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 only thing standing between you and your dream DIY is a few supplies, some research and a little encouragement. Sailrite® customer and crafty creator Anita Jackson learned that with the right tools and the right attitude, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. As a retired nurse, Air Force and Navy Reserve veteran and mother of five, Anita is no stranger to hard work and perseverance.
It all began with six old patio chairs. What had once been white sling fabric was now torn, dirty and covered in what appeared to be mold. Everyone told her to throw them out, but Anita had a better idea. Why not just clean them up and replace the sling fabric? It seemed like an easy enough project. Besides, it wasn’t as if Anita was without sewing experience. Both her parents were skilled at sewing and she’d had many lessons starting from the age of 10. As one of her favorite hobbies, Anita often sewed small cellphone bags, purses and quilts in her spare time. However, the closest thing she had done to patio chairs was re-covering dining room chairs.
Armed with her previous sewing knowledge, Phifertex® sling fabric and a Sailrite how-to video, Anita set to work completely revamping all six chairs. It wasn’t long before the entire thing turned into a family affair. Her husband and two of her sons offered much-needed help by taking the chairs apart, cleaning, spray painting, fitting the sling fabric and putting them back together.
Although the Sailrite video was straightforward and easy to follow, the project was not without its hiccups. Originally, Anita had cut out all the pieces of sling fabric to replace her chairs. “Next time, I would cut and sew one to check the fit before cutting the rest. I sewed the seams as instructed in the video for all six chairs. I enlisted the help of my son and my husband to install the fabric into the frames. No matter how hard I tried, the fabric was sewn too small to install!”
Just like with any project, it’s natural for mistakes to happen. Her husband, Tim, was very supportive and further encouraged her to continue. He said, “The only way to not make mistakes is to not get up when the alarm clock rings.” Thankfully, the sling fabric was very forgiving and it was easy to rip out the old seams and adjust them so they would fit correctly on the chairs. There’s no doubt that it was hard work, but the entire DIY process gave Anita a new outlook on the creative possibilities that come from having the right tools and the right attitude. There’s a special feeling that comes from turning something old and worn into something completely one of a kind.
“I was so proud of the job that I sent photos to friends and relatives. I got a lot of compliments and some people said they didn’t realize the slingback chairs could be re-covered. I told them about the Sailrite videos and wonderful products all on one website.”
Through her adventurous DIY efforts, Anita was able to finish all six chairs just in time for her grandchildren’s spring break visit. “This project definitely boosted my confidence in trying new projects with Sailrite. Maybe they’re not perfect, but we enjoy using the chairs again. I’m ready for another project!”
For our full selection of sling chair fabric shop Sailrite and to see the full how-to video on replacing sling chair fabric, click here!
Every family has a legacy — something defining that has been carried through the years between its members. In Dave Moore’s case, his family has been passing down the creative gene through the skill of sewing. We’re quite familiar with the idea of creating custom projects here at Sailrite®, so we were eager to learn more.
As a graphic artist from Ohio, Dave is no stranger to the idea of creating one-of-a-kind projects. He had a unique upbringing with his parents owning and operating their own sewing and upholstery shop directly from their home. Growing up, he took part in numerous aspects of the upholstery process, from tearing apart old marine furniture to patterning and cutting fabric and even woodworking. As it turns out, this family endeavor would eventually serve him well in his biggest DIY quest yet, along with a little help from a certain Sailrite sewing machine.
“It wasn’t until later in life that I developed an interest in the sewing aspect of the work in order to pursue my own projects. I was always intimidated by the big industrial machines my parents used, which is one reason I was so attracted to the Ultrafeed® LS-1 machine…industrial capability in a more accessible package.”
It all started with what should have been a simple idea. Dave had always wanted his own tipi, so he decided to do some research to see what it would take to have one in his backyard. After all, most things can be ordered online nowadays. After gathering all the information he could and comparing the prices of pre-made, full-sized tipis, Dave decided that instead of purchasing one, his best bet would be to take things into his own hands (quite literally) and make his own.
But the process of creating your own tipi is no small feat. Dave had to gather a plethora of information and do some serious pre-planning to turn his DIY dream into a reality. He drew heavily from his formal training as a graphic artist and his experiences with the family business in order to create detailed plans and 3D models to ensure material efficiency, assembly, geometry and general design guidelines.
“During my research, I learned a lot about the methods and techniques of traditional native tipi making. Some of this ‘tribal knowledge’ carried over to my designs, but I also wanted to put an emphasis on merging traditional designs with modern materials and techniques. I started out small, crafting two 9-foot tipi covers on 12-foot poles, and grew from there.”
Just like with any new project, there were plenty of hiccups along the way. Between perfecting his topstitch and handling large amounts of fabric, Dave’s family background made a world of difference when it came to mastering this massive DIY. Two years later, Dave has maintained his hobby of making tipis.
Based on the reaction he received after building his own, he set out to make tipis for anyone who shared the same interest in owning one as he had. He created all of his previous tipis at his own expense and sold them through social media and word of mouth, with each one selling within two weeks for a respectable price. His most recent (and largest) tipi is 22 feet tall with 26-foot poles and is the first one to be officially commissioned.
While building tipis was his main motivation for sewing, Dave has also created several other projects using his Ultrafeed LS-1 Sewing Machine, many of them closely involving his family. He’s crafted items for his three- and four-year-old daughters. Dave explained, “They adore the little things I make for them…a stuffed dinosaur, small drawstring bags for toys and their tablets. I even made my youngest a pair of pig ears for her Charlotte’s Web Halloween costume. Small things they’ll hopefully never forget.” He’s also created backdrops for his wife’s photography studio and a number of versatile bags.
Dave plans to continue introducing the world of sewing into the lives of his young daughters and his wife. In the future, his hope is to allow his daughters to decide what they’re going to create and provide all the guidance and resources needed to make their projects come to life. His parents are very pleased that he’s continued sewing and are thrilled to see him familiarize his little ones with the skill set and trade that supported the family for so many years.
For the Moore family, the future’s looking bright and carefully handcrafted. And while there are some generational traits we have no control over, the legacy of creativity and sewing seems to have been carefully passed down through the years in the Moore household, leading to some amazing results.
“Sewing has brought me closer to my wife and kids by simply involving them in my hobby. It’s our hobby! My girls sit beside me and play with scraps of fabric and webbing. I’ll hold rulers and let them mark the material for me. It takes a lot of patience, but you can almost see their little synapses firing! They get a huge thrill when I let them step on that foot pedal to wind bobbins! Even at their age, I think they recognize performance.”
Our passage from French Polynesia to the small island nation of Niue was supposed to be just another downwind leg on the long voyage that was taking us slowly across the South Pacific. We were hoping the two dominant weather systems that often collide here like a meteorological roller derby would do as predicted and call a truce. But they didn’t play nice, and our mainsail got caught in the fray.
Most people have never even heard of Niue. On the charts it is just a speck in the vast Pacific Ocean somewhere between Bora Bora and the Kingdom of Tonga. It is nicknamed “The Rock of Polynesia” and lives up to its name, being little more than a tall, jagged protuberance some 20 miles long by 10 miles wide.
There are no coves or bays to shelter in. The only anchorage lies in the shadow of the small island itself and therefore is only protected when the wind blows from the right direction. When the wind shifts the Niue authorities order small craft to abandon their moorings. History has proven that boats are no match for a stiff westerly breeze and the vicious coral teeth of the island.
It was, of course, 0300 when the last knot in a string of mishaps occurred. Earlier in the day our GPS, chart plotter and depth-o-meter had stopped working, probably a wire connection that got water damaged when we shipped a wave and turned the cockpit into a swimming pool that leaked into the cabin. We managed to round the island before dark and found a little respite from the 30kt winds and the boisterous seas that had been chasing us for three days. However, without our instruments or working harbor lights, we were hesitant to approach the anchorage.
We decided to hove-to, reducing and then back the sails so that the boat would stay almost stationary. This maneuver would allow us to stay in the lee of the island, out of the wind and swell, but also stand a safe distance off the unknown shore until daylight. We set the sails and I went below for a rest while Steve sat watch. All was going well until late into the night when I was alone on deck.
As the boat came around in a slow and controlled gybe there was a soft ripping sound, like overused Velcro® being pulled apart. Then, there were light flapping noises above my head. Shining my flashlight upwards I saw a gash of black where white sailcloth should have been. The headboard and a scrap of sail hung limply from the halyard; the rest of the sail was a crumpled heap on the boom. The mainsail had ripped from leech to luff, intersecting the third reef points. Now the only thing connecting the two pieces of sail was the delicate leech line that danced freely in the breeze.
I lowered the sad bit of sail and tied the whole mess to the boom as the rain started, saturating my well-worn rain gear in a matter of minutes. Soaked and defeated, I bounced from foot to foot to keep warm, hoping that dawn would shed some positive light on our predicament.
In the morning, after fighting to sail directly upwind with only a headsail, we picked up a mooring, happy to be safe and calm after such a hard passage. Unfortunately, our rest would be brief as there were too many repairs to make to ensure we were shipshape and ready to put to sea if the weather changed. Steve tackled the electronic problems and I got to work on repairing the mainsail.
I dug out my Sailrite® sewing machine and a bag of leftover fabric scraps from previous projects. None of the pieces of Dacron® I had were big enough to cover the almost 6-foot tear, so I decided to use the next best thing I had: Sunbrella®. I knew Sunbrella was considerably heavier than sailcloth but it is UV stable and would give the sail the strength it needed to see us to the next island, over 500 nautical miles away, where I might find a sail loft that could make a proper repair.
I measured two long strips of fabric, six inches wide and a few inches longer than the rip. Using a hotknife I cut the Sunbrella, at the same time sealing the edges so that they wouldn’t fray in the wind. I made sure the sail was dry and free of as much salt as possible before using seamstick to adhere the patch across one side of the ripped sail. Then, carefully turning the sail over, I repeated the process on the opposite side, trying to match the edges of the Sunbrella through the layers of Dacron. With the patch temporarily in place, it was time to get to the business of sewing.
After changing to a size 22 needle and V-92 thread, I practiced on a multi-layer piece of fabric to get the tension correct. I wasn’t worried about whether my Sailrite machine could sew through so many layers of thick fabric, I had already put it to the test doing a few minor seam repairs on the heavy luff of the headsail. However, there was a lot of extra sail material that had to fit under the arm of the machine to sew totally across the patch. Not to mention the weight of the rest of the sail that now took up most of the cabin space. I employed Steve to help me wrestle the sail through the machine.
Using a wide zigzag stitch, I first outlined the top edge of the patch, checking to see that both front and back patches were being sewn at the same time. We got halfway across the repair, me pushing and Steve gently pulling on the sail, when we could no longer fit any more material under the needle and arm. Carefully, I reversed back along the same seam, Steve now feeding the sail back towards me. I did a similar seam on the bottom edge to anchor the patch to both pieces of sail.
The seamstick had done its job as a third set of hands and now the patch was secured to the sail. I sewed a zigzag seam along both edges of the rip at the center of the patch, reversing back over my work after reaching the same middle point on the repair. With one side of the repair complete, I turned the sail around and sewed in from the opposite edge, matching all the zigzag seams in the middle. Then I trimmed and secured the edges so there would be nothing to catch the breeze and open the wound.
We hoisted the repaired mainsail before lunch, not long after Steve had all our navigation equipment up and running again. Despite using grey Sunbrella, the scar of the repair was plainly visible, but only time would tell if it was as tough as it looked.
There was no sail loft in our next port of call, but it turns out we didn’t end up needing one. Thanks to my Sailrite sewing machine, our repaired mainsail carried us another 1500NM, and a few more windy nights at sea, without so much as a loose thread. A new mainsail was on our wish list but until then we wore our patch as a badge of honor, a testament to our ingenuity and self-reliance as sailors.
Heather Francis is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. She and her Aussie partner, Steve, bought their Newport 41, Kate, and their Sailrite sewing machine in 2008 and have been sailing full time in the Pacific ever since. They are currently in the Philippines and you can follow their adventures at www.yachtkate.com
Amanda Witherell’s story is one of adventure, perseverance, serendipity and the kindness of strangers. She met her husband, Brian Twitchell, in San Francisco where they were both working. Brian, a union electrician, spent half the year working and the other half sailing his 1974 Morgan Out Island 41 Clara Katherine up and down the Pacific Coast from California to Mexico. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and Brian was laid off, he convinced Amanda to quit her job as a reporter and cruise the South Pacific with him until the economy recovered. Having learned to sail when she lived in Maine, she had worked for a few years as a sailmaker and would be able to contribute with sail repair and maintenance on board.
Inspired by Brian’s enthusiasm and her own wanderlust, she agreed. “I quit, gave away all my stuff, packed a bag and bought a one-way plane ticket to Puerto Vallarta. We sailed around Mexico for a few months and decided to keep going south until we ran out of money. We cruised the west coasts of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.”
In Costa Rica, they met a couple on their third circumnavigation who’d made a life of sailing the world. The friendly couple urged Amanda and Brian to sail the South Pacific, but they were short on money and didn’t know how to sustain their new sailing lifestyle. When the other couple learned that Brian was an electrician and Amanda could sew sails and canvas, they insisted that they go. “‘Just go!’ they urged us,” Amanda recalled. “‘You’ll make money along the way.’”
They were right. “I could have opened a full-service sail loft in Panama City with the amount of work that’s generated by the thousands of boats passing through,” Amanda stated. The couple sailed from port to port while Amanda made money along the way repairing sails and taking on other sewing jobs.
When she was in her 20s, she talked her way into a job at a sail loft in Brooklin, Maine, where she learned how to build a sail from start to finish. Being that it was a small business in a rural community, the sail loft still did things the old-fashioned way. “We literally lofted sails on the wooden floor, using pins and string, rolling out cloth, and hand stitching the hardware that would connect the sail to the rig.” Those skills served her well in her new life, as she had limited resources and even more limited technology on those remote South Pacific islands. “I fixed sails in the Marquesas, spinnakers in Tahiti, built canvas enclosures in Tonga and dinghy chaps in New Zealand.”
Acquiring an Ultrafeed
In Bora Bora, they met a solo sailor who needed to fix his sail and was having a bit of trouble with his sewing machine. Learning that Brian was handy, the sailor asked him to take a look at his Sailrite® machine. Not knowing how to adjust the timing on a sewing machine, Brian couldn’t help. Amanda repaired his sail using their own sewing machine and the three parted ways.
A few months later, they ran into him again, this time in Whangarei, New Zealand — which goes to show how small the sailing community can be — and fate intervened. They’d arrived just in time to rescue his Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 from imminent doom. Fed up with the machine, the salty sailor was just about to chuck it into the harbor. He asked Amanda and Brian if they wanted the sewing machine, and they eagerly saved it from a saltwater funeral. It wasn’t in the best condition, however. The sailor had stored it in his cockpit locker and the sewing machine had been routinely doused with saltwater.
“The case was covered in mold and all the metal parts were showing rust,” Amanda explained. “I cleaned off the mold, wiped clean all the metal and oiled everything, then packed it away because I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment. We’d just been approved for work visas and decided to stay in New Zealand, so we were transitioning from cruising full time to working full time. We sailed the boat down to Wellington and got jobs that had nothing to do with sewing or sailing.”
The couple didn’t know much about the Ultrafeed or repairing sewing machines in general, so they took it to a repair shop in New Zealand. “One hundred New Zealand dollars later it was running fine and has continued to run perfectly ever since.”
They already owned an old Italian Necci home sewing machine, but it couldn’t always sew through some of Amanda’s thicker fabric assemblies, such as canvas and genoa sunshields. The Ultrafeed never hesitated to power through anything Amanda was working on. They still have their Necci, but Amanda now uses their secondhand Ultrafeed for all projects and repairs.
“Because it was given to us, I consider it ‘the people’s machine’,” said Amanda, “and I keep it overstocked with needles of all sizes and lend it to any cruiser in need. It’s been ashore in countless countries as we worked our way across the South Pacific from New Zealand back to the U.S. I’ve rebuilt our dodger twice, our bimini three times, made a new sail cover, sewed on a new genoa sunshield, stitched new salon cushions, built a foredeck sun awning/rain catcher, repaired our mainsail, and on and on.”
In 2015, after years of sun, surf and sailing, they decided they were done with New Zealand and made preparations to cruise back to the U.S. “We picked the ping pong route,” Amanda explained, “bouncing between South Pacific islands against the trade winds and revisiting many of the islands we saw on our first pass through.” They also decided to sail up to Micronesia and visit places they skipped the first time. “It took two and a half years, and we put about 12,000 miles under our keel, almost all of them hard on the wind in a boat that was not designed to go to windward efficiently.”
All that cruising was hard on the sails, and by the time they got to Tahiti their genoa was on its last legs. “It was over 10 years old and had sailed something well north of 25,000 miles. I’d already replaced the sunshield twice and, running my hands along the tired cloth, I could feel that it was sun rotten and approaching the point of no return in terms of repair. But we only had 2,000 more miles to go to Hawaii, and then another couple thousand to California. We were practically home! I made some repairs in Tahiti and we set off for Fanning Island, Kiribati. Along the way, it tore just inboard of the sunshield — a sure sign of sun rot.”
They stayed on Fanning Island for two months enjoying the remoteness of the island and the friendliness of its inhabitants. While Amanda worked on repairing the genoa sail one last time, the locals kept the couple fed and hydrated with fresh fish and coconuts. “The key to a good sail repair is being able to stretch the cloth and pin it out as flatly as possible,” Amanda noted. “For a 150 genoa from a 41-foot boat, I needed more space than we had on the boat, plus a porous floor to pin into.”
The couple befriended a French expat who ran the only guesthouse on the island. He offered one of his sleeping huts, which provided enough flat space for Amanda to pin out and sew an enormous window patch repair across every seam of the genoa from head to foot. “I used up every bit of sailcloth I had squirreled away on the boat, and then I reinforced the inboard section with sticky Dacron®, but I knew we were running out of time with this sail and hoped it would just stay together long enough to get us to Hawaii.”
With just over 1,000 miles from Fanning Island to Hawaii did the sail hold? “It almost did. The next tear occurred by the luff, just outside the head patch — a sure sign of sun rot. Game over. We made it to Hawaii using our two spare, elderly, hank-on sails run on our Solent stay. On a grassy lawn in Waikiki, we spread out our genoa, took some measurements, cut off every useful bit of hardware, then put the old thing to rest in a dumpster. My next project will be to build a new one.”
The sun was rising as Bria White dragged her 60-pound sail off the side of her boat and spread it on the dock. All the while, her male counterparts looked on in dismay.
“Imagine this…as a single woman on an all-male dock, I stunned the doubting onlookers. As the sun was rising, most boaters were preparing their boats to sail, but not me. I was taking down my sail, literally off the mast.”
After examining the rips and tears, she brought out her Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 and folding table and began repairing her sail. Everyone wondered how she could manage such a huge sewing project alone, but she wasn’t worried. Methodically, mending one section at a time, right on the dock, Bria worked until the sun was beginning to come down.
“Just as the doubting men returned, I was raising the finished sail. With much respect, one by one they came by to share their stories of disbelief.”
The Journey Begins
As an adventurous woman who has traveled the world, Bria has a wealth of life experiences and is a true testament to the self-reliant sailor, a trait the folks here at Sailrite are well acquainted with.
Bria has had ample experience both sailing and sewing. Along with her four brothers, she was often out on the water growing up and was also taught to sew at a young age, a skill she excelled at. In early 2000, she acquired her first powerboat at Monroe Harbor in Chicago, but she secretly wished she’d gotten a sailboat instead.
With a successful career in information technology consulting, Bria was traveling often and ultimately ended up selling her first boat. Then, just last year, Bria decided to take a leap of faith and try something she had always dreamt of doing: traveling abroad. Enrolled in a unique work-travel program, she went on a yearlong excursion across the globe. This traveling experience spurred her dream of sailing.
“Somehow I got the courage to join a program and traveled the world for one year. It was a bold thing for a grandmother to do. During my travels, I fell in love with the sea again!”
Learning the Ropes
After returning home from her trek across the globe, Bria’s first goal was to get back out on the water. She eventually set her sights on a Columbia 28 sailboat in Marina Del Rey, California. It was there that she joined the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay and began connecting with other female sailors and sharing her love of the sea. The Women’s Sailing Association (WSA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes women in the sport of sailing but also offers sailing and social opportunities for both men and women. After gaining hours of sailing experience by offering herself up as a crew member for many trips on monohull and multihull vessels, Bria finally felt that she had enough experience to move onto a larger boat. She now owns and operates a Catalina 30 with hopes of someday upgrading up to a Hunter 37.
As the sole proprietor of her Catalina 30, Bria has a special place on the water and has regained her sea legs. While the other women who visit her dock are simply visiting their family, friends or husbands, Bria is a single female boat owner. In fact, she’s the only female captain on her dock.
“I am the captain of my ship and responsible for the maintenance, upgrades and operation of my vessel. This is rare!” Bria went on to explain that as a grandmother, people are often surprised to find her lifting, pulling, scrubbing, repairing and docking her own 30-foot boat.
However, Bria is not alone in her adventures. As part of the Women’s Sailing Association, she has met many other members who share similar stories of “surprised looks” and shocked sailors who are simply not accustomed to women as part of the crew. Bria and her fellow female sailors are blazing the trail for like-minded independent spirits. Over time, she’s learned that sailing is all about teamwork and friendships, and she’s gathered quite a few stories from other women at the helm. She even plans to write a book capturing these incredible stories.
When Bria found her sail in need of repair, it was no question who would do it. Being a self-reliant sailor is simply part of her day-to-day routine. Bria has taken charge of her job as captain and set to work sewing even more projects. In addition to her sail, she has redone all the window coverings in her cabin, added privacy curtains for the staterooms and replaced weather-aged zippers on her biminis. Her next big project is to update her 1978 cushions, add trimmed floor mats and maybe even make covers for her external wood trim. On her ship, Bria’s ambitions are only limited by her determination and imagination. It also helps to have a handy sewing machine along for the journey.
“As you know, a small tear in a sail can grow very quickly. Having the portable LSZ-1, which can be manually operated without electricity…makes me feel safe like I can solve any problem when it arises. Besides, having one on the dock is a great way to make new friends! My fellow sailors, both men and women, give me a lot of respect for having and knowing how to use a Sailrite LSZ-1 machine!”
To learn more about the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay, visit their website here.
Life is full of discarded items. Things that have already served their purpose now sit, useless and used up, to be thrown away, recycled or forgotten. The beauty of sewing is that you have the opportunity to give new life to something that has already served its original purpose. Barbara Wetherington is this kind of sewer. She gives new life and special meaning to retired sailcloth by creating tote bags from the fabric. In doing so, she has also found a way to serve her Boston-area community and donate her time and talents to a worthy nonprofit organization.
Barbara has had an off-and-on relationship with sewing over the years. She learned to sew in Home Economics class in 7th grade, but wasn’t particularly passionate about the craft. In her mid-20s, a roommate who worked at a fabric store rekindled Barbara’s interest in sewing. She learned to make useful things like pillows, window treatments and bags. When she moved to a smaller apartment, she had to put away her sewing supplies and moved on to other hobbies. A few years ago, she came across her sewing machine tucked away in a closet and realized she hadn’t used it in almost 20 years. When she remembered how much she enjoyed sewing and making practical items like tote bags, she was determined to start up again. And she knew just how to do it. Enter, World Ocean School.
World Ocean School is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help underserved children by providing educational programs that challenge them academically, physically and emotionally. The school offers an alternative to traditional education methods, believing that involving kids in hands-on programs will combat apathy and disengagement in students of all ages to decrease dropout rates, substance abuse, crime and unemployment. In fact, 74 percent of the 2,200 students who participate in World Ocean School each year are from low-income households, the highest demographic for student dropout rates.
The kids set sail aboard the historic schooner Roseway, a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark that splits its time between Boston, Massachusetts, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Roseway is one of only three original Grand Banks schooners left in operation today. The experiential programs offered aboard Roseway are as diverse as the students themselves, ranging from half-day programs to multi-week expeditions. The students are empowered to reach their full potential through sail training, team building, communication and leadership skills. Hands-on programs give the students the opportunity to participate in a richly rewarding learning atmosphere. They’re engaged and challenged in a way that traditional classrooms can’t offer.
When Barbara heard about World Ocean School’s mission, she was eager to lend a hand. She began volunteering on Roseway in 2006 doing whatever was needed, including painting, whipping lines and raising sails. She spent one summer as the onboard cook while the ship was docked in Boston Harbor and loved every minute of it. But her desire to help only grew.
A few years ago, she purchased a tote bag that a crew member had made using the Roseway’s old sails. And that sparked an idea. After receiving permission from the executive director of World Ocean School, she began sewing tote bags made from the Roseway’s distinctive tanbark sails, once they’re retired, of course, as a way to raise money for the school’s educational programs. She was looking to get back into sewing, and this cause was just the inspiration she needed.
Barbara sews the tote bags with her Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 using V-92 thread, which she says gives the bags an industrial look that adds to the beauty of the sailcloth. She also has an embroidery sewing machine, which she uses to embroider the World Ocean School logo onto the front of the bags. She turned her sewing hobby into a way to serve her community and help at-risk youth, and that’s something we can all be inspired by.
Here’s what Barbara had to say about her work with the organization: “I wholeheartedly back the mission of World Ocean School. As a small nonprofit, they run fairly lean in many aspects, except when it comes to programming for the kids. When I read the “Ship’s Logs” that are posted on the website, I’m so amazed at what the kids say about their experiences. You can see that it’s truly life-changing for them in a positive way. Many of the kids, both in Boston and St. Croix, live near the ocean but often don’t have any connection to it and its place in our world. The programming of World Ocean School makes that connection.”
In addition to the educational programs scheduled throughout the year, the Roseway is open to the public for special sailing trips and other events. These public events provide an opportunity for the school to spread public awareness of their mission and to raise money to keep the school going. It’s during these public events that Barbara’s unique tote bags are sold, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to World Ocean School’s ongoing educational programs.
Barbara has stayed connected to World Ocean School for 12 years now, helping out however she can, whether that’s sewing the tote bags, grocery shopping or standing in as a cook. She even served on a committee to organize a successful fundraiser called Walk the Plank. Through it all, she remains steadfast in her belief that World Ocean School changes kids’ lives for the better, opening them up to opportunities and experiences they would never have otherwise, and she’s grateful for the dedicated staff of employees and volunteers who keep the program alive.
“It is awe-inspiring to me how hard the crew works to keep the ship running, while at the same time acting as educators for these kids. I’m inspired by how World Ocean School touches the lives of so many young people, and I’m thrilled that I’m able to contribute, in a unique way, to their mission by making these bags for them to sell.”
If you’d like to learn more about World Ocean School, please visit www.worldoceanschool.org.
A study by the U.S. Coast Guard found that from 2000-2011, drowning accounted for 73 percent of sailing deaths. It’s a senseless tragedy when a sailor goes overboard because they aren’t properly tethered, or they’re tethered but get dragged alongside the boat and drown because the tether is far too long. But the worst part is that these deaths could easily be avoided if the sailor had installed a safe and useful jackline system.
Longtime Sailrite customer Captain Donald Quackenbush is a veteran sailor with 28 years and 100,000 miles of sailing experience. He’s been a 100 Ton U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain for 20 years and, as a member of the National Boat Handling Committee, created the Man Overboard System that is taught by the U.S. Power Squadron nationwide and is also available as a college course at the University of West Florida. He has generously offered to share his vast knowledge on sailboat safety measures with us. Everyone should feel safe on the water, and Captain Quackenbush’s system is set up in a way that, when properly installed, will prevent you from going past the toerail and dragged through the water.
One of the greatest benefits of Captain Quackenbush’s system is that it offers sailors the “third hand” so often needed while at sea. The tethers are shorter than most popular tether options on the market, meaning you don’t have to hold the tether with one hand as you move around the boat. This hands-free system gives the sailor freedom of movement compared to commercial jackline and tether setups. It enables the sailor to lean or pull against the tethers while working, offering support and stability. The three key parts of the captain’s jackline system are the location of the padeyes, the length and construction of the jacklines, and the short legs of the “Y” tether. We’ll cover all three aspects below and show you how to install this lifesaving jackline system on your boat. Captain Quackenbush has installed his jackline system on several customers’ boats over the years with excellent results and a perfect safety record.
Installing the Padeyes
The first step is to install the padeyes in the correct locations. Most sailboats will require eight padeyes. Install a padeye right outside the companionway so you can hook yourself in as you exit the cabin during severe weather. The helmsman should always be tethered while on watch, so install a padeye in the cockpit (a second padeye at the aft end of the cockpit may be needed on larger boats). A padeye should also be attached near all four corners of the cabintop so that the jackline runs down the halfway point between the toerail and the boom as near as possible. This should make it possible to reach the boom and toerail but not go past either point.
Finally, two padeyes are installed on the foredeck, one center aft and the other center forward. The aft foredeck padeye should be reachable from either forward end cabintop padeye without unhooking. The padeye at the forward end foredeck should be forward enough so that you can reach the anchor, windlass, etc., but aft enough so that you can’t fall off the boat at the foredeck. Captain Quackenbush recommends through-bolting the padeyes as you will put a lot of pressure on the system if you slip or a wave sweeps your feet out from under you.
It’s not necessary that the padeyes are placed the entire length of the foredeck and cabintop. The most important factor in padeye placement is that you should be able to move around the entire boat and never be unhooked in severe weather. So as long as you can reach the next attachment point without unhooking yourself from the current one—and the padeyes are far enough from the edge of the boat to not be able to fall overboard—the system is set up correctly.
You may be wondering why you can’t just use the cleats to attach the jacklines instead of installing padeyes. The reason is that the entire goal of Captain Quackenbush’s system is to keep you on the boat at all times, and the cleats are too close to the edge of the boat. Even with a short tether, you would still roll over the side of the boat. During inclement weather, this is the last thing you want to have happen. It’s incredibly difficult to hoist yourself back onboard when you’re being tossed around and soaked by a merciless storm, especially if you’re a solo sailor. Usually it’s impossible.
Jackline Do’s & Don’ts
Once you have the padeyes installed, the next step is adding the jacklines. You will have three jacklines on your boat: one each running along the port and starboard sides of your cabintop, and one running aft to forward on the foredeck. The beauty of Captain Quackenbush’s system is that with jacklines running along the cabintop and down the center of the foredeck, and with shorter tether lengths than commercial offerings, nothing will ever be around your feet and ankles as a potential tripping hazard. Captain Quackenbush uses Dyneema or Spectra webbing for his jacklines. Both have very little stretch under load, have good UV resistance, and the padeye knot or hook holds the webbing up at each end, making it easy to hook in. Another benefit to using webbing is that it is flat and, therefore, won’t become a tripping hazard should you step on it. Never use wire or line as they can roll underfoot. Be sure to pick a webbing color that is visible at night and easy to see. White seems to work best.
The jacklines are removable for easy repair and storage. Sew a hook to one end of the jackline to clip to the padeye with repeated or heavy stitching (92 or heavier), and then tie the other end to the opposite padeye using an anchor bend and two half hitches. Or, you can tie both ends if you choose. Because the webbing is nonstretch, the jacklines don’t need to be tied super tight. The sun is your jacklines’ worst enemy, so storing them when not in use will help to prolong their life. Captain Quackenbush says his jacklines last about five to ten years, and he sails about 250 days a year. To check the quality of your jacklines, take them to a quiet location, hold the webbing up to your ear, and flex it. If you hear crackling, that’s a sign your jacklines are becoming brittle and need to be replaced.
Creating the Tethers
Now that you’ve got your padeyes and jacklines installed, the final step is sewing your own tether for your harness. Captain Quackenbush recommends a Y tether, meaning it’s shaped like a Y with one attachment point at the harness and two legs that attach to the jacklines. The central hook should be heavily sewn with a box X stitch and heavy UV thread as well. Go over it several times as you sew it. The hook that attaches to the harness should be brightly colored and easily visible at night (Suncor Poly Grip Harness Clip #103763 is a great choice) should you ever need to unhook in an emergency in poor visibility.
The tethers are made with tubular webbing with a heavy bungee cord inside to shorten them further when not in use. One tether leg should be shorter than the other so that you have a choice of tether lengths based on where you are hooking in on the boat—the leg for the foredeck jackline is typically the shorter one and the cabintop leg is typically the longer one. Determining the lengths of your tethers will require some measuring and experimentation on your boat. Create a Y tether with longish legs and tied on hooks, then go out on deck and determine the distance you need from the jacklines to just reach the toerail and boom with considerable pressure. Do the same with the foredeck jackline. Once you have your measurements, you can finish constructing the tethers and add the internal bungee. Sailrite offers tether kits or supplies sold separately to make your own custom design.
The genius of the two-leg tether system is that you can move around the boat from one jackline to another without ever unhooking. Two tethers also allow you to be attached to a jackline and another spot on the boat, such as the mast, for even more security. This is a huge safety advantage and can be the difference between staying on your feet or being tossed around when the boat is pitching and rolling during rough weather.
Proper tether and jackline lengths are determined by the size of the boat. Every boat requires a separate setup. Jacklines should be located halfway between the toerail and the mast/boom. The padeyes should be placed so that you can move from the cockpit to the jackline, and then from one jackline to the next without ever unhooking. Simply switch back and forth between the two tethers as you move around. Keep the unused tether hooked back on the D-rings of your harness when not in use. Spending a bit of extra time during the planning stage—taking measurements and experimenting with padeye placement, and jackline and tether length—will ensure your safety while sailing. And that peace of mind is priceless.
The problem with commercial tether and jackline designs and kits on the market, according to Captain Quackenbush, is that they allow the sailor to fall off the boat and get dragged through the water. The tethers are so long they drag around your feet, getting tangled and tripping you. This requires you to constantly hold the tether up off the ground, leaving you with only one working hand and creating a very dangerous situation in rough weather. Likewise, jacklines located along the side decks also present a serious tripping hazard. The annoyance and inconvenience of these commercial tethers and jackline kits is why so many sailors don’t use them in favor of faster and easier movement around the boat. A deadly gamble.
A Message From Sailrite
We at Sailrite feel confident in recommending Captain Quackenbush’s jackline system to our customers. In fact, here’s what Owner and Vice President Matt Grant has to say about this system: “Captain Quackenbush is a longtime Sailrite customer with a keen understanding of safety and self-reliance at sea. His system makes perfect sense and his sole motivation in helping Sailrite to write these instructions is to save lives. Sailrite applauds Don and others like him who encourage safety at sea and are willing to freely share ideas.”
We’re hoping that by spreading the word about this great safety system we can help keep sailors safe and—most importantly—stay on their boats! Sailing is a wonderful sport and hobby, and it should be enjoyed to its fullest at all times without the worry or concern of your tether and jackline system failing you.
Visit Sailrite.com for all the supplies needed to install Captain Quackenbush’s jackline system on your boat:
-8 Harken Folding Padeyes (#320611)
-1 Suncor Poly Grip Harness Clip (#103763)
-2 Suncor Asymmetrical Wire Lever Harness Clips (#103760)
-Dyneema 1” Webbing (#106406) desired yardage
Disclaimer: The information in this article is the opinion of Sailrite Enterprises, Inc., and is not corroborated or verified by a sailing safety authority. Sailrite shall not be held liable in the event of injury or death. Use at your own risk.
The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is the longest annual freshwater race in the world. This sailing race, also called “the Mac,” starts at the Chicago Lighthouse and ends at Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In total, the race stands at 333 miles! More than 350 boats compete every year. Holly Kawula is a loyal Sailrite customer who placed third in her division at the 2018 Mac race, and we wanted to learn a little bit more about her experience racing using a sail made from one of our Sail Kits.
Q: What’s your history with sailing? Has it been an ongoing hobby for you?
My husband Walter and I bought our first sailboat for daysailing/cruising 24 years ago. We are now on our third boat. Walter had become interested in racing through a co-worker back in 2000, and was specifically looking for a racing boat when he found Truant in 2004. Truant is a 1985 S2 9.1, manufactured in Holland, Michigan, and designed for sailing the Great Lakes. I was somewhat busy at the time with our four young children, but after one memorable evening out for a Wednesday night Beer Can, I was hooked on racing. I also realized that if I wanted to spend any time with Walter on weekends or Wednesday nights I needed to learn not only how to sail but how to be a part of a competitive racing crew. Truant began an earnest racing program in 2006.
Walter and I are watch captains, and our other crew included our foredeck, Chad Goldenberg and Beth Cushing, and our helm/trimmers/back of the boat Brad and Gretchen Horn. Chad has been with us for six years, Brad has been with us for five years, Gretchen is new to our crew this year, and Beth is a long-time friend and guest crew (this was her second Mac with us).
Q: How did you prepare?
This was our sixth Mac race. We have long-term/ongoing preparation, which involves recruiting and developing our crew and participating in as many long-distance races as we can; mid-term preparation, which involves this season’s boat maintenance, sail and safety equipment repair and/or replacement; and short-term, which includes readying the boat for three to four days of non-stop sailing for a crew of six. Space is at a premium on our 30-foot boat, so we clear out any unnecessary gear, rig our lee cloths for storage on our lower berths (made with materials from Sailrite), prepare and freeze meals for the journey, etc.
Q: Do you have any exciting stories from the race? Did you have any mishaps or hardships you had to overcome?
Hardship? On this year’s race, the high winds and high sea state (waves) for the first 36 hours were staggering. We’ve been through some really rough storms before, including last year’s “dry heat burst” on the Mac (sudden unexpected onset of 45+ knot winds), which shredded our spinnaker, caused us to round up, our toe-rail to fail, and caused the lifelines to rip a stanchion out of our deck and leave a fist-sized hole. While all this was happening, our crew dropped our brand new unhoisted #3 headsail overboard and then, of course, we abandoned the race. That whole incident took place over less than 15 minutes, and then the winds calmed down.
This year, we were facing not a storm but a steady system of 15-25 knot winds and 6-8 foot waves over two days. The conditions at the start were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Water was continually washing over the decks and leaking into the cabin. It was also raining. We were all wearing full foul weather gear, personal flotation devices, and tethers, plus were still soaked to the skin. Maintaining control of the helm required physical stamina I didn’t know I had. Sitting (bouncing, pounding) on the rail required a great deal of stamina as well, as we were crashing into waves and continually washed over with waves. Then there was nightfall, with no moon or starlight and we were doing it all blindly.
Q: You utilized one of our sail kits to build your own sail. What did you gain or learn from this?
A couple of weeks before the Mac race last year we realized that our infrequently used #3 headsail was no longer serviceable. Flaking it after a race, we found our hands were literally going through the degraded laminate. There was no time to order a new one from our supplier, so the Sailrite kit was our only option. I requested the estimate, placed the order, and the kit arrived at noon on Wednesday before the Saturday of the Mac.
My family and my crew worked as a team for the next two days to put it together, and that’s the most valuable take away I had from the experience. It required a lot of patience and cooperation, and everyone stepped up to the challenge. The sense of accomplishment when we completed it early Friday evening before the race was something I’ll always treasure. We laid it out on our front lawn to put the telltales, amazed that we had made a REAL SAIL and opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
Q: After building your own sail do you feel more confident when it comes to repairs and overall sail maintenance?
I do feel more confident in repairs and maintenance. For example, I replaced the leech line and tape on our mainsail this spring without hesitation or intimidation.
Q: Did you feel confident you were getting the proper sail for your boat/conditions after speaking to Sailrite?
Jeff Frank gave me all the information I needed/asked for before ordering so I had no concerns about whether or not I was getting the proper sail.
Q: How was the overall ordering process?
The overall ordering process was a breeze!
Q: Would you recommend building a sail to a friend?
I would absolutely recommend building a sail to friends, and I have.
Q: What tools/supplies did you find most useful while building the sail?
Regarding tools, of course first and foremost was the Sailrite® Ultrafeed®, then the two-sided tape. We made extensive use of clamps as well.
Q: Did you save any money?
We did save a considerable amount of money providing our own labor both times we made the sail. But we didn’t sacrifice any quality, as it’s a great sail and it’s serving us very well. I’ve attached a photo of our crew at the podium after the Mac this year, for which we used our #3 headsail for the first half of the race.
Q: Overall, what did you take away from this entire experience?
You know what the best part of this was? We did it. And, as you can see by the smiles on our faces at our podium finish, we’d do it again. Long-distance races like the Mac don’t just require skilled crew, they require a committed team willing to endure hardship and support each other. Having a good finish also requires that crew not only endure but persist, keep trimming sails, stay focused and stay competitive.
Besides a stiff upper lip, what makes sailing a little more comfortable, rain or shine? The exterior canvas. Providing much-needed shade from the fierce midday sun, a place to hide behind when the wind pipes up and something to crowd beneath when it starts to rain, the exterior canvas on a boat cannot be overlooked. Over the last 10 years I have replaced ours twice with the help of my Ultrafeed LSZ-1, each time tweaking the design to take advantage of all that canvas offers to a boater.
The first time I replaced the dodger and bimini was shortly after we purchased the boat. The canvas we inherited was not only powder blue and clashed with the newly painted green topsides, but it was also well past its prime. I estimated and ordered the new Forest Green Sunbrella for the project but it wasn’t something that we needed to finish to set sail, so it got shuttled down the to-do list for an entire year.
By the time I was ready to start sewing I knew what I did and did not like about the design. For instance, we had unzipped the middle section of the dodger only once in those 12 months, but constantly complained that the vertical frame the zippers were sewn into blocked our line of sight. We never used the overhead windows in the removable midsection because we always took the midsection down underway. When the old canvas finally ripped I knew exactly what I wanted to change to make it more functional for us.
Several years later, we changed the design of our bimini to incorporate a place to mount our solar panels, wind generator and radar. Now larger and flatter, the bimini was much more efficient at collecting rain water. Resources like water are as precious as gold on board, so it was a no brainer to incorporate ways to funnel it off the bimini and into the tanks. By adding some easy to install, large snap together grommets and tie downs at the lowest corner, I created a natural path for the water to follow. Collecting it was as simple as putting a bucket underneath the steady stream that flowed.
Having then spent 5 years sailing in the tropics, I also knew how much a bit of shade cooled both us and the decks. Using a light weight shade cloth I sewed panels that could be moved around the cockpit to provide sun protection. A few well-placed zippers made it possible to quickly add and remove these large sections on the front, back and side of the permanent canvas, giving us maximum shade protection anytime of day at anchor but without added windage if we needed to use them underway.
Although fabrics like Sunbrella are designed to withstand the elements, they don’t last if they are not taken care of. Unfinished edges will fray quickly when left flapping in the breeze. An easy way to prevent fraying is to cut Sunbrella fabric with a hot knife rather than a pair of scissors, sealing and finishing the edges while you work.
My most frequent problem with the exterior canvas on board our boat is that the thread becomes fragile and seams suddenly give way. To extend the life of the seams I always use the recommended UV stable polyester thread. I also do regular inspections of all the exterior canvas and take down and resew any seams that appear ready to split.
I thought creating a suite of custom exterior canvass would be difficult but with their extensive library of free DIY videos I was able to see how to do things like install zippers and properly sewing in windows. For the past 10 years my Sailrite sewing machine has made sewing through heavy fabrics a breeze. Now, if only it could make finding wind while becalmed just as easy.
BIO- Heather Francis is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. For over a decade she has travelled the world living and working on boats. In 2008 she and her Aussie partner Steve bought their Newport 41’, Kate, in California and have been sailing her full-time since. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines, you can follow their adventures at www.yachtkate.com
Meet Jody and Peter, the sailing couple behind the blog “Where the Coconuts Grow.” This determined couple set their sights on the liveaboard sailing life and didn’t look back. They’ve been cruising in the Caribbean for the past two years on board S/V Mary Christine. To continue their sailing lifestyle, they’ve embraced a “work hard, play hard” mentality, which includes long hours at their island job and DIY projects to affordably maintain their own boat with the freedom of the sailing life as the ultimate payoff. Sailrite is a sponsor of their DIY projects, and I recently had the opportunity to ask Jody a few questions about the cruising and DIY lifestyle.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you! How did you start sailing? How did you decide to cruise in the Caribbean?
A: I’m originally from the Seattle area (Jody), and Peter is from San Diego. We both had boating experience since we were little but neither of us knew how to sail before we bought our boat! Peter knew one day he would buy a sailboat to economically get to all the epic surf spots and fishing grounds. We originally looked for a boat on the West Coast but found better options on the East Coast. The boat we purchased was in Florida so the Caribbean was the natural route to begin our cruising. We are SO glad it ended up that way instead of the Pacific side as our training grounds.
Q: Tell us about your sailboat, S/V Mary Christine.
A: Our boat is a Whitby 42 – A 42′ bluewater ketch. She was built in 1980 and is very solid. The previous owners took impeccable care of her and we are lucky to have such a perfect tiny floating home. With the age comes character. There is a lot of interior teak but that also darkens the space very quickly. My settee cushion project and throw pillow project both immediately lightened up the space and made it feel even more cozy inside. I love that our boat feels like home and not just a boat.
Q: What is your favorite part of your cruising lifestyle?
A: I love the freedom the most. We have the freedom to pick up and move anytime we want, bringing our tiny floating home and all of our belongings with us. We can travel, see the world and never get homesick all at the same time.
Q: Why do you think DIY skills are important for cruisers?
A: When you travel to remote places, boat parts and repair facilities are few and far between. Even if you don’t know how to fix something, you figure it out. A little common sense and motivation go a long way on the water. DIY skills are also very rewarding. Before we became cruisers, our DIY skills were nowhere near what they are today simply because they didn’t need to be. Now, we look at all thethings we have done by ourselves and they are all huge accomplishments. That makes you feel pretty proud.
Q: How did you first hear about Sailrite?
A: A few of my cruising friends have used Sailrite machines and they were always highly recommended. I did my research and decided to not waste my time with a cheaper machine that would inevitably break down or not hold up to the marine environment. My primary motive was to be able to do sail repairs if necessary with the versatility to sew other projects and the general consensus was that Sailrite is the best. I can proudly agree now!
Q: What advice do you have for other sailors thinking about sewing for their boats?
A: Don’t be intimidated!! The Sailrite videos make anything possible. If you have a question about any part of the process, the Sailrite customer service is beyond exceptional and they will help you figure anything out. Take on any projects you are considering and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.
Q: Do you have any DIY projects on the horizon?
A: My list of projects I’d like to start is ever-growing. As soon as I have a few more days off, I’m going to finally tackle repairing the aft isinglass panel of my cockpit. The zipper has been disintegrated by UV exposure and we can’t keep the rain out. I’ve got the supplies, now I just need to plan my first steps. I’m so happy I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for someone else to do it!
Q: Where are you sailing now?
A: We are currently in the British Virgin Islands working full-time as Captain and First Mate on a 48′ Day Sail Catamaran. The Virgin Islands are some of our favorite sailing grounds of the entire Eastern Caribbean. Someday, we’ll sail west to Central America and onto the South Pacific, but as they say, plans are drawn in the sand! Wherever we end up, we’ll always be Where The Coconuts Grow!
You can follow Jody and Peter’s sailing adventures on their blog, Where the Coconuts Grow as well as on Facebook and Instagram!