Halloween "Pirate of the Caribbean" Sail




Introduction: Halloween "Pirate of the Caribbean" Sail

This Instructable is for a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sail that will be hoisted onto our flag pole in the front yard to enhance the rest of our pirates-themed Halloween decorations (see my other Instructables for more info). This sail is inspired by the one in front of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Walt Disney World.

I apologize in advance for the lack of detail photos along the way. I didn’t think this would turn out as cool as it did when I started, so I was kind of lax in my record-keeping.

I also don't have any photos yet of the final installation since we are still a couple of weeks away from Halloween, but I plan to update the Instructable with additional photos after Halloween.

Step 1: Step 1- Cross Members

The sail was pretty straightforward to build and didn’t require any complicated skills or equipment. My flagpole is 20’ tall and made of aluminum, so I knew I didn’t want to put anything too heavy up there. I decided to make the cross pieces from PVC irrigation pipe since they are cheap and lightweight. I was limited by 10’ PVC pipe length so that drove the design and size of the sail. I created a very quick 3D model of the sail in Solidworks just to get an idea of the scale.

I cut the PVC pipe to size, plugged the ends with some flat ABS from my scrap bin, and chamfered the edges on the belt sander. I then put a faux stain finish on the PVC using some brown shoe polish and clear-coated it to protect it. (You can find a number of videos on how to do this on Youtube. Apparently, archery enthusiasts buy commonly available PVC bows and use this technique to make them look like wood.)

Step 2: Step 2- the Sail

For the sail, I purchased some muslin for a ridiculously low price at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics. I purchased three yards (vertical) of 120” wide (horizontal) lightweight muslin for about $7.00 with a coupon. I transferred the corner dimensions to the muslin and used a piece of small diameter PVC pipe I had laying around to trace the swoops on the sides. I then cut it out and my wife hemmed the edges. I had her make small hems on the 2 sides just to prevent fraying. Along the top, I had her make a 1 ½” hem to make room for the grommets. Along the bottom, I had her make a 2 ½” hem that was open on the 2 ends so I could thread a piece of cord through the bottom hem to give me the billowing look I was going for.

For the grommets, I bought solid brass grommets and aged them in a closed container using ammonia fumes and salt. WARNING! THIS STEP IS DANGEROUS!

I didn’t take any photos of that process, however there are a number of Youtube videos, and Instructables on how to do that. Basically you sand off any lacquer coating to get down to bare brass, then put them in a tupperware or similar container with an ammonia-soaked paper towel for several hours or overnight occasionally sprinkling salt on the grommets to bring out the blue-green color.


For the rigging, I found some weather resistant poly-rope that mimics old-style sisal rope, and some conduit clamps. I painted the clamps with hammered bronze paint and attached them at the ends of the booms on top
and bottom using sheet metal screws into the PVC pipe. I then wrapped the ends with the poly-rope to hide the fasteners.

Step 3: Step 3- Painting

For the Jolly Roger, I downloaded a clipart skull and crossbones, and printed it on a sheet of acetate used for overhead projectors. I then cut it to fit in our holiday projector (one of those outdoor projectors that project holiday images on the side of the house or the garage door.) I then used that to project the skull and crossbones onto the sail in the correct scale and location, traced around the edge in pencil, and painted in the skull and crossbones with some dark gray paint I bought at a big box store off the discounted returned paint table.

I then traced and cut out some cannonball holes in the sail using a salad plate as a template. I sprayed the edges with flat black for soot, and added some brown paint to indicate burn marks from flames.

I ran into some trouble with the UV (blacklight) reactive paint step. I had some great paint leftover from my older projects that glowed bright yellow under blacklight and was real easy to spray. I used that for most of the left side and a bit on the right, however it started to run out and although I sprayed while under blacklight, the colors don’t really show until they are dry. I didn’t realize that as the can started to run out, the spray became more of a “shpritz” and it created a bit of a line on that side of the sail. I attempted to find more of that spray but the company is long gone and there is nothing similar available for less than $25 per can. I ended up getting some UV fabric paint, thinning it with water and praying it with a household spray bottle, although it’s not as reactive as the good stuff. Not ideal, but it’s supposed to indicate mold and algae, so I think it works okay.

I also bought a pair of cheap spun metal work lights, and spray painted the outsides flat black. I plan to attach them to the top cross member to get some good blacklight splashed across the sail for the full affect.

Step 4: Step 4- Conclusion

So that’s it. As I said, I am pretty happy with it but I won’t get the full affect until I hang it on Halloween. I’m a little concerned about the wind catching it and bending the flagpole, or not being able to use the black-lights if it’s raining, but we’ll see how it goes. I hope to add some more photos after the sail’s debut this Halloween.

I wanted to add some fake block and tackle details on the sides but I didn't get around to that this year. Maybe that will be an enhancement for next year.

I hope this Instructable gave you some ideas for your setup.

**Update- I've attached some photos of the finished project on Halloween, along with a video of the sail "in action". Enjoy!

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    7 years ago

    I love this! Gives me great ideas for my spooky handmade curtains that needed to pop more under "black light witching hour" ! Thanks much!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This looks great!

    I especially liked the PVC staining trick. I'll have to try that sometime. Thanks for sharing this.