Canvas Project

One of my boat neighbors installed 1000 watts of solar panels over the fly bridge of his Marine Trader trawler, and gave me the the stainless steel frame of his old bimini. I have great marina neighbors!

My old aluminum frame is a wiggly, bent mess that has been repaired at least twice. I left it up in a windy rain storm once, and it broke the long sections in two separate places. Photo below. . .

I sleeved the broken places with smaller diameter tubing, securing with screws and nylocks.

So it has been functional, if ugly. This was the opportune time for a new frame, because our old bimini canvas is wearing out in several spots where the boom chafes across it.

I had to take the new frame completely apart to configure it to fit our cockpit. I needed to cut about 15 inches off of the longest legs to fit under the boom, and then visualize what I wanted the frame to do in order to put it back together. My old frame had three bows, two of which were attached to the main longest frame member.  The new frame had five bows, so I needed to figure out how that was going to work.

I realized that I had enough material to stretch a larger piece of canvas over the new frame. This is a welcome change. I will actually get more coverage over the companion way and over the stern. More shade is better! Using all five bows but in a slightly different configuration, I’ve mounted it back on the boat. You can see from the photo below, that there is actually a bow aft of the backstay. The new canvas will need a zippered section to go around the backstay, as will the bimini cover.

Like my old frame, the whole structure is supported by the longest section.

I am so fortunate to have a talented wife. . .  She will do the sewing, bless her!

Cay of Sea is finally buttoned up for the winter. Although she’s been hauled out for 6 weeks now, we’ve finally finished the alterations on the winter cover, and it fits nice and tight.

Alterations involved cutting appropriately placed slots for stanchions and shrouds, then sewing binding tape around the newly cut slots. We also needed to take material out of the stern section. This area was marked with a sharpie, pinned together into “darts,” then sewn up along the marked seam lines.  Finally, the excess material was removed from underneath the darts. My wife, having sewn a great deal in her younger life, knew exactly what to do, and did a great job.

All in all, it wasn’t a marathon sewing session. Just a couple hours on two different days. The final day of sewing involved a trip to the boat (just a mile away from our house) to fit and evaluate the alterations. Then a final session with the sewing machine finishing up the last details.  Here are some photos of the process.

Cutting new relief slots for stanchions and shrouds.

Cutting strips of excess material on the bias to be made into binding tape.

Sewing the tape along the raw edges of material.

A finished slot, raw edges bound with tape. There were probably 10-12 of these slots to bind with tape.

There’s the finished product.

Compare with last years’ arrangement, when the cover was just put on any way it would fit:

The alterations made a big difference. Now it lays flat and tight without bunchy gatherings where the cutouts were in the wrong places.

Many thanks to Kate and Frank for the use of their excellent Sailrite sewing machine!

Here are links to previous posts on this subject:


The winter hibernation is over. Today is the first day of spring, and I started boat work last week, in preparation for the launch in the first week of April.

First on the list of things to do was to mark the winter cover for alteration. If you are a follower, you may recall that my boat cover was a recycle find that nearly fit.  Designed for a boat that was slightly longer with a lengthy sprit and jib boom, still it was made for a vessel about 29′ on deck. That’s a close fit for my 27′ on deck, and gives me enough extra to modify and make it fit right. Here are a couple of photos from my make-it-fit session back in December – just wanted to get the boat covered up, and was too busy to custom-alter it.

Most of the stanchion reliefs are in the wrong place, as well as the shroud cutouts. The bow and stern need a lot of material taken out of them, and additional grommets have to be installed to pull it tight after the new cuts are made, along with binding all the new cut edges.

I engaged my resident fabric expert – Ruth, my wife – to make the marks and cuts. She’s done a lot of sewing, and understands how fabric behaves, and how to make it behave. Here she is marking and cutting:

When all was marked and cut, the cover looked smooth and almost wrinkle-free. Now we can sew and bind the raw edges and reinforce at our leisure throughout the sailing season. Fortunately, we have the use of a heavy-duty sewing machine that belongs to one of my slip neighbors.

Next item on the check list was to prep both bootstripe and sheerstripe for new paint. Last year I had prepped the bootstripe, but failed to communicate with the yard that I wasn’t quite ready for launch – not being mind-readers, they launched the boat as instructed. . . and I sailed all last year with an ugly bootstripe. I’ve already spoken to the yard manager this year. . .

The sheerstripe paint had failed in a number of places – bubbled, cracked, scared, and severely faded. So I’ve done the initial sanding on both stripes, and just need to go back with fine grit and a wood block to finish it. Then just wait for a warm day for painting.

Had to insert a selfie . . . Just a reminder – paint dust is really bad for you. A respirator is the way to go. The little paper dust masks really aren’t sufficient.

I wasn’t idle all winter. Winter tends to be the time when I focus on music, and especially recording. I’ve just finished recording several cover songs of my new band for demo tracks. I’ve finished the editing and mixing, and we’re ready to use this for marketing. I’ve posted links for your listening pleasure. The demo isn’t for sale, distribution, or profit – just sound samples for potential club owners and sponsors.

“Brian Wilson” – Bare Naked Ladies

“Change Your Mind” – Sister Hazel

“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Will Hoge

“Take It Easy” – Eagles


Rock and Roll!



Cay of Sea was hauled for the season in the first week of December. Winterized and ready for freezing weather, she sat and patiently shivered for a month before I had time and inclination to work on the canvas cover I acquired several months back. So two days ago, knowing that rain and snow were in the forecast, I got to work.

If you’ve looked at the link above, you know that the cover itself is in two sections. Already stored on board the boat, I wrestled both sections on deck and began the process of sorting which end went which way.

I first spread the aft section over the boom and deck – not knowing for sure if the cover would reach down to the gunnel if tented at boom-level. It didn’t, but I wanted it to, so rather than build a set of crutches and ridge line pole, I thought I could perhaps suspend the boom with a piece of line a foot lower than the gooseneck would ordinarily allow. This would allow the edges of the cover to extend just past the gunnel. This worked well, but I needed a way to suspend the aft section of the boom also, as there was no cut-out provided in the cover for the topping lift. I made a cut-out in the canvas, and reinforced it with some .25 inch cow hide that I had on board. The 3″ x 6″ piece of leather was hand-stitched into place around the outside of the patch. After it was sewn to the canvas, I cut a slot just where the topping lift shackle would go through to attach to the end of the boom. Then I sewed around the slot attaching the canvas to the edges of the slot – this was with a locking stitch. Following the locking stitch, I went around the edge of the slot again with a continuous loop stitch.  Wish I had a photo of this . .  .  Most of this sewing was accomplished with my Speedy Stitcher (no sailor should be without one of these tools).

After adjusting the end-of-boom height, I was able to get the after end of the cover sorted. The bow-end presented a different challenge. There are three lifting points above the deck on the bow and getting these semi-balanced was difficult – in fact, I didn’t really get them right, but I think it will be okay for this year. In the spring when I remove the cover, I’ll mark it for alterations which I can accomplish without the press of bad weather bearing down on me.

Fortunately, I have a great deal of extra line on board, because I needed a lot of it to secure the edges of the cover. I passed the line from side to side to pull the edges taut, and was able to identify the sections of cover that will have to be changed for future seasons. Most of the cut-outs for stanchions and shrouds are in the wrong place, but I don’t think it will be difficult to add the right cut-outs and grommets for pulling down the edges. I’m sure there will be some water and snow accumulations in baggy pockets where the cover won’t allow me to pull it taut, but it’s not too bad, and certainly a lot better than leaving it uncovered again. Here are a few photos:


Stern needs a few more grommets and a cut-through for the backstay.


All that sewing and custom fitting is why these things cost so much.


Big saggy pocket at the mast. I can just take a fair amount of material out of this section to tighten it up, and add a couple of rings to lift the mast accommodation until it’s taut.2017-01-05-15-59-332017-01-05-15-59-582017-01-05-16-00-33


Got the cover on just in time – we had three inches today.


The lesson here is that a sail’s stitching should be repaired before it becomes a tear in the sailcoth.

I just learned that lesson.

I’ve known for the past few sails that there was a section of stitching near the clew of the main that needed re-sewing. Yeah sure, I’ll get to it. Eventually. During a day-sail last week, eventually became immediately, as the foot of the sail tore out around the broken stitches for a length of about 12 inches. I pulled down to the first reef to finish out the sail, and took the sail down the next day to fix it.

I could have done this by hand with my Speedy Stitcher, but I have access to a marina neighbor’s heavy-duty sewing machine. It was time to give it a try.

Forthunately, I’ve watched my wife sew long enough and asked her enough questions to understand what has to happen with the machine – the concept of the locking stitch, what the bobbin does, what effect the tension knob has, and why a sewing machine is threaded the way it is – so I was able to figure out how to thread and adjust the machine, and how to refill the bobbin with a little trial-and-error.

I cut a patch to sew down over the tear, placed over the carefully positioned section for repairing with the help of double-sided sewing tape, and began to carefully feed it through the machine. Four times! This is a straight-stitch-only machine, so I had to make sure I had sewn down all the edges and fully supported the material surrounding the tear.

The machine is made by Thomas - heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.

The machine is made by Thompson – heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.

In the photo above you can see the patch applied – it’s to the left of the seam opening – through which daylight is pouring! I repaired this open seam, and inspected the rest of the sail as well. I restitched down the entire length of the leach, as much of the stitching was weak or missing, and reenforced a few other places too.

Here's an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren't beautiful, but the are strong.

Here’s an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren’t beautiful, but they’re strong. And it looks like I need to adjust the wrinkles out of the trim too. . .

I discovered yesterday that I missed one weakened seam just above the first reef point – and it began to open up in the brisk breeze. I dropped the main as soon as I noticed it (see – I’m learning) and finished out the sail on jib alone. Today, I’ll take a closer look at it. This one may be small enough to repair by hand. If not, I’ll bring the machine down to the boat, simply pull the foot of the sail off the outhaul, and repair it right there on deck.

Finally, during a walk today through another marina in my neighborhood, I came across this beautiful lapstrake dinghy and though you would enjoy a photo of it.

Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.

Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.

Good things happen to those who look in free-cycle bins.

Several days ago I was looking in the free-cycle bins at a local marina. I lifted the lid and noticed armfuls of material. Huh! I wonder what that is. After digging around a bit, I determined that it was a full cover for a sailboat – I had no idea what size. I hauled it out and decided to sort it out later.

Yesterday was later, so I spread it out and measured. 34′-36′ x 14′ depending on how I count the sprit cover. My boat is 27 x10. . . Wow – that might work. It was designed for a cutter, as there are cut-outs for a forestay and inner stay, replete with dimensions for the rollerfurling drums. It has a couple of small tears – really, not difficult to repair at all – and one zipper that’s broken. The cover will have to be adjusted to fit perfectly, but that’s okay.

2016-10-17-17-47-13 2016-10-17-17-46-27There are reliefs for stanchions – all in the wrong place, as far as I can tell – but the edges are bound and tabbed with turn-buttons; the tabs are reinforced; all the openings are set with turn-buttons or zippers, and potential chafe areas are bound with leather edging. This was thoughtfully put together, and it doesn’t seem like any expense was spared. It has been used, obviously, but the fabric is by no means worn out. I don’t know how water-proof it is anymore – treatment with a waterproofing compound would be a good idea regardless.

The boom will have to come off and a lower ridge pole set up, otherwise the width won’t extend to or past the gunwales. The forward section is fitted first up to, and around the mast, then the aft section is buttoned into it, and it also wraps around the mast. There is a full-width zipper about 25% forward from the stern, which will allow access while covered.

2016-10-17-17-46-52This forward section has three reinforced lifting points, currently joined with a continuous line, and terminating at an adjustable ring – it looks to be “self adjusting,” meaning that you can slide the ring along the continuous line for optimal positioning after a halyard is attached and the section is lifted from the deck.

2016-10-17-17-46-46The after section has a large pocket to accommodate its rise up and around the mast, while the area over the cockpit has two straps underneath to go around the ridge pole, assuring that it won’t flap too much in windy conditions.

And here’s what it looks like draped over the boat:

2016-10-17-17-32-46 2016-10-17-17-34-03 2016-10-17-17-33-43 2016-10-17-17-34-21Pretty sure it’s got to feed under the safety lines to reach over the gunwales, and that improves the slope for shedding water and snow as well. I don’t think it will be a “set up and forget it” type of thing.  I’ll still want to come and check for water pockets, and clear off significant snow falls – good thing I live a mile from the boatyard! Still, I think it will be a huge improvement over what I’ve done in winters past, which includes ill-fitting, wind-shifting tarps, and . . . nothing.

In the previous post “Rust-Stained Sails? Try This:I claimed to have use TSP (trisodium phosphate) as the rust-removal agent. I was mistaken. I actually used OXALIC ACID. I tend to get the two confused. . .

This is the stuff.

This is the stuff.

Let me say this another way – if you are considering TSP to clean your sails, you should research this thoroughly. I have no experience with this chemical with respect to sail cleaning. In fact, it is possible that TSP isn’t the best product to use. . .

Okay, it seems that I can clean sails with the correct compound – oxalic acid is what is generally recommended for removing rust stains – but I can’t seem to write about it without confusing the two.

And this points up another caution: When reading stuff on the internet (my stuff included!) one should reference enough material (not use just one source of information) to get a broad picture of the range of recommendations – then make your own decision!

Okay – apologies to every reader for my muddle-headedness.

Last winter one of my dock neighbors found a bagged sail floating in the marina.  He thought it was a bag of line, but on closer inspection discovered it was a sail, and gave it to me. When I spread it out, it looked terrible. It was filthy, rust-stained, smelly – it had obviously been in the water for quite a while. But. . .  the material was not bad. It wasn’t weak; there were no tears; all the edges were intact.  It had a wire luff and pendent at the head, and sheets attached to the clew with a snap shackle – that I couldn’t get open. Last week I spread it out again and took a stab at cleaning it. Here are some before and after photos.

Looks terrible.

Looks terrible. Really, a hopeless case.


Bottom 25 percent in mid-scrub. Most of that white color is attributable to soap suds.

Bottom 25 percent in mid-scrub. Most of that white color is attributable to soap suds.

But now. . . it's starting to really brighten up.

But now. . . it’s starting to brighten up.

I'm amazed. . .

I’m amazed. . .

Completely different!

Completely different!

Here’s what I did: first scrub was with clothes washing liquid only. I used it because, of course, the sail is fabric! Also, the clothes washing liquid rinses fairly easily and thoroughly. I used a long-handled deck brush for the scrubbing. For the second scrub, I used an OXALIC ACID solution – NOT trisodium phosphate solution (as I had originally published) – about 9 ounces of crystals (that’s all I had left from a 12 ounce box) in a gallon of hot water. I poured on as evenly as I could, then scrubbed the sail again. I left the solution on for about a half hour after the scrub was finished. Then I rinsed thoroughly, both on the ground and hoisted on the forestay, and left it to dry hoisted.

As I worked with the sail, I discovered that every one of the bronze piston hanks were seized. Some PB Blaster, a punch, and a hammer freed them all. It only took a couple of taps with the punch and hammer against the pin end to free them.  I had two failures – two of the pistons lost their heads as I pulled on them. This means that they should probably all be replaced, as they were weakened by time in the water and galvanic corrosion with the steel spring. The same thing happened with the snap shackle, so that is similarly unserviceable.

But aside from the hardware issue, which I hope to replace with salvaged parts, I think the sail is usable – and no longer ugly. It may never be snow-white, but it will be usable.  It also sort of fills a hole in my sail inventory, as it occupies about 70 percent of the foretriangle. Obviously built for smaller boat (the fabric weight is around 4 ounces), it may not serve well in high winds, which means it won’t actually be as useful as it could be, but who knows? It’s worth a trial anyway.

Everything I read discouraged the use of chlorine bleach on Dacron. Apparently bleach in any strength or dilution will ultimately weaken the fabric. On the other hand, in a situation like this, what’s to lose? Regardless, I didn’t use it. So, keep checking back, and I’ll give a report on its performance when I get a chance.

Interesting to note – as Bob Salnick reminded me in comments below – most sails are not DACRON – most are polyester, and as such aren’t subject to the same kind of severe damage and yellowing from chlorine bleach as dacron or nylon. Still, bleach is extremely corrosive and should be used in moderation. Also, Drew Fry in Practical Sailor issues some general cautions regarding the use of chlorine bleach and mild acidic cleaners when cleaning nylon and polyester line, and should probably be heeded with respect to those same materials when used in sail construction.  See the article here:


Sanding fiberglass ranks low on my list of favorite things to do, and I had the “itch” to do something else for a day (pun intended). I had ordered twist button canvas fasteners from after researching price. I bought six sets (eye, twist fastener, and backing plates) for $.94 each. They were far and away the least expensive place to get them, even with shipping added in (about $6). A set of four would have cost so much more at West Marine ($14 for two sets) and approximately $2.60 each at Defender Marine. If there is any way you can avoid buying anything at West Marine, you should. On average, West marks up their prices at 1/3 above any other place on the web, and often above any other chandlery in town. Their stock in trade is convenience – one-stop shopping (or so they hope). On other items, they simply fleece the customer. There is no reason on earth to charge the sort of prices they do for some products, except that – amazingly – people will buy it anyway to avoid having to plan ahead. Occasionally you can get an item on sale at West that is a reasonably good deal. That’s the only time I really consider buying at West.

Oh yeah. . . the project!  I purchased a used headsail deck bag with my “new” (to me) jib, but it was a bit worn in one area.  The aft closure of the bag depended on UV damaged hook-and-loop fasteners. The hook-and-loop tape and had lost most of its grip, and I planned to change the closure method with canvas twist-and-eye sets. I don’t really like snaps – they corrode, can be difficult to operate when they age, and can lose their grip. These twist fasteners are fool-proof, don’t hurt your arthritic hands because they don’t become difficult to operate, etc..

Image from This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

Image from This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

I installed 4 sets right through the hook-and-loop tapes – and I managed to install both male and female pieces facing the right direction in the correct sides of the work piece! I’ve found that the most effective way to form the holes through acrylic canvas (like Sunbrella) for the eyes and the push-through points is to use a soldering iron. Just get the iron hot, set the piece  where it should go, and touch the iron to the fabric several times. It will melt the material while forming a hole, and seal the fabric threads at the same time. This probably will NOT work with regular cotton duck/canvas. You’ll have to some sort of cutting tool for that.

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The piece of green webbing above was used to form a loop in the back of the bag for support off the deck.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag - not one end on either side of the bag - that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag (starboard side) – not one end on either side of the bag – that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

I sewed down a preexisting length of hook-and-loop tape to form a loop on the forward top of the bag (it was originally intended to go around the forestay), and fashioned a harness from line. The line is temporarily knotted into the correct length and shape. Next week I’ll get a couple brass snap hooks from the hardware store and substitute them for knots. That will expedite stowing the sail and hoisting the bag when needed – I won’t be standing on the bow retiring knots each time.

Here's the harness, knotted to the right length.  The jib halyard lifts the whole off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

Here’s the harness knotted to the right length. The jib halyard lifts the bag off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

I used my Speedy Stitcher sewing awl to attach the loops. This is a great tool for a job like this. I’ve also used it to repair sails in place (on deck). It goes fast, and is practically the only way to sew a locking stitch by hand through the heavy materials we use as sailors. I’ve easily and quickly sewed heavy gauge leather chafe patches on canvas with it. An interesting price comparison is observable here:  This tool sells for $36.99 at West Marine, but you can order it through Amazon for $11.90.

My wife the sewing wizard addressed another stowage and convenience need aboard Cay of Sea.

We have a large-format chart book of Chesapeake Bay that doesn’t stow anywhere conveniently.  I also have several project books and a cruising log to stow.  We had been stashing the chart book underneath a settee cushion, and that works okay, but doesn’t seem very sailorly.  When the stowage of other workbooks was considered, we were in danger of endorsing clutter – something that is intolerable aboard a sailboat.  Since one of my persistent goals is to provide a place for everything and reduce clutter aboard, a dedicated stowage for flat things made sense.  At my request, it was Ruth to the Rescue.  This is what she came up with:

Basically, this is a canvas square (24 inches), hemmed all around, with a pocket rising from the bottom 2/3 of the way to the top.  It looks like this:

I added grommets to the corners – learning from past experienced with smashed thumbs, I used locking pliers to hold both the fabric cutter and grommet setting tool as I drove them with a hammer.

Locking pliers are essential safety equipment

Locking pliers are essential safety equipment

I designated another portion of unused bulkhead for mounting the pocket, first carefully evaluating if it would interfere with any other operation near that location.

Blank, unencumbered bulkhead region

Blank, unencumbered bulkhead region for mounting

Then using strap eyes for attachment points, I attached the pocket to the space with zip ties.


Hmmm. . . the black zip ties don’t look so good here. Maybe I’ll switch to white or clear for less contrast.

The fold-down chart table/stove support interferes a small bit.  If I put anything else in this pocket, I’ll have to shim the hook which holds the table in the stowed position.  This is an easy fix, though.

Chart table/stove support in the stowed position.  The retaining hook is a little tight with the pocket in place, but otherwise works fine.

Chart table/stove support in the stowed position. The retaining hook is a little tight with the pocket in place, but otherwise works fine.

All done. Flat stowage: check.  Thanks Ruth!


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