Friday, February 7, 2014

Cruisers help Guna Indians with Ulu Sails

A few years ago, I decided to make a few sails for the ulus of a couple of Guna men I knew.  That idea quickly blossomed to making 10 sails.  Then I just decided to put x amount of $ into the project.  The end result of that was 30 main sails and 8 jibs, delivered a few months after manufacture.
Started simply, sitting on the floor of a friends garage, but got up to speed quickly with a table and my Sailrite sewing machine.
The first batch of sails were traditional white.

One of the men, Justino Galindo Martinez called me 4 or 5 times in the months following my first delivery and asked if I was coming back with more sails..  More Sails??
A few sentences later, I understood there was a demand for new sails sized to fit their ulus.  I gave it some thought, then proceeded to prep for another stint at sail making.

The result was an order for 1100 yards of sail cloth and all the periferal materials and equipment necessary to produce them, including a location.
I rented a building, set it up with electric, lighting and tables then began cutting material..

 Over a mile and a half of strips cut by hand, for the edges of the sail.
 Rolled out 4 layers of different colored cloth and used a hot knife cutting tool to speed cutting of patterned material.
 There were times, organization ran a muck.
 Colors were mixed and matched for variety I thought the Gunas would enjoy.
 I hoised a set on the wall to give me inspriration during the cold winter of sewing.
 Batches of 10 were vacuum packed for shipping.

Long story made short.. more sails have been made than I can as yet deliver or distribute..

This is where the story takes an interesting and inspiring turn.

A cruiser or two began to contact me, asking questions and lending verbal support to the Ulu Sail Project.  Then one couple, Frank and Gretchen really got behind the idea and began to promote it within the sailing community in the San Blas region, and even got word over to a gent in Germany who did some promotion over there.

Friends of Frank and Gretchen, Tom and Julie of sailing vessel Gris-Gris, happened to be in the U.S. at the time but soon heading to the San Blas, offered to take a few sails south with them for distribution..  A small snowball effect, but things were building.  The sails arrived a month later in the San Blas and with the word out, some cruisers began to purchase a sail or two, at cost later on, be given away or bartered for molas of their choice.

It often takes a village, the saying goes...but it is wonderful to see it happening.  Really, really nice.

...Today, in an email from Frank:

We have sold 12 sails so far to cruisers.  Here is the list of boats, so you can put it on the website:

Respite, Mike and Gloria
Changing Tides, Carl and Karen

Akka, Monty and Chris
Infinity, Frank and Gretchen
Gris-Gris, Tom and Julie
Lion's Paw and Clarity, who split a sail. (don't have all the crew names)
Eileen Farrell, Joyce and Lorenzo

Icarion, Brian and Marilyn
Blue Sky, Breeze and Debby
Islander, Barbara and Connie, who bought two sails.
Hiatus, Owen and Betty
Islander is trying to organize an Ulu regatta, with their sails as some of the prizes.  We'll try to get some pictures for you.

 All I can say and think, is how impressive the cruising community can be.  Really cool!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is great to see the pics.