The Sail Loft

Alison HickenWood, of Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails, works on a mainsail repair in the airy 3,600-square-foot space affectionately known as “The Sail Loft” at Point Hudson.

The company, started by Carol Hasse more than 40 years ago, has produced and repaired sails for boats all over the world. New boat owners have come through town with Hasse sails from the 1970s, typically just seeking general maintenance; they rarely need major repairs. If a different branded sail comes in, it’ll get “Hasse-ifed,” brought up to the company’s standards.
Nearly every inch of the second-floor workshop is used for repairs and creating custom suits of sails. No matter the type of work, the effort is laborious: laying out, hanging up, stretching, hand stitching and machine sewing thousands of square feet of colorful lightweight ripstop nylon for spinnakers, or Dacron, the heavy stiff woven fabric used for most sails.
Joey's Hands

Joey Cannon’s job is to sew sails by hand. Employed by Hasse since 2004, she sits on a bench against a wall of large windows, with all her needles, threads and hand tools within arm’s reach.

Joey often works on reinforced corners of sails that have layers upon layers of Dacron, stitching, webbing and hardware. Her sewing jobs vary, including hand sewing (or “seizing”) a clew ring to the fabric, or sandwiching all the elements together within a protective piece of leather. It takes her about three hours to complete one corner.
Sails flow across her lap all day; Her coworkers call her a goddess.
Running stitch, round stitch, cross stitch. Each of her moves plays an important role in the function of the sail, with every loop of the industrial-strength thread helping diffuse the massive load of wind that a sail will take.
Hand-sewn work takes time and effort. Many sailmakers today don’t employ laborious techniques like they used to, making the sails from Hasse and crew even more distinct.
Muscling Machine and Fabric

Erica Georgaklis repairs a sail on an Adler, one of several in a quiver of industrial sewing machines that are the loft’s workhorses.

Machine work is a big part of sail construction, using the zigzag stitch to bring together all the elements. Straight stitching is akin to putting a perforated line in the fabric – it will shred after some hard hits of wind. Hasse sails are known for their wide seams – a 1¾ inch seam with three lines of zigzag – to help disperse the wind load throughout the sail but also to allow for future maintenance.
Sails are built from foot to head, panel by panel with the necessary add-ons – reef bands, batten pockets, reinforced patches. The fabric is measured, tightened and yanked on as it constantly goes from machine to floor, machine to floor through construction. The job is physical, typically with 2,000 square feet of material moving throughout the loft.
The crew doesn’t often go out on the boats for which they make sails, but when they do, it is breathtaking. As a sail fills with wind, the boat is pulled through the water with grace, and the crew embraces the satisfaction that they made this happen, by hand, at the Sail Loft.
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