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One of the greatest attractions of a Wharram for me is the whole self-build and self maintainence aspect. But as we all know the more advanced technology you use in building your boat the more technology you'll need to maintain it. If the steering goes on my boat mid- passage I'd much rather it was low tech rope repair than try and mess around with hydraulics on the high seas. Not to mention sourcing the materials and the expense involved.

Therefore I'm seriously considering the low-tech traditional approach on everything, self made Calico Sails, self made blocks and Manila or Hemp running rigging and lashings. Dose anyone else have any considerations regarding going back to the natural materials?

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EMF Marine of Germany has an inexpensive tutorial on soft shackles, and splicing tools for hollow braid such as dyneema. I discovered recently that the splicing tools are the cat's meow for splicing double-braid: way better than traditional style fids, or Brian Toss's splicing wand. But there is nothing traditional about dyneema or Dux, so this may not help in Geminidawn's pursuit of a low-tech solution.


Using manila, just in terms of strength, requires much larger diameter, as can be seen from the table above. I can't find anything on the working life of manila re UV or abrasion, but it is no doubt much shorter than the dacrons or other "modern" ropes. It would work, of course, but would require much more vigilance.

Here's a great source of info on traditional cloth sails:


Retro Tech Sails  contains all sorts of info on techniques and sources for materials.

Interesting stuff. There are some traditional cotton (calico) sails hand stitched  and made locally for the traditional turf carriers. they are then dyed with the boiled bark of the cashew nut tree to preserve them from mold and larve attack. It is the bark that also gives them their unique colour. Cotton is still widely available here for traditional boat building applications but it has come down in price due to the lack of demand.


Aesthetically more pleasing to the eye to boot!

well done guys,this is what makes wbf such a pleasure.man those sails sure are purty.

Dacron sails can be had in "tanbark" finish, which has a much more traditional appearance than the plain white dacron sails.

The dacron (perhaps you guys already know this) material is finished at the factories by being put through rollers at high pressure, which pushes some sort of applied resin completely through the weave. This is what makes the shape of the sail last much longer than traditional cloth.

I believe you would loose the aspect of easy maintainance when you go for cotton sails and hemp rope. (btw hemp is stronger and longer lasting than manila) Everything becomes much heavier. Imagine cotton or flax sails getting wet in the rain at sea. Thicker ropes need larger blocks and traditional wooden blocks are heavy anyhow. I also like the appearance of brown sails and hemp colored 3 strand rope but one does not have to go completely traditional for that. I have tanbark dacron sails and will use Spunflex henp colored 3 strand rope for runing rigging and many other things on board, it looks like hemp but is stronger, lighter and lasts longer. For the structural lashings one must use the modern braided ropes of coursee.  see picture here http://wharrambuilders.ning.com/photo/mast16-1?context=user

It is of course not pure but I came to the conclusion that a pure traditional approach does not fit with the Tiki. The boat was not designed for that.  



I'm sure there is a hundred arguments for and against. The reason I mention calico is because it's local and cheap and I can get it in a variety of grades as it is what the local traditional sailmakers use here. Dacron on the other hand has to be imported and comes at a huge expense by comparison and any mistakes will be costly. I'm not looking for a die hard traditional finish I'm just looking as to what else can be low - tech and self made. When it comes to maintainance and repair traditional materials are far easier and cheaper to come by.
what do the locals say about the longevity of their calico sails in the tropics gemini?

Oh not much,none the big black tarred turf carriers have made it to the tropics they are open decked local boats. But the local craftsmen have opened my eyes to using alternative or more traditional methods. Even if you use traditional flax and calico you have modern methods of waterproofing and preserving them. The only down side as Ralf pointed out would be the extra weight and maintainance.

I'm just closely looking at sailmaking, starting out with Calico you can afford to make a few mistakes, with Dacron you can't.

When I looked into why I could get a full wardrobe of sails out of China for the same price I could just get the materials here I found that the Dacron they use is often factory seconds.

How ever my sails are made I want them to be made with due care and not just for profit, even the locals will not employ a sailmaker that can not visit the boat, or be around to correct any problems after sales.

Good topic, Geminidawn.  I've been curious about hemp rigging as well (similar to my interest in bamboo applications).  Thanks, Kim, for the table of comparative strengths.  Do you have any sources of similar info for hemp?
I could not find a table like Kim in my books but as mentioned earlier I do know that hemp is stronger than manila, however it has not got the same marine properties and it is more subject to rot. That is why hemp when used traditionally in a marine environment was tarred, which is extra weight, a higher cost, really messy and hazzardous.

Hey Gemini,

Thanks for opening this topic up. A big, low-tech, traditionally outfitted Pahi 63 would sure be a sight to see. Those sails in the photo above are beautiful.

Good luck.

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