will also take longer to dry when it gets wet.
  • Breathable: That moisture in the core of its fibers releases when temps heat up, which can offer a little bit of cooling in warm weather.
  • Moderately durable: Wear it under other layers and enjoy a long and happy life together; as a standalone top under heavy pack straps, it won’t last as long because the constant rubbing can wear through the fabric. You can also opt for a base layer that blends synthetic and wool for increased durability.
  • Odor free: Even if you don’t believe wool fanatics who report endless days of sweaty wear without a discouraging whiff, it’s absolutely true that wool is highly resistant (and naturally resistant) to odor-causing bacteria.

4/5 wicking            3/5 durability             5/5 odor-resistant


Silk is an ideal fabric for low-key activities like an easygoing fall hike or an evening concert outdoors. Silk has the following characteristics:

  • Moderate wicking: If you don’t push your heart rate out of your target zone, you should be fine; some silk underwear has an added finish to improve wicking.
  • Suppleness: Invariably available as a lightweight option, silk slips easily under other layers; the flipside is that it’s not especially durable.
  • Odor retention: Silk is not naturally odor resistant, so it needs to be laundered every time your wear it.

2/5 wicking              2/5 durability               2/5 odor-resistant

Based on the above information, for my purposes I will be looking at Merino Wool or a Synthetic blend base layer.  Base layers are generally classified as follows:

  • Lightweight: Moderate to cool temps.
  • Midweight: Cold temps.
  • Heavyweight: Below-freezing temps.

It is also a great idea to wear several layers and adjust as needed. Most sailors wear a heavyweight or midweight base followed by a fleece. Then your foul weather gear. One of the principal goals is to remain dry. If you get wet from rain, spray or sweat, it will not take long for you to get cold.

What are the options?

Here are some options that I will be looking into:



Smartwool seems to be a base layer crowd pleaser and there are many options for the weight (heavy to light). This newer wool fabric is soft, wicks well and is odor-resistant. A typical warm base layer shirt will be about $110 while a pair of warm pants will be about $100. I tend to prefer a crew neck shirt as opposed to a zip up, but you can definitely get a full zip up to your chin. Smartwool seems to age well and should last you for several seasons.

Under Armour

The Under Armour HeatGear line is a midweight line and there are several different base layer styles of tops and pants. Their HeatGear line is synthetic (92% polyester & 8% elastane for fit) so it will last and maintain it’s shape. However, even with their anti-odor technology, you will be ripe after a few wears.  Their UA Base line is for aggressive cold and is their heavyweight line. It is also a synthetic blend of 95% polyester & 5% elastane. Prices vary depending on styles.

Helly Hansen

HH has a few options for base layers. The HH Lifa Merino line is their heavyweight base layer option. Their lightweight option is their HH Lifa Active line. HH has been creating base layers for athletes for quite some time now so their Lifa technology is on point. For my trip, I envision having a good lightweight and heavyweight option for layering and different weather conditions I may encounter.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)

I enjoy MEC products so I decided to include them in this base layer review. MEC offers a Merino wool base layer line which would be your heavyweight option for warmth. They also offer a few different synthetic options ranging from lightweight to medium weight. Again, it will depend on style, fit, comfort and what you need the gear to do for you.


I hope this base layer review has helped you navigate the various base layer fabrics and options available to you. The best way to determine what is right for you is to try on several different options to look for best fit and determine what you need for your specific activity (sailing, skiing, hiking, etc.).

Fair winds,

Captain Penny


Evenson, Laura. How to Choose Base Layers. Retrieved from: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/underwear.html.

Page photo credit: Photo retrieved from http://www.surfingthewaveoffashion.com/2013/07/sailing-with-musto.html.

Gear Review – Duffel Bags & Packing Cubes

Duffel Bags

Next gear review: duffel bags & packing cubes!

How did I chose a duffel bag?

Just as your foul weather gear selection is important, so is the bag that you use to transport everything. When I was living on a boat in Georgian Bay I used to drag around a hockey bag of all my things. Ridiculous! It was huge, impractical and way too bulky and awkward for me.

There have been many advancements in the functionality and fabrics used for duffel bags and luggage since the days when I dragged around my hockey bag. Again, I need to make my wish list to know what to look for:

  • large enough for foulies & boots
  • large zipper for access to entire bag
  • waterproof (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • laundry section (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • backpack straps
  • tough fabric (for rips, tears and throwing around)
  • bright colour (again, not mandatory, but ideal for standing out and quick airport pick ups)
  • straps or places to hook on extras (with carabiner or rope)

Here are some well-known options for me to explore further:

SealLine – Boundary Portage Pack

Boundary Portage Duffel Bags

On first glance I love the colours, the straps, the waterproofness, and the size variations of the bags. However, I do not like that they are top access as I’d rather not have to pull everything out of the bag to access the pair of socks I need at the bottom.

However, SealLine do have some great dry packs for SUP and kayak trips and a good chart bag as well.

Zup Duffel Bags

Zip Duffel

This duffel bag is not necessarily what I am looking for to pack up my gear, however this would make a great grab bag as it is fully weatherproof and can be submersed (if you don’t know what that is, sign up for a course!).

In Nelson you can find these bags at Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

The North Face – Base Camp Duffel

North Face Duffel Bag

I am loving the size and colour of this duffel (it comes in other bright colours too). It also has a large top zipper for full bag access and the backpack straps as well as a luggage strap. It is built with solid materials and the zippers are weather sealed. It also has an interior mesh pocket which can be used for laundry. This duffel also has really great reviews on The North Face site so it seems to be a crowd pleaser.

Approx price: $210.00

Musto – Waterproof Dry Carryall 65L

Musto Duffel Bag

This bag is large, watertight and does not have any zippers. It uses heat sealed seems for waterproofing and it uses a fold top instead of zippers for closure. There are several straps and also a viewing window so that you can easily see inside the bag to locate things. The reviews on this product on the Musto site are evenly split with concerns about the material not being tough enough.

Approx price: $200.00

Helly Hansen – HH Classic Duffel Bag

HH Duffel Bag

Once again, Helly Hansen makes a great product for sailors at a good price. This bag comes in several colours, sizes and has backpack straps. It has a waterproof main zipper with access to the entire bag, several straps on the outside to connect extra things to and an external compartment that can be used for laundry or storing wet items. Reviews from the HH site are favourable for this bag.

Approx price: $150.00

Osprey – Transporter 130

Osprey Duffel Bag

This looks like a great bag. Large, bright colours, various handles, full zipper to access items inside and straps for backpacking or luggage carrying. The material is “tough as nails” according to Osprey and there is an overlapping zipper to protect your items from the elements (ie weatherproof). There is also an internal mesh pouch for extra segregated storage. I love the Osprey backpack that we currently use at our house.

Approx price: $220.00

Patagonia – Black Hole Duffel

Patagonia Duffel Bag

This is a great looking duffel bag and the price is great for what you get. There are several colour options, thick comfortable straps (backpack and luggage), extra handles and daisy chains (loops) for attachments and a large top zipper opening to view all contents inside. The duffel is weatherproof with a padded base to protect contents. It also includes an internal compression system (ie straps) to help you compress your items. Furthermore, when not in use the entire duffel packs down inside itself into a small package (bonus).

In Nelson you can find this duffel at Snowpack.

Approx price: $140.00


So, there are several options out there depending on what you are looking for. To suit my needs I think that either the Helly Hansen Classic Duffel Bag, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel or the Osprey Transporter will meet my needs. I just need to figure out how much to pack and get the right size (thinking 70L or 90L). There are several stores in Nelson where you can check out some of these duffel bags yourself including ROAM, Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Snowpack.

How did I chose my packing cubes?

Packing Cubes


Packing cubes are a pretty simple thing to pick up and they are very helpful for keeping your gear organized within your bag. Locally, Snowpack, ROAM and Valhalla Pure Outfitters have several options on hand and they would probably be happy to order in any different sizes you may need.

For my purposes I will use 3 large cubes, 2 medium cubes and probably 2-3 small cubes. I also plan to bring along a mesh wash bag and a toiletry organizer for toothbrush, Tylenol, etc. The cubes will need to have mesh viewing windows so I can see what I packed in each and they will need to be breathable.

Final Thoughts…

Overall I am really excited about the various options that are available. I am looking for something large enough to fit everything, but easy enough to throw on my back. I am not looking for a wheeled duffel as I do not like wheeled luggage on boats (possibility of scratches or dents, but that’s my preference). I will keep you posted on which one I buy and why!

Stay tuned.

Captain Penny

Page Photo Credit: Photo retrieved from https://www.hellyhansen.com/en_ca/.

Gear Review – Foul Weather Gear

Vic-Maui Delivery 2018
REBLOG from Summer 2018:

As I prep for my upcoming trip this summer, I am realizing that my old foul weather gear is just not up to the challenge. I donated my Offshore Mustang Survival suit many years ago as it had become stiff and was never really made for the female physique (it was from the early 90s).

As I research new foul weather gear, there have been some major advancements. Not only in functionality, but the materials themselves have improved tremendously. The first thing that I need to look at is what am I expecting of my gear? So, here’s my wish list:

  • waterproof
  • windproof
  • breathable
  • pockets/storage
  • hood/rain cover
  • visibility – colour, reflectors, etc.
  • compatibility with my PFDs, safety harness, MOB light, etc.
  • ease of movement
  • overall comfort & fit (thinking of bathroom breaks and long hours spent sitting or standing staring at the compass and radar… glamorous. I know. Shhh don’t tell the rest of the crew. They think we’ll be sipping Mi Tais and playing with dolphins the whole time!)

Notice anything important that is missing? Warmth. Yup. No mention of that. That is because my base layers will be responsible for that. That’s a whole other blog post and gear review…

I wrote this post from a women’s perspective as we have a slightly longer wish-list for our foul weather gear (in my opinion) than men, but my reviews and comments are also valid for any men looking for new gear. You just have a few more choices 😉

The main players

From my research so far, there are only a few players in the field of sailing foul weather gear. The main ones are Mustang, Gill, Musto and Helly Hansen.


To start off, there are no female specific offshore suits that I can find. So that’s a big negative for me.

The other glaring issue for me, is that all of their gear is black! Yes that looks very sexy, but I’m more concerned with being seen and making it home to my family if I fall off the boat, than looking “hot” in all black.

Finally, I have leveraged my sailing community for input on Mustang foul weather gear and it was not overly favourable. It seems that Mustang is moving to capture the commercial market and not overly interested in all purpose sailors. Mustang is, however, still a leader in the Canadian market for life jackets and PFDs – yet again another post to follow.


Alright, so Gill has two female jackets to offer: OS1 Womens Jacket (Offshore) and OS2 Womens Jacket (Coastal). They are bright red, have reflectors, lots of pockets, good hoods, waterproof, hand-warmer pockets (bonus!), among a few other perks. So far so good.

That’s about where it ends. There are no female specific pants for offshore cruising so no drop seat for my head time, which is a negative. The less time you spend below fighting with your gear the better. Trust me.

The lack of selection is also a bit concerning as the price of foul weather gear is very high so you have to make sure that what works for you will work for the life of your investment. That being said, it is important to try many options before you buy. You may end up with a Gill Jacket and Mustang pants. Who knows. If it works for you, get it.

Overall I don’t think Gill is my best foul weather gear option, but it’s not out of the running yet.


This particular brand was recently brought to my attention as I’m not overly familiar with Musto, but I do know a few people who use their gear. They have a great women’s offshore set – the MPX GORE-TEX® Offshore Jacket and MPX GORE-TEX® Offshore Trousers.


The jacket boasts a lot of great features including: 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro laminate for high performance breathability, waterproof and windproof protection, articulated elbows and underarms for freedom of movement, fleece-lined collar for comfort and warmth, fluorescent GORE-TEX® hood with peak (fully waterproof), 2 handwarmer pockets, 2 cargo pockets to store essentials, life jacket attachment points allow you to take off your jacket and life jacket together (awesome), and photoluminescent reflectors glow in the dark to keep you visible at night, to name a few.

The ability to have your life jacket attached to the jacket is a great feature as this enables you to set your life jacket straps and then leave them as is when you take off your jacket. This decreases the chance of having your life jacket straps too tight or too lose and decreases the number of adjustments you need to make every time you take your jacket on and off.

The pants are made for prolonged offshore sailing. These trousers have adjustable straps and back waist adjustment for a comfort fit. It has CORDURA® reinforcement patches on the seat, knees, back hems to prevent abrasion, and a detachable tool pouch adds storage space. The downside is that the pants do not appear to have an easy head access zipper. Boo.

Overall, the Musto women’s gear is a strong contender for me.

Helly Hansen

HH has definitely asserted itself as a leader in the world of sailing foul weather gear. Imagine my excitement when I checked off female offshore sailing gear and found 6 jacket options! Now 3 of the jackets are considered unisex, but at least they list them as options for me on their website. There are also 3 different pant options.

The Ægir series is built for professional ocean sailors and is Norse mythology for god of the “sea”. Most items in the collection come in red, white or black (red being my choice). The Ægir Ocean Jacket would be the full-on foul weather jacket to go with, but I think the extra long length would drive me a bit crazy (I don’t like long jackets around my thighs). The next logical step up from there is the Ægir Race Jacket and Ægir Race Salopette (French word for an overall type of pant).


Ægir Race Jacket

Here are some of the features of the jacket: waterproof, 4 ply fabric construction, fully seam sealed, waterproof, high collar, fleece collar, adjustable hood, double storm flap, adjustable double cuffs, adjustable waist, Solas (safety of life at sea) reflective, hand warmer pockets, chest pockets and articulated sleeves.

That’s a lot of goodies! Overall it checks all of the boxes for me, but what do the reviews have to say? Well, there is an overwhelmingly positive response for this product on the HH website and within the sailing community.

Ægir Race Salopette

Here are some of the features of the pants: waterproof, 3 ply fabric construction, fully seam sealed, waterproof, seat and knee reinforcements, breathable softshell top, two way front zip, adjustable waist, thigh cargo pockets and adjustable leg openings.

Once again, a great list of attributes, but it is this key phrase in the description that seals the deal for me: Especially developed for women’s convenience is the drop seat construction with a fully waterproof YKK® Aquaseal® zipper. Head visits made easy! Brilliant. Again, the reviews on the HH site were very positive for these pants.


Overall, choosing the right foul weather gear takes time, research and some trial and error. Try not to let the price affect your choice as this is an investment and you want to make sure you have the right gear to keep you safe and warm.

Once you get over the sticker shock, you’ll have a great time seeing what works for you!

Captain Penny

Is this not what I should be wearing for the trip!? 😉

Page Photo Credit: Nicole Speckmaier, Geminis Dream, VanIsle 360 International Yacht Race 2017