When my Caledonia yawl was not yet a year old, I took my son and my father out sailing from the marina in Edmonds, Washington. Once we cleared the breakwater, the breeze filled the big lug main and we took off, leaving a fizzing white wake astern. As usual, I started out beating to weather so our homeward leg would be an easy downwind run. The wind picked up on our way south and was soon more than I could handle. I sheeted the mizzen in tight to heave to so I could lower the main and tie a reef in. The big sail was rather unruly and in my struggle to get it lowered I barked three knuckles on my right hand. With each handful of sail that I grabbed, I left splotches of bright red blood.I remember the outing well because I see those stains every time I set sail in the yawl. They’ve been there for about 15 years despite the countless times I’ve hosed the main with fresh water to wash salt spray away.Parts of that sail and some of my other sails are speckled black with mildew, probably from keeping them for years in an unheated garage made humid by a leak in the roof. I’ve read that mildew doesn’t damage the Dacron fibers that my sails are woven from, but it looks terrible. Bleach is a common household remedy for mildew and mold, but while Dacron can tolerate it, nylon can’t, and to be on the safe side with the materials used in thread, boltropes, and whatever else is part of a sail, it’s best to avoid bleach.  To see if I could get my sails looking better, I tried Shurhold’s Moldaway, a “powdered oxygenated cleaner” that does not contain bleach or chlorine—right on the label—lists sails among the items it can clean.

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