Changing Tack to Help in A Crisis


Sperry Sails is making fabric face masks for essential workers.

By Lisa Cavanaugh

For nearly forty years, Sperry Sails has been crafting high-quality main, jib, and spinnaker sails as well as sail covers, cockpit cushions and much more for discerning boating enthusiasts. Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic upon us, the Marion, MA. based business has transitioned to sewing fabric face coverings to help protect essential workers across New England.

Ben Sperry, who runs Sperry Sails and is the nephew of the founder Steve Sperry, had already at the beginning of the crisis sent most of his staff home with sewing machines to work remotely. “We had a few projects to keep everyone busy, but then I decided we could really help the community by fabricating masks.”

With the dual goals of keeping his employees working during the stay at home advisory as well as doing something to support the people who are out on the front lines, Sperry quickly drew up a potential pattern. “I had a respirator style mask in the shop and I liked how it fit the face, so with a bit of luck I came up with a workable mask on the first try. “   Two of his regular suppliers had a gray filtering fabric usually used for car covers that he could purchase, so he was able to quickly begin the cutting and sewing process.

Working seven days a week, Sperry Sails aims to produce 10,000 masks by the end of May, and the team of staff and volunteers are well on their way.  “We’ve already cut 3,300 masks and built about half of that number,” he says, “and when my cousin’s company Sperry Fabric Architecture,  which stems from Sperry Sails, joins the effort next week we will be able to double our cutting capabilities.”

The masks are available to any essential business or organization that needs them, and are funded by generous Sperry Sails customers. “The donations have been flowing in really well,” says Sperry, “which is  enabling us to make thousands of them for the companies that need them.”

While these fabric masks are not intended to replace the N95 masks needed by healthcare workers, Sperry knows there are many other workers who can be at risk of contracting Covid-19 who require protection.  “ I really feel for the people working in the grocery stores and pharmacies,” he says.  Individuals can also donate to the campaign and receive masks for their families, as the new CDC guidelines recommend fabric facial coverings for everyone when they are out in their communities.

“I am inspired by all the folks out there who are making masks at home,” says Sperry who own household has joined the effort. “ I’m pretty tired when I get home from the shop,”  he says, “but my wife and kids are all busy sewing. We have a sixty year old sewing machine that has been put back into use. And it is going strong.”

Sperry Sails wants to hear from any companies or organizations that need masks: Please send your requests to:

For anyone interested in helping to support the mask making effort please visit to donate online.


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