Letters from Mike – Boat Pox, Poly Sails

by Michael Beebe – Rockport, Texas – USA

Boat Pox

We are all familiar with the dreaded ‘Boat Pox”. The blistering of below the water line ugly, bummer of repairs. There’s another boat pox that goes round, called the affliction, some get it bad.

There’s a fellow I have early morning coffee with at the office who talks a lot about people being on some sort of bell curve. I don’t understand it myself. I can relate when it’s said of some sailor he’s afflicted, real bad. I know just what it means.

This isn’t just the two-foot-i-tis where you just gotta have a bigger sailboat, no, this affliction stuff runs deep; they’re all fair game. Dinghies, day sailors, small cabin sailboats, even deep water boats all fit the bill.

Drag ’em home. You know you got it bad when they line your drive way, in the mountains, hundreds of miles from the coast, and to top it off, your place is used as a landmark when others give directions. I don’t make this stuff up, I know of whom I write, no names though.

My precious Linda has been getting her fill and then some. Deals are starting to be made where before it was free range; I guess the honeymoon just may be ending. So far the deals made have been easy enough hoops to get through, but they’re getting a bit harder.

Then there are the new builds I’d like to get after. This isn’t something new, not by a long shot; nor is this incessant tinkering I do with another’s design. My first build, a Glen-L, el Gato, 12′ plywood catamaran. I remember thinking way back then at the early age of 18 or 19 about using foam to build the hulls and then glassing them. I never got around to trying it, but the roots of these thoughts go way back.

The other night I was talking with my brother about this very thing, ‘of the next sailboat’. What he said had me about ROTFL, that’s: rolling-on-the-floor-laughing. He said if I planned it right I’d bring them in after dark and just park it out back. Sneak it in like someone dropped it off during the night.

By this time he was ROTFL, leave a note in the cockpit, he said, with a card or something.

“Take good care of her, please.”

Afflicted? May be just a little, I can hear that bell curve clanging!

Poly Sails

I’m at the end of making a sail for the Summer Breeze three sheet sailing skiff. Was supposed to be two, but hey, things go that way at times. This sail will be my last poly sail and I believe it’s number five, maybe six. No more. The first one I did for a trailer sailor 16, sloop to junk, using blue tarp, I proceeded as directed using double sided tape.

I didn’t like it. Went to hand sewing. One of the sails, or the second one made for the TS16 was a grey tarp. A bit heavier than the lightweight blue thing. Though it was pretty with the setting sun behind it.

While building a house for my wife and I, living on site in an old fifth wheel, I put up a commercial grade white tarp ordered online over the fifth wheel for shade. I was very surprised of how well it held up in the high desert sun, high winds and cold snow of winter.

I thought I found the solution. I ordered tarps by the box. When I finished my first Paradox, I had tarps, but no money for a custom made sail. Until I was able to save the money and send for one from Duckworks, the poly did fine. But before the Paradox poly sail I had made a smaller one for a 12′ Lehman cat rig conversion to balanced lug.

The sewing thread on hand was a roll of dry line used in form setting left over from the build of the house. It was a fluorescent orange that soon turns pink in the sun. My daughter visiting with her future husband made sure to point out the truth of my having used that type and color of thread. I guess there was some disbelief on his part. We got alone fine.

Well when I finally got the sail from Duckworks for the Paradox, the old sail went to the O Day Javelin, which I had also converted from sloop to balanced lug. When I put the new sail on the Paradox the difference was very telling. My sail making ability leaves much to be desired.

Now on its fourth season, that was last year, the sunlight sparkling through the sail told me it didn’t have much life left in it. I did keep it covered, mostly at first with bed sheets from the local thrift store. Better I thought than nothing, not by much though.

About this same time the poly sail started getting dandruff big time. I even carried it on a day sail so as to rinse it off it the water. No go. So this sail for Summer Breeze will be the last poly sail.

The next sail, by the way, to be completed after SB’s will be a junk rig for the Lightning conversion. It will be of canvas. Even that material will be upgraded on the next go round. The current material for the Lightning’s sail being made is low grade painters drop cloth. Kind of stretchy, so I’ve tried to tighten it up by coating it with boiled linseed oil cut fifty fifty with mineral spirits. The spirits helps with the drying of the linseed oil. It adds water proofing as well as weight.

This being a junk rig fully battened it should work OK. Never for a sloop, by me anyway. When I move up to more sail making a tighter weave will be used on upcoming sails, they will still be limited to junks, lugs, or maybe even a gaff. I’ve got some ideas rolling around in my head trying to get out.

So for me, no more poly, this will be my last one.


  1. lucky for me, the bridal unit rarely visits THE BARN which is situated on the front 1/2 of 20 acres

    behind an oak mott in the back 1/2 there is a well fertilized garden of boats, tractor implements, trailers, a bbq smoker…

    somehow those things grow in numbers & size ;-O

    it’z good/comforting to know i am knot alone 🙂


  2. Mike,
    I wish you had used the generic term polytarp sails instead of Poly Sails which is a little too close to our company name of PolySail International. We have been in business for 21 years, and have a sterling reputation for our low-cost, high performing PolySails both here in the US and internationally. While it’s clear in your article that you didn’t buy from us directly, I hate to see our name besmirched by this very close association in spelling.

    There are lots of grades and weights of polytarp as you know by now, but what you might not know is how much those heavier, thicker, more closely woven, more UV resistant polytarps have improved over the years. We introduced the sailing community to white polytarp sails over 20 years ago, and there has been marked improvement in durability by some suppliers as the market for tarps for greenhouses, easy up canopies, wedding tents, etc. has grown. In 2015, for example, the worldwide tarp market was about 24 billion dollars; so there is plenty of competition and plenty of incentive in the industry for some companies to improve. Still, my experience is that there is still plenty of misrepresentation by some suppliers, particularly, it seems, in the southern California area and even here in Florida. We’ve found low thread counts, low weights in oz.per sq. yd., low mil thickness, scrim and weave inconsistency, mold, uncertain UV application, and other factors by which we have come to judge quality suppliers of white and colored tarps for our sails and kits from the many who offer low prices but might not even provide a company address. Perhaps if you had exercised similar care, you wouldn’t be writing this article. Instead, you might be ordering a quality 8 oz./sq.yd., 14×16 weave, 15-16 mil white tarp from us or one of our suppliers.(These tarps are equivalent to 6.3 oz. Dacron in actual weight. Dacron and many other traditional sail materials are still weighed by the “sailmaker’s yard” of 28.5″ x 36″. Polytarp weight is based upon an actual 36″ x 36″ sq. yd.)

    If you don’t know who we are, I invite you to check out our website at http://www.polysail.com or our Facebook Page by searching for PolySail International. You might be interested in the experiences among many of our customers compared to your own experience.

    Dave Gray, Principal Partner
    PolySail International
    100 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
    Stuart, FL 34994

    • Hello Dave, I’m sorry about the similarities of the title chosen. No harm intended. Please accept my apology.
      Sincerely, michael j beebe

  3. Love the comment about locals using your boat yard as a map reference..
    My place on google maps means my wife can count and identify the lawn ornaments, boats to me.
    Trick is to move the trailers around to fool the satellites like in the cold war days.

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