The Sail Bag

I’m fortunate to have Schattauer Sails so close to Satori’s mooring. It’s been a couple of years of planning and execution to get Satori’s new sail plan and rigging in order. My previous post discussed the new loose footed staysail, which is a major improvement to her rigging. One of the pitfalls of having a hanked-on sail is bagging and stowing the sail. My old bag for the jib had a zipper to secure the sail once it was bagged, but it never closed easily. On occasion when a new passenger would come sailing with me, I would initiate them by asking them to bag the jib and tell the remaining crew to watch while they struggled. After about ten minutes they would simply give up, unable to figure out how to close the bag. I must warn you to stay away from zippered sail bags. When I finally had the staysail setup to fly, I contemplated on how to build a new bag. On the sea trial with the Schattauer brothers, they brought along an old cotton canvas bag that their father Franz made many years ago. I asked them to show me the proper way to bag a sail. I know, you’re probably thinking something this simple should not need instruction. I must remind you that bagging a sail in lumpy seas is downright tedious and exhausting. The technique they employed was to get a proper flake of the sail, like the mainsail. Once you have the folds and the sail is down, you can fold once or twice inwards to prepare for the bag. Then you simply stuff the sail into the bag without concerning yourself with ensuring the sail stays folded or organized in any way. Here’s the kicker… once you’ve got the sail in the bag, you then try to secure the fasteners by holding the bag together. Not as easy as it sounds. I decided to engineer a bag with compression straps to make the process much easier. I give you the SSS Bag.

Satori's StaySail Bag, a new approach to sail bagging.
Satori’s StaySail Bag, a new approach to sail bagging.

While the original design copies the Franz Schattauer sailbag, it also adds a modern approach to the design. I’ve copied some of the concepts from outdoor gear designs for backpacking and climbing. This reduces weight, makes it easier to close the sail bag, and adds durability where it matters. First, lets take a look at some of the key features of the original bag. The most important part is the shape of the bag. The bottom (furthest aft) part of the bag is a reuleaux triangle shape, meaning the sides are curved. You can see this in both images and the pattern is an exact copy.

Franz bag bottom shape
Franz bag bottom shape
SSS Bag bottom shape showing webbing tabs to secure bag to lifelines
SSS Bag bottom shape showing webbing tabs to secure bag to lifelines

To get the shape, I simply traced the original pattern. The zigzag stitching is because the entire inside of the bag on the end is reinforced with Top Gun fabric. I simply traced a smaller footprint of the pattern and sewed it into place before attaching. The inside seams use a 1″ binding to hold the seams together and protect the seam stitching from abrasion. The next modification is only slight. I use the same tabs for securing the bag to the lifelines, but instead of using canvas, I simply use webbing with a piece of binding to hold the grommet from pulling away from the hole. This only adds a little more strength to the grommet and an extra minute to sewn in the binding.

Original tab sewn into the seam of the sailbag
Original tab sewn into the seam of the sailbag
Preparing the binding
Preparing the binding
Insert the binding through the grommet
Insert the binding through the grommet
Fold the binding away from the direction of pull
Fold the binding away from the direction of pull
The tab on the end of the SSS Bag showing the extra reinforcement for the grommet sewn in place
The tab on the end of the SSS Bag showing the extra reinforcement for the grommet sewn in place

Next is the halyard connection. Franz was a sailmaker by trade so he simply used a grommet to secure the bag to a halyard to keep the bag off of the deck. I also like having the bag elevated to keep it off of the windlass. Again, I used a strip of webbing secured to both the top of the bag and the end of the bag. I also used a stainless steel D-ring for the halyard connection.

Original halyard attachment on the Franz sailbag
Original halyard attachment on the Franz sailbag
D ring attachement to elevate the SSS Bag
D ring attachement to elevate the SSS Bag
D ring attachement to elevate the SSS Bag
D ring attachement to elevate the SSS Bag

The very bottom of the bag could possibly collect with water and cause the sail to mildew, so I added a couple of grommets to allow the bag to drain. I also lined the inside bottom seam with Top Gun fabric, and used binding tape to protect the seams from abrasion. The bottom edge of the bag, which either makes contact with the stay or the tack pennant is reinforced with polyester webbing. This prevents the edge from abrasion. The top of the bag also has the same webbing edge reinforcement. Both sides of the bag opening are lined with additional fabric. The side which is in contact with the forestay is Top Gun fabric, while the outside fold has an extra layer of white Sunbrella fabric, which is a little softer and easier on the sailcloth.

SSS Bag showing the webbing edge reinforcement
SSS Bag showing the webbing edge reinforcement
Detail showing the inside bottomfold of the SSS Bag
Detail showing the inside bottom fold of the SSS Bag
SSS Bag bottom drains and seams
SSS Bag bottom drains and seams

Although the original shape is almost the same as Franz’s bag, perhaps the biggest improvement is the closure system. Most if not all sail bags seem to expect that you pull the edges together to close the bag. This is perhaps the most time consuming task, as well as frustrating as hell. I decided to add more overlap on the bottom of the SSS Bag and compression straps to make closing the bag a snap. Here are the step-by-step frames:

 Step 1, Bag the sail enough to get the top webbing strap around the forestay

Step 1, Bag the sail enough to get the top webbing strap around the forestay
Step 2, Secure the next two buckles and fold the head of the sail off to the side
Step 2, Secure the next two buckles (middle and bottom) and shove the head of the sail off to the side inside the bag
Step 3, raise the bag using the halyard to desired height. then pull straps tight until the fasteners line up.
Step 3, raise the bag using the halyard to your desired height. then pull straps tight until the fasteners line up.
Satori's StaySail Bag, a new approach to sail bagging.
Step 4, secure common sense fasteners, then tie off the top of the bag to the forestay, and finally tie the sides off to lifelines to prevent swinging
Step 4, Tie off the bag to the forestay using cross wraps to ensure that water has a proper path to drain through the bag
Step 5, Tie off the bag to the forestay using cross wraps to ensure that water has a proper path to drain through the bag
End of the bag secured to lifelines
End of the bag secured to lifelines

So there you have the SSS Bag (Satori StaySail Bag). I’m grateful for being able to copy such an awesome bag, and make it better than the original with my own enhancements. I’m very pleased with the size of the bag, the overall shape, and it should work very well when it’s time to put the sail away. Thanks Frank and Axel for loaning me the pattern and allowing me to copy it for my own use. I can tick yet another project off the list.

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