The Second Life of Sails: Crafting a better future for the next generation

Life is full of discarded items. Things that have already served their purpose now sit, useless and used up, to be thrown away, recycled or forgotten. The beauty of sewing is that you have the opportunity to give new life to something that has already served its original purpose. Barbara Wetherington is this kind of sewer. She gives new life and special meaning to retired sailcloth by creating tote bags from the fabric. In doing so, she has also found a way to serve her Boston-area community and donate her time and talents to a worthy nonprofit organization.

Barbara has had an off-and-on relationship with sewing over the years. She learned to sew in Home Economics class in 7th grade, but wasn’t particularly passionate about the craft. In her mid-20s, a roommate who worked at a fabric store rekindled Barbara’s interest in sewing. She learned to make useful things like pillows, window treatments and bags. When she moved to a smaller apartment, she had to put away her sewing supplies and moved on to other hobbies. A few years ago, she came across her sewing machine tucked away in a closet and realized she hadn’t used it in almost 20 years. When she remembered how much she enjoyed sewing and making practical items like tote bags, she was determined to start up again. And she knew just how to do it. Enter, World Ocean School.

World Ocean School is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help underserved children by providing educational programs that challenge them academically, physically and emotionally. The school offers an alternative to traditional education methods, believing that involving kids in hands-on programs will combat apathy and disengagement in students of all ages to decrease dropout rates, substance abuse, crime and unemployment. In fact, 74 percent of the 2,200 students who participate in World Ocean School each year are from low-income households, the highest demographic for student dropout rates.

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World Ocean School students learning the ropes as they embark on an educational adventure.

The kids set sail aboard the historic schooner Roseway, a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark that splits its time between Boston, Massachusetts, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Roseway is one of only three original Grand Banks schooners left in operation today. The experiential programs offered aboard Roseway are as diverse as the students themselves, ranging from half-day programs to multi-week expeditions. The students are empowered to reach their full potential through sail training, team building, communication and leadership skills. Hands-on programs give the students the opportunity to participate in a richly rewarding learning atmosphere. They’re engaged and challenged in a way that traditional classrooms can’t offer.

When Barbara heard about World Ocean School’s mission, she was eager to lend a hand. She began volunteering on Roseway in 2006 doing whatever was needed, including painting, whipping lines and raising sails. She spent one summer as the onboard cook while the ship was docked in Boston Harbor and loved every minute of it. But her desire to help only grew.

A few years ago, she purchased a tote bag that a crew member had made using the Roseway’s old sails. And that sparked an idea. After receiving permission from the executive director of World Ocean School, she began sewing tote bags made from the Roseway’s distinctive tanbark sails, once they’re retired, of course, as a way to raise money for the school’s educational programs. She was looking to get back into sewing, and this cause was just the inspiration she needed.

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Barbara’s tote bags made from Roseway’s retired tanbark sails.

Barbara sews the tote bags with her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 using V-92 thread, which she says gives the bags an industrial look that adds to the beauty of the sailcloth. She also has an embroidery sewing machine, which she uses to embroider the World Ocean School logo onto the front of the bags. She turned her sewing hobby into a way to serve her community and help at-risk youth, and that’s something we can all be inspired by.

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Barbara works on a tote bag for World Ocean School using her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.

Here’s what Barbara had to say about her work with the organization: “I wholeheartedly back the mission of World Ocean School. As a small nonprofit, they run fairly lean in many aspects, except when it comes to programming for the kids. When I read the “Ship’s Logs” that are posted on the website, I’m so amazed at what the kids say about their experiences. You can see that it’s truly life-changing for them in a positive way. Many of the kids, both in Boston and St. Croix, live near the ocean but often don’t have any connection to it and its place in our world. The programming of World Ocean School makes that connection.”

In addition to the educational programs scheduled throughout the year, the Roseway is open to the public for special sailing trips and other events. These public events provide an opportunity for the school to spread public awareness of their mission and to raise money to keep the school going. It’s during these public events that Barbara’s unique tote bags are sold, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to World Ocean School’s ongoing educational programs.

Barbara has stayed connected to World Ocean School for 12 years now, helping out however she can, whether that’s sewing the tote bags, grocery shopping or standing in as a cook. She even served on a committee to organize a successful fundraiser called Walk the Plank. Through it all, she remains steadfast in her belief that World Ocean School changes kids’ lives for the better, opening them up to opportunities and experiences they would never have otherwise, and she’s grateful for the dedicated staff of employees and volunteers who keep the program alive.

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An educator aboard Roseway teaches a student about the inner workings of the ship.

“It is awe-inspiring to me how hard the crew works to keep the ship running, while at the same time acting as educators for these kids. I’m inspired by how World Ocean School touches the lives of so many young people, and I’m thrilled that I’m able to contribute, in a unique way, to their mission by making these bags for them to sell.”

 

If you’d like to learn more about World Ocean School, please visit www.worldoceanschool.org.

Stay Safe at Sea With a Custom Jackline System

A study by the U.S. Coast Guard found that from 2000-2011, drowning accounted for 73 percent of sailing deaths. It’s a senseless tragedy when a sailor goes overboard because they aren’t properly tethered, or they’re tethered but get dragged alongside the boat and drown because the tether is far too long. But the worst part is that these deaths could easily be avoided if the sailor had installed a safe and useful jackline system.

Longtime Sailrite customer Captain Donald Quackenbush is a veteran sailor with 28 years and 100,000 miles of sailing experience. He’s been a 100 Ton U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain for 20 years and, as a member of the National Boat Handling Committee, created the Man Overboard System that is taught by the U.S. Power Squadron nationwide and is also available as a college course at the University of West Florida. He has generously offered to share his vast knowledge on sailboat safety measures with us. Everyone should feel safe on the water, and Captain Quackenbush’s system is set up in a way that, when properly installed, will prevent you from going past the toerail and dragged through the water.

One of the greatest benefits of Captain Quackenbush’s system is that it offers sailors the “third hand” so often needed while at sea. The tethers are shorter than most popular tether options on the market, meaning you don’t have to hold the tether with one hand as you move around the boat. This hands-free system gives the sailor freedom of movement compared to commercial jackline and tether setups. It enables the sailor to lean or pull against the tethers while working, offering support and stability. The three key parts of the captain’s jackline system are the location of the padeyes, the length and construction of the jacklines, and the short legs of the “Y” tether. We’ll cover all three aspects below and show you how to install this lifesaving jackline system on your boat. Captain Quackenbush has installed his jackline system on several customers’ boats over the years with excellent results and a perfect safety record.

 

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Captain Donald Quackenbush demonstrating the third-hand capabilities of his jackline system.

Installing the Padeyes

The first step is to install the padeyes in the correct locations. Most sailboats will require eight padeyes. Install a padeye right outside the companionway so you can hook yourself in as you exit the cabin during severe weather. The helmsman should always be tethered while on watch, so install a padeye in the cockpit (a second padeye at the aft end of the cockpit may be needed on larger boats). A padeye should also be attached near all four corners of the cabintop so that the jackline runs down the halfway point between the toerail and the boom as near as possible. This should make it possible to reach the boom and toerail but not go past either point.

Finally, two padeyes are installed on the foredeck, one center aft and the other center forward. The aft foredeck padeye should be reachable from either forward end cabintop padeye without unhooking. The padeye at the forward end foredeck should be forward enough so that you can reach the anchor, windlass, etc., but aft enough so that you can’t fall off the boat at the foredeck. Captain Quackenbush recommends through-bolting the padeyes as you will put a lot of pressure on the system if you slip or a wave sweeps your feet out from under you.

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This schematic shows padeye and jackline placement on a boat.

It’s not necessary that the padeyes are placed the entire length of the foredeck and cabintop. The most important factor in padeye placement is that you should be able to move around the entire boat and never be unhooked in severe weather. So as long as you can reach the next attachment point without unhooking yourself from the current one—and the padeyes are far enough from the edge of the boat to not be able to fall overboard—the system is set up correctly.

You may be wondering why you can’t just use the cleats to attach the jacklines instead of installing padeyes. The reason is that the entire goal of Captain Quackenbush’s system is to keep you on the boat at all times, and the cleats are too close to the edge of the boat. Even with a short tether, you would still roll over the side of the boat. During inclement weather, this is the last thing you want to have happen. It’s incredibly difficult to hoist yourself back onboard when you’re being tossed around and soaked by a merciless storm, especially if you’re a solo sailor. Usually it’s impossible.

Jackline Do’s & Don’ts

Once you have the padeyes installed, the next step is adding the jacklines. You will have three jacklines on your boat: one each running along the port and starboard sides of your cabintop, and one running aft to forward on the foredeck. The beauty of Captain Quackenbush’s system is that with jacklines running along the cabintop and down the center of the foredeck, and with shorter tether lengths than commercial offerings, nothing will ever be around your feet and ankles as a potential tripping hazard. Captain Quackenbush uses Dyneema or Spectra webbing for his jacklines. Both have very little stretch under load, have good UV resistance, and the padeye knot or hook holds the webbing up at each end, making it easy to hook in. Another benefit to using webbing is that it is flat and, therefore, won’t become a tripping hazard should you step on it. Never use wire or line as they can roll underfoot. Be sure to pick a webbing color that is visible at night and easy to see. White seems to work best.

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Jacklines running along the cabintop.
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The foredeck jackline and cabintop jacklines within reach.

The jacklines are removable for easy repair and storage. Sew a hook to one end of the jackline to clip to the padeye with repeated or heavy stitching (92 or heavier), and then tie the other end to the opposite padeye using an anchor bend and two half hitches. Or, you can tie both ends if you choose. Because the webbing is nonstretch, the jacklines don’t need to be tied super tight. The sun is your jacklines’ worst enemy, so storing them when not in use will help to prolong their life. Captain Quackenbush says his jacklines last about five to ten years, and he sails about 250 days a year. To check the quality of your jacklines, take them to a quiet location, hold the webbing up to your ear, and flex it. If you hear crackling, that’s a sign your jacklines are becoming brittle and need to be replaced.

Creating the Tethers

Now that you’ve got your padeyes and jacklines installed, the final step is sewing your own tether for your harness. Captain Quackenbush recommends a Y tether, meaning it’s shaped like a Y with one attachment point at the harness and two legs that attach to the jacklines. The central hook should be heavily sewn with a box X stitch and heavy UV thread as well. Go over it several times as you sew it. The hook that attaches to the harness should be brightly colored and easily visible at night (Suncor Poly Grip Harness Clip #103763 is a great choice) should you ever need to unhook in an emergency in poor visibility.

The tethers are made with tubular webbing with a heavy bungee cord inside to shorten them further when not in use. One tether leg should be shorter than the other so that you have a choice of tether lengths based on where you are hooking in on the boat—the leg for the foredeck jackline is typically the shorter one and the cabintop leg is typically the longer one. Determining the lengths of your tethers will require some measuring and experimentation on your boat. Create a Y tether with longish legs and tied on hooks, then go out on deck and determine the distance you need from the jacklines to just reach the toerail and boom with considerable pressure. Do the same with the foredeck jackline. Once you have your measurements, you can finish constructing the tethers and add the internal bungee. Sailrite offers tether kits or supplies sold separately to make your own custom design.

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A completed two-leg tether system with one leg shorter than the other.

The genius of the two-leg tether system is that you can move around the boat from one jackline to another without ever unhooking. Two tethers also allow you to be attached to a jackline and another spot on the boat, such as the mast, for even more security. This is a huge safety advantage and can be the difference between staying on your feet or being tossed around when the boat is pitching and rolling during rough weather.

Proper tether and jackline lengths are determined by the size of the boat. Every boat requires a separate setup. Jacklines should be located halfway between the toerail and the mast/boom. The padeyes should be placed so that you can move from the cockpit to the jackline, and then from one jackline to the next without ever unhooking. Simply switch back and forth between the two tethers as you move around. Keep the unused tether hooked back on the D-rings of your harness when not in use. Spending a bit of extra time during the planning stage—taking measurements and experimenting with padeye placement, and jackline and tether length—will ensure your safety while sailing. And that peace of mind is priceless.

The problem with commercial tether and jackline designs and kits on the market, according to Captain Quackenbush, is that they allow the sailor to fall off the boat and get dragged through the water. The tethers are so long they drag around your feet, getting tangled and tripping you. This requires you to constantly hold the tether up off the ground, leaving you with only one working hand and creating a very dangerous situation in rough weather. Likewise, jacklines located along the side decks also present a serious tripping hazard. The annoyance and inconvenience of these commercial tethers and jackline kits is why so many sailors don’t use them in favor of faster and easier movement around the boat. A deadly gamble.

A Message From Sailrite

We at Sailrite feel confident in recommending Captain Quackenbush’s jackline system to our customers. In fact, here’s what Owner and Vice President Matt Grant has to say about this system:
“Captain Quackenbush is a longtime Sailrite customer with a keen understanding of safety and self-reliance at sea. His system makes perfect sense and his sole motivation in helping Sailrite to write these instructions is to save lives. Sailrite applauds Don and others like him who encourage safety at sea and are willing to freely share ideas.”

We’re hoping that by spreading the word about this great safety system we can help keep sailors safe and—most importantly—stay on their boats! Sailing is a wonderful sport and hobby, and it should be enjoyed to its fullest at all times without the worry or concern of your tether and jackline system failing you.

Visit Sailrite.com for all the supplies needed to install Captain Quackenbush’s jackline system on your boat:
-8 Harken Folding Padeyes (#320611)
-1 Suncor Poly Grip Harness Clip (#103763)
-2 Suncor Asymmetrical Wire Lever Harness Clips (#103760)
-Dyneema 1” Webbing (#106406) desired yardage

Disclaimer: The information in this article is the opinion of Sailrite Enterprises, Inc., and is not corroborated or verified by a sailing safety authority. Sailrite shall not be held liable in the event of injury or death. Use at your own risk.

Racing the Mac on Homemade Sails

The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is the longest annual freshwater race in the world. This sailing race, also called “the Mac,” starts at the Chicago Lighthouse and ends at Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In total, the race stands at 333 miles! More than 350 boats compete every year. Holly Kawula is a loyal Sailrite customer who placed third in her division at the 2018 Mac race, and we wanted to learn a little bit more about her experience racing using a sail made from one of our Sail Kits.

Q: What’s your history with sailing? Has it been an ongoing hobby for you?

My husband Walter and I bought our first sailboat for daysailing/cruising 24 years ago. We are now on our third boat. Walter had become interested in racing through a co-worker back in 2000, and was specifically looking for a racing boat when he found Truant in 2004. Truant is a 1985 S2 9.1, manufactured in Holland, Michigan, and designed for sailing the Great Lakes. I was somewhat busy at the time with our four young children, but after one memorable evening out for a Wednesday night Beer Can, I was hooked on racing. I also realized that if I wanted to spend any time with Walter on weekends or Wednesday nights I needed to learn not only how to sail but how to be a part of a competitive racing crew. Truant began an earnest racing program in 2006.

Walter and I are watch captains, and our other crew included our foredeck, Chad Goldenberg and Beth Cushing, and our helm/trimmers/back of the boat Brad and Gretchen Horn. Chad has been with us for six years, Brad has been with us for five years, Gretchen is new to our crew this year, and Beth is a long-time friend and guest crew (this was her second Mac with us).

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The finished sail!

Q: How did you prepare?

This was our sixth Mac race. We have long-term/ongoing preparation, which involves recruiting and developing our crew and participating in as many long-distance races as we can; mid-term preparation, which involves this season’s boat maintenance, sail and safety equipment repair and/or replacement; and short-term, which includes readying the boat for three to four days of non-stop sailing for a crew of six. Space is at a premium on our 30-foot boat, so we clear out any unnecessary gear, rig our lee cloths for storage on our lower berths (made with materials from Sailrite), prepare and freeze meals for the journey, etc.

Q: Do you have any exciting stories from the race? Did you have any mishaps or hardships you had to overcome?

Hardship? On this year’s race, the high winds and high sea state (waves) for the first 36 hours were staggering. We’ve been through some really rough storms before, including last year’s “dry heat burst” on the Mac (sudden unexpected onset of 45+ knot winds), which shredded our spinnaker, caused us to round up, our toe-rail to fail, and caused the lifelines to rip a stanchion out of our deck and leave a fist-sized hole. While all this was happening, our crew dropped our brand new unhoisted #3 headsail overboard and then, of course, we abandoned the race. That whole incident took place over less than 15 minutes, and then the winds calmed down.

This year, we were facing not a storm but a steady system of 15-25 knot winds and 6-8 foot waves over two days. The conditions at the start were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Water was continually washing over the decks and leaking into the cabin. It was also raining. We were all wearing full foul weather gear, personal flotation devices, and tethers, plus were still soaked to the skin. Maintaining control of the helm required physical stamina I didn’t know I had. Sitting (bouncing, pounding) on the rail required a great deal of stamina as well, as we were crashing into waves and continually washed over with waves. Then there was nightfall, with no moon or starlight and we were doing it all blindly.

Q: You utilized one of our sail kits to build your own sail. What did you gain or learn from this?

A couple of weeks before the Mac race last year we realized that our infrequently used #3 headsail was no longer serviceable. Flaking it after a race, we found our hands were literally going through the degraded laminate. There was no time to order a new one from our supplier, so the Sailrite kit was our only option. I requested the estimate, placed the order, and the kit arrived at noon on Wednesday before the Saturday of the Mac.

My family and my crew worked as a team for the next two days to put it together, and that’s the most valuable take away I had from the experience. It required a lot of patience and cooperation, and everyone stepped up to the challenge. The sense of accomplishment when we completed it early Friday evening before the race was something I’ll always treasure. We laid it out on our front lawn to put the telltales, amazed that we had made a REAL SAIL and opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

Q: After building your own sail do you feel more confident when it comes to repairs and overall sail maintenance?

I do feel more confident in repairs and maintenance. For example, I replaced the leech line and tape on our mainsail this spring without hesitation or intimidation.

Q: Did you feel confident you were getting the proper sail for your boat/conditions after speaking to Sailrite?

Jeff Frank gave me all the information I needed/asked for before ordering so I had no concerns about whether or not I was getting the proper sail.

Q: How was the overall ordering process?

The overall ordering process was a breeze!

Q: Would you recommend building a sail to a friend?

I would absolutely recommend building a sail to friends, and I have.

Q: What tools/supplies did you find most useful while building the sail?

Regarding tools, of course first and foremost was the Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, then the two-sided tape. We made extensive use of clamps as well.

Q: Did you save any money?

We did save a considerable amount of money providing our own labor both times we made the sail. But we didn’t sacrifice any quality, as it’s a great sail and it’s serving us very well. I’ve attached a photo of our crew at the podium after the Mac this year, for which we used our #3 headsail for the first half of the race.

Q: Overall, what did you take away from this entire experience?

You know what the best part of this was? We did it. And, as you can see by the smiles on our faces at our podium finish, we’d do it again. Long-distance races like the Mac don’t just require skilled crew, they require a committed team willing to endure hardship and support each other. Having a good finish also requires that crew not only endure but persist, keep trimming sails, stay focused and stay competitive.

Sewing Exterior Canvas with Sailrite

By: Heather Francis

Besides a stiff upper lip, what makes sailing a little more comfortable, rain or shine? The exterior canvas. Providing much-needed shade from the fierce midday sun, a place to hide behind when the wind pipes up and something to crowd beneath when it starts to rain, the exterior canvas on a boat cannot be overlooked. Over the last 10 years I have replaced ours twice with the help of my Ultrafeed LSZ-1, each time tweaking the design to take advantage of all that canvas offers to a boater.

The first time I replaced the dodger and bimini was shortly after we purchased the boat. The canvas we inherited was not only powder blue and clashed with the newly painted green topsides, but it was also well past its prime. I estimated and ordered the new Forest Green Sunbrella for the project but it wasn’t something that we needed to finish to set sail, so it got shuttled down the to-do list for an entire year.

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New Canvas on Yacht Kate

By the time I was ready to start sewing I knew what I did and did not like about the design. For instance, we had unzipped the middle section of the dodger only once in those 12 months, but constantly complained that the vertical frame the zippers were sewn into blocked our line of sight. We never used the overhead windows in the removable midsection because we always took the midsection down underway. When the old canvas finally ripped I knew exactly what I wanted to change to make it more functional for us.

Several years later, we changed the design of our bimini to incorporate a place to mount our solar panels, wind generator and radar. Now larger and flatter, the bimini was much more efficient at collecting rain water. Resources like water are as precious as gold on board, so it was a no brainer to incorporate ways to funnel it off the bimini and into the tanks. By adding some easy to install, large snap together grommets and tie downs at the lowest corner, I created a natural path for the water to follow. Collecting it was as simple as putting a bucket underneath the steady stream that flowed.

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Yacht Kate out at sea

Having then spent 5 years sailing in the tropics, I also knew how much a bit of shade cooled both us and the decks. Using a light weight shade cloth I sewed panels that could be moved around the cockpit to provide sun protection. A few well-placed zippers made it possible to quickly add and remove these large sections on the front, back and side of the permanent canvas, giving us maximum shade protection anytime of day at anchor but without added windage if we needed to use them underway.

Although fabrics like Sunbrella are designed to withstand the elements, they don’t last if they are not taken care of. Unfinished edges will fray quickly when left flapping in the breeze. An easy way to prevent fraying is to cut Sunbrella fabric with a hot knife rather than a pair of scissors, sealing and finishing the edges while you work.

My most frequent problem with the exterior canvas on board our boat is that the thread becomes fragile and seams suddenly give way. To extend the life of the seams I always use the recommended UV stable polyester thread. I also do regular inspections of all the exterior canvas and take down and resew any seams that appear ready to split.

I thought creating a suite of custom exterior canvass would be difficult but with their extensive library of free DIY videos I was able to see how to do things like install zippers and properly sewing in windows. For the past 10 years my Sailrite sewing machine has made sewing through heavy fabrics a breeze. Now, if only it could make finding wind while becalmed just as easy.

BIO- Heather Francis is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. For over a decade she has travelled the world living and working on boats. In 2008 she and her Aussie partner Steve bought their Newport 41’, Kate, in California and have been sailing her full-time since. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines, you can follow their adventures at www.yachtkate.com

Sailing & Sewing Where the Coconuts Grow

Meet Jody and Peter, the sailing couple behind the blog “Where the Coconuts Grow.” This determined couple set their sights on the liveaboard sailing life and didn’t look back. They’ve been cruising in the Caribbean for the past two years on board S/V Mary Christine. To continue their sailing lifestyle, they’ve embraced a “work hard, play hard” mentality, which includes long hours at their island job and DIY projects to affordably maintain their own boat with the freedom of the sailing life as the ultimate payoff. Sailrite is a sponsor of their DIY projects, and I recently had the opportunity to ask Jody a few questions about the cruising and DIY lifestyle.

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Clockwise from top left: Jody and Peter; s/v Mary Christine with sails flying; s/v Mary Christine sail packs; Betsy, Peter & Jody’s sailing pup, approves of the new cushions

Q: Tell us a little bit about you! How did you start sailing? How did you decide to cruise in the Caribbean?

A: I’m originally from the Seattle area (Jody), and Peter is from San Diego. We both had boating experience since we were little but neither of us knew how to sail before we bought our boat! Peter knew one day he would buy a sailboat to economically get to all the epic surf spots and fishing grounds. We originally looked for a boat on the West Coast but found better options on the East Coast. The boat we purchased was in Florida so the Caribbean was the natural route to begin our cruising. We are SO glad it ended up that way instead of the Pacific side as our training grounds.

Q: Tell us about your sailboat, S/V Mary Christine.

A: Our boat is a Whitby 42 – A 42′ bluewater ketch. She was built in 1980 and is very solid. The previous owners took impeccable care of her and we are lucky to have such a perfect tiny floating home. With the age comes character. There is a lot of interior teak but that also darkens the space very quickly. My settee cushion project and throw pillow project both immediately lightened up the space and made it feel even more cozy inside. I love that our boat feels like home and not just a boat.

Q: What is your favorite part of your cruising lifestyle?

A: I love the freedom the most. We have the freedom to pick up and move anytime we want, bringing our tiny floating home and all of our belongings with us. We can travel, see the world and never get homesick all at the same time.

Q: Why do you think DIY skills are important for cruisers?

A: When you travel to remote places, boat parts and repair facilities are few and far between. Even if you don’t know how to fix something, you figure it out. A little common sense and motivation go a long way on the water. DIY skills are also very rewarding. Before we became cruisers, our DIY skills were nowhere near what they are today simply because they didn’t need to be. Now, we look at all thethings we have done by ourselves and they are all huge accomplishments. That makes you feel pretty proud.

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Jody’s new settee cushions

Q: How did you first hear about Sailrite?

A: A few of my cruising friends have used Sailrite machines and they were always highly recommended. I did my research and decided to not waste my time with a cheaper machine that would inevitably break down or not hold up to the marine environment. My primary motive was to be able to do sail repairs if necessary with the versatility to sew other projects and the general consensus was that Sailrite is the best. I can proudly agree now!

Q: What advice do you have for other sailors thinking about sewing for their boats?

A: Don’t be intimidated!! The Sailrite videos make anything possible. If you have a question about any part of the process, the Sailrite customer service is beyond exceptional and they will help you figure anything out. Take on any projects you are considering and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.

Q: Do you have any DIY projects on the horizon?

A: My list of projects I’d like to start is ever-growing. As soon as I have a few more days off, I’m going to finally tackle repairing the aft isinglass panel of my cockpit. The zipper has been disintegrated by UV exposure and we can’t keep the rain out. I’ve got the supplies, now I just need to plan my first steps. I’m so happy I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for someone else to do it!

Q: Where are you sailing now?

A: We are currently in the British Virgin Islands working full-time as Captain and First Mate on a 48′ Day Sail Catamaran. The Virgin Islands are some of our favorite sailing grounds of the entire Eastern Caribbean. Someday, we’ll sail west to Central America and onto the South Pacific, but as they say, plans are drawn in the sand! Wherever we end up, we’ll always be Where The Coconuts Grow!

You can follow Jody and Peter’s sailing adventures on their blog, Where the Coconuts Grow as well as on Facebook and Instagram!

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

You may recognize Desiree from videos we’ve shared on our Facebook page. We heard about Desiree, her husband, Jordan, and Project Atticus just as they were starting to refit their boat a couple of years ago. We admire their ambition and DIY spirit and we thought you would too. Sailrite is sponsoring Project Atticus as they learn how to sew canvas and sails. We recently chatted with Desiree about their ongoing adventure and the nature of DIY. Here is their story.

The DIY spirit has grabbed ahold of Desiree Golen and Jordan Wicht and it’s not letting go. This young couple is the dynamic duo behind the blog and video series, Project Atticus, where they are documenting the refit of their 1963 Allied Seawind and will ultimately share their adventures sailing around the world. The motto of Project Atticus is “know your world” and that is exactly what Desiree and Jordan intend to do.

For Desiree, the desire to travel started at a young age.

“I grew up traveling with my family and as soon as I had money of my own, I was out the door traveling again,” she said.

Desiree was working at a start-up she owned in Silicon Valley when she met a girl who crewed on super yachts. When she heard stories of traveling the world with free room and board and other great perks, Desiree could hardly believe that was a real job. She read a book about being a yacht stewardess, sold her company and moved to Fort Lauderdale to get a job on a super yacht. After working as a stewardess for 2 years, she got a job aboard Limitless, the largest American super yacht in the world. It was on board Limitless that she met Jordan, who was working there as a deck hand.

Desiree said a big attraction between her and Jordan right away was their mutual love of exploring.

“What I had always wanted to do was backpack around the world,” Desiree shared.

She hadn’t been dating Jordan long when he shared his dream to sail around the world.

“Jordan asked me to sail around the world with him and I thought, ‘hmm, let me think about that one,’” Desiree laughed.

The couple decided to test the waters and see how they traveled together by taking a trip backpacking and climbing in Southeast Asia. The trip was a success and together they decided to quit their jobs, buy a sailboat and see the world.

As they were looking for a boat and preparing to start their journey, they got the idea to document their travels and their process through videos they would share online.

“We were thinking of a way to contribute back to society and to motivate ourselves to be creative,” Desiree said.

Jordan studied filmmaking in college and Desiree had worked in marketing so they pooled their skills and founded Project Atticus, a travel and adventure documentary series and blog.

“It’s really a way to document our travels and to showcase our experiences,” Desiree said.

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Clockwise from top left: Jordan & Desiree on the deck of Atticus, their 1963 Allied Seawind; Desiree’s finished curtains & settee cushions; Desiree with her beloved Ultrafeed; Celebrating their first day on board Atticus

They started on their video series right away, before they even had their vessel. In the first four of their video episodes, you can watch them search for and purchase the boat that will become Atticus.

Their boat was a diamond in the rough and needed a lot of work to make her the perfect home for Jordan and Desiree’s world expedition. They are currently deep into a complete refit of Atticus.

“It’s taken longer and is more difficult than we expected,” Desiree said of the refit.

The pair has been working on their boat nearly full-time for two years now, doing all the work themselves. They decided to DIY originally to save money, but have found that it has added benefits.

“[Doing the work ourselves] also makes us more capable sailors and boat owners. The feeling caught and now we do everything for the boat ourselves,” Desiree said. “It’s cool to have the empowerment to do things that people think you can’t do.”

Projects on their list included making curtains for their cabin, as well as sewing new settee and v-berth cushions. While looking for v-berth cushions online, Desiree found Sailrite’s How to Make V-Berth Cushions Video and decided to try her hand at sewing. She got an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine, Sunbrella fabric and set to work on her first project—curtains.

“I was super anxious for sewing and I was intimidated by the machine at first,” Desiree admits.

But after her first project, Desiree started to feel differently about her machine.

“I used to enjoy the prepping more, but now I enjoy the sewing more,” she said, describing sewing now as being almost a tranquil, zen-like feeling.

After completing her curtains and new settee cushions for their saloon, Desiree is now working on the v-berth cushions, which is purposely saved for her third project because she knew they’d be tricky. After that, she’d like to make a sail, a sail cover and an awning for their cockpit.

While doing her canvaswork Desiree has learned that “there is a lot of finesse in sewing” but she loves the pride that comes from completing her projects.

“It’s cool that I really only know the bare minimum about sewing but I can make functional lifestyle projects,” she said.

She has also been really pleased with her Ultrafeed Sewing Machine.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s like having a MacBook Pro. It’s reliable and strong. My favorite part is the Sailrite videos. I can take it right out of the box without having to call anyone for help.”

Desiree advises other new sewers to find a mentor, an individual or a group, to ask questions of during the process. She found a lot of help from Sailrite and the Facebook groups “The Sailrite Users Group” and “Sewing On Boats.”

“Get a seam ripper,” she added, laughing. “Don’t be intimidated to do things over again to get them right. Also gorge on Sailrite videos.”

After two years working on their refit, Jordan and Desiree have put their hearts and souls into their boat and at time things have been really challenging.

“The emotional cost of cruising—the time you never get back—that’s the hardest part,” Desiree said. “When we’re just working and working and not sailing and not living a beautiful dream.”

Desiree thinks that throughout their refit they have learned valuable skills both about their boat and about life that will help them on their adventure. They’ve had to take odd jobs and learn how to sustain their dream financially (neither is independently wealthy) but Desiree now feels that they will be able to make money anywhere they go to maintain their lifestyle.

“It’s made us more self-reliant and more resourceful. We’re also better at managing expectations,” she said of their refit. “It’s made us more humble about learning and that to learn, you have to fail.”

All in all both Jordan and Desiree feel that their DIY efforts have been well worth it.

“Jordan and I have been talking a lot about the pros and cons of DIY,” Desiree said. “We realized that even though sometimes you spend the same amount of money, we are the kind of people who like to know how to do things for ourselves. The amount of happiness it brings is worth knowing.”

And it’s that same love of knowledge that lead them to this adventure in the first place. That drive to see things for themselves and to truly “know their world.”

You can follow along with Jordan and Desiree through their video updates and their blog posts. Visit their website, ProjectAtticus.com to see and learn more.

Paul Seeberg: Sewing the Ultimate Project

For Paul Seeberg, 2004 was a big year. It was the year that he and his wife, Millie, bought a MacGregor26 sailboat and started sailing with the North East Trailer Sailor’s Club. It was also the year that Paul began sewing for his boat. Ten years later, Paul is still hard at work on boat projects and sharing his passion for sailing and sewing with others.

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1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose

Paul’s sewing projects began humbly when his wife wanted some curtains for the cabin of their boat. Paul had some basic sewing skills he had learned in 8th grade home economics class and he figured he could sew curtains. Along the way, he had some difficulty with the project and called Sailrite, where he got some helpful advice for his project.

On completing his curtain project, Paul figured that sewing for the boat was something he could do more of, so he bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and started working. He started sewing sheet bags for himself and then for other members of the yacht club.

In 2009 Paul bought a bigger boat, a 1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose, and got to work creating new canvas covers for her.

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Binnacle Cover

“Following [Sailrite] videos, I made a hatch cover, curtains, pillows, a really nice binnacle cover, and a lifesling cover,” Paul said. “We’re the only boat in the harbor with a red Sunbrella lifesling!”

Some canvas projects he made mostly for the fun of sewing, not because they are a necessity on his boat.

“Sometimes I make things just for fun, like the hatch cover. But it made a big difference keeping the cabin cooler,” he said.

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Hatch Cover

After getting all of those projects under his belt, Paul felt ready fora bigger challenge. He needed a new dodger. He had the project quoted by a few canvas shops, but they were asking too much money. Paul knew that after all the projects he had done so far he could make his own dodger for less.

Paul watched Sailrite’s How to Make Your Own Dodger DVD 10-20 times before even started the project, wanting to make sure that he understood every detail.

For large-scale projects like this, Paul believes it’s important to learn everything you can about the project before starting.

“You need to be able to see things in 3 dimensions in your mind. I don’t sew one stitch until I’ve thought through the project beginning to end,” he said.

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The finished dodger installed on s/v Mildred Rose

Paul’s dodger design would test all of his sewing skills. He was going to have to sew zippers, install fasteners, and even make a roll-up window.

When Paul started sewing, the dodger project brought on the challenges. The scale of the dodger made it difficult to maneuver and all the material proved tricky to roll up under the arm of the Ultrafeed.

“Making something that’s 10-12 feet long in your basement is difficult,” he said. “It grows quite big.”

Paul credits the video with helping him accomplish such a large-scale DIY project.

“The tips I learned in the video were invaluable. There’s no way I could have made it without it,” he said.

All of Paul’s hard work paid off and his dodger looks great. It’s now the project that he is the most proud of.

“The dodger is the most accurate. It’s done the best,” Paul said. “Because of the sheer scale of the project, I’d have to say it’s the one I’m most proud of…it was harder than I thought.”

As with a lot of DIY projects, Paul would do somethings differently on his dodger, but it has been met with rave reviews from his friends and fellow sailors.

“People who go on the boat can’t believe that I made it,” Paul said. “I can see all the flaws, but someone casually looking at it thinks it’s beautiful.”

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Paul’s dodger and “flying awning.” He made the awning himself and modeled it off other awnings he had seen around the harbor.

Paul’s advice to fellow DIY-ers is to know your skill level, to not be afraid of a sewing machine and to be confident.

“Just have confidence. If you don’t have confidence, then forget about it.”

Paul feels like he’s had a lot of help becoming a sailor and DIYer and he likes to share the knowledge that’s been shared with him. One way he does this is by teaching seminars at the Boston Boat Show each spring. His current seminar is about transitioning from a small boat to a larger one, but he hopes to teach a sewing class in the future.

“Sewing is not as scary as people think it is. I think a lot of people have the skill set. I want to show them what a Sailrite machine can do,” he said.

For himself, Paul has a list of projects he’s waiting to try next like a sail cover, cockpit cushions and a main sheet bag.

Discovering a Love for Sailing & Sewing

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Clockwise from top left: Christine in the cockpit of her sailboat s/c Audacity; Christine’s twin sons trying to hold up the bimini to figure out where to make the cut for the stay; Christine and her husband Mark; finished bimini; finished cockpit cushions

Sailrite customer Christine Rasmussen was neither a sailor nor a sewer, but after a seemingly fated purchase of a used sailboat, she learned her capability to be both.

Christine always had a desire to learn how to sail. However, living in landlocked Durham, North Carolina, didn’t make sailing an easy goal. After a failed brush with windsurfing—“I was horrible,” Christine admitted—her dreams of sailing seemed like they would be left unfulfilled.

Then one summer, Christine, along with her husband, Mark and their twin sons, started camping at Kerr Lake, a large lake not far from where they live. Now that they were spending time regularly at a lake, Christine thought it would be fun to get her boys a Sunfish so they all could learn how to sail.

When Christine took to the Internet to find a small sailboat, she stumbled across something a little more interesting. A Craigslist listing advertising a 26’ C&C Yacht valued at $8,000, with a $4,000 price tag. Not entirely convinced that it wasn’t a joke or a scam, Christine sent her husband the link anyway, and the pair went to take a look at the boat.

When they got to the marina, the boat they came to see was nowhere to be found. After they returned home, Christine got a phone call. The boat was leaking diesel and the marina manager had moved it because of the leak. The seller, anxious to get the boat off his hands, offered it to Christine, as is, for $100, Christine explained. And just like that Christine and Mark were the proud owners of a sailboat.

Fixing up their boat was the first task and while they had the leak fixed and the motor tuned, Christine turned her attention to the cushions in the cabin.

“They were the original 1976 cushions and they were super smelly. Everything smelled like diesel,” Christine remembered.

She decided to make her own cushions, despite the fact that she hadn’t sewn anything since high school home economics. To prepare for making cushions, she watched Sailrite videos.

“I watched all the videos,” Christine said. “If there is a video with the word ‘cushion’ in it, I’ve watched it.”

When she had completed all 12 of her cabin cushions, Christine was proud of her accomplishment and completely hooked on sewing. She knew that it was the right time to get a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

“I’m addicted to [my Ultrafeed,]” Christine laughed. “It’s really quite a problem.”

Christine has since made cockpit cushions, replaced the sacrificial sun cover on her jib, and has just finished making a new bimini and bimini boot.

She compared the excitement she gets working on a sewing project to reading a good book that you can’t put down.

“I think, I’m taking my time on this, because this rocks!” Christine explained.

She encourages others to try sewing for themselves and her number one advice to new sewers is “do not be afraid.”

“I think people are afraid to be a do-it-yourselfer because it won’t be perfect,” Christine said. “I tell people, ‘I may not be really perfect at this, but I sure do enjoy it.’”

She would encourage beginners to start with small, affordable sewing projects if they are nervous to dive right into a larger project. Christine also attributes a portion of her success to the Sailrite videos, which she recommends highly.

“There is nothing, nothing, like the Sailrite videos,” she said. “If you have any inkling that this is what you want to do, start at Sailrite and watch the videos.”

Christine also recommends investing in some tools to make the job a little easier.

“The hotknife is so worth [the purchase] and the binder. Oh my God, I could not live without the binder,” she said. “It’s worth it to invest a little bit more and you will be successful.”

This next summer Christine hopes to improve her sailing skills on the water and to also work on some new sewing projects for her home including new patio cushions and a sail shade.

Kelly Girl Waterhouse: Discovering Her Dream

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Clockwise from top left: Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse; Moorea anchored in Hiva Oa, Marquesas; Kelly Sailing in the Marquesas; Kelly Girl and friend, Lisa from s/v Ohana Kai, making flags with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1

As a girl growing up in Minnesota, Kelly “Kelly Girl” Waterhouse never dreamed of sailing around the world. In fact, she didn’t even know how to sail. But if you ask her today about the four years she spent circumnavigating the globe with her husband, she’ll gush about her boat, her travels, and the freedom of sailing on the open ocean.

Kelly Girl’s sailing story starts years ago when the restaurant she managed in Minnesota sent her to open a new location in Seattle, Washington. It was there that she met Kelly Waterhouse, one of her lunch regulars. The pair hit it off and eventually got married. Since theyhave the same first name, she became known as “Kelly Girl” to avoid confusion.

Kelly was an experienced sailor and had grown up around boats. However, sailing didn’t play a big part in their relationship until after they were married, and it wasn’t until after the couple bought a little Catalina 22 that Kelly taught Kelly Girl how to sail on the Puget Sound.

Ever since Kelly was a little boy he had dreamed of one day setting out to travel the world, but he never thought he could do it with a wife, Kelly Girl said.

“He introduced me to sailing and to the idea of sailing the globe and I was like ‘Really? We could?’”

And so the pair began planning for their sailing adventure, thinking at first that it would be a long way off.

“We had talked about retiring young, like at 50, and then going,” Kelly Girl explained. “But we’re very mortal. There’s no guarantee that we would be there tomorrow. You just know you don’t necessarily have all the life you think, let’s do it now.’”

Despite many friends and family members thinking they were crazy, Kelly and Kelly Girl set out in search of the perfect boat to sail around the world in.

Eventually they found Moorea, a 35 ft. Dufour Sloop built in 1974.

“She was beautiful. She had a thick hull—sturdy and heavy. She was great for two people, and she had all the things we needed,” Kelly Girl explained.

The couple lived aboard for two years in Seattle while they readied her for the sea and saved up for their big adventure.

In 2006, at 35 years old, Kelly and Kelly Girl finally set sail, heading down the west coast of the United States to Mexico.

“We had the worst weather on the west coast going from Washington to California,” Kelly Girl said. “It was our first time sailing offshore and night sailing.”

The pair had hit a squall and their boat was creaking loudly in the waves.

“You really don’t know your boat until those situations,” she said. “Once I realized that she was a solid boat, I really wasn’t ever nervous again.”

The Waterhouse’s circumnavigation took them 4 years and 35,000 nautical miles to complete. They stopped in 30 countries spending anywhere from a week to six months in any given location.

After all the traveling was done there were two aspects of the journey that stood out to Kelly Girl.

“[My favorite was] visiting countries that are so different from your own, like Thailand—the people there were so kind and welcoming. Just visiting new cultures, learning to say hello and thank you,” she explained.

“That, and getting to a place by your own means—by the wind—the freedom of it is addicting. You feel like you’re the only ones on the ocean.”

Like most sailors the Waterhouses frequently rely on their DIY skills. Kelly often hires himself out to other cruisers to fix problems on their boats for extra cash. And throughout their travels, they always have their Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine on board.

“We love our machine. It’s always been very reliable. Other cruisers know we have it and always want to borrow it!” Kelly Girl said. “We’ve fixed our sails—and I mean our heavy-duty sails, not just the light ones. It’s saved us a lot of money.”

On one fateful passage, the Ultrafeed even saved the day. While cruising through the Gulf of Aden, the couple had to make an emergency spinnaker repair.

“We were trying to keep upwith our boating flotilla through pirate alley and pushed the spinnaker too hard,” Kelly Girl said.

They immediately pulled their spinnaker down and set to work on repairs. Kelly Girl was thankful that they were able to do the fix themselves.

“In situations like that, there isn’t a professional near you,” she said. “You don’t have to be an expert.”

While admitting that she is not the most talented sewer (Kelly is the go-to sewer on board), Kelly Girl feels a sense of pride from the things she’s DIY-ed. Together they’ve made a wide range of projects for their boat including: dinghy chaps, a binnacle cover, a shade system, jerry can covers, and courtesy flags.

Today Kelly and Kelly Girl are living in Phoenix, Arizona. They have a new 42 ft. project boat, Trini. She currently resides in Houston, Texas, where Kelly travels to work on her sporadically. The couple hopes to be living aboard again by this time next year with plans to return to coastal cruising soon after.

Kelly Girl urges other sailors dreaming of sailing full-time to follow their dreams.

“I just warn people if they do it, they might not want to come back,” she said. “If it’s the lifestyle for you—and it isn’t for everyone—but if it’s the lifestyle for you, go for it.”

Kelly Girl is the author of Sailing the Waterhouse: Swapping Turf for Surf, a story of the couple’s transition to life on the water and their first ocean passage. Her second book is due out next year.

To learn more about Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse and their adventures, follow their blog: Sailing the Waterhouse One Wave at a Time.