Welcome to Sailrite’s "Meet Our Customers” page where we feature fascinating interviews and interest pieces submitted by our customers. This page enables us to spotlight our loyal and creative customers and tell their stories. From tales of complete canvas refits to testimonials about how Sailrite products and services have greatly enhanced and improved their DIY lifestyles, these stories are sure to inspire you as much as they inspire us.
Sometimes the perfect project comes along that lets you put all your DIY skills to use. That’s what happened to Ronnie Miller. This talented DIYer found a powerboat for sale online that needed A LOT of work — a complete overhaul. He bought the boat in February 2019, for only $1,000 and worked hard to get it water-ready by June. Keep reading to learn more about this powerboat transformation and how Sailrite® supplies and project videos helped Ronnie tackle this massive DIY endeavor.
Like a lot of DIYers, Ronnie learned the ropes as a young boy. “My grandmother taught me to hand sew when I was 5 years old. My uncle was a tailor and he gave me swatches to work with.” From those humble beginnings, his talent grew and grew.
In addition to sewing, Ronnie enjoys a variety of other hands-on hobbies. “Projects are my hobby. I have always been good with my hands, fixing and rebuilding things.” Ronnie recently moved into a condominium, and he has been enjoying remodeling it himself and turning it into a proper home. “I’ve been working on carpentry and woodworking projects. I laid the vinyl floor, painted and fixed sheetrock. I have installed a mosquito mister at the house, a new metal fence to see the lake, a new wood fence, and I installed an entire sprinkler system for the front yard and back.”
Let’s learn more about the big powerboat project! “I always wanted a boat. This was the first one I ever owned, towed, worked on and completed in just three months.” What an accomplishment! So, exactly how much work went into the powerboat transformation? We’ll let Ronnie explain in his own words.
“I found the boat on a for-sale website and thought if I failed, I couldn’t lose too much considering I only paid $1,000 for it. I later put in an additional $6,000 including the engine, materials and tools, which I am always using now. I didn’t realize I had to replace the engine, floor or dashboard with all-new electronics until I started tearing it apart.”
After all the hard gutting and rebuilding work, Ronnie was ready to tackle the upholstery. That’s where Sailrite came in. “I needed vinyl to cover the seats and I found Sailrite online.” He chose a striking combination of white, silver and black Morbern® vinyl fabrics. He also ordered Medium Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam from Sailrite — a great choice for powerboat upholstery.
The project went fairly smoothly, and Ronnie only hit a few minor snags along the way. “Once I got started, I wanted everything to look new. I had the trailer sandblasted and had to replace parts there. I needed a new gas tank float and a new dashboard with new Bluetooth® radio. I replaced the old carpet with gray-and-black striped flooring, and I installed lights on the front for boating at night.”
Before his recent move, he lived just five short minutes from Lake Houston, a reservoir on the San Jacinto River northeast of Houston, Texas. Ronnie took the boat out almost every week. After enjoying the water and the boat for a while, he decided to sell it and made a whopping $5,000 profit! He credits the eye-catching upholstery work for garnering such a big profit. True to his DIY nature and need to keep busy, Ronnie bought and restored a second boat and made $6,000 on that sale!
So, what’s he working on now? “Since completing the boat I have now started a wall covering of large fabric-covered squares behind my bed. It’s still a work in progress, but I should be finished soon.” Ronnie is using the Sailrite how-to video “How to Make Upholstered Wall Panels” to help complete the project.
“I find that working on a project is great for the mind; it gives you time to think alone. I also get great satisfaction by looking at it and saying, ‘Hey, I did that!’” Way to go, Ronnie! We love your positive attitude and can-do spirit. Good luck on all of your future DIYs. We’re sure they’re going to be huge successes.
We all love our pets, and we often wish we could take them everywhere. But can you imagine taking them along to circumnavigate the open ocean? Andrew and Jazz might seem like your average sailing couple, but they have a unique sailing companion — their Bengal cat, Captain! The two have been happily sailing on their boat, Villa Veritas, for some time now. We wanted to know what it’s like to sail with a furry companion and see if this enterprising crew had any advice to offer new sailors or budding DIYers.
The couple that sails together, stays together! Jazz first experienced sailing as a child on her uncle’s monohull in the Canadian San Juan Islands. In high school, as an exchange student on the coast of Spain, she joined a local sailing team and learned to handle small boats. Once in college, she made friends at the yacht club and went out for races when she could. In her adult life, Jazz went on to travel through Asia, helping crew a handmade 32-foot boat from Bali through Borneo and Singapore.
Andrew had gone sailing a few times as a kid, and then he took classes with the American Sailing Association in San Francisco when he married Jazz. Together the two crew a 1993 Prout Snowgoose Elite 37 named Villa Veritas after their last name. It’s the first boat that either of them has owned and the first catamaran that they’ve sailed, not counting vacation ride-alongs. The two moved onto their boat full time in October 2018, and have been blissfully sailing the open ocean ever since. They’ve traveled from the southern United States, through the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and even to locations like Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent. They’ve even documented the ins and outs of their journey on their sailing blog.
So how did Captain, the beautiful Bengal cat, join the crew? “We met Captain in Savannah, Georgia. He joined us full time in November when he reached three months old. We’d waited to get a cat until we had the boat because, supposedly, kittens will always adapt to a boat while older cats may never get over seasickness. Captain doesn’t always like it when the boat moves, especially when the engine is on. But aside from the death glares, he doesn’t seem to have any other problems, and he’s good about staying inside when we’re underway. At anchor he keeps a good watch, often from the top of the boom. One time a pelican (bigger than he is) landed on the front of the starboard bow, and after chasing it off, Captain now patrols that spot daily.”
Sewing & Sailing
If you’re familiar with the sailing world, you also know that it pays to be a sewist in order to make much-needed repairs and other marine DIY projects. Much like sailing, Jazz’s sewing experience began at a young age. She received needles and thread in daycare and crafted new outfits for the resident dolls. Her mother and grandmother also sewed, encouraging her craftsmanship. For Andrew, things were a bit different. When Jazz started a cockpit enclosure project but got sick halfway through, it was up to him to learn the ropes. So he began watching Sailrite® videos and kept charge of their sewing machine — the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.
But how exactly did these intrepid travelers hear about Sailrite? Andrew was kind enough to share. “We learned about Sailrite from another devoted fan and sailor who insisted that a sewing machine was a necessary piece of offshore safety gear. After breaking a borrowed home sewing machine on a relatively minor project, we decided that a more expensive but dependable machine actually had a pretty short payback period. We went with the LSZ-1 because we wanted to work on sails. Actually, we justified the purchase when we priced out a new asymmetrical spinnaker versus a machine and a custom spinnaker kit from Sailrite.”
When it comes to sewing with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, a circumnavigator’s work is almost never done. Not only that, but the majority of the repair work on a boat must be completed right away if one wants to continue sailing. Andrew and Jazz have completed their fair share of projects using the machine, with Captain’s help of course. One of their largest projects, and one that they are most proud of, is their spinnaker. Before the crew left the United States, they purchased a Sailrite spinnaker kit that they would later sew themselves. Captain had a part to play as entertainment and moral support. Since acquiring their Ultrafeed, they’ve crafted many projects including:
Reflective/insulated covers for the boat windows
But the Sailrite supplies don’t stop there! Andrew explained, “After borrowing two different friends’ hotknives for embarrassingly long times ‘because we’re almost done with projects,’ we finally got our own Edge Hotknife. It has a bit of a learning curve to cut cleanly…but we use it all the time, and even our friend’s 12-year-old was able to figure it out without any scorch marks. Everything else has been materials — Sunbrella® fabric, awning rope, zippers and a shockingly large number of snaps.”
The projects on a liveaboard usually always continue as the time and nautical miles go by, so we were curious what Andrew and Jazz planned to sew in the future.
Andrew: “There are so many more projects — replacing some covers that just weren’t made to sit in the sun, replacing the failing zipper on our stack pack (actually, replacing failing zippers has been a pretty regular project), adding some patches and chafe guards to the high-wear areas of our dinghy chaps, a more robust, water-resistant bag for our spinnaker so we can store it outside, and adding stainless steel seizing wire to the nose area of all the masks we’ve bought for the COVID era so they’ll fit properly without steaming up sunglasses and still be washable.”
Jazz: “It’s just a slow process of replacing everything on the boat with Sunbrella.”
There’s no doubt that Andrew, Jazz and Captain have a treasure trove of sailing experience. But what do they think is the most rewarding (and most difficult) part of the sailing and DIY lifestyle? “The most rewarding is when you make things yourself. When you know how it was done, why all the hard decisions were made, and just how trustworthy the work is. The biggest surprise about sailing has been how difficult it has been to pay for work to be done to our DIY standards. We do almost all of our own work because we can be sure of the results, even if it takes us a couple of tries. When we needed to run from hurricane Gonzalo, we hadn’t fixed our tack yet, so we had to sail with a reef in. But our neighbor boat was waiting for their sails to be finished by a shop, which had closed for the weekend, and so they had no choice but to tie down and stay put. In this sense, having this machine aboard is a huge boon for our safety — we never have to take the sails off our boat and depend on someone else’s timeline.”
This crew of accomplished voyagers was kind enough to offer advice to anyone who wants to start sailing and sewing. “Just start. You can do this for literally any amount of money, only your comfort level changes. Your projects aren’t going to be perfect the first time, but the only way to get it right is to start trying and see what goes wrong. Just about every successful project on our boat is version two or version three.”
Andrew and Jazz are proof that the liveaboard lifestyle is always within reach — it simply requires a little tenacity, imagination and ingenuity. We can’t wait to see what other adventures this colorful crew will embark on in the future. And we’re honored that Sailrite could be part of their DIY journey as well. If you’d like to keep up with the Veritas family, you can check out their blog at andrewandjazz.com. Happy sailing!
To DIY or not to DIY — is that even a question!? Not for enthusiastic sewer Regina Fuller. Though she’s new to sewing, she’s full of that can-do spirit that lives and thrives in all sewers and makers. Regina and her husband, Jacob, purchased a fixer-upper NorSea 27 sailboat. The boat needed major restoration, from helm to hull and everything in between. Regina knew it was going to be a big project, and while her husband did the brunt of the work, she wanted to contribute to the boat’s revamp in a tangible way. She decided to sew new cushions for the interior cabin and exterior cockpit, even though she’d never done upholstery work before. With the help of Sailrite’s supplies and how-to videos, she was able to successfully complete her cushion projects with great results.
Regina learned to sew at a young age, but she never really caught the sewing bug. “My mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was a kid, but I never really took to it. As an adult, I could mend clothes and made a bed skirt once, but that was about the extent of my sewing experience.” Even with such minimal practice, and not having touched a sewing machine in years, Regina was ready to take on her first upholstery project. First up were the cushions for the boat’s cabin. She used a home sewing machine for the project and followed Sailrite’s “How to Make V-Berth Cushions” how-to video. Though she had a couple of small struggles, she completed the cushions and was thrilled with the end product.
For the cockpit cushions, she knew her home sewing machine wouldn’t be able to handle the thickness of the vinyl and piping. So Regina turned to Sailrite again. After thorough research and consideration, she invested in the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Her delight and excitement at how the cockpit cushions turned out speak volumes. The right tools and supplies make all the difference. What’s Regina’s favorite part about sewing and DIY? “The end product! There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you made something that you and your family get to enjoy for years.”
Join us as we learn more about this determined DIYer, her family’s sailing lifestyle, and what she’s learned from her sewing experiences so far.
Q. When and how did you learn to sail?
A. My husband is a skilled sailor and has been sailing since he was a kid. He took me sailing on our second date and I fell in love with him and sailing! We live in Humboldt County, California, so we sail primarily in Humboldt Bay. When we have vacation time, we like to trailer our sailboat to the San Juan Islands in Washington or Clearlake, California.
Q. What do you love about sailing?
A. Everything! The wind, the fresh air and the wildlife you see in the bay. Our boat is a mini floating home and we often stay the weekend on it. I love being confined to the boat where you aren’t distracted by house chores and other worries of the world. The soft lull of the sea is so relaxing. We have two teenage boys ages 13 and 16. At this age, they just want to be with their friends or on electronics. We love stealing them away from all of that and getting them on the boat. There is nothing better than being hunkered down inside playing Yahtzee and drinking hot chocolate or sailing in 15+ knot winds using all their skills to have a successful sail. I have so many amazing moments and memories over the past 20 years on one of our sailboats.
Q. Can you tell us what all was involved in your big Nor’Sea restoration project?
A. My husband has always wanted a Nor’Sea 27. We’ve had two other monohulls over the years, and some Hobie Cats and daysailers, but never a Nor’Sea. It’s a seaworthy classic sailboat that can be put on a trailer and taken to any sailing grounds you want. Over the years he has seen them for sale, but not at a price point we could afford and usually located states away. Five years ago, one came up for sale only 45 minutes away from our home. He took me to see it and I thought he was crazy. Yes, it was only $5,000, but the amount of work it needed was more than I had a vision for. We have renovated two homes and built a third, so I knew he had the skills and determination to see it through. But this time I didn’t see how it would be possible that I’d ever want to stay a night on this boat. Five years later he proved me wrong and all I want to do every weekend is go to the boat. We named the boat “Zephyr” and launched her for the first time in June 2020.
Almost everything had to be done. He had a new gas tank made and he installed it. He put in a newer diesel engine and redid the plumbing and electrical. He renovated the hanging locker on the port side in order to install a propane heater. He gutted the galley and installed all new appliances and customized the galley to maximize the space and fit my dishes. He gutted the starboard side navigation station and turned it into shelving and settee — painted, sanded and restored woodwork. On the outside, he sanded and painted, built the bowsprit, and installed some new rigging and lifelines.
Right now he is restoring the trailer and I’m planning to make a bimini. We plan to pull the boat back out in the winter for a few more improvements. Given all the blood, sweat and tears that he put into this renovation, I was determined to make a contribution by making the cushions. We thought about paying someone to do it, but I really wanted to be able to say that I put some time, energy and skill into our dream boat as well. The cushions were the sprinkles on the cake to make his beautiful restoration look complete.
Q. What made you decide on an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine? What specific qualities were you looking for in a sewing machine?
A. I used a “heavy duty” inexpensive Singer sewing machine for the inside cabin cushions. I was afraid to invest in a quality upholstery machine when I didn’t know if I would even be able to successfully make the cushions. I broke several needles pushing through that project. After successfully making those cushions and realizing that I had enough skill to really do this, I knew I had to invest in a quality machine if I planned to make the cockpit cushions with piping and vinyl. There was no way my other machine would do it. I needed it to be able to easily go through several layers of heavy-duty canvas or vinyl.
I looked at several heavy duty upholstery machines. Sailrite had a quality product for a very reasonable price. I ultimately decided to purchase the Ultrafeed because my experience to date with Sailrite has been exceptional. I love all the how-to videos and online tools to help me decide on the best materials for my projects. The Ultrafeed sewed the vinyl and piping like it was cutting through butter. I couldn’t be happier with it. I have really appreciated the short tutorials to help me understand how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin, and provide general care for the machine. All the Ultrafeed videos have been really thorough and helpful.
Q. Now that you’ve been practicing and have sewn a few projects, have you learned any sewing tips along the way that you’d like to share?
A. I do have an important tip to share from my experience. When using the seam ripper on the zipper plate, use the plastic tip side down to rip after you get it started. I accidentally ripped my fabric when I continued to use the sharp side down — it’s a real bummer to rip it for so many reasons.
Here are all my take-aways from my vinyl cockpit cushion project:
1) Definitely use the basting tape to help keep the vinyl from puckering when attaching it to the piping. It will make it SO much easier to line everything up nicely when sewing the plaque on. Your how-to video recommends it, but I tried the first panel without it and wished I had listened to your recommendations. I used the basting tape on everything after that.
2) If using the YKK® AquaGuard® Water Repellent Zipper, don’t forget to sew it into the zipper plaque the opposite way you would for a regular zipper. I totally forgot about this and sewed it in wrong and threaded the pull on like you would a normal zipper. Of course it wouldn’t zip closed and didn’t work. I thought the zipper was a joke. I went back to the Sailrite website and found a video tutorial about this zipper, and that’s when I realized I did it all wrong. Once I got it sewed correctly it worked like a dream!
3) I used closed cell foam for the cockpit cushions for its flotation. Closed cell foam is very different to work with than the interior foam I used for the cabin cushions. When cutting out the fabric and foam, I used the same allowance for my seams and compressing the foam that I did for the interior cushions. When I finished the first one and put the foam inside, I was so disappointed. It was extremely loose. The correct fix would have been to cut the foam out larger; however, I had already cut the foam for two of the cushions and there was really no way to easily add another 1/2 inch of foam to all sides. So I ended up tearing apart the cushion cover, cutting it down, and re-sewing. Although it ended up being 1 inch shorter than my original pattern, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It still looks nice in the cockpit. I had a few other cushions to make that I hadn’t cut the foam for yet, so those turned out nice and exactly to pattern.
Q. What advice would you give to a brand-new sewer or someone thinking about getting into sewing?
A. You can do it. The Sailrite videos teach you everything you need to be successful. If you know you want to complete upholstery projects, then invest in a quality machine from the start. By having a quality machine, your very first project will be easier, which will help build your confidence.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your sewing, sailing lifestyle or yourself in general?
A. My motivation in entering to be a featured customer was to hopefully inspire others. I had only basic/limited sewing skills and I’m so proud of what I have accomplished with my first few projects. I hope others see this story and take the plunge in trying something new. My success was truly due to the excellent tutorials, materials and equipment offered by Sailrite.
Now that Regina has conquered the boat cushions, she’s ready to put her new skills and her new machine to work again. Next up, she plans on sewing a bimini for their newly restored boat. She also wants to learn how to do sail repair (perfect for the Ultrafeed LSZ-1) and wants to sew duffle bags from used sailcloth — a great way to reuse and upcycle used sails! With an ever-growing project list, we’re thrilled that we could be a part of Regina’s sewing and DIY journey. Good luck with all your future sewing projects, Regina! We know you’ll do great!
A self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, master of none, Joe McFarland has a well-rounded DIY skill set. From sewing canvas and upholstery, welding, woodworking and electrical skills to motorcycle repair, machining and mechanical engineering — the list goes on and on. Joe is a true thrill seeker and big kid at heart; he loves boating, motocross, RC cars, drones and planes. An engineer by trade, he spends his free time volunteering, sailing, writing, canning, beekeeping and has recently gotten into vinyl lettering.
One of his most enduring and favorite activities is sewing. Having learned from his mother, he uses his sewing skills to outfit his four boats and recently completed a Meyers Manx dune buggy overhaul. He completely refurbished the buggy and sewed the backseat upholstery using his well-invested Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. Keep reading to learn more about this energetic go-getter and his long list of DIY triumphs.
Learning to Sew
Joe and his brother learned to sew, both by hand and machine, when they were kids. They were raised by their mother, who is just as self-dependent as her sons, and she instilled them with important life skills at an early age. “I remember clearly being in summer camp and one of our group projects was to hand-sew torn clothing. The counselor asked me if he had the final lock stitch correct, and I showed him how I was taught — and that I still use to this day when hand sewing.” This upbringing made Joe the self-reliant and motivated person he is today.
And just like his mom, Joe shares his skills and knowledge and enjoys helping others to grow and learn how to do things for themselves. “Knowledge can save a person’s life, especially on a sailboat, in a storm, on a lee shore, or with a failed motor due to water contamination in the fuel system (as I’ve experienced firsthand on my boat). Being able to fix things is important.” All of Joe’s boats have been fixer-uppers, and he takes as much joy from refurbishing and getting them seaworthy as he does from sailing and cruising.
What does Joe love about sewing? “I really enjoy sewing. It’s relaxing and slows me down. Not so much as a hobby, but as a means to get things done and to save significant dollars.” He also enjoys the independence that sewing brings. Being able to make or fix something yourself and have it turn out exactly the way you’re envisioning is a sentiment all sewers can relate to and appreciate.
Boats, Sewing & DIY
Joe bought his first sailboat, a semi-derelict 1972 30-foot C&C named Wild Irish, in 2003. It needed a lot of work. Joe purchased the boat in the spring, and he spent several months sanding, polishing and sprucing up the boat while it was in dry dock storage. A few years after the initial refit, it was time to upgrade all of the canvaswork. “To save time and money, DIY was the only way the work that was needed was going to get done. Providing my own canvaswork was one, if not the biggest, cost savings.”
He needed a sewing machine that could handle the many canvas projects he had planned. “I knew I needed an industrial machine. After researching the options I chose the Ultrafeed LSZ-1, which best fit my needs. It’s portable and robust, can be hand cranked, and the support offered by Sailrite is important. I will have my machine on my boat for long distance sailing for sure.”
“I was getting ready to undertake my first major boat canvas project — bimini, dodger, side and rear enclosures, and shades. So while I was at the Annapolis Boat Show that year, I went to the Sailrite booth and started asking questions. [Vice President and Owner] Matt Grant assisted me one-on-one and from that point on I was hooked on Sailrite. Working for a customer-driven corporation, I know that customer support is key.”
He has made numerous projects over the years, including canvas projects, covers, cushions, pillows and more. He relied on Sailrite’s how-to videos to help him through the hardest projects. “The only way I was able to tackle the canvas enclosure project was by living on YouTube and watching the Sailrite instructional videos over and over. I would test-sew small demo pieces of Strataglass™ to ensure I was doing it right before cutting into the large and costly rolls.”
For his dodger DIY, Joe took extensive photos of every step of the process. He did his patterning on the boat, and then took everything back to his sewing loft 127 miles away from the boatyard. Such diligent and careful planning paid off in the end. Joe’s dodger turned out beautifully and his hard work can be seen in the finished project. “The first fit was perfect and I was terribly thrilled. I plan on adding snaps in the summer when the canvas is hot, and then cut in the grab rails and running rigging holes.” Joe created a three-piece dodger, and all three panels can be removed or installed for weather conditions and comfort.
Joe now has four boats: the 30-foot Wild Irish, a 22-foot Catalina named Irish Rover, an 8-foot Zodiac Inflatable named Ulysses and a 20-foot Sea Ray called Irish Wake. He has sewn projects for all of his boats. “I have sailed my boats in all but one of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast and the Bimini Bahamas.” This small fleet of sailing vessels is sure to keep Joe busy in his sewing loft for the foreseeable future.
A Year on the Sea (Almost)
Joe, like a lot of people, had big plans for 2020. But as the John Lennon lyric goes: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Flashing back to 2015, Joe announced to friends, family and coworkers that he planned on taking a yearlong sabbatical in 2020 to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean on his 30-foot sailboat, Wild Irish. “It was my 50th birthday gift to myself and was supposed to start in February 2020. I worked diligently over the past five years refitting the boat for ocean sailing, including the last bits of canvaswork and interior upholstery. In April 2020, one year’s worth of provisions were ready to be loaded and the boat was scheduled for launch.”
Joe meticulously planned and prepared for his yearlong voyage. He arranged the time off with his employer. He organized, he packed, he cooked and canned a year’s worth of meat and other provisions. He even made his own soap from the rendered beef fat! He installed solar panels on his bimini and added a new barrier coat and bottom paint to the hull specifically for saltwater. He was excited and ready to finally begin his sea voyage. And then … the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Wild Irish will not launch this year. It pains me to see her alone on the hard. I was almost there and was ready to load the last bit of stores, which are all now in storage.” Ever the optimist, Joe didn’t let a year off work go to waste. “No worries on the postponed boat trip; everything is a blessing in disguise. I finished my buggy!”
Plan B: Project Dune Buggy
With a year off from work and no hopes for his sea voyage, Joe, was unwilling to while away a whole year. So he turned to another project to occupy his time. “The buggy is an original 1970 Meyers Manx and the project has a long history – 31 years to be exact.” Joe grew up in Southern California, and Pismo Beach was considered the dune buggy mecca. “At the time, my stepfather had several buggies, one of which was a one-piece fiberglass body dune buggy.”
At age 19, Joe was living in Ohio, and he traded in his motorcycle for a buggy. It was kept behind an old barn buried in weeds and heavily damaged from the elements. “That summer, I had completely stripped it down to pieces and readied it for the rebuild. After re-fiberglassing the many holes and damage from years past, a friend’s father owned an auto body shop where my buddy worked. I was able to barter the 1989 I-Roc Z metallic blue paint job for a car audio system, which I installed in his classic car. While the body was being painted, I continued work on the chassis. Then life got in the way. Between working several jobs and putting myself through college, the buggy sat in storage.” The project was started and stopped several times over the years. Until, finally, the 2020 pandemic offered the perfect opportunity to complete the rebuild. A serendipitous consolation prize for his canceled sailboat trip.
In February 2019, Joe flew to California to meet Bruce Meyers, the creator of the Manx, for a group breakfast organized by the Manx Group. The Meyers Manx dune buggy was produced from 1964 to 1971 in California and was initially designed for desert racing. The recreational vehicle has the shortened chassis of a Volkswagen® Beetle and became the first-known street-legal fiberglass dune buggy. Meeting Bruce Meyers gave Joe the motivation he needed to restart his dune buggy project, and the pandemic gave him the opportunity.
And so, in early 2020, Joe began working on his buggy restoration project. He washed 30 years of dust off his buggy and got to work. “The restoration went as expected with few surprises. Fortunately, I had rebuilt the motor and transmission in 2019. I had restored the chassis pan in 1989. There was considerable time for disassembly, washing, cleaning, sandblasting, priming, painting and reassembly of all the subcomponents. There were also components that needed to be manufactured, including the rear engine cage frame, front seat frames, rear seats and more.”
Joe’s dune buggy project was coming along nicely, but there was one more thing he needed. The yellow vinyl for the backseat needed to perfectly match the prefabricated front seats. Luckily, with time on his hands and Sailrite headquarters a short road trip away, the solution was clear. “I went to the Sailrite website and found several shades of yellow. I knew there was no way I was going to match the color online since the yellow I needed was a very off shade.” He contacted Sailrite and asked if he could bring a sample of the vinyl to the Sailrite office so they could find a vinyl in stock to match. One of Sailrite’s customer service reps worked with Joe personally to find an exact match to his yellow front seats. He returned home with the vinyl he needed and had the backseat upholstered the next day. After a few finishing touches, the buggy was complete and Joe took it out for its first drive in over 30 years — a happy ending to what could have been a wasted year.
What’s next for this adventurous DIYer? Well, he’s still on sabbatical for the rest of the year. He’s currently working on refurbishing a 1958 chopper that he purchased in 1998. Joe plans on relaunching his Wild Irish trip in 2021. Until then, we’re confident this hardworking sewer will find plenty of projects to occupy his time. We wish you all the best, Joe, and hope that when you do finally launch your yearlong sailing voyage that it’s truly the trip of a lifetime. You’ve earned it!
Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach is an accomplished boater and sewist. She grew up in a boating family and has been cruising the waters for 62 years. In 2004, she and her husband sold their house and moved aboard their 50-foot Marine Trader trawler powerboat. These liveaboards have logged thousands of miles and explored countless waters. In late 2018, they left the boat in heated winter storage for the first time in 16 years! Captain Deitrick took that time on land to complete an assortment of sewing projects for the trawler. She used her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 to help her accomplish this huge sewing endeavor. Keep reading to learn more about this intrepid boater, her DIY philosophy, and what she loves about the boating lifestyle.
A Love of the Water
Boating and sailing have been a big part of Captain Deitrick’s life since early childhood. “I learned to sail at the age of 8 at a day camp on Rogers Lake in Old Lyme, Connecticut. We sailed Blue Jay dinghies. I acquired a 12-foot johnboat at the age of 10 and worked the inlets of the Connecticut River with my three lobster pots and pitchfork collecting longneck clams.” She spent high school summers sailing One Design boats at a local yacht club.
After college, she and her husband sailed their 28-foot S2 Performance Cruiser on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, at Western Carolina Sailing Club. “We used the boat as our weekend lake house and raced competitively in the PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet). We did this for 18 years until we purchased our Marine Trader trawler.”
When the family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, her husband went to work for Tow Boat US, and he needed a Coast Guard license. Their son knew he wanted to attend a maritime school, so they both attended Sea School in Charleston, considered to be the premier maritime training school in the United States. Upon completion, they received their 100 ton license with sail and towing endorsements.
Adventures on the Horizon
In 2004, when their son went off to college, the couple decided to sell their house and move to the coast. They lived aboard the trawler while their son attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, a four-year academy that graduates officers and engineers for the United States Merchant Marine and marine-related industries.
The 50-foot trawler came with a bit of a learning curve. “We used that time to get acclimated to the systems on the trawler.” The couple graduated from a sailboat with a single 9 horsepower Yanmar engine to twin 150 horsepower diesel Lehman engines, 12 batteries, 760 gallons of fuel, 360 gallons of water, a 50-gallon holding tank and five air conditioners — all packed into a 50-foot boat.
They knew they wanted to be full-time cruisers, and so Captain Deitrick decided it would be prudent for her to get a captain’s license as well. “I did not need to have it to drive the boat, but the education was valuable. I knew how to drive, but docking and undocking required some learning. We took a shakedown cruise (in which the performance of a vessel is tested) in the spring of 2010 with our son on board to help me get the hang of it.”
They named the trawler “ALLEZ!,” which is French for “Let’s Go!” — a very fitting name given the couple’s wanderlust spirit. They have logged thousands of miles since purchasing the trawler in 2004. “She is a 1992 model wide-body and we are the second owners. We have lived on board for 17 years full time. We do not own a house and, until February 2020, we didn’t own a car either.”
In 2010, the intrepid travelers began cruising full time. They cruised all up and down the East Coast to the Florida Keys. In 2013, they started the Great Loop. “We took almost four years to complete the 6,100 mile trip.” The Great Loop is a system of interconnected waterways on the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. The Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways and the Rideau Canal are just some of the natural and manmade waterways that form the Great Loop. “We have been all the way up the Potomac to Washington, D.C., and have spent entire summers just cruising the Chesapeake Bay — 1,300 plus miles each summer exploring the rivers and small towns on the Bay. Because we live on the boat full time, we are pretty much always moving around.”
Sewing & DIY
Captain Deitrick taught herself to sew at the age of 10. She started out simple, making throw pillows, but soon moved on to garments including jumpers and skirts. “I graduated to more complex sewing projects like Vogue Patterns® and formal gowns. When I was at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, I became the lead student costumer for the theater department. After college, I made all my own clothes for my working career. When we purchased our S2 sailboat, I made sail covers, winch covers, and several boom tents and bow triangles for shade. I was called upon to make similar products for members of the sail club, for which I was paid. I like the independence that being able to do my own work affords me, as well as the ability to customize my projects.”
Over the last 18 years aboard ALLEZ!, Captain Deitrick has tackled numerous sewing projects for the boat. In her words: “If it is made of fabric — Sunbrella®, Phifertex®, Stamoid™, Naugahyde® or upholstery/curtain material — I have made it for ALLEZ!” Just a handful of the bounty of projects she’s made for the trawler include curtain panels, door panels, roll-up screens, handrail, grill and winch covers, and so many cushions. A 50-foot boat is a lot of space, and there’s a DIY project everywhere you look.
“Being able to sew and having the machine on board at all times has been invaluable. I have also been able to take on projects for other boaters who need repairs or replacements and do not have the skill or inclination to undertake the project themselves.” Her most recent DIY was a new bimini for the upper deck. She chose Stamoid for the 12-foot x 15-foot bimini and used her Ultrafeed to tackle the project. “Every bit of material I have used on the boat has come from Sailrite®. Additionally, the supplies I have purchased for my projects for hire have all come from Sailrite as well.”
Captain Deitrick says the new upper deck bimini was her toughest project to date. “It was big and I had never used patterning material before. I had always just used the old bimini, but since it was a new design with adjusted rails it was different. Add to the fact that while we removed the fifth rail and adjusted the heights on the two intermediate bows, I did not have the luxury of walking all around the frame.” The mid-summer heat in South Carolina didn’t make it any easier either. Captain Deitrick had limited time to pattern the frame before the temperatures rose and the wind kicked up every afternoon. But the satisfaction and happiness of completing a big project just can’t be beat!
A New Beginning
After almost two decades on the water, Captain Deitrick and her husband are bidding farewell to the liveaboard lifestyle. They’ve decided to sell the trawler and relocate closer to family. “We have two young grandchildren and want to be full-time grandparents, and that is hard to do when you are 1,200 miles away.” The couple have traveled and boated to all the places they wanted to visit, and they’re looking forward to this next chapter of their lives. They plan to continue traveling — this time by land. A bittersweet ending perhaps, but the memories they made aboard ALLEZ! are sure to bring smiles to their faces whenever they are missing life on the water.
For many, the idea of living aboard your boat and sailing the world is simply a pipe dream. It takes a lot of preparation and courage to cut ties with the land and jump into a life at sea. Glen and Oana Sansom decided years ago to devote their lives to sailing and traversing the open water. Along the way, they’ve had incredible adventures and even became acquainted with the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine.
Glen is British and Oana is Romanian. They met in Bucharest while under the employment of the same international oilfield services company. Later, the two moved to Dubai and were married. In early 2016, Glen was offered an early retirement after 31 years in his field and Oana took forced retirement as requested by Glen. Like the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens! This catalyst prompted the two to reexamine their professional life — the long office hours and material ties. Both adventurers at heart, they decided it was time for a change.
Glen had been a sailing enthusiast in his teen years and Oana had begun sailing while in Dubai where the couple raced a J/22. It only made sense that they jump headfirst into sailing and start cruising exclusively following a trip to the Dusseldorf Boat Show. After months of extensive research, they finally found their dream boat! Enter Cloudy Bay, a Hallberg-Rassy 54 launched in Sweden in 2008. The previous owner had named her after a famous New Zealand wine and it stuck. And so the adventures of Cloudy Bay began!
It wasn’t long before Glen and Oana realized that living aboard their boat required a certain level of self-reliance when it came to repairs. If you’re in the middle of the ocean and experience a tear in your sail, you better be ready to fix it! When it came to sewing, Oana was familiar with hand sewing and Glen had done some sewing in the past with his mother’s old Singer. They soon began researching for the ideal machine to have onboard and quickly settled on the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1. “When we saw the Sailrite machine at the Annapolis Boat Show, the Ultrafeed was an easy purchase, along with all the materials and little bits needed to complete the projects we had in mind.” It was also critical to have instructional materials, so they quickly began utilizing Sailrite’s how-to videos.
“We started our various projects with the simplest and worked upwards in complexity. Our first project was making fender blankets ready for our transit through the Panama canal. The latest project, and the one we are most proud of, was a set of dinghy chaps. We templated the dinghy using shrink-wrap plastic then transferred the pattern to Sunbrella® material. We put strengthening pieces around all the protruding fittings and secured the chaps to the dinghy using velcro glued to the dinghy. It was the little things that made the difference. For instance, a tip made in Sailrite’s dinghy chaps video was to do the patterning with the dinghy slightly deflated. Then, when we finally fitted the cover and pumped to full pressure, the chaps fit like a glove! Other projects included side and rear sunshades for the bimini, putting six solar panels on top of the bimini and repair work to our aging dodger.”
When you spend all your time sailing, the world is your oyster. After purchasing Cloudy Bay in 2016, the couple cruised the Western Mediterranean. That winter they did a big refit in Spain, making all the necessary changes for circumnavigation. The next summer, they cruised the Eastern Mediterranean, then set off across the Atlantic in early 2018. After that, they visited the Caribbean Windward Islands, spent the summer of 2018 cruising the East Coast of the United States up to Maine, and then went back south again for another winter in the Caribbean. And that’s just the start of their travels! Thankfully, all of their trips have been aptly documented via their blog site, Sail Cloudy Bay, and their YouTube channel of the same name.
When it comes to committing to a floating home, Glen was happy to share some tips for potential cruisers. “First and foremost, it may look like an idyllic lifestyle, but all good things become the norm after a year or more. I would not want to discourage people, but I would say to try it by doing a charter or two before you commit too much. Don’t spend years preparing and spending, only to find it’s not for you. Of course, if you love independence, remote off-grid living and sailing, it’s a perfect life if you both like it. But if one partner enjoys it more than the other, there has to be some empathy and compromise.”
“Our compromise is to spend at least four months a year back at home, Oana’s home in Romania. Behind all the apparent fun and adventure, consider these points: the incessant movement of the boat, always getting wet when going ashore with the dinghy, needing to constantly be aware of the weather forecast, knowing that almost every day something will break, and that never-ending nomadic feeling of always being on the move. I would recommend always keeping a home somewhere other than the boat. Because you will want a break from it sometimes, and there is no place like home when that time comes. Another key piece of advice is above having a good seaworthy boat, it needs many of the home comforts too if you are to live on it 24/7/365. Otherwise, it’s like the difference between camping and glamping. And whatever the luxury of your boat, it’s never going to be up to living in a roomy, warm, dry, stationary house!”
Since their foray into the world of boating, Glen and Oana have been happy to share their experiences via their blog, social media and their YouTube channel. While they initially started documenting their experiences on video for family and friends, it quickly grew into a popular channel with over 16,000 subscribers. Their goal is to show real sailing and share cruising wisdom with their fans. They even filmed a video dedicated to their Sailrite projects!
While traversing the globe has its own set of challenges, Glen and Oana have also had to manage the global COVID-19 pandemic. For a cruiser, this poses its own unique set of hurdles. Glen was kind enough to share his experience with us.
“For Oana it’s wonderful! She gets to have a longer break back at home with friends and family. Unfortunately, she suffers from seasickness, so six months at a time onboard is about her limit. Frankly, COVID has stopped us, and many like us, in our tracks. We should be halfway across the Pacific by now. Even restarting again this November looks unlikely. Most of the countries we need to enter either still have their borders closed or apply highly restricted movement. Add to that, we need to look at if/when we catch COVID ourselves, what is the probability that one of us would need hospitalization. Currently looks like about a 14% chance given our ages. That may be okay at home, where good hospital care is available, but those odds feel too high to venture to places where no hospital care, or limited care, is available. In summary, it looks like COVID will cause us to have a break, but things will get back to normal and it will prolong our adventure, which is a good thing (for me).”
While current circumstances may seem daunting, this intrepid pair of adventurers isn’t letting anything keep them from enjoying life on the water. As soon as they’re able, they’re determined to continue their circumnavigation. When they do set off, they’ll be heading for Panama to start the Pacific crossing. Once across the Pacific and its many islands, they hope to spend some time exploring New Zealand. After that, there will be a trek to Southeast Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean, the final leg up to Brazil and a trip to the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States.
The cruising lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but if you can make it work it’s full of exciting adventures and countless lessons to learn. Self-reliance is key, and Sailrite is here to help you every step of the way. From our instructional videos to top-of-the-line sewing machines, you’ll have everything you need to excel. Glen and Oana are perfect examples of the ingenuity, tenacity and lifelong curiosity that makes for a worthwhile life at sea. Thanks for sharing your story with us, and we look forward to hearing more about the voyages of Cloudy Bay!
Though not raised in a boating family, Laura Weller-Brophy has a very unique and interesting job in the marine industry. She co-owns a boat club that maintains a fleet of boats that the members have unlimited use of during boating season. “This is the perfect way to get on the water,” Laura explained. “Our members enjoy the best part of boating without the hassle of maintaining the boat.” Laura contributes her sewing skills, among other expertise, to the business. She sews upholstery and canvaswork projects for the boats, and she needed a sewing machine that was up to the challenge. She discovered the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine and has been putting it to great use.
While boating is a hobby for many people, to Laura it’s an enjoyable business opportunity. “I like the ability to be outdoors in an environment that I love, meeting the boat club members and enjoying the pleasure that they take in boating.” The business was founded by Laura’s business partner and has been in operation in the Rochester, New York, region for six years. Though she had no boating experience, her business expertise made for an excellent and profitable partnership. “We have tripled the size of our business since working together,” she shared.
In addition to her business acumen, Laura was able to contribute another one of her skills to the business: sewing. She learned to sew as a young girl on her grandmother’s treadle Singer sewing machine. “My grandmother and her two sisters were accomplished sewers and made clothing for themselves and their family members. My aunt is a very skilled seamstress — she designed and made my wedding gown. I learned a lot from her and my mother.”
Laura’s love of DIY stretches beyond just sewing. “I enjoy soap making, canning, painting the house … I did my first stained-glass project last summer.” Regardless of the craft, the joy that comes from making something with your own hands is a universal part of DIY. “DIY means having the freedom and ability to independently make things just like you want them to be — no need to search the web for poorly made items stitched from poor quality fabrics. I love sewing because it enables me to make beautiful things, sew my own curtains and clothing, and make special things for others.”
Laura found the Sailrite website when she was searching for canvas fabric to complete a boat project. It wasn’t too long till she discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1. Instantly, she knew it was the machine she needed. “I love the Ultrafeed! It is exceptionally well made, robust, and it has the features that I need. I especially value Sailrite because of the videos that you have. I watch them when I need to learn new skills and how to do specific projects.” The Ultrafeed’s portability allows Laura to work on projects outside at the marina.
She purchased her Ultrafeed in 2019 and has already tackled a number of marine projects. Her first project was making new boat cushions for a vintage Rubbermaid Hellion boat. She turned to Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos to help her complete the refit. “After the boat cushions I made a number of canvas repairs for customers of Boat Club USA. These are smaller jobs that larger canvas shops may not want to do.” Laura recently made a bimini for a customer’s boat. She watched hours of Sailrite’s bimini top videos for guidance.
A project that Laura was quite proud of and enjoyed was patching a torn cover for a customer’s personal watercraft. She was able to get creative with the repair job — not just patching but making artistic patches that enhanced the visual appeal of the cover. “I made ‘dog bone’ patches over the handlebars and a rectangle with zigzag stitching over the ‘nose’ of the PWC. The customers liked the repair because it was effective and because the design element added to the end product. I liked it because it was fun. I have customers who just want a square patch; I try to use dog bones and other shapes that add design interest and get the job done. I find that people may not take the time to incorporate compelling design into the repair of a canvas cover.”
Laura is a big fan of Sailrite’s project videos. She has turned to them again and again to help her through specific projects or to learn new sewing tricks. “Sewing for boats is not the same as making clothing, which is what I was most familiar with. I find that the boat projects incorporate engineering skills beyond what a person learns when they sew clothing. I would not have been successful with the boat canvas and cushions without the videos.”
What projects is Laura looking forward to diving into next? “I have some beautiful canvas that I need to make into outdoor curtains before the summer is over. I also want to learn how to restore outdoor umbrellas — keeping the frames and learning how to make the fabric covers. I also want to learn to make my first full boat covers!” Looks like Laura is in luck — Sailrite has how-to videos for all of those projects!
What words of DIY wisdom does Laura have to share? “I’d like to encourage your readers to tackle new DIY projects using the Sailrite products and videos. Your company is great at helping us succeed at new projects that may look rather daunting at first.”
DIY is all about trying something you’ve never done before, practicing your newly learned skills, and having fun while doing it! We’re thrilled our products and video tutorials were able to help this enthusiastic sewer flex her sewing skills and learn some new techniques. With DIY, you’re only limited by your imagination! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Laura, and good luck on all your future projects.
At the age of 10, Bailey Heyman received her first sewing machine as a gift from her grandparents. What she didn’t know was that this small gift would spark a lifelong passion that would change her life. Bailey is truly a Jill-of-all-trades, sewing everything she can get her hands on, such as apparel, marine projects, pet projects — you name it. Along the way she discovered sailing and then the Sailrite® website, which only bolstered her love of all things DIY. Not to mention it brought her face to face with a world-class sewing machine, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1.
“I remained interested in the idea of sewing through middle school, high school and college. It wasn’t until after college that I had a well-paying job and could finally spend the money to pick up sewing again. I first bought a computerized machine even though it had been 14 years since the last time I’d had a sewing machine. My return to sewing started with making dog bandanas that I would give out to a local dog rescue I volunteer for. Sewing dog bandanas then turned into sewing dog vests and then it all escalated quickly!”
While always the avid sewist, Bailey wasn’t always entwined with the sailing lifestyle or Sailrite. That she learned from her husband, who is from a long line of sailors and began to teach her the way of the water. This fact, combined with her infatuation with aerodynamics, led her to explore the world of sailmaking. It was here that things really began to gain momentum! Eventually, Bailey discovered the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and her ability to DIY grew tenfold.
“When looking into industrial sewing machines for sewing sails, Sailrite is the first thing that comes up. It did not take me long to look at the company and know that it was a brand with a community that I wanted to be part of. I received my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and immediately began to dress it up with stickers. Out of all the things I’ve done with my Sailrite, turning it into an angler fish has gotten the most likes on social media. That’s fine with me because it makes me smile every time I finish a project, turn off the lights, and see it glowing.”
You might’ve seen Bailey’s customized Ultrafeed LSZ-1 on our Sailrite Instagram page, complete with a smiling sticker that glows in the dark. This gives the machine the appearance of an angler fish, even with the lights off. And if you thought that was ingenious, you should see the great number of other projects Bailey has finished recently using her portable powerhouse of a machine.
The project that Bailey is most proud of? Her lightning bug sunflower dress of course. She was kind enough to share the entire process with us.
“I wanted to make a dress to wear to an engineering banquet that I had coming up. I knew I wanted a dress with sunflowers because those are my favorite flowers. I loved the blue and yellow color combination. After I made the dress, I started to think about what I wanted to add to it next. I love building circuits and wanted to work them into my sewing projects. One day I had the idea to add lightning bugs to the sunflower dress. But I had to figure out how to sew the conductive wire to get them to light up inside the dress. Most DIYers will sew wire into dresses like that by hand, but because of the shape of the dress, I knew that would take a long time. I tried to use my computerized sewing machine first but the thread was too thick for it. I thought perhaps my Sailrite Ultrafeed would not work with it because the dress material was chiffon, but I decided to try anyway. It took a few minutes to get the settings right for the material but once I did, I was able to sew the conductive wire perfectly into the dress!”
Following the creation of her prized sunflower dress, Bailey has been busy making even more wearable works of art. Her many successes include flowy skirts and gowns with a variety of leaves and creatures on them, each one perfectly showcasing her boundless creativity. She explained, “My inspiration for making them all comes from self-inspiration. It only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to make the base of a dress or skirt and then it usually takes a few hours to days to add appliques such as flowers or iron-on designs.”
Within her eclectic portfolio of DIY projects, you’ll also find a slew of marine cushions she’s created to revamp her and her husband’s boat. She’s also crafted numerous additions to her Jeep as well as pet projects for her beloved dogs. And not only do these creative endeavors showcase the versatility of the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine, but more importantly, they showcase Bailey’s versatility and expertise as an enterprising young sewist.
We asked Bailey if she had any advice for DIYers who have dreams of following in her footsteps, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts with us. “My biggest pointer is to be self aware. If you do not know yourself and how your mind operates then you risk becoming your own worst enemy when creating things. A personal example of this is that I know I often get carried away with cutting fabric. When this happens I end up over-cutting or finding out the pattern I was cutting was a little off and so now I have a pile of cut fabric that will not work. This means that I have to either throw away the cut fabric, spend time to fix the cuts (if they are fixable), or set them aside (which ends up haunting me until I eventually throw them away). Because I am self aware of this, I always make sure to remind myself to not get carried away when I cut. If I was not self aware of how I operate, then I would continually get carried away with cutting and then kick myself for all the money I throw away.”
Bailey also has the support team of her family to thank for her ability to create. She remembers her grandpa having a big smile one his face while watching her sew and when she showed him the Sailrite he was certainly impressed. She likes to remember him fondly as a champion of her creativity.
With a can-do attitude, a great sewing machine and some DIY guidance, you too can create incredible DIY projects. We’re eagerly waiting to see what you sew next, Bailey!
Marc Weiner has always been the creative type. Born in New York, his mother gave him her sewing machine when he was around 23 years old. From there, his love of sewing and creativity took off. Over the years and throughout his different career paths, Marc has used sewing in unique and interesting ways. Now, he’s using it for the greater good. Marc volunteers for the Clearwater Sloop, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Beacon, New York, dedicated to cleaning up the pollution in the Hudson River and educating their community about conservation and environmentalism. Read the inspiring story of how one man is making a world of difference in his community through his passion for sewing.
A History of Creativity
Sewing is just one of the many ways Marc shares his creativity with the world. He’s had a fascinating career over the years, working as an actor and puppeteer. He started out as a street performer clown and puppeteer. Then he later joined a street theater group and made the puppets and all their clothing. He’s even done some voice work for the movie and television industry. You might recognize him as the voice of Map and Swiper on the kid’s show “Dora the Explorer.” He joined Saturday Night Live in 1980 and performed on the show with his puppets.
“When I first moved to New York City, I would ‘dumpster dive’ in the garment district, and I would find lots of great scraps of colorful fabric. I loved sewing them together and making pillows. The idea of taking a piece of flat fabric and making it something that is 3D — making puppet clothing is a perfect example of this.”
“I started sewing my puppets’ clothing for my night club act. When I performed my puppets on Saturday Night Live, their amazing costume department made my puppets’ clothing. They did a much better job than I ever could. After SNL, I continued making puppet clothing for all of my puppet projects until 1992 when I got my own show on Nickelodeon called ‘Weinerville.'” On his Nickelodeon show, there was an entire crew sewing the clothing for his puppets, but that didn’t deter Marc from finding other avenues to continue his sewing pursuits.
Sailing & Sewing
Growing up, Marc’s parents had a 12-foot sailboat on Lake Mahopac, New York. “My father taught me how to sail on that boat,” he recalled. The family also owned a 15-foot powerboat. Marc enjoyed a childhood of time spent on the water, enjoying the peacefulness and quiet of sailing or zipping around on the high-speed powerboat. Years later, his parents bought a 41-foot Morgan yacht. “They lived on the Morgan down in the Bahamas for 12 years. I would visit them and go sailing.”
Now, Marc owns his own sailboat and enjoys sewing projects for it. Five years ago, he bought a 34-foot Beneteau and jumped right into DIY work. “When I was working on projects for my boat, my home machine was struggling when I was making my cabin cushions. I found Sailrite on the internet, and I knew I would need the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 for my next project — restitching my bimini and dodger.”
Marc named his boat the MelAdele in honor of his parents and their shared love of sailing and enjoying life on the water. Marc was excited to get to work sewing for his new boat. “I found Sailrite’s amazing DIY videos and started sewing new cabin cushions, winch covers and cockpit seat cushions. I made new curtains, restitched the bimini and dodger, made a companionway cover, made side window panels for the bimini, repaired the sail cover and so many other projects.”
Sewing for a Cause
Marc has been volunteering for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization since 1973. “I crewed for one week, and then became the weekend cook for a month. They then took me on as the permanent cook, which lasted for two years. I was a vegetarian cook, and the captain loved eating meat. He couldn’t put up with my cooking any longer and made me the first mate during my third year on board.”
He has had various other roles during his many years with the nonprofit. He’s worked in the front office, worked on the boat, and helps out with the annual folk festival. Most recently, Marc has been sewing bags and totes from the Clearwater’s retired sailcloth as a way to raise funds for the organization.
“For our 2020 Clearwater restoration fundraising campaign, I made almost 100 assorted bags that we sold to raise money.” Clearwater’s mission is to protect the Hudson River and the surrounding wetlands and waterways through public education and environmental advocacy. Clearwater’s award-winning programs have grown consistently over the years. In 2004, the Clearwater was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its groundbreaking role in the environmental movement.
Environmental protection is a cause close to Marc’s heart. “When I went to college, I became more aware about the need for environmental advocacy. My years of service on the Clearwater Sloop have reinforced this belief. Air and water pollution, global warming, smog, acid rain, deforestation and wildfires — these are just a few of the environmental issues we are facing right now. It’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of our precious and beautiful planet and make it a safe and wonderful place to live.”
Recently, Marc mentioned taking a trip into New York City. He was walking down the street with one of his Clearwater mainsail bags slung across his shoulder with the ship’s original reefing lines acting as straps. A sudden gust of wind struck, and the bag said to him, “I think we should reef.” Marc felt the reefing lines tighten across his torso. In that moment, the spirit of the Clearwater mainsail was reawakened after being retired for six years.
Once a sail, always a sail.
If you’d like to learn more about the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization and its mission, please visit https://www.clearwater.org/the-sloop/.
Bruce Carlile is a lifelong boater. He grew up in California’s San Diego Bay Area sailing, racing and enjoying life. From participating in the Junior Sailing Program at his local yacht club to racing a variety of sailboats, including Sabots, Lasers, Hobie Cats, Star keelboats and more, to speeding along on his family’s powerboats, Bruce can’t imagine his life without a boat of some kind in it. In 2018, he obtained his late father’s Duffy boat. It was in rough shape, having been devastated by a freak November storm, but Bruce was determined to save it. With time, hard work and his Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine, he was able to restore his father’s boat to its former glory.
A Cocktail Cruiser
Bruce’s lifelong love of boats was inherited from his parents. “My parents had a place in Coronado Cays, a residential marina in the south end of San Diego Bay, and there was a dock behind the house. It was the perfect setting for a cruising boat, and my father saw one cruising by one day.” Bruce’s father asked the owner what type of boat it was and that’s how he was introduced to the Duffy boat. Soon after, he bought one for himself — first an 18-foot Duffy and then he upgraded to the 22-foot Duffy Classic.
As soon as Bruce’s father purchased the Duffy, Bruce immediately fell in love with the boat’s laid-back design. The first electric boat, a Duffy glides slowly and silently on the water and is designed for the cruising lifestyle. Nicknamed a “cocktail cruiser,” this slow-moving vessel maxes out at about 5 mph. For owners of this boat, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Giving DIY a Try
The Duffy was a 2005 model and came with the original surrey top. It was worn out and needed to be replaced. Bruce contacted local shops inquiring about a commercially made replacement top for his father’s Duffy and was shocked by the quote. “Commercial and factory-made surrey tops were priced at about $6,000! I then started researching how to make them and came across the Sailrite website. After watching the DIY videos, I figured that I could make it myself.”
Bruce didn’t let his complete lack of sewing experience deter him from tackling the project. He purchased the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine as well as Sunbrella® fabric and binding, patterning material, zippers and all the other tools and accessories to sew a new surrey top. “Using only Sailrite materials, I successfully completed the project for less than half of the price of a commercially available Sunbrella top, even including the price of the sewing machine!”
In addition to purchasing all his supplies and sewing machine from Sailrite, he also relied heavily on Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos and tutorials. “The DIY videos were key,” Bruce explained. “I’m a visual learner, and had it not been for those instructional videos I don’t think I could have done it. I found the Ultrafeed incredibly easy to learn how to use and I quickly became proficient at sewing with it.”
When his father passed away in 2014, the boat went to Bruce’s sister. Unfortunately, his sister’s family didn’t use the boat and from 2014 to 2018 it fell into disrepair. “In the fall of 2018, they put it up for sale and I offered to buy it,” Bruce said. However, that Thanksgiving, a catastrophic storm rolled through the San Diego area. The high winds and heavy rains did terrible damage, ripping the Duffy’s surrey top to shreds. “Winds were estimated at over 60 mph with even higher gusts,” Bruce recalled.
A Passion Project
Due to the storm’s damage and the years of neglect, just about everything needed to be fixed. Bruce was dutifully up to the task. The boat needed a new surrey top, new vinyl side curtains, new upholstery and carpeting. “The hull had oxidized badly, the boot stripe had worn away from rubbing against the dock, and the running gear was horribly corroded. So I set about restoring it, completely refurbishing every inch. I made a new surrey top (my second one) and replaced the engine belt, shaft, cutlass bearing, propeller and new bottom paint.”
“Nothing went untouched. I had to buy a used trailer and retrofit it to take the Duffy. I towed it to a storage yard, bought a portable generator to provide electricity for the power tools, and relaunched her 6 months later.”
What began as a cost-cutting measure has grown into a true passion for sewing and DIY. “It started out as a way to save money but grew into the challenge and accomplishment of making it myself. Not only that, but I also taught myself a very useful trade, especially being a boater.” Bruce and his wife also own a 21-foot Yamaha ski boat and two Yamaha WaveRunners®. “I will be making new covers for the WaveRunners this summer to prepare them for next winter.”
Duffy Sewing & Beyond
Bruce’s uses for the Ultrafeed haven’t stopped at his Duffy boat. “I’ve found myself venturing into new areas where I can utilize my sewing skills. I’ve repaired a jean jacket for my niece. I sewed a custom canvas cover for a high school basketball scorekeeper’s table. I’ve even made safety barriers for a deck that leads down to a dock. All of these projects were produced using Sailrite as my material supplier. It’s exciting to think of new projects for this ever-expanding hobby!”
For Bruce, enjoyment of his Duffy boat comes down to living the cruising lifestyle. “I love the classic look of the boat and the fact that it’s electric. My Duffy Classic seats about 16 people and has a built-in refrigerator, which makes it the perfect cocktail cruiser.” Bruce particularly enjoys taking his family out on the water and spending time together. Bruce and his family launched the boat on Lake San Marcos in the northern part of San Diego County just before July 4, 2019, in time to enjoy the patriotic festivities and show off the new surrey top.
What sewing projects are on the horizon for Bruce? “I’d like to make a new full-boat cover for the Duffy.” In addition to canvaswork, Bruce wants to try his hand at upholstery. “I’m going to tackle reupholstering the seats in the Duffy with the help of Sailrite’s videos and materials. Through sewing and DIY, I’ve learned that I can tap into my creative side, something I never knew I had. I now have the confidence to attempt just about anything that can be made with fabric and the Ultrafeed.”