Hawaii or Bust: Mike Raymond’s Story

At Sailrite®, the words sailing and sewing are often grouped together. Our Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine has a long-standing reputation of helping sailors sew and repair sails no matter where they are around the world. And Sailrite was the first American company to offer custom sail kits, providing even more flexibility to those who love the open water. Mike Raymond, a part-time sailor, has first-hand experience with everything that Sailrite is known for, and he was generous enough to tell us his story of sailing, sewing and self-reliance. 

Q. How did you get started sailing? How long have you been doing it?

In 1980, I was living in Seldovia, Alaska, and had finished the previous year crab fishing. It was around this time that I decided my family and I would take a vacation to the Caribbean for six weeks. We chartered a Swan 48 sailboat with both a captain and a cook for a week. Following that week, we stayed for Antigua Sailing Week and then planned to return home. However, the captain wanted one more crew member for the return trip to Connecticut and asked me if I wanted to go. I agreed, so my wife and 10-year-old daughter flew home and I followed about two weeks later.  

We then moved to Port Townsend, Washington, in early 1981. That’s where I crewed for several years on a C&C 39 in the Puget Sound races. I also made four more deliveries on the Swan 48 (my wife made three trips) between New England and the Caribbean. By 1986, I began building houses for a living and wasn’t able to take the time to sail very often.

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Mike’s floating home away from home.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your foray into sewing and the Ultrafeed?

In 2015, I bought an Express 27 to enter the 2016 R2AK race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska (no motors allowed). My hope was to then complete a solo sail to Hawaii. My brother-in-law had recently bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and he decided to buy one for us. My wife was a sailmaker at Port Townsend Sails for six years in the late 1990s, so I could get advice from her. I decided to make three additional sails (all from Sailrite kits) for the boat prior to the race. This included a jib, asymmetrical spinnaker and a storm jib. I really enjoyed sewing the sails and it helped that I could use our community center for the expansive open space to work.

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The Ultrafeed LSZ-1 is perfect for sail repair.

Q.Can you tell me about the time you sailed to Hawaii all by yourself? Where did you start and how long did it take you? How did the Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine play a part in your sailing journey?

I completed buying the additional electronics for the trip to Hawaii and departed in June from Port Townsend in early 2018. Unfortunately, I encountered several gales near the California/Oregon border that severely damaged two sails and compromised an additional one.  That one further deteriorated and I was reduced to my second main and the storm jib. Additionally, the autopilot was damaged and there was no reasonable way to rig tiller steering with that sail combination, thereby having to heave-to whenever I had to sleep. That sail combination is also not very effective for heaving-to.

It basically took me six weeks to arrive at the North Shore of Oahu, which is at least twice as long as normal. None of the local sail lofts would fit me in to repair the damaged sails and it became obvious that I needed to bring the three damaged sails home to repair. I also needed to sew a new jib. Thankfully, I was able to order a Sailrite kit before leaving Hawaii, so it came in the mail shortly after I arrived home. [To clarify, Mike flew back home to Washington and left his boat in Hawaii, then flew back to Hawaii and sailed back to Washington.] The repairs and sewing the new jib took a few days and I was then able to return to Hawaii and prepare for the return trip. I had also purchased spare autopilot rams for the trip to be safe.

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Mike encountered a humpback whale on his journey.

The return trip took longer than expected also (same six weeks) due to the outboard motor failing and so could not travel in no-wind situations. Also, there became a charging issue between the solar panels and the batteries that led to no power for several days to the electronics and autopilot. At that time I was about 1,000 miles from the U.S. coast, so that was a nervous time for sure. 

I did have enough power to use my Iridium GO! to contact various sources to do a work-around with the charging, but the main batteries were somewhat compromised and provided erratic power to the autopilot. I was within less than 50 miles from the Washington coast when another gale caused damage to the sails and I needed to stop at a Canadian port to make some rigging repairs. I was then able to make the final return to Port Townsend, Washington. It was the most memorable sailing adventure I’ve had and would definitely do a few things differently if I ever considered repeating the experience.

Q. Do you still sail? And do you still plan on sewing with your Ultrafeed?

I’m not sure what other projects I’ll pursue with the Ultrafeed, but I definitely plan to keep it to do a broad range of projects. I’m currently remodeling our house and that’s taking all of my time for now. I’m open to helping friends deliver their boats to other ports or countries. I helped deliver a boat from San Diego to La Paz in Mexico last year. I’m 72 years old now, so I’m only considering interesting sailing trips.

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The Ultrafeed has been a must-have tool for sailing.

Calm Seas Ahead

No matter what your next sailing adventure requires, Sailrite is there for you every step of the way. You can sew your own sails, sail covers, bimini, enclosure and more with our high-quality products and free tutorials. We’re proud to have been part of Mike’s journey, and we love hearing stories from everyday customers who make incredible projects with our help. Happy sailing and sewing!

Peace, Love & Handbags

Sometimes you get an idea for something and it takes off. That’s what happened to Laurie Carty. One day, she was looking online for purses and stumbled upon a crocheted fat bottom bag. She instantly fell in love with the classic hippie-style purse and thought the design and shape of the bag would look great in denim. Unable to find her dream bag in stores or online, Laurie set out to sew her own. What started as a purse for herself has now grown into a small business. Using her Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, she’s reintroducing these vintage-style bags to the world and reigniting her love of sewing.

The Start of an Idea

Laurie was excited to jump in and get going on her purse. She already had some basic sewing skills, so she knew she’d be able to sew the purse without a problem. However, she hit a speed bump early on. She didn’t know anything about pattern making or purse design. And since she couldn’t find a pattern for a denim flat bottom purse online, she needed a little help designing and patterning her purse. Luckily, her sister was coming for a visit. An accomplished seamstress, Laurie’s sister was able to help with the design process.

“I drew out my idea and we created the pattern together. Once I saw my dream come to reality, I was hooked! I got so many compliments on my purse that I started taking orders for them. For the most part, all the purses that I have sold have been local. Women stop me on the street and ask me where I got my purse. They are always surprised when I tell them I made it myself!”

fat bottom denim and floral purse

Laurie’s first purse made from an old pair of jeans and a bedsheet on her home sewing machine, before she upgraded to an Ultrafeed.

After that initial design, Laurie added fringe and beads to her bags as unique design elements. Since her fat bottom bags were inspired by the hippie era, the fringe fit right in with that style and aesthetic. “When I was in my teens and twenties, everything was fringe. I am 62 now, but back in the day, I was a complete hippie — with the clothes and hair. Everything was tie-dye and fringe, and we did it ourselves for the most part.”

Laurie upcycles used jeans that are still in good condition for her purses. She adds fabric panels, lace, beads and fringe to create truly one-of-a-kind designs. “I love every single one of the purses that I create. Each one has its own unique beauty.”

Finding Her Creative Process

Laurie lets her creative spirit guide her not only in her bag designs but in life too. A self-professed “avid student and seeker of personal change,” Laurie has a degree in behavioral sciences. She’s helped people with therapeutic stress and trauma relief, she’s taught dance classes and has even been a radio show host. “I’ve had a pretty crazy life!”

Laurie has always had a creative spirit. One of the things she loves the most about the DIY lifestyle is her ability to bring her dreams and ideas to life in a tangible way. She loves the process of taking an idea, a vision in her mind, and using fabric and thread to bring her idea to life. “Every purse I make I see fully completed in my mind, and then I know exactly how to create it. I have always been a very visually creative person. My brand-new idea is brought into reality, and now I am the only one on the planet who makes these bags. Every purse is uniquely different.”

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Laurie’s new Ultrafeed handles the thick layers of denim with ease.

Upgrading to an Ultrafeed

After completing her first two bags, her regular sewing machine was struggling to sew through the thick layers of denim. Laurie knew she’d need a heavy-duty machine capable of handling multiple layers of thick material. That’s how she found Sailrite. “I knew I needed something stronger and started searching the internet. I had never used an industrial machine before. In fact, I would not say I knew that much about sewing, really, but your videos made everything so easy to understand. I love that you also have troubleshooting videos on your site, which made it so easy to learn the machine.”

Her Ultrafeed has given Laurie the confidence to attempt sewing projects she previously had never dreamed of. Not only does she sew her hippie bags, but she is also branching out into projects for her husband’s motorcycle. “I have lined my husband’s riding chaps that he wears on his motorcycle and made a cover for his oil cooler on his Harley. I’m not afraid to tackle anything anymore!”

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Laurie’s Etsy shop, The Hippie Handbag Company, is a nod to her love of all things 1960s, especially the hippie lifestyle. “I grew up in that era. I was a little too young to go to the original Woodstock, but it was all about the lifestyle back then. It was a very creative time in so many ways — music, peace, love, rock ‘n’ roll, the hair, the dress styles. Upcycling was big back then too. It represented unique and individual creativity and expression. Just like my bags, every person is different and beautiful in their own way.”

Whether you were alive during that era or just have a fondness for all things boho, Laurie’s life philosophy is something we can all appreciate.