Introduction to From Around the Shop: It is a Tanbark-thing!
A recent trip to the sail loft above our “shop” on Custom House Wharf was quite revealing. Mysteriously the loft defies the law of physics that proves heat rises. Behind a thick curtain and up the narrow staircase, there is an extensive collection of sails chilling like fine wine.
Despite the overwhelming appearance, I did notice an organizational system to the bounty of used sails stacked on industrial shelves. The rainbow spectrum of spinnaker material is along the right wall. On top of the billowing mounds of Dacron, there are rolls and rolls of criss-crossed Kevlar.
To the left where the afternoon sun pours through the window, I saw a pile of panels in hues ranging from rustic brick to the lighter shades of a faded picnic table. I had discovered (maybe not “discovered” but it was new to me) Tanbark in the sail loft.
The unique Tanbark color was achieved by submerging the sails in tannins which is a compound usually derived from tree bark. During the days of canvas sails, the process was used to protect the sails from rot, mold and mildew. Tanbark is a nostalgic color and a charming look that represents the essence of cruising under sail.
Now Dacron sails can be dyed this color. These panels in our loft were cut from retired sails used on large teaching vessels such as schooners or sloops.
Tanbark is not only aesthetically pleasing, but the color reduces glare, and the dye pigment offers improved UV protection over a natural shade. The finish is a medium firm with high quality weaves. The cloth is only available in the heaviest of weights so there isn’t much interest among modern racers/cruisers.
I am among the first to admit that Tanbark sailcloth makes a handsome and rugged bag. The reddish brown color reminds me of a rustic sunset and the look adds an historical affect to a modern material.
What aspects of life on Custom House Wharf or manufacturing at Sea Bags have you always wondered about?