Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sail Makers Makin' Sails

In the mid-to-late 1800s, when New York's ports were the world's busiest, a number shipbuilders, sail makers and other nautical tradesman in Manhattan and Brooklyn thrived. There is physical evidence of the nautical trade at 164-168 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where Two Trees Realty restored the facade of an old sail loft, while converting it to luxury apartments. While those days are long gone, it doesn't mean that you still can't find a skilled pro who knows how to craft a sail in New York City.

In City Island, the sail making tradition is alive and kicking at Doyle Ploch Sails. In fact they make some of the "fastest" and most advanced sails around. And the lofts Owner, Mark Ploch, is not only known for his ability to craft a fine piece of canvas (or Kevlar or cuben fiber), but he's also one of the country's best sailors, and one who recently dominated the Beneteau 36.7 class. We recently took a trip out to Doyle Ploch City Island to see that the old business of sail making is still alive and well. From the look of all of the bags of sails around the loft, it looked as Mr. Ploch's business is thriving.

For those of you who've never been in a sail loft, its very similar to any factory where sewn goods are made, with one major difference: the finished goods are huge and must be sewn differently in order to accommodate for the size. How Doyle Ploch does this is they have a hole, or a pit, cut into the floor of the loft that accommodates one industrial sewing machine and its operator. This is done to keep the sail cloth flat and make it easier to sew (you can see the sewing pit in the photo below).
Not only do sail makers craft sails, sail covers an other canvas goods, a good sail maker will also go out with a boat owner to help tune his rig and establish sail trim guidelines, which allows a racing crew to concentrate on tactics and speed. Some, like Doyle Ploch also sell accessories, such as attire, gloves and shoes.

We've put some photos of the loft below. More shots can be seen at Sail Brooklyn's Flickr Page

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At Friday, March 23, 2007 4:29:00 PM, Blogger Mike S. said...

Great post! While you were at the factory,did you see any NINJA?
Cap'n Mark.


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