Lofty goals.

We brought home the jib from Nirvana. It has several tears and wear that needs some TLC. I’m setting out to mend this 42′ x 17′ triangular mass of Dacron. Who will win? Stay tuned.

Pretty boat.

Over the weekend, we took out Nirvana and Cupholder at the same time.  Monte wanted to get some photos of the catboat underway.  Kurt came along to steer while I stood on the bow and took photos.  The light was lovely, with a slight northerly breeze.

Taking 4 years to build, starting in 2000;  launched in Lake Travis in 2004; heavily sailed and thoroughly enjoyed for years; hauled out in 2012; driven to the coast for its saltwater christening and to sail the weeklong Texas 200 in 2013; lovingly restored over the course of a few more years; relaunched on Lake Travis in 2019.  Monte has taken great pains over the years to keep her looking and sailing like new.  A pretty boat, indeed.  Also, still the best dancefloor on Lake Travis.  🙂

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Companions’ cover.

I think I’m on a roll with this boat canvas thing. I made a companionway cover for Marty & Sue’s boat. I love the color. It’s insulated, with a layer of Reflectix between two layers of marine Sunbrella. Stitching it was a bit like wrestling a bear at times, but my new machine handled it well. 🙂

Simple favors.

I had a nice visit with Laura today.  When she came over, she brought a pair of exercise bands that she wanted made smaller by a couple of inches.  Frankly, I don’t think I could get one of these over both my arms up to my elbows, but Laura can actually put both her legs in these!

I was pleased to see that my awesome new industrial sewing machine could not only sew through layers of this really thick rubber elastic band material like butter, but the machine’s walking foot just stepped right over the 1/4″ thick rubber label along the way.  I’m thrilled at the big and small projects I’m able now able to do.

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Whatever works.

One of the salon cushions on our Catalina 320 tore along a center seam. I tried mending it once and it just tore again, as the fabric had significantly weakened along the seam. I think the material is Ultrafabric Brisa Original (from around 2005).  I haven’t been able to find a color match yet. It’s just as well, though, as the fabric runs around $65/yard. I’m not ready to reupholster the entire set of salon cushions yet. Soooo, what can I use for a temporary fix?

I decided to repurpose a length of Tear-Aid Type-A tape that I originally got to patch a few holes in our Sunbrella bimini skin. It should adhere well to Brisa’s polyester and rayon backing. It’s not supposed to be sewn-through, but I don’t need a waterproof seal. I simply want to use it to patch along the back-side of the rip and to strengthen and reinforce the area around the tear so I can stitch a new seam through it, about 1/4″ in from the tear.

So I gave it a shot… and I’m happy with the repair.   Now I just need to wait and see how long it holds up.  Fingers crossed!

Before:

 

And after…

If you’re interested, here’s a few pics as I tried the fix.

I removed the cover from the inner cushion pieces, and ripped out the old seam on all 3 pieces of fabric involved in the seam.  The alcohol is to clean the Brisa fabric backing, where I want to apply the Tear-Aid.  The hair dryer is to help me flatten out the old folded seam allowance, and also to help dry the backing after I cleaned it.

Both pieces of Brisa are torn along the old seam.  I’ll need to patch both pieces in a similar fashion before trying to sew a new seam.

Tear-Aid says to clean the application area with alcohol and let dry.  As I cleaned the fabric with alcohol, I saw that the backing material was rotted away in places.   So I removed all the non-adhered backing along the tear.  Not sure how it got in this condition.  Maybe something caustic spilled here and weakened the fabric.  Or maybe 15 years is all you can get out of Brisa.

After cleaning and drying the pieces of Brisa, I used scotch tape on the right side (outside) of the tear to hold the edges of the tear together, temporarily.  I’ll remove it after I apply the Tear-Aid to the wrong side (inside) of the torn fabric.

I cut a length of Tear-Aid Type A tape and applied it on the backing-side of the Brisa fabric along the tears.   Tear-Aid recommends leaving an inch of patch around any torn area, but I didn’t have that much of material along the old seam allowance, so I used a smaller piece than they’d probably recommend.

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I removed the scotch tape from the right-side of the pieces of Brisa, and clipped the right-sides of Brisa together to prepare for stitching the new seam.  This time I’ll sew THROUGH the newly applied Tear-Aid, approx 1/4″ in from the tear along the old seam.

Stitching the seam was a bit challenging, as the adhesive from the patch gummed up the needle every 6 inches or so.  But, as long as I cleaned the needle each time with alcohol, it stitched pretty well.  I used a ballpoint (recommended for Brisa) needle, size 16, and V-69 poly thread, and I also found I had to lower my top thread tension.

There you have it.

Cover-up.

My latest canvas-work project… a cover for the grill off the back of the boat.  Voila!

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Making my own pattern was definitely the hardest part.

If Monte stands around too long in one place, I’ll make a cover for him, too!

In the belly of the beast.

I spent today and another day last weekend sitting in the bottom of our port-side lazerette at the stern of the boat. We lost the electronic control unit of our auto helm in a lightening strike at the marina earlier this year. We got off easy; a neighboring boat’s electronics repairs from the same strike is over $80K and counting. Marty gave us a unit that he used to have on their boat. We installed it over the course of the last two weeks. Lots of pulling of cables through tiny stainless steel tubing, making new electric connections, and squeezing into small spaces.

Nirvana’s rudder post. Oh, the places you’ll go…
New black conduit with the 5 cables inside run from the helm back to the new auto helm control unit

Marty and Sue accompanied us on the calibration run. Everything worked! It’s nice to have Otto back.

In the closet.

Two projects on the long to-do list that I made when I retired were:

1) purge 30 years of paperwork and de-crap the rest of the mess in the closet in my office, and

2) create a workspace in my office closet for my projects like sewing, painting, knitting, beading, photo scanning & editing, etc.

I’m ecstatic to report that I’m crossing them both off today!

I didn’t get a truly before pic. But this is a during pic (all this crap previously filled the closet).

And, (drumroll) this is the after pic:

Many thanks to Monte for building and installing my new desk!

Now I just need to shred the boxes of purged papers and documents…

So, sew.

I’m slowly working down my boat sewing project list. I made 5 winch covers for our jib sheet winches, house top winches, and windlass. I used Sailrite’s pattern and instructions as a guide. My takeaway: it is not easy to sew a circle onto a rectangle.

I also replaced our frayed and yucky bimini straps, having to sew a loop and attach the fastener-buckle thingie before installing.

Bring on the next project!

In hot water.

We have been talking about it for quite some time. Today we sprang into action! We replaced an old water heater before it failed and flooded the house.

After two trips to Home Depot (you can never, ever take one trip), draining the old tank, some heavy lifting, and a few choice phrases, we are back in business.

Thanks Sweetie!

Doo-hickeys.

First some terminology…

Sailboats have barriers along the perimeter of their decks that are meant to keep people from falling off. We call these barriers lifelines. Lifelines have gates that can be opened to let people walk through them when docked or rafted up. These gates are typically created by putting a piece of hardware that opens and closes on the lifeline at the gate called a pelican hook.

Still with me?

Pelican hooks have a tiny little ring that you pull to open them. It’s usually difficult to grab the little ring just right.

To make it easier, you can put a little fob, or lanyard, on the ring that you can more easily grab and pull the pelican hook to open the gate in the lifeline.

Long story short, today I made a set of these lanyards for Nirvana’s lifeline gates. 2 for port, 2 for starboard.

Installed…

Here’s how I made them if you’re interested.

The easy part is learning how to tie the individual cobra weave knots. So I’ll leave that out and just share one of many links that I looked at to help me figure out the basic cobra knot: here. The hard part was figuring out the best jig or setup to easily secure the cord while tying the cobra knots. I’ll share what I came up with.

What you’ll need:

– 95 paracord (1.75mm wide)

– measuring tape

– knife

– lighter or hot-knife to melt cut ends of the cord

– carabiner with 2 big paper clips attached (the jig I came up with)

– tweezers and/or a crochet hook to pull the working ends of the cord back through and under the cobra weave knots to bury them and finish the lanyard

To make a 3-1/2″ finished lanyard out of 95 paracord, I used 44″ pieces for each lanyard. Cut to length and fold that in half.

Tie a simple overhand loop knot 3 1/2 inches from the midpoint of the piece of cord. This defines the finished length of the lanyard.

The carabiner and paper clips make up my jig for holding the cord while tying the cobra weave knots. Other people use different things; pegboards, wire harnesses, etc. Basically, you want something you can pull against to keep the cord taut while you are tying the cobra weave knots with the two working ends of the cord. This is what worked for me.

The carabiner can easily be clipped onto a drawer handle or hook. The paper clips make it easy to loop the 2 working ends of the cord to start the first cobra weave knot. And they make it easy to slip the finished lanyard off them as well.

Before tying the first cobra weave knot…

After tying 3 to 4 cobra knots…

Keep tying cobra weave knots (9 or 10) until you have about 1 inch of the loop left. Remove lanyard from carabiner and paper clips.

To finish the lanyard, you need to pull the working ends of the cord back under the length of cobra weave knots that you just tied. This will bury them and keep the lanyard from coming untied when it is in use. This is where the tweezers and/or crochet hook come in. I pulled the working ends under about 4 or 5 of the knots.

Then trim and melt the cut ends of the cords; the finished lanyard…

Good luck!

Canvaswork bits & bobs.

I have been entertaining / vexing myself for the last week or two with a further foray into learning to sew boat-canvas projects.  This time, it was two projects for Lori and Trident; a propane canister bag in her Sunbrella color (forest green), and a lee-cloth made out of Phifertex, bordered with Sunbrella.  A lee-cloth is a sheet of fabric attached to the open side of a settee in the salon of a sailboat; the purpose of which is to keep a sleeping sailor in her berth, as opposed to flying across the salon during a rough passage.

We could have used one on the crossing from Florida to Texas back in February.  On that trip, Joe was thrown from the settee while asleep during his off-watch time and hit his face on the other side of the salon.   I’ve never seen nor used one, but Lori and I did a bit of prototyping last time I was down in Kemah and I came home with a sort of pattern.  Her settee is about 6 1/2 feet long by 20+ inches deep.  We agreed that a 4′ x 4′ finished dimension would work, with a field of Phifertex, bordered by about 3 1/2″ of Sunbrella on front and back.  Lori also asked for a run of Sunbrella up the middle, to give it a bit more structure when strung up, and a pocket for phone, glasses, headlamp, etc.   It will be anchored on the boards below the settee cushions and secured fore and aft above the cushions, by smallstuff tied to grommets.   Lori picked Phifertex because it is an open mesh vinyl fabric, to allow for airflow.  I found it to be a great fabric to work with.   I’ll be ordering some for my next project – new halyard bags for Nirvana.  Stay tuned.

And…. Voila! <<use your imagination to envision this lee-cloth being displayed against the settee of a sailboat, and not the couch in my living room>>  The pocket ended up a bit wonky, as I was running out of material, but it’ll work.

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If you’re not into sewing or canvaswork, you may want to stop reading now.  Because I will document here some of the things I learned working with Sunbrella using my valiant, but limited, Kenmore model 385 sewing machine – for no reason other than I would have loved to have known some of this ahead of time, as opposed to learning by trial and error.

  • A walking-foot sewing machine (which mine is not) is really the right tool for the job.  As it consistently pulls the fabric from above and below at the same time.  My home sewing machine only has traditional feed dogs below.  As a result, the stitches are rarely consistently spaced, due to variations in how fast/smoothly the fabric feeds under the needle.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to handle the fabric thickenesses I’ve been doing and much more, with much more ease and less pain and suffering (and swearing) and re-doing on the part of the operator.
  • Longer stitch lengths are desirable.  The max stitch length setting on my machine is 4… not sure exactly what that translates to, maybe 4 mm stitch length (?).  But whatever it is, it is not big enough.
  • My Kenmore, surprisingly, has handled everything I’ve thrown at it so far, the max of which was about 6 layers of Sunbrella and 1-2 layers of Phifertex.  Not bad.  I’m using a 110/18 needle with V-92 bonded polyester thread.  If you want beautiful and consistent topstiching, however, you’ll need to spring for a Sailrite or similar walking foot, industrial machine.
  • Pinning through several layers of Sunbrella requires fingertips of steel.  After watching a number of videos, I learned that the pros rarely use pins.  They use double-sided basting tape to hold surfaces of fabric together until they are stitched.   What a great thing!
  • My sewing machine is not rigged to use the ginormous spools of thread canvas work requires, they are too big to sit on the tiny pin on top of the machine for a normal spool of thread.  In addition, the thread has a habit of falling around the bottom of the spool, aka “pooling,” which can mess with your thread tension.  Instead, they need to sit at table level (or lower) and feed up above and then down to the machine.  I don’t know what this doohickey is called, but I’ve seen them on industrial machines, and made one of my own out of a wire clothes hanger, cutting and bending it to do my will.
  • Speaking of tension, whatever the max tension on my machine is, it was not enough for some stitching tasks.  I had to literally pinch the top thread in my right hand to add additional tension so that stitches didn’t loop on top of the fabric for one or two parts of my projects.  I found this to be the case, in particular, when topstitching the webbing that I used on top of the Sunbrella for the propane bag projects.  It didn’t happen when stitching just Sunbrella and/or Phifertex, thankfully.
  • Sunbrella doesn’t like to stay folded very well.  If you run the point of an awl along your fold line, though, it yields a bit more, helping to hold a hem until stitched.
  • A soapstone pencil (a common quilting notion) came in handy for marking Sunbrella.   It marks the fabric nicely, and easily erases with a damp cloth.   I found a #2 lead pencil and eraser worked great for marking the Phifertex.
  • Cutting Sunbrella can be a pain, because it frays.  The right tool for the job is an electric hot knife.  But I stuck it out using only my fabric shears, followed by an application of glue along all the cut edges to minimize fraying.  This took forever to apply and to dry.  Then I took the time to double turn all the hems, so no cut edge was exposed.   If I do much more of this, a hot knife is definitely in my future.

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I’ll stop there.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!  I hope some of this helps a fellow newbie canvasworker.

Learning new tricks.

I drove down to the coast this week to join Lori and Mike on Trident to work on some boat projects.  We sat through a day-long, hands-on class for “Marine Diesel Engine Introduction and Maintenance” which was delivered on-board Trident.  I learned a tremendous amount, and now feel like I have a basic understanding of how a diesel engine works, and how some maintenance can be done.  At night I dreamt of primary fuel filters, lift pumps, fuel pumps, engine fuel filters, injector pumps, injectors, oil extractors, heat exchangers, impellers, strainers, shut-off valves, stop-cocks, oh, my!

Today, after the lecture part of the class, Lori and Mike performed the following maintenance to Trident:   primary fuel filter change, engine fuel filter change, impeller change, oil change, oil filter change, belt tension check, transmission fluid check, heat exchanger coolant check, raw water strainer cleaning).  Nine hours of learning and doing.  I’m looking forward to opening up Nirvana and seeing if I can identify all the components on her 3 cylinder, 30 HP Yanmar diesel.

Why do they put such big engines in such small places?

The engine and generator are inside this compartment, comically called the engine “room.”  There is actually a guy (the teacher) sitting on the generator inside this compartment, pointing to components on the engine behind it.

 

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Lori is changing the primary fuel filter here, reaching through the aft access door to the engine “room.” IMG_6057

Sewing project for the boat.

The grill on our boat uses propane, the kind in the little 1 lb green Coleman canisters.   We have been stowing them in one of our cockpit lazarettes.  However, that compartment is not made to hold and properly vent propane gas, which sinks.  That means if a canister were to leak, the gas would collect in the lowest point of the boat; the bilge, waiting for an errant spark to ignite it.   Not good.

You can purchase a storage bag to hang on the rail of a boat to hold a few propane canisters, allowing any leaked gas to dissipate in the air over the water.  Magma (a marine grill vendor) sells one for under $35 which holds 3 canisters.  But it only comes in black and royal blue.  Nirvana’s canvas is navy blue (Sunbrella marine canvas in the color called Captain Navy).   For that reason, and also because I’ve really been wanting to try to sew something made out of sunbrella with my 20+ year old Kenmore 385 sewing machine, I decided to make it instead of buying one.

Lori happened to have an old bag in need of repair that I could use as a pattern, which was really helpful.   I ordered a yard of 60″ wide Sunbrella from Amazon, several 110/18 sized sewing machine needles, some size 69 bonded UV-resistant polyester thread, a heavy duty zipper, and some nylon webbing and plastic buckles.

The prototype:

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You can’t see them in the above picture, but there is a brass grommet and hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag, under that loop in the strip of webbing that runs along the bottom.  It is intended to allow water out of the bag when it’s hanging, if it rains.   The loop, I assume, is to tie a downhaul to the bag when it is hanging, so that it doesn’t swing back and forth while you are underway.  I decided to make my bag with 3 loops, and 3 grommeted drain holes, one under each loop.

The pattern I made, and some notions.IMG_6027

The first step was to install the brass grommets (which you can’t see in this pic either, but they are under the black webbing running down the middle of the canvas in the picture below).  Next step: pin and topstitch the webbing onto the outside of the bag, allowing for loops and buckles to be sewn in as you go.

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The next step was to sew the zipper on, and then sew the other two seams.  And VOILA!IMG_6043

View of side zipper.IMG_6044

I’m so thrilled that it turned out, AND that my current sewing machine was able to do the job.  I will definitely plan a few more boat canvas projects.

*smiling a satisfied smile*  🙂