Hong Kong Sailmaker Praised by Kettenburg Owner for Quality and Cost
Submitted by Howard Russell

As submitted by Howard on October 3, 2000


Sure, go ahead and use my e-mails to you in the Kettenburg web pages if you think they'd be useful. A correction from my last note to you:

I mistyped the type of cloth a full boat cover should be made of. It should be of Blue colored "Polyester," not of Dacron as I mistyped in my earlier message to you.

Yes, one of the "trade names" of the cloth is "Sunbrella," a heavier and higher quality of the lighter material used in modern outdoor umbrellas and awnings. It has other "trade names" depending on which company in which country is manufacturing it, but I can't think of any right now.

The cloth used for boat covers comes in a variety of colors. I've seen it in tan, light green, dark green, and a more commonly seen color, Royal Blue.

For some reason, the Blue Polyester cloth seems to have the longest life of all of them, practically indefinite. My last cover was almost twenty years old and the seams had been re sewn four times, about every five years! The only thing which wears out is the polyester thread, evidently due to constant flexing in the wind, from the ravages of sunlight, temperature changes and the effect of rain, and the dew.

I had my new one sewn last year in Oceanside for $1,800 for the fitted full cover, a twenty year life means a cost of only $90 per year. That's less than the coast of materials for a year's supply of varnish! Not to mention deck paint, labor, etc. I had to shop around for the best price down here. One guy wanted $4,000, and I told him sayonara! By the way, I found out later that the sail maker Cheong Lee in Hong Kong will sew one, if you provide them with three view plans of the boat, for less than $1,000, including shipping costs.

With a full cover damp rot on the boat is virtually eliminated. A well "built" cover will provide proper venting to let the air circulate between the cover and the boat so humidity doesn't build up.

Varnish will last up to two years of more under a full cover given typical boat use (occasional weekends, and summer vacations), depending on the quality of the varnish and the number of coats. (Six coats minimum, right out of the can, except for the first coat which should be thinned 10 to 20 % with thinner to prep the bare wood. I like to use a "Red" mahogany stain on the bared wood before starting a new build up of varnish. That seems to be the prettiest when finished.

The life of deck and hull paint is also extended due to the cover protection from the sun and dew, but much longer, from six to eight years! If you would plan to prep and paint once every three or four years you should be able to get a fine finish with only one coat of paint each time!

Here's a tip for leaky hulls. Sikaflex sealant! This is the best material I've found over the years for old wooden boats seams. It sticks to the planks very well, and flexes enough to keep sealed under hull-down stresses.

Sikaflex comes in different types. For hull leaks get the type recommended for use under the waterline. When your boat is up on the ways, you can find the faulty seams by looking for any dampness along seam lines.

While the seam lines are damp take a piece of common blackboard chalk and mark the damp seams so you'll be able to find them when they dry out. At that point make sure the bilge is pumped dry and do something else until the hull and bottom planks are dry.

When the faulty seams are dry, ream out the old caulking material a little from the seam/s you marked using a bent rat-tailed file, or proper tool. Then get a cartridge of Sikaflex in a "gun" and squeeze a bead of Sikaflex all along and into the troublesome seam. While the Sikaflex is still wet, take a putty knife and smooth off the excess to "fair" it with the hull planks.

When it dries, (within half an hour or so) your seam problems are over for years!) The Sikaflex is then sanded lightly, and painted over with anti-fouling paint.

However, if your seams are so leaky you have to pump often, (daily, or more, or weekly) I suggest you look in the area under the engine, under the fuel tank area (cabin bilge), and under the mast step, for broken main frames! These allow the keel to move enough to open plank seams under sail, and let in the water.

Don't let anybody kid you about bilges. A boat should have a dry bilge! No matter how hard it blows!

My original major leak problem I discovered when I first bought Shadowfax! I had to pump the bilge twice a day or the water would rise up over the cabin sole! I discovered nine broken main frames of long standing. Funny thing, the problem wasn't noted by the surveyor, and wasn't serious until my boat was sailing in the heavier conditions in San Francisco Bay.

I had a yard master boat builder "sister" all nine broken frames. That was 25 years ago and we have had a Dry bilge since then. The fuel tank had to come out to get at the broken frames, so I had the yard steam clean the fuel tank at that time and also got rid of twenty years of sludge in the tank bottom, and with its removal, a nagging engine fuel fouling problem into the bargain. The whole job cost less than $500 at Fifth Avenue Boat Yard in Oakland! Of course that was 25 years ago. Probably prices have gone up since, but that was a great investment, well worth the cost for the peace of mind and safety of the boat, and the elimination of constant pumping.

Cheong Lee Sail maker
Attention: Helen Fong (speaks excellent English)
GPO Box 2218
Hong Kong

(e-mail address: [email protected] )
Telephone: 011 852 2870 0289
FAX: 011 852-2870-0217

(NOTE: There is a 16 hour difference in time between CA & Hong Kong, so allow for that if you telephone.

I phoned and talked to Helen Fong personally before I passed the information along to George Wheeler, former owner of Reward. George then phoned her and about six weeks later had his gorgeous two new K-38 sails, complete with "K-38" insignia and racing registration numbers sewn on the sails, just like in the States!

Well, aren't you sorry you asked?