Ultrafeed® Adventures: Sewing a Winter Boat Cover

Dianne Smock learned to sew at a young age but never considered herself an experienced sewist. That is, until she tackled the project of a lifetime — a winter sailboat cover for her Bayfield 32, named Tilgata. For such a large-scale and heavy-duty project, she needed something tougher than her home sewing machine. There was no question about which machine to choose. Dianne purchased the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1, and the boat cover was the first project she made with it. In addition to the Ultrafeed, she also utilized Sailrite how-to content and the guidance and advice of our customer support staff to design and craft her massive, three-section winter cover.

The original cover that came with the boat was in rough shape and poorly designed. The massive cover was one piece and weighed about 60 pounds. The cover was assembled on a frame consisting of metal poles that snapped together across the hull. “It took half a day just to assemble the frame. Hauling the cover up and over the frame was a two-person job (or more). The hook-and-loop fasteners had long ago lost their ‘stickiness.’ In addition, it had been modified to fit the boat without the mast; we had to cut it to fit around the mast and then fill the gap with tarps.” Not only was the cover difficult to manage, it did not adequately protect the boat’s interior during harsh winter weather.

Even though Dianne bought the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 specifically for sewing the boat cover, she wasn’t going to let a machine like that go to waste! After she tackled the massive sailboat cover, she stitched up a grill cover, replaced her dodger windows with new Strataglass™ window material, and made slipcovers for her living room chairs.

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Keep reading to learn more about Dianne’s story and how she conquered the DIY of a lifetime with her new Ultrafeed, Sailrite how-to videos and help from the Sailrite customer support team.

Q. Can you tell me about the design process of creating your winter sailboat cover?

A. My main objective was to create something that my husband, Randy Anderson, and I could put on and take off by ourselves, so weight was a big deal. I started out with a five-piece design that evolved to the current three pieces, each of which weighs around 10 pounds. I worked it out on paper and sent the design to Sailrite for confirmation that it would work and that I had measured the fabric correctly. We turned our living/dining room into a factory and my husband made a production line to help with the long seams. The pieces zip together; the zippers are hidden under flaps that ensure weatherproof closure. All told there are 41 yards of fabric, eight zippers ranging from 16-96 inches, and the 20+ collars and boots are fastened with hook-and-loop closures. We finished it in October 2020 and Tilgata made it through the harsh northern Michigan winter clean and dry.

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Q. Why did you choose the Ultrafeed for your boat cover project?

A. Randy has known about Sailrite for years and subscribed to your catalog many years ago. We even still have a 1992 catalog! He had envisioned making his own sails at one time long ago. He bought what he thought was a “heavy duty” machine (not from Sailrite) but, as often happens, other priorities came about and the machine was stored in our basement unopened for nearly 20 years. When I decided to make a new cover, we got the machine out, and I saw immediately that it was not truly heavy duty, so we decided to do it right this time and get a Sailrite machine. I chose the Ultrafeed LSZ PLUS because I knew enough about sewing to know that I would someday need the zigzag feature, and I liked the PLUS package of accessories. I like that it can be used for regular sewing jobs as well as big jobs. I don’t think Randy will tackle sailmaking in the future, but he will likely try out the Ultrafeed on some leather projects.

sailrite catalog
Blast from the past! Randy’s copy of the 1992 Sailrite Catalog.

Q. You watched our Winter Sailboat Cover video as well as contacted Sailrite customer service with questions. Can you tell me a bit about what your experience was like working back and forth with our customer service team?

A. I must have watched portions of that video a dozen times! Whenever I got stuck on how to do something, I went back and watched the relevant section until I could replicate it. I developed several versions of the cover design before sending it to your customer service folks for confirmation that the cover would work with the fabric I had selected. I asked dozens of questions and got prompt responses from Bill Becker in Customer Support. Probably the most difficult part of the project for me was figuring out where to cut the slits for the stanchions, stays and shrouds. I was afraid I would ruin the whole thing if I made a mistake. Bill was very reassuring that it didn’t have to be perfect, and he was right — the collar and boot configuration was actually quite forgiving and left some “wiggle room” for an imperfect slit.

Q. How did you feel after you finally completed the cover and you put it on the boat the first time?

A. Relief! It fit! We made a couple of trips last winter to the boat just to make sure everything was intact. When we opened it up this spring, we found a clean and dry deck, which made me very happy. And putting it on this fall was a pleasure — it went on very quickly and easily.

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Q. What do you love about being on the water and the sailing lifestyle?

A. First and foremost, we love the majesty of the water and its endless challenges. Nothing beats the moment when the engine is turned off, and the wind fills the sails and propels us — often without care of where we are going — just the enjoyment of the movement. Second, we love the people we have met. Marinas are filled with interesting people and fascinating stories, and we have made friends with wonderful folks from all over.

Q. Where do you launch your boat? Do you do day sails or weekends?

A. Although we live in the Detroit area, we keep our boat in Cheboygan, Michigan, which is 15 miles east of the Straits of Mackinac on Lake Huron. There are many interesting ports and sailing options in the northern Great Lakes. I consider the boat my “up north” cottage; we spend as much time on the boat in the summers as our schedules allow. We do mostly day sails; our trips are usually just two to five days, although we would like to do longer trips … maybe next year.

Q. What do you love or relate to about the DIY lifestyle?

A. I have always been a “doer,” needing to be busy. For many years while I was working and raising kids, I didn’t have much time to devote to projects, although my husband and I have remodeled three houses, doing much of the work ourselves. Since retiring I have looked for new things to do. I have started refinishing old furniture, crocheting, baking and sewing. I’m currently working on restoring a century-old treadle sewing machine that belonged to Randy’s great-grandmother. I like the satisfaction of completing a task — although that feeling doesn’t last long, so I’m off to the next thing!

Dianne and Randy are all smiles after installing the new cover system. What an accomplishment!

What sewing projects are on the horizon for Dianne? This upcoming winter season she’ll be sewing new cockpit cushions for Tilgata. With the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 by her side and her newfound confidence in her sewing skills, we know she’ll tackle the job like a pro.

Dresses & Bags & … Boat Dodgers?! Oh My!

When the time came to replace the dodger on Ellen Bell-Irving’s 18-foot Maritime Skiff, she turned to her good friend of 30 years and fellow sewer, Pat Kane. Both women have a long history of sewing, but neither had tackled such a large marine project before. They put their heads together and put their trust in Sailrite® to provide them with the products, techniques and confidence to take on the boat dodger with an Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 and Sunbrella® Marine Grade fabric. Read on to learn how their first foray into marine sewing went!

Ellen and her family use their boat for sailing around Casco Bay in Maine.
Ellen and her family use their boat for sailing around Casco Bay in Maine.

Ellen’s center console boat, the “Alibelle,” is used for general transportation to and from the island where she and Pat met in the spring of 1988. The 30-acre island in Casco Bay, Maine was newly subdivided and they were building their summer homes at the same time. Their first homeowners’ association meeting was the beginning of a new friendship. When they learned that their permanent residences were just a few towns apart in Massachusetts, summer parties turned into skiing trips and winter get-togethers. Thirty years on, Pat and Ellen still enjoy spending time together for dinners and family occasions. And, of course, for sharing their love of sewing.

No stranger to sewing, Ellen felt comfortable repairing her old dodger. She learned to sew by taking a course in the 1970s. After learning the basics, she bought her first sewing machine: a Viking® she named Betty after her sewing teacher. “I made a few clothing items and made pinch pleat drapes for my house,” Ellen said of her sewing background. Over the years, Ellen also used her skills to sew costumes and clothing for her family. And when it had finally gotten to the point that a new dodger was needed, it was an easy choice to make it herself, noting, “it’s only seven pieces of material.” How hard could it be, right? 

Ellen is no stranger to sewing! Here she is looking at a zipper.
Ellen is no stranger to sewing! Here she is looking at a zipper.

Well, turns out it was more complicated than anticipated. Realizing she couldn’t do it alone, Ellen called on Pat for help. Pat, a professional seamstress, learned how to sew from her mother on a treadle sewing machine (“eons ago,” she said!). Her earliest sewing projects were clothes for her Barbie® doll. From there, Pat was hooked. “I have sewn ever since — costumes for high school plays, uniforms, clothing for others, clothing for myself and family.” Pat loves sewing so much, she made it her business. “I took classes in couture work…and started my business, Costumes and Custom Clothing, around 2000.” Pat’s business keeps her busy with custom theater costumes and bridal alterations; she even altered Ellen’s daughter’s wedding dress. 

A professional seamstress, Pat is comfortable behind a sewing machine.
A professional seamstress, Pat is comfortable behind a sewing machine.

Given their backgrounds, Pat and Ellen certainly had the skills required to sew a dodger. What they needed now was supplies. Ellen’s research on Sunbrella fabrics led her to the Sailrite website, and another friend recommended the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 to Pat: “I heard about Sailrite from a friend who sails a 42-foot sloop. She bought an LSZ-1 to make everything for the boat, and recommended it highly.” Together, Pat and Ellen decided to place an order for a new Ultrafeed, which they named Maxine, plus Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric, the Sailrite Edge Hotknife and all the notions they needed to make their dodger. The Ultrafeed came so highly recommended that once it was delivered, Pat immediately set it up and started sewing tote bags out of old sailcloth. She definitely understood the hype: “My home machine would not sew this material, but Maxine sewed through it like butter. So fun!” 

Over the course of the winter, Pat and Ellen set up folding tables and turned Ellen’s living room into a canvas workshop. Then they got to work.

The pair watched Sailrite videos to figure out where to start. “Your videos show how to create a pattern on the boat, but this was February 2021 and the boat was in storage in Maine,” Ellen said. So they fell back on Pat’s seamstress training. They took apart the existing dodger and used it to create a pattern. From there, they made a muslin mock-up and proceeded through a series of fittings. “We made a day trip to Maine to fit the mock-up. We marked it up, noting the positions of the snaps and other details,” Ellen explained. 

Pat and Ellen with the boat dodger
Pat and Ellen are all smiles in front of their completed boat dodger!

Using the muslin as a guide, they altered the pattern, cut out the dodger pieces using the hotknife and sewed them together. They relied heavily on Sailrite’s instructional videos for every step. Pat described their process: “We carefully watched the videos of dodger-making, especially the one about inserting a window into canvas. We paused the video, sewed, then restarted, watched the next step, paused and sewed. It worked!” 

Pat and Ellen took the finished dodger to the boatyard in Maine for a final fitting and borrowed a tool from the boatyard to install the snaps. It was a perfect fit! They weren’t the only ones impressed with their handiwork; “The boatyard owners wanted to know then and there if we wanted more work!” 

finished dodger
Here it is! The finished boat dodger.

They may not be ready for more dodgers, but these two friends aren’t done creating together. They’ve got more “couture canvas” projects they can’t wait to start. Up next is a console cover for the “Alibelle” and new cushions for the 25-foot Mako Ellen’s daughter and son-in-law have recently purchased. They’re also making bags out of Sunbrella fabric to give as Christmas gifts, which Pat will embroider. 

With so many projects on the docket, we’re so glad Pat and Ellen have an Ultrafeed on their side. We can’t wait to see what Pat, Ellen and Maxine the Ultrafeed make next! 

Marina Sewing Adventures With Lynn Ringseis

What do you do when a global pandemic halts your international travel plans and you’re forced to remain stateside? You tackle the sewing project of your DIY career, of course! That’s exactly what Lynn Ringseis did. She spent summer 2020 on a friend’s Westsail 42-foot sailboat in Poulsbo, Washington, riding out the COVID-19 quarantine. Not one to let a change of plans damper her spirit, Lynn offered to tackle several sewing projects for her friend, one of which was designing and sewing a full enclosure for the cockpit attached to the hardtop bimini. Learn how she conquered this difficult project using a borrowed Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and Sailrite supplies and free video content.

2020 was supposed to be a fresh start for Lynn. When her captain and husband, John, passed away, she decided that she needed a change of scenery and a new adventure. She found renters for her house and planned a global expedition, visiting the vast network of worldwide nautical friends she and John had made over the years. Lynn has spent most of her adult life traveling the world, working on sailboats, and discovering a passion for ocean conservancy and wildlife protection.

It was March 12, 2020, and Lynn was just hours away from boarding her flight from San Francisco to Fiji. “As the pandemic news grew more alarming, I pulled the plug on my trip as I didn’t want to take any chances of unwittingly spreading a virus to my dear Fijian friends. Time for a pandemic pivot.” Having already rented her house, Lynn needed a place to stay. Luckily, a fellow sailing friend asked her to “boat sit” for him for the summer and she happily accepted.

Lynn Ringseis on boat
Lynn is all smiles at the helm of her friend’s boat!

On the water is Lynn’s favorite place to be, so she didn’t see the temporary delay in her travel plans as too much of an inconvenience. The marina had every amenity she could need — laundry, showers, a grocery store and carry out dining. “It wasn’t exactly the tropical waters I had planned, but I became enamored with the wildlife and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.”

She arrived in Washington eager to help out her friend, Christian — who was away most of the summer working as an aerial firefighter — and tackle some needed boat projects, the first of which was the daunting cockpit enclosure. The wet, temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest meant Lynn was in desperate need of a dry cockpit to ride out her stay. Lynn had never attempted such a complicated project, so she first checked local canvas shops to commission a cockpit enclosure. All of the shops were booked for months out.

Luckily, Christian is a Sailrite customer and had an Ultrafeed LSZ-1 on board. With time on her hands and an Ultrafeed at her disposal, Lynn set out to tackle the project herself. “This was by far my largest and most complicated sewing project, with unusual angles, curves and geometry to figure out. But, to me, that was more fun than straight lines! I pushed myself to accomplish something beyond what I perceived as my ability. I sourced materials through Sailrite and began receiving shipments at the marina.”

Keep reading to learn more about Lynn, her sailing career and how she conquered her list of quarantine projects.

cockpit enclosure
A look at the daunting full cockpit enclosure Lynn tacked on her friend’s sailboat.

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Q. Do you have a sailboat currently?

A. Currently, I do not own a sailboat, but I am a fortunate member of the OPB (Other People’s Boats) Yacht Club! I do enjoy puttering with friends on my Duffy electric boat. She is named “Bootlegger” and she acts as our speakeasy with her quiet, electric engine.

Captain John and I owned a Catalina 30 that we cruised in Mexico in the early 1990s. She was a sweet and relatively simple boat and didn’t require major projects. We cruised from the Sea of Cortez as far south as Acapulco and gunkholed everywhere in between. We then got a job working on crewed sailing yachts in the Eastern Caribbean.

Over many years, we hosted guests on Beneteau sailboats, Jeanneau yachts and a brand-new Leopard 45 catamaran. We loved working on and sailing the catamaran so much that we decided to buy a Lagoon 41. We commissioned her in the fall of 2003, named her “Moonshine,” and sailed across the Atlantic to the French West Indies and eventually to the British Virgin Islands to start our own charter operation.

Q. When did you learn how to sail and who taught you?

A. I was living and working in Africa with my then boyfriend, Tom, in 1984, and our French friends offered us a crewing position to cross the Atlantic to Martinique. We met our French Captain Daniel in Marseille, France, that fall. My only prior sailing experience was on Mission Bay, San Diego, on little Sabots. Neither of us spoke French, but that didn’t stop us from jumping on this adventure!

We met our ride, a 33-foot Gibsea and our assortment of crewmates: a fellow hitchhiker from the U.S. and three French crew who spoke little English. Our language barrier helped us all get along tremendously. At the dinner table, we would all talk about each other and laugh as no one understood anything! I tried very hard to learn about sailing from Captain Daniel, as he was a superb skipper.

This was long before GPS, and Daniel would shoot the sun and stars with a sextant. I was fascinated, especially when we pulled into Fort-de-France, Martinique, after 24 days, spot on from the Cape Verde islands, situated at the westernmost point of the African continent. I was hooked on sailing!

forward view of sailboat

Q. What do you love about sailing?

A. I have a lifelong passion for being on the ocean. Being a San Diego native, I would visit the beach at every opportunity. Sailboats bring you closer and quieter to the environment that I love. I enjoy the challenge of sailing and there is no sweeter place to be than on a beam reach with soft, tropical trade winds kissing your sails as you scour the sea for whales and wildlife. One of the most invigorating things for me is to arrive at a new port after being at sea on a long journey as all your senses come alive at navigating toward land and an unfamiliar harbor or anchorage.

Q. Can you describe the various canvas projects you completed when quarantined on your friend’s boat in summer 2020?

A. The full enclosure started with installing two parallel Flex-A-Rail awning tracks on the ceiling of the hardtop, as I wanted sliding doors for ease of entry. I used a heat gun to shape the track to fit the vertical curves on the outside as an anchor for the first panels. I used Dura-Skrim® Patterning Material and cut and taped each panel. My measuring tape became my constant companion.

This was the first time I had worked with awning track and Keder awning rope products. I integrated Phifertex® into the top of the aft panels for ventilation. Working with O’Sea 40 gauge window material was easier than I expected. I marked the outline with a yellow grease marking pencil. Cutting and sewing to Sunbrella® was a breeze, especially with the help of Seamstick basting tape. I chose Cadet Grey V-92 Bonded Polyester 4 oz. Thread, and my color choice of Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric is officially named Basil, but I called it “Margarita,” as it just sounded more fun!

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I referenced several of Sailrite’s how-to videos to help me with the boat projects. I watched videos on how to make winch covers, how to bend and install Flex-A-Rail and how to make an aft curtain. Many thanks for the great videos and support from the Sailrite team!

I continued to craft unusual projects for the boat, such as fender holders I fashioned from Sunbrella and Phifertex, which I designed to go over the aft railing like saddlebags. The bags held the fenders on the outside with an inner bag for lines and other equipment.

Q. Was sewing these projects for your friend’s boat the first time you used the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine? What are your impressions of the machine after using it for a handful of projects?

A. Yes, it was my first time getting acquainted with the LSZ-1. I think of her as the Jeep of sewing machines and super tough. I got to know her most intimately. With the detailed instructions Sailrite provides, I was able to make all necessary adjustments and the ease of accessing the machine for applying oil was remarkable. She is a well-built, sturdy tool.

The Ultrafeed LSZ-1 sure kept me company while I was on the boat for months. I named her Tiburón, for my love of sharks. She and I spent a lot of time together.

Q. Since the full boat enclosure for your friend, have you sewed any other big projects that challenged your sewing skills?

A. The next project I tackled was side panels and windows for my little Duffy electric 18-foot boat in California. I was there for a quick trip and took lots of photos and measurements and proceeded to tackle that project back onboard in Poulsbo. Mind you, I had the machine set up on the Sailrite Ultrafeed Collapsible Table in the lower salon area, which measures 5 feet by 8 feet. Working in a relatively small space was all part of the fun challenge! I chose Sunbrella Marine Grade in Aruba. When I got back to California, I installed the windows and they fit like a charm, but they make the surrey top look a little sad. I just may be learning how to make a surrey top next!

Lynn's electric Duffy boat
Here’s Lynn’s Duffy boat with the new side panels and windows.

Q. Can you tell us what’s next for your DIY sewing adventures?

A. During quarantine, I became acquainted with some of the livaboards at the marina, which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “A tourist remains an outsider throughout his visit; but a sailor is part of the local scene from the moment he arrives.” (Anne Davison) The sailing community has always felt like my “tribe.”

After seeing the enclosure, one of my sailboat neighbors at the marina asked me to create some mesh shade screens for his side windows. I used Phifertex Plus vinyl mesh, Sunbrella frames and Stamoid™ bias binding tape to finish the edges. I still feel new enough not to charge money, so we are making a swap for some of his expert woodworking skills in the galley. The pandemic may have been the catalyst for my newfound “Covid Career.”

Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you, your love of sailing or your DIY lifestyle?

A. The cockpit has been transformed into a protected sunroom or, as I like to call it, the lanai — almost as warm as Fiji.

I also have been through a transformation of life, blessed to find seafaring mates to continue living a nautical journey. You may be wondering, how did my client, Christian, like my custom cockpit enclosure? Well, the enclosure received an enthusiastic two thumbs up. I am still onboard, and we are planning voyages, adventures and ocean environmental projects. Perhaps I’ll get my trip to Fiji after all, this time on a gorgeous sailboat! A happy ending to my sewing story.

My deep devotion to the sea prompted me to volunteer for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a nonprofit marine conservation organization, aboard one of their vessels. I spent three months crewing on their former Coast Guard Cutter named “MV John Paul Dejoria,” engaging in several campaigns in the Sea of Cortez to Peru, with a brief stop in the Galapagos Islands. Christian shares the same passion and he has also served aboard Sea Shepherd vessels.

Sea Shepherd’s mission is to partner with governments around the world to assist them with the detection and capture of criminal enterprises that are engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing operations.

sunset at marina
Lynn captured a stunning sunset during her stay at the marina.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Lynn. We’re thrilled that Sailrite could be part of your DIY journey. Good luck with your future travels, and we hope you make it to Fiji soon!

If you’d like to tag along with Lynn on her oceanic adventures and other travels, you can follow her personal blog: www.bootleggerbay.com.

Rowing the Chesapeake Bay

The world is full of dreamers and doers. Those who think big and shoot for the moon. Go-getters who make a plan, put in the time, sweat and dedication, and create something truly spectacular. Shawn Moyer has a dream. He wants to row the length of the Chesapeake Bay. But not just that. He wanted to row the Chesapeake in a boat he built himself.

With limited woodworking skills, some help and a lot of hard work, he built his own rowboat using the Angus RowCruiser kit and instructions. But one thing was missing. He needed a well-made, durable cover to protect his beautiful creation. That’s where Sailrite® came in. With Sailrite materials, how-to videos and the incomparable Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine, Shawn crafted a cover worthy of his wooden masterpiece. Get ready to reach for the DIY stars with this inspiring story!

Shawn chose Sunbrella® Marine Grade for his boat cover. He looks eager to get sewing!

Building a Rowboat

Several years ago, Shawn had the idea of rowing the length of the Chesapeake Bay. He lives in south-central Pennsylvania — less than an hour from the northern end of the Chesapeake. The bay is the largest estuary (a body of water where fresh and saltwater mix) in the United States. It is approximately 200 miles long, stretches from Maryland to Virginia, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

Shawn worked for months building the rowboat whenever he had time in his schedule. He had very little building experience, and limited woodworking skills, prior to constructing the rowboat, but he didn’t let that stop him! And not only that, he had absolutely zero rowing experience!

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He was looking for a specific model rowboat, and that’s when he learned about Angus Rowboats. He chose the RowCruiser design because it met his functional and aesthetic needs. The 19-foot boat features a one-person sleeping cabin, which Shawn will use for sleeping and to get out of the rain when he attempts to row the Chesapeake.

To build the rowboat, Shawn had to learn some new skills. “I learned how to lay fiberglass, how to apply epoxy, and how to do some woodworking. The RowCruiser kit is well put together, but there were several hurdles to overcome. I thought the process of building the boat would be fun. My buddy Tom is an experienced woodworker, and he kept me out of trouble. I wouldn’t have finished the boat without him.”

Taking the boat for a test-drive before the final paint and polish.

Sewing a Boat Cover

After building his rowboat, Shawn decided that he needed a cover to keep the boat protected when not in use. A sailing friend introduced him to Sailrite, and he knew Sailrite was the right place to find the materials for his boat cover. “I bought the Ultrafeed in order to sew the cover for the rowboat. The cost of buying the machine and materials was close to the cost of buying a custom-made cover.” And with the investment of such a versatile, heavy-duty machine, Shawn will be able to sew a variety of projects for years to come.

Before sewing the boat cover, Shawn practiced his sewing skills by making a grill cover. “I thought it would be a smaller but similar project to the boat cover. I was pleased with how the grill cover turned out using a similar Sunbrella fabric, and I used all of the techniques I learned to sew the boat cover.” To prepare for the cover, Shawn educated himself by watching several of Sailrite’s free tutorial and project videos. “I have watched hours and hours of Sailrite videos. They are fantastic! Frequently there is a trick to finishing a sewing project, and your videos give you the confidence to try it.”

Shawn works on his boat cover with his new Ultrafeed.

And how did it go navigating his new sewing machine? “The Ultrafeed is an easy machine to learn. I was up and sewing the first day. I learned new techniques and ripped a lot of seams until I got it down.”

More Stitching on the Horizon

Now that Shawn successfully completed the boat cover, what other projects has he tackled? “I have made tool rolls and I’ve repaired some jackets and done some leather horse tack repair. And I made a dog blanket — all with my Ultrafeed. I have had a lot of fun with it. I can always count on Sailrite to answer my questions.”

In addition to his new rowboat, Shawn also owns a Bayfield 29 sailboat. “Sailing is a new hobby. I’ve been sailing for two years and I keep the boat in the Chesapeake.” He has taken full advantage of his Ultrafeed and new sewing skills to stitch projects for his sailboat. “I have sewn winch covers, a tiller cover, and I’m working on a mainsail cover right now. I’m also working on reupholstering my salon cushions.”

The finished cover! Water-resistant Sunbrella Marine Grade keeps the interior protected from the elements.

To get ready for his big rowing excursion, Shawn has taken the boat out several times to practice rowing on local lakes. “My goal is to row the Chesapeake in the fall of 2021 to raise money for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.” Shawn is a physician specializing in Family Medicine and the organization is very close to his heart. COTA is a premier nonprofit organization providing fundraising assistance to transplant families across the United States.

If you have a dream and you make a plan, you can truly achieve anything! Look how far Shawn has come in his dream to row the Chesapeake Bay. If Shawn’s success in building his rowboat and teaching himself how to sew is any indication, his rowboat expedition this fall will be nothing short of a triumph. Good luck, Shawn. We’re rooting for you!

Shawn looks ready to conquer the Chesapeake!

A Total Powerboat Transformation

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.

boat collage
Keep scrolling to see the “before” photos!

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.

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“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.

boat in progress
In-progress photos.

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!

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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.

Boat Bengal: Andrew, Jazz & Captain

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.

Humble Beginnings 

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.

Villa Veritas, a floating home!

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.”

The Ultrafeed — loved by sailors and cats alike!

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:

  • Cockpit Enclosure
  • Mainsail repair
  • Reflective/insulated covers for the boat windows
  • Winch covers
  • Outdoor bags
  • Grill cover

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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.”

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Sage Advice

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.”

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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!

Regina Fuller: A DIY Success Story

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.

Jake and Regina on boat
Jacob and Regina Fuller enjoying some much-deserved time on the water.

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. 

The Nor’Sea 27 fixer-upper. Just wait till you see the “after” photos!

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. 

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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.  

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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.

cockpit cushions
Cockpit cushions before and after.

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.

boat restoration
The beautiful Zephyr fully restored and ready for launch.

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!

Regina and family
The whole family (from left: Ethan, Regina, Buster, Hunter, Jacob and Joshua) playing Yahtzee aboard Zephyr.

Planning for the Unexpected: A DIY Journey

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.

Joe (#82) and his friends mountain bike racing.

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.

Joe with Ultrafeed
Joe with his Ultrafeed LSZ-1, ready to tackle his next project!

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.”

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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.

Joe's boats
Irish Rover and Wild Irish at the marina

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.

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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.”

Sailrite’s vinyl was a perfect match!

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.

buggy complete
What a masterpiece!

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’s Log: A Lifetime on the Water

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.

Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach
Captain Helen Deitrick-Kovach

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.

allez boat interior
A look inside ALLEZ! That’s a lot of boat to sew for.

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.”

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Captain Deitrick works on a new bimini top using her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

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.

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“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!

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Captain Deitrick’s completed bimini. We think she did a great job!

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.

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Sailing With the Cloudy Bay Crew

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. 

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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!

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Cloudy Bay in Gibraltar.

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.”

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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.”

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“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! 

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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).”

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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!

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