North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Chelsie Strong

CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: TOM MULDER

An Extra Special Christmas For Sailing Enthusiasts

Mulder Sailing

Now that the holidays are over and we focus on what’s ahead in 2020, I was able to get in touch with Tom Mulder about a very special gift from his parents on Christmas and ask him a few questions about his new North Sails, his sailing past, and a peculiar question about the Edmund Fitzgerald. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with your dad about a very nice Christmas gift that you received last month for Christmas….a new set of white North Sails for your Harpoon boat. Did you have any idea that they might do something like this? 

How it all started was your previous location was in Grosse Point if I remember correctly, off Mack I think. I I’ve had my Boston Whaler since 1988, 32 years now. It had original sails, I’m the second owner. Those sails after 42 some years, started to decay obviously. I kept them in good condition, kept them protected obviously, and what not. I figured that right now would be a good time to replace the sails, both the jib and the mainsail. Since we knew that you had an office location nearby to get in contact with you guys. And as we found out, you can do repairs as well as fabricate sails at your location. That’s really what started it, to contact you guys [North Sails Detroit] to help us replace sails.

I was under the impression that this was going to be a surprise. Was it supposed to be a surprise? 

Yes, it eventually ended up as a surprise. It started out as, especially leading to a place– Both my wife and I live down here in North Carolina and my parents are still up in the Metro Detroit area, so it was behooving them and us to see local availability for them. And for us to see if you could either repair them or if the sails were not repairable, if you could replace them. We knew that the sails were going to get dropped off. I wasn’t quite sure if they had resolved whether the sails could be repaired or not or if they were just going to get replaced. 

What thoughts were going through your head when they told you about the new sails?

So when they came down here just a couple weeks ago for our son’s birthday, they showed us the pictures of the new sails and the new sail bags. They were actually fantastic. The new sails looked absolutely wonderful. I am so very excited for summer time to get back up to Michigan and put the sails on the boat and get out on the water.

Your Dad mentioned that you are a bit of a North Sails enthusiast. How did you originally discover North Sails and what about the North product do you appreciate the most?

It was kind of by happenstance. In the late 80’s my cousin– both my mom and my dad’s side are from the west side of Michigan, Holland and Grand Rapids area. I have several cousins over in Muskegon and one of my cousins invited me out there to go sailing with him. I had never been sailing before, it was about ‘87. I ended up being a part of his crew, if I remember correctly on a 27’ J-Boat and well, he had North Sails. Ironically at the time my other cousin, his brother was on the boat and then their sister, my other cousin was on a different boat. I just was enamored. I got the sailing bug.  Right away. With the experience of the North Sails that he had and the equipment I just thought– it was one of those things that I had a great experience, fantastic sailing and just thought instead of trying to change something, I’ll just stick with it. Ironically within about a year I had bought my Boston Whaler and that came with 2 North Sails on it, a jib and a main and just stayed with it. Didn’t look at Hood or any other type of sailmaker. I Kind of thought, just stay with North. We never had any problems with any of the sails or durability so it’s been great.

Your dad said that you were adamant about white sails, no other colors, can you elaborate?

Yeah, I know through just experience and racing and watching on TV growing up in that timeframe, before the current sails I’ve always just wanted white sails with numbers for personal and for racing thoughts. That was it. No colors. I know with spinnakers we can get colors, but for me it’s always been about just a clean white sail on the blue waters.

Your Dad claims that you made a model of the Edmund Fitzgerald when you were a kid. Could you tell me what inspired you about this particular boat that now lies on the bottom of Lake Superior? 

I did; out of a 2×4. Living in Michigan, it was the inland lakes where we have had cottages and where my boat currently is- at my parent’s cottage. I love the great lakes, the freighters, the lake boats. I don’t quite remember how I got caught on that bug, with the Edmund Fitzgerald, but I’ve had that knowledge with me and that desire to just obtain as much information as I could. I still have the information with me, as well as the documentaries and books that have been published. It came to a point where while my grandparents on my mom’s side were still alive, I made a USS Constitution for my grandpa and grandma. I just thought why couldn’t I? It didn’t seem too complicated that I make an Edmund Fitzgerald out of wood by myself. I started with the hull out of wood from a 2×4, and then taking cardboard to create the super-structure, all the forward and aft. And it worked out pretty good, not too bad for that age that I was and ironically when my parents came down last fall, they brought the original boat down with them. I still have it here, in my possession. 

Did you carve it? 

The hull was carved and shaped into the bow structure and then the stern was rounded. I didn’t get into the finite details of under the hull of it with the propeller or the tiller, or the rudder. I just did to whatever accent I could. And just sort of made out of cardboard, thin cardboard, the super-structure from there. I took a little bit of architectural license with it, [Laughs] but it was quite good.

Do you have any stories from your past that may have helped shape your appreciation of the sport of sailing?

I will say this. Part of the official sailing experience with my cousins on Lake Muskegon was, if I remember correctly, I was there for about 4 days. We sailed on Wednesday or Thursday qualifying and the race was on a Saturday. On the qualifying, off of Lake Michigan there was a squall that came in. I remember being on Lake Muskegon and reefing the sails and the harbor was too tight with the boats and the slips on the dock that we had to actually stay out on the lake during the storm. It didn’t last more than 30 or 40 minutes but part of that experience was getting the bug inside me. That was another reassurance for me that the North Sails were strong enough and would last forever.

After that throughout the 90’s and early parts of 2000, I know being on my Boston Whaler I broke both shrouds at the mast out in the middle of the lake the mast keeled over into the water. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. You disconnect it, pull it back out onto the boat, and haul yourself back into shore or flag someone down for assistance. But at the end of the day, North sails never caused any problems or any issues what-so-ever. It’s been another element of experience and I’ve been a very happy North Sails customer.

Have you been able to pass along your interest in sailing and marine activities to your family?

Well, honestly, our son is going to be 12 this week and our daughter just turned 5 last September and they’re not quite- My son has been interested in sailing but at this point it’s not quite as fast as the power boat. And the amount of work to be done on a boat; especially on a smaller sailboat where your controlling the jib and the mainsheet with the lines it’s not just get on the boat and go. That part of it, the way I look at it- you’re by yourself on the boat trying to find your own propulsion with the wind. That I’ve never lost. It’s been great, but on the other side too, not to be a traitor to sails but definitely having a power boat has been another element for us to at least be on the water. Which both my wife and I are very– growing up in Michigan we need to be near a lake to get out on the water and just enjoy the peace and quiet and the solitude, lake-wise.

Now that you know you have the new sails waiting for you in Michigan with your boat, what are your plans for the upcoming sailing season?

We do, we started past years coming up in the summertime for a week and just based on our sons school schedule and my daughters starting kindergarten this summer. Both of them will be in year round school down here and usually the July or August timeframe is when they have 3 or 4 weeks and that’s when we plan to be going up. This year we’ll be going up in July around the 4th timeframe. It’ll be good up there. Right around the time when the Michigan lake waters warm up just enough. We’re excited to get up there and to see the sails and try them out.

Mulder Sailing