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.