Tag Archives: Sailrite interviews

Sailrite is proud to sponsor the DIY efforts of Eben and Genevieve Stolz, the dynamic duo behind the cruising blog It’s a Necessity.

Eben and Genevieve Stolz know the DIY lifestyle. A few years ago, in order to maintain their cruising lifestyle with their two daughters, Arias and Ellia, the couple needed a bigger boat. They found that boat, S/V Necesse (a 41-foot Morgan Classic and a total fixer-upper) in Georgetown, Bahamas and sailed her back to Miami, Florida for a re-fit.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

The whole family: Eben, Genevieve, Arias & Ellia

They spent two years of hard work redoing nearly the entire interior before they set sail again. Now this hard-working cruising family is back at their boat projects while waiting out hurricane season in the Virgin Islands. I recently got the chance to talk with Eben about his latest DIY projects and his experience as a DIY sailor.

One of the recent and biggest projects Eben took on for their boat was building a dodger. The dodger project was one Eben had been mulling over in his mind for years before he set to work.

“I bought Strataglass and Sunbrella fabric from [Sailrite] like three years ago and did my bimini,” he said.

Eben had always planned on making a matching dodger, but without a template to follow for the project, he decided to wait and think the project through more before starting.

“I sit and look at things for a while,” Eben said.

He recently got the push he needed to finally start on his dodger when a fellow cruiser lent him old VHS tapes outlining how to build a dodger. The video didn’t do things exactly the way Eben wanted for his boat, but it gave him a good starting point. So he pulled out his materials from storage and set to work bending and building the frame.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

Eben uses his Edge Hotknife to cut Sunbrella for the dodger

After bending all the tubing by hand on his boat, Eben installed the dodger frame. Then he used the frame to template the fabric panels. Friends of his had offered him their office space to sew in, so he took his templates and fabrics to land to sew it all together.

In the office, Eben laid painters drop cloths on the floor to keep his Strataglass from scratching during fabrication. Then he patterned and basted all the pieces together and started sewing on his Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

“I was a little worried about sewing the 40 Gauge Strataglass,” he admits. “I didn’t know if the machine would handle it.”

But once Eben started sewing, his fears were quickly assuaged. “[The machine] went through it like butter,” he laughed.

Throughout the process Eben was meticulous in his planning so everything would come out just right, carefully adding zippers around the whole frame and installing fasteners one at a time to ensure a perfect fit. The close attention to detail really paid off and the finished dodger looks great. Genevieve wrote on their blog that the dodger “gives our boat a whole new feel.”

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

Eben’s sewing set-up in his friends’ office

Eben said the most challenging part of the dodger project was the surroundings he had to sew in. Having a small space to sew a large project meant having to roll the Strataglass to sew while being careful not to scratch it and sewing slowly to make frequent adjustments.

“Not having a huge space and not having an even plane with your sewing machine to sew on [was a challenge],” he said. “It’s feasible but it’s not like having a sail loft to work in.”

Eben has a long history with DIY and sewing especially. He started sewing when he was just 10 or 11 years old because his older brother had taken up the hobby. Together they started sewing their own snowboarding gear.

He says he’s always had a DIY spirit and a drive to learn new things.

“People say I have a lot of talents, but I don’t. I just think I can do anything,” Eben said. “If someone else is doing it, I want to figure out how to do it, too.”

Eben eventually fell away from sewing until he and Genevieve were living in Miami working on their boat refit. There he met a guy with a canvas shop who hooked him up with a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and Eben started sewing for the boat. He made their bimini and all new cushions for their salon.

He now describes his Ultrafeed Sewing Machine as his “number one tool.”

“Every day I use it I’m impressed,” he said.

One of the features Eben really likes about the Ultrafeed is that it doesn’t draw a lot of energy, so he can run it off his Honda generator. He frequently takes the generator and the Ultrafeed out to the beach to sew.

“The Sailrite weighs more than the generator, so that says something about quality,” Eben said, laughing.


Fitting the fabric on the frame

Having his sewing machine onboard also means that he frequently gets requests from other sailors to sew projects for them. He recently made “bat wing” boom awnings for cruising friends and has plans to help a neighbor with a dodger. Aside from helping fellow cruisers sew boat projects, he’s never sewn officially as a job.

Eben said he focuses his efforts on projects for their own boat.

“It gets expensive being in the boating world,” he said.

Eben’s two other go-to tools for his canvas projects are the Pres-N-Snap Tool and the Sailrite Edge Hotknife.

“Those are amazing,” he exclaimed.

Eben described how he would carefully and meticulously hem all the edges of Sunbrella projects before having a hotknife to ensure none of his edges would ravel.

“The hotknife is the best thing available for sewing. Having the hotknife saved me 6-7 hours of work on the dodger and really put my mind at ease that nothing would unravel,” he said.

DIY Aboard S/V Necesse

The finished dodger during a sail

Eben shared his advice for other DIY sailors looking to sew their own canvas projects.

“Think you can do anything,” he said.

Eben also recommends careful planning and being methodical in your approach.

“Waste time over planning,” he said. “You know how they say ‘measure twice, cut once’? I’m more measure seven times, cut once.”

He also recommends taking advantage of all the sewing resources available online and over the phone.

“Use the assets available—use Sailrite’s customer service,” he said. “Sewing can be a pain when things go wrong but you can be on the right track again with just a phone call.”

To learn more about Eben and Genevieve and to follow their cruising journey, visit their blog, It’s a Necessity or follow them on Facebook & Instagram (@sailing_necesse).

Linda Newland has devoted most of her life to expanding the presence of women in the sailing world. She earned her reputation by pushing limits and working her way into and up in a sport that had previously been something of a boys’ club. Now, as the President of the National Women’s Sailing Association and the Women’s Sailing Foundation she’s empowering new generations of women to feel confident taking the helm.


Linda Newland

Linda started sailing in the 1970’s when her then-boyfriend bought a 22-foot sailboat on San Francisco Bay, despite the fact that neither he or Linda actually knew how to sail. The pair just motored around the bay until they had an accident. They struck their mast on a bridge because they didn’t know to radio to ask for the bridge to rise. After that Linda decided she needed to learn how to sail. She enrolled in lessons and discovered that she really liked it.

She quickly started sailing a Santana 22 at a local yacht club with an all-women crew.

“We were the first all-women crew to race with the guys,” she said. “And we just didn’t want to be last. The guys weren’t very welcoming.”

But the crew gained their credibility at the yacht club one day during a casual beer can race when the women beat their male competitors.

Linda and one of her crewmates then started a women’s sailing club at the crewmate’s yacht club.

“I’m proud of that, and getting more women into the sport,” Linda said.

Not long after that Linda became “entranced” with single-handed sailing and in 1981 she single-handed in a race from San Francisco to Hawaii. A year later she competed in a single-handed race from San Francisco to Japan.

In the early 1990’s Linda met Doris Colgate, President of the Offshore Sailing School, at a sailing seminar for women at a boat show in California. Doris had recently founded the National Women’s Sailing Association. While being a big proponent of teaching women to sail, Linda didn’t get involved with the organization right away, but in 2005 joined the board for the National Women’s Sailing Association and has held several positions before being elected President in 2014.

The National Women’s Sailing Association is a program of the Women’s Sailing Foundation. The group’s mission is “to enrich the lives of women and girls through education and access to the sport of sailing.” To accomplish their mission the group sponsors an annual Women’s Sailing Conference as well as hands-on weekend seminars. Seminars include a diesel engine workshop, a sail repair workshop hosted by Doyle sails, and a 2-day seminar on boat electrical systems.


Attendees from the Electrical & Marine Systems Workshop presented by NWSA Board Member & ABYC Master Marine Tech Beth Burlingame (far right).

The Women’s Sailing Foundation also sponsors a program called AdventureSail® that introduces at-risk girls, ages 9-14 years old, to sailing and their local waters. The girls meet mentors and learn leadership, responsibility, teamwork, and environmental stewardship.

“We partner with local yacht clubs and people take girls out on boats for the day,” Linda said. “Many girls have never been on boats before.”

As a follow-up to the program, girls can apply for scholarships to attend sail training programs. This year the Association is giving a scholarship for an AdventureSail graduate to sail aboard the tallship Adventuress, a 100-year old schooner. The trip, called Girls at the Helm, will be a 4-day cruise in the San Juan Islands of Washington State that focuses on tall ship sailing, marine biology, and leadership training. Linda herself has sailed on the Adveturess and is a big supporter of the AdventureSail program.

“I haven’t been to an AdventureSail day yet, but those who do [volunteer] are hooked,” Linda said.


Attendees from 2014 AdventureSail in Racine, WI

Linda loves teaching sailing, and finds it especially rewarding to teach other women.

“I’ve found that women have a different learning style from men. Women want to talk things out,” she explained. “We like the idea of women teaching women until they get the confidence to go co-ed.”

She said that the most rewarding is teaching women who have been on boats but whose husbands do most of the sailing.

“When you ask them how much they know about boats they always say they don’t know much. But then they have an aha moment when they realize [that they know much more than they thought]. The knowledge is there, and I love that moment.”

Linda encourages any woman interested in sailing to jump in and try it.

“If you’re motivated, don’t let anything hold you back,” she said. “Get professional training and crew on as many boats as possible for experience.”

She also really encourages women to look for conferences and other opportunities to meet fellow women sailors.

“The energy level is amazing,” she said.

Linda lives and sails in Washington State with her husband. The couple stays very involved in sailing and races in a boat that her husband designed. She teaches sailing in the summers.

For the second year in a row, Sailrite has donated products for auction/raffle at the 14th Annual Women’s Sailing Conference, which will be held at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, MA on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Proceeds raised help fund AdventureSail programs.

For more information on the conference and the National Women’s Sailing Association visit their website

The do-it-yourself spirit is alive and well in Sailrite customer Jack Rosen. Jack will try his hand at making just about anything. He’s successfully built airplanes, cars, and even a business! With all of those skills it’s no wonder that Jack would be a do-it-yourselfer for his sailboat too.


Jack teaching his CANE Seminar

Jack first became smitten with sailing while living in Toronto. He was spending his free time racing cars when a friend convinced him to try racing sailboats instead. So Jack went out on Lake Ontario with his friend on a 35-foot R-boat.

“I became fascinated with it,” Jack said. “I am allergic to grass, and when I was out on the water, away from everything, I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest.”

It wasn’t long before Jack bought his own sailboat and began competing in regattas. On his Lightning 19-foot daysailer, Jack raced against the New England and World Lightning Champions.

“I learned more about sailing from that Lightning,” Jack reminisced. “You could see the changes instantly.”

It was also during this time that Jack was first introduced to sewing for his boat. He met a sailmaker, and together they sewed sails for the Lightning on Jack’s living room floor.

Eventually, Jack moved to New England, where he wasn’t close to the water and so he sold his boat to one of his crewmembers. When another move found him near Cape Cod, he quickly purchased another Lightning and later a Catalina 380.

The Catalina needed a new sailcover and Jack knew that he could do the project himself. He borrowed a Sailrite Yachtsman sewing machine from a friend and created a custom sailcover that comes apart at the Dutchman lines and splits into three pieces.


Jack’s custom-designed sailcover

After that project Jack and his wife had the hull of the boat repainted, which left their hand-me-down canvas clashing with the boat. Not wanting to borrow a sewing machine for all the projects now on his list, Jack called us up, talked to Eric for advice about which machine to get, and ended up with a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

With his new machine at the ready, Jack set up a sewing station in his garage workshop. He created a cut-out for his machine in his work table, dropped the machine in and created a sewing table.

One of the first projects he tackled with his Ultrafeed was a new bimini. He took the entire bimini frame off his boat and rigged it up in his workshop. Then he built a new bimini patterned directly off his frame.

“I’ll just go around our boat and make things,” Jack said. “It’s just so handy to create something you want.”


The finished bimini rigged up in the garage

Jack’s Catalina lead him to join a local sailing club, The Catalina Association of New England or CANE. The club provides monthly seminars on various aspects of sailing for its members, and Jack was asked to give a seminar on sewing for your boat. When it was listed, forty people signed up and Jack had to split the class into two sessions to accommodate everyone in his garage workshop.

Sailrite helped sponsor the event, providing catalogs for all attendees and copies of our Make Your Own Cushions DVD and Make Your Own Full Boat Enclosure DVD to raffle off as door prizes.

“The main theme of the seminar was to tell people that doing canvaswork is not a black art. It’s far easier than you think it is. You just need to know a few things, and Sailrite can help teach you those things,” Jack said.


Jack teaching his seminar

Jack was nervous about how the day would go, but the informal seminar was a big hit among the CANE members.

“I was very concerned,” he said. “I had planned to just show pictures and talk about needles and the machine, but [the conversation] went on and on.”

Jack answered participants’ questions for two and half hours. Beyond sewing, they also talked about needles, thread, fasteners and how to punch holes. “All the little things that scare people,” Jack said.

“I brought the little grill from our boat and we grilled out afterwards. Everyone had a really good time,” he added. “Several of [the attendees] are sewing away right now.”

Jack hopes to offer the seminar again next year if there is enough interest.


With his Ultrafeed LSZ-1

He enjoys sharing the projects he has worked on in hopes of inspiring others to make things for themselves, too.

“You get a sense of accomplishment. It helps you appreciate your boat a little more,” Jack said about doing his own canvaswork.

His advice to aspiring DIYers is to “just do it.”

“Practice on scrap material and learn as you go along.”

He also recommends watching Sailrite videos to help with projects.

“Watch the videos, first of all,” he said. “If you need to, start with a simple machine and then make the investment for the Ultrafeed and put it in your will—it’s going to outlast you.”


Jack’s Catalina 380 s/v JaxSan under sail

Jack sails his Catalina frequently in the summers with his wife, 10 year-old grandson and their Russian Wolfhound, Darby, out of New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts.

Teresa Carey is making quite a name for herself in the sailing world. She writes a sailing blog, made a documentary film about a sailing adventure, teaches on-board sail training, and speaks about sailing around the country (she even gave a TEDx talk). I recently had the pleasure of talking with her about her new film and the importance of self-reliance on a sailboat.


Teresa & Ben

Teresa started sailing when she was just eight-years-old, on her family’s Ranger23 on Lake Michigan. But before she even set out on the water, she was already enchanted with sailing from bedtime stories her dad would tell.

“My dad would tuck us into bed and tell us stories of sailing or teach us a new term. So I had sailing adventures in my bed,” she reminisced.

By the time she was 18, Teresa started sailing professionally, first as a camp counselor and later with Outward Bound and in the tourism industry. After sailing solo for a time and then in convoy with her now husband, Ben, Teresa was looking for a new adventure and new waters to sail.

“Ben and I had both sailed the entire eastern seaboard, and I’ve sailed the Pacific coast and the Caribbean, and we both agreed that the further north you go, the better it gets,” she said. “So we decided, let’s go north.”

So the pair pulled out a map and took a look at what was north of the Eastern United States and decided on Newfoundland, Canada as their destination. They asked a friend if they could borrow his charts for their planning and among them, they found a photo of his boat with an iceberg, Teresa said. She and Ben wondered if they too would see icebergs on their journey.

“Then it became a mission,” Teresa said.

They decided to film their trip to see an iceberg as a series of short web videos, but when word of their plan got around, they soon received an offer to work on an even bigger project. A film producer out of Florida, Derek Rowe, had heard about Teresa and Ben’s project and called them to ask if they would be willing to make a feature length film with him. Ben and Teresa agreed, leading them to create their documentary, One Simple Question, which will premiere at the BLUE Ocean Film Fest this November in St. Petersberg, Florida.

“In the end it was ten times more work than we expected and four times more money,” Teresa said.


s/v Elizabeth with an iceberg

But all their hard work paid off and the film was named a finalist in the emerging filmmaker category and received honorable mention in another category.

“It was an honor to even be selected for the festival, so then to be a finalist and even honorable mention is really quite an honor,” Teresa said.

Teresa and Ben are also currently in talks with a public television station to create a TV edit of their film.

One Simple Question is not only about seeing an iceberg, but it also deals with the trials of living aboard a sailboat and the importance of self-reliance. In a scene discussing self-reliance you’ll even see the Ultrafeed Sewing Machine make a cameo appearance.

“One of the characters says something like, ‘there’s no substitute for self-reliance,’ and it shows a series of scenes including the sewing machine,” Teresa explained. “It’s set up in the salon and the scene ends with the new dodger being installed.”


s/v Elizabeth with her heart-window dodger

The new dodger is actually a dodger that Teresa sewed herself for their Bristol Channel Cutter 28, Elizabeth. You might recognize it by the heart shaped windows that Teresa customized herself. Her photo of the project the grand prize in our photo contest this year.

Elizabeth is Ben’s sailboat and knowing that Teresa already knew how to sew, he did a little bribing to get her to sew him a new dodger.

“He told me, ‘I’ll buy you a Sailrite sewing machine if you sew me a dodger,’” She said. “So I said, ‘Okay!’ But, of course, we didn’t stop there and made new cushions too. Now he’s learning to sew as well.”

She wanted to put her own stamp on the dodger kit, so she added the heart shaped windows by cutting out a cardboard heart and tracing it on to the glass. This was her first dodger project and Teresa said that the Sailrite videos helped her a lot in construction.

Her next project is going to be another dodger for her new sailboat that she’s ready to start “just as soon as it’s too cold to sail anymore,” she said.


Teresa patterning her dodger

“The great thing about sewing—like carpentry—is if you want to redecorate or you need something, you can make it. Any time I need something I can stitch it together,” Teresa said. She even sewed herself shelves once.

Teresa does all her sewing on a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine, and she’s been impressed with how well it’s held up over time.

“Mine is a few years old now. I use it in spurts and I take care of it—I oil it and everything—and it still worlds like it’s brand new,” she said. “I really like it.”

Like Teresa, most sailors are DIYers and tackle projects on their own, she said. Her advice for DIY sailors is to make sure you find reliable advice for projects that you undertake so you keep everything up to safety standards on your boat.

“Your boat needs to be a safety vessel,” she said. “We looked at 50 different boats and we’d look in lockers and see things that are standard in home repair but not on a boat and that can be unsafe. You need to go to the experts and find out the highest level of safety.”


Sewing the dodger on her Ultrafeed LSZ-1

Teresa believes that self-reliance is key to all sailors.

“I think self-reliance doesn’t mean having all the skills, it’s about having the resourcefulness and the tools to learn how to do it,” she said.

In fact, her love of sailing is tied to the idea of self-reliance and pushing your own limits.

“I love discovering something new about my own abilities and potential,” Teresa said. “Sailing is always an adventure.”


Teresa and Ben are wrapping up their season of on-board sail training in Maine and are planning to spend the winter on land working on their multimedia marketing business until the spring when they will head back to the water to deliver boats.

To learn more about One Simple Question, and to watch the trailer visit Follow Teresa at her blog: Sailing Simplicity & The Pursuit of Happiness. If you’re interested in sail training with Teresa and Ben, visit

2004 was a big year for Paul Seeberg. It was the year that he and his wife, Millie, bought a MacGregor26 sailboat and started sailing with the North East Trailer Sailor’s Club. It was also the year that Paul began sewing for his boat. Ten years later, Paul is still hard at work on boat projects and sharing his passion for sailing and sewing with others.


Paul aboard his Olson38 s/v Mildred Rose

Paul’s sewing projects began humbly when his wife wanted some curtains for the cabin of their boat. Paul had some basic sewing skills he had learned in 8th grade home economics class and he figured he could sew curtains. Along the way, he had some difficulty with the project and called Sailrite, where he got some helpful advice for his project.

On completing his curtain project, Paul figured that sewing for the boat was something he could do more of, so he bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and started working. He started sewing sheet bags for himself and then for other members of the yacht club.


Red Sunbrella Lifesling Cover

In 2009 Paul bought a bigger boat, a 1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose, and got to work creating new canvas covers for her.

“Following [Sailrite] videos, I made a hatch cover, curtains, pillows, a really nice binnacle cover, and a lifesling cover,” Paul said. “We’re the only boat in the harbor with a red Sunbrella lifesling!”

Some canvas projects he made mostly for the fun of sewing, not because they are a necessity on his boat.

“Some times I make things just for fun, like the hatch cover. But it made a big difference keeping the cabin cooler,” he said.


Two of Paul’s Projects: Binnacle Cover & Hatch Cover

After getting all of those projects under his belt, Paul felt ready for a bigger challenge. He needed a new dodger. He had the project quoted by a few canvas shops, but they were asking too much money. Paul knew that after all the projects he had done so far he could make his own dodger for less.

Paul watched Sailrite’s How to Make Your Own Dodger DVD 10-20 times before even started the project, wanting to make sure that he understood every detail.

For large-scale projects like this, Paul believes it’s important to learn everything you can about the project before starting.

“You need to be able to see things in 3 dimensions in your mind. I don’t sew one stitch until I’ve thought through the project beginning to end,” he said.

Paul’s dodger design would test all of his sewing skills. He was going to have to sew zippers, install fasteners, and even make a roll up window.

When Paul started sewing, the dodger project brought on the challenges. The scale of the dodger made it difficult to maneuver and all the material proved tricky to roll up under the arm of the Ultrafeed.

“Making something that’s 10-12 feet long in your basement is difficult,” he said. “It grows quite big.”


The finished dodger installed on s/v Mildred Rose

Paul credits the video with helping him accomplish such a large-scale DIY project.

“The tips I learned in the video were invaluable. There’s no way I could have made it without it,” he said.

All of Paul’s hard work paid off and his dodger looks great. It’s now the project that he is the most proud of.

“The dodger is the most accurate. It’s done the best,” Paul said. “Because of the sheer scale of the project I’d have to say it’s the one I’m most proud of…it was harder than I thought.”

As with a lot of DIY projects, Paul would do somethings differently on his dodger, but it has been met with rave reviews from his friends and fellow sailors.

“People who go on the boat can’t believe that I made it,” Paul said. “I can see all the flaws, but someone casually looking at it thinks it’s beautiful.”

Paul’s advice to fellow DIY-ers is to know your skill level, to not be afraid of a sewing machine and to be confident.

“Just have confidence. If you don’t have confidence, then forget about it.”


Paul’s dodger and “flying awning.” He made the awning himself and modeled it off other awnings he had seen around the harbor.

Paul feels like he’s had a lot of help becoming a sailor and DIYer and he likes to share the knowledge that’s been shared with him. One way he does this is by teaching seminars at the Boston Boat Show each spring. His current seminar is about transitioning from a small boat to a larger one, but he hopes to teach a sewing class in the future.

“Sewing is not as scary as people think it is. I think a lot of people have the skill set. I want to show them what a Sailrite machine can do,” he said.

For himself, Paul has a list of projects he’s waiting to try next like a sail cover, cockpit cushions and a main sheet bag.

Josh Shenker, a teacher and lifelong boater and sailor, loves working with his hands and describes himself as a “DIY person.” So when he realized that his middle schools students didn’t have much of a concept of how things were made or that they could create with their own hands, he knew he wanted to share his hobbies with them.


Josh working with students.

When Josh started teaching at Wood Hill Middle School in Andover, Massachusetts two years ago, he was saddened to learn that most middle schools have dropped shop classes, which were his favorites growing up.

“In shop classes you learned how to cook, cut a board, and sew,” Josh said. “I’m in my forties now and I think it’s why I know how to do stuff.”

The more he got to know his students, the more he realized that they weren’t learning these skills that he so valued.

“We live in a busy world where if you need food you go to a restaurant, if you need something you order it from Amazon. I wanted to teach the kids that it’s not just people overseas who make things,” Josh explained.

And that’s how he came up with the idea to teach his 8th grade students how to sew.

In addition to teaching 8th grade science, Josh also teaches 4 sections of a class called Enrichment. Enrichment classes are left open-ended for the teacher to decide what to teach and how to spend the time with the students. Teachers run recycling programs, work on art skills or have students write letters to soldiers overseas. Josh taught knot tying.

Josh wanted his Enrichment classes to literally “enrich their time,” and this year he decided to abandon his knot tying lessons and try to teach sewing instead. With the blessing of his principal, he brought in his own Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine from home to teach students how to sew.


The sequence of making a bag.

Going in, Josh was unsure of how sewing lessons would be accepted by his students, but he has been pleasantly surprised by how much his students are enjoying it.

“I was surprised by their acceptance of it,” he said. “I knew I was taking a risk, but they’re totally into it.”

The students are having so much fun sewing, that one day they even made up their own sewing mantra: “be the machine.”

But perhaps Josh’s biggest surprise was that the boys are more excited about sewing than the girls. The girls were intimidated by the machine at first, but the boys thought it was cool and wanted to see all of the machine’s gears and how it worked, Josh said.

“I brought in my blue Sailrite LSZ-1 and one boy asked if it was a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke, which I thought was pretty funny,” Josh said. “They thought it had like a little weed whacker engine in there.”

Each of the students learns how to sew their own tote bag from a 10 oz. cotton duck fabric. At the end of the class, they each get to keep the bag they made. Josh said he chose bags for the project because it was something everyone could use.

“They’re learning that it’s not hard to make stuff but that the details are difficult. And that to be good at something it takes a lot of practice,” Josh said.


Josh’s Ultrafeed and a completed bag.

In a lot of ways, Josh models his bag sewing lessons after an engineering project. Students look at a bag and measure it and draw out plans on graph paper. Those whose skill set allow them to, even make their own patterns, while others are given a Sailrite pattern to follow. The class also talks about materials and the kinds of things to consider when making a bag, like how to make it waterproof or how to protect it from UV rays.

Josh hopes to inspire his students to success outside the classroom and perhaps lead some of them on paths to becoming artists, designers and engineers.

“I wanted to teach them that there’s more to life than academics and what you see on TV,” he said.

Josh also hopes to inspire fellow teachers to do similar hands-on projects with their students.

He is proud of what his students are accomplishing and the reaction from their parents has been positive as well.

“I just wanted to do something engaging with them and to instill in them a sense of accomplishment,” he said.


All of us at Sailrite are really excited about Josh’s project and we applaud his work of teaching a younger generation how to sew.

Three years ago Sailrite customer Christine Rasmussen was neither a sailor nor a sewer, but after a seemingly fated purchase of a used sailboat, she learned her capability to be both.


Christine in the cockpit of her sailboat s/v Audacity

Christine always had a desire to learn how to sail. However, living in landlocked Durham, North Carolina, didn’t make sailing an easy goal. After a failed brush with windsurfing—“I was horrible,” Christine admitted—her dreams of sailing seemed like they would be left unfulfilled.

Then one summer, Christine, along with her husband, Mark and their twin sons, started camping at Kerr Lake, a large lake not far from where they live. Now that they were spending time regularly at a lake, Christine thought it would be fun to get her boys a Sunfish so they all could learn how to sail.

When Christine took to the Internet to find a small sailboat, she stumbled across something a little more interesting. A Craigslist listing advertising a 26’ C&C Yacht valued at $8,000, with a $4,000 price tag. Not entirely convinced that it wasn’t a joke or a scam, Christine sent her husband the link anyway, and the pair went to take a look at the boat.

When they got to the marina, the boat they came to see was nowhere to be found. After they returned home, Christine got a phone call. The boat was leaking diesel and the marina manager had moved it because of the leak. The seller, anxious to get the boat off his hands, offered it to Christine, as is, for $100, Christine explained. And just like that Christine and Mark were the proud owners of a sailboat.

Fixing up their boat was the first task and while they had the leak fixed and the motor tuned, Christine turned her attention to the cushions in the cabin.

“They were the original 1976 cushions and they were super smelly. Everything smelled like diesel,” Christine remembered.

She decided to make her own cushions, despite the fact that she hadn’t sewn anything since high school home economics. To prepare for making cushions, she watched Sailrite videos.

“I watched all the videos,” Christine said. “If there is a video with the word ‘cushion’ in it, I’ve watched it.”


Christine’s cockpit cushions

When she had completed all 12 of her cabin cushions, Christine was proud of her accomplishment and completely hooked on sewing. She knew that it was the right time to get a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

“I’m addicted to [my Ultrafeed,]” Christine laughed. “It’s really quite a problem.”

Christine has since made cockpit cushions, replaced the sacrificial sun cover on her jib, and has just finished making a new bimini and bimini boot.

She compared the excitement she gets working on a sewing project to reading a good book that you can’t put down.

“I think, I’m taking my time on this, because this rocks!” Christine explained.

She encourages others to try sewing for themselves and her number one advice to new sewers is “do not be afraid.”

“I think people are afraid to be a do-it-yourselfer because it won’t be perfect,” Christine said. “I tell people, ‘I may not be really perfect at this, but I sure do enjoy it.’”

She would encourage beginners to start with small, affordable sewing projects if they are nervous to dive right into a larger project. Christine also attributes a portion of her success to the Sailrite videos, which she recommends highly.

“There is nothing, nothing, like the Sailrite videos,” she said. “If you have any inkling that this is what you want to do, start at Sailrite and watch the videos.”


Christine’s bimini boot

Christine also recommends investing in some tools to make the job a little easier.

“The hotknife is so worth [the purchase] and the binder. Oh my God, I could not live without the binder,” she said. “It’s worth it to invest a little bit more and you will be successful.”

This next summer Christine hopes to improve her sailing skills on the water and to also work on some new sewing projects for her home including new patio cushions and a sail shade.

As a girl growing up in Minnesota, Kelly “Kelly Girl” Waterhouse never dreamed of sailing around the world. In fact, she didn’t even know how to sail. But if you ask her today about the four years she spent circumnavigating the globe with her husband, she’ll gush about her boat, her travels, and the freedom of sailing on the open ocean.


Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse

Kelly Girl’s sailing story starts years ago when the restaurant she managed in Minnesota sent her to open a new location in Seattle, Washington. It was there that she met Kelly Waterhouse, one of her lunch regulars. The pair hit it off and eventually got married. Since they have the same first name, she became known as “Kelly Girl” to avoid confusion.

Kelly was an experienced sailor and had grown up around boats. However, sailing didn’t play a big part in their relationship until after they were married, and it wasn’t until after the couple bought a little Catalina 22 that Kelly taught Kelly Girl how to sail on the Puget Sound.

Ever since Kelly was a little boy he had dreamed of one day setting out to travel the world, but he never thought he could do it with a wife, Kelly Girl said.

“He introduced me to sailing and to the idea of sailing the globe and I was like ‘Really? We could?’”

And so the pair began planning for their sailing adventure, thinking at first that it would be a long way off.

“We had talked about retiring young, like at 50, and then going,” Kelly Girl explained. “But we’re very mortal. There’s no guarantee that we would be there tomorrow. You just know you don’t necessarily have all the life you think, let’s do it now.’”

Despite many friends and family members thinking they were crazy, Kelly and Kelly Girl set out in search of the perfect boat to sail around the world in.

Eventually they found Moorea, a 35 ft. Dufour Sloop built in 1974.

“She was beautiful. She had a thick hull—sturdy and heavy. She was great for two people, and she had all the things we needed,” Kelly Girl explained.


Moorea anchored in Hiva Oa, Marquesas

The couple lived aboard for two years in Seattle while they readied her for the sea and saved up for their big adventure.

In 2006, at 35 years old, Kelly and Kelly Girl finally set sail, heading down the west coast of the United States to Mexico.

“We had the worst weather on the west coast going from Washington to California,” Kelly Girl said. “It was our first time sailing offshore and night sailing.”

The pair had hit a squall and their boat was creaking loudly in the waves.

“You really don’t know your boat until those situations,” she said. “Once I realized that she was a solid boat, I really wasn’t ever nervous again.”

The Waterhouse’s circumnavigation took them 4 years and 35,000 nautical miles to complete. They stopped in 30 countries spending anywhere from a week to six months in any given location.

After all the traveling was done there were two aspects of the journey that stood out to Kelly Girl.

“[My favorite was] visiting countries that are so different from your own, like Thailand—the people there were so kind and welcoming. Just visiting new cultures, learning to say hello and thank you,” she explained.

“That, and getting to a place by your own means—by the wind—the freedom of it is addicting. You feel like you’re the only ones on the ocean.”


Kelly sailing in the Marquesas

Like most sailors the Waterhouses frequently rely on their DIY skills. Kelly often hires himself out to other cruisers to fix problems on their boats for extra cash. And throughout their travels, they always have their Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine on board.

“We love our machine. It’s always been very reliable. Other cruisers know we have it and always want to borrow it!” Kelly Girl said. “We’ve fixed our sails—and I mean our heavy-duty sails, not just the light ones. It’s saved us a lot of money.”

On one fateful passage, the Ultrafeed even saved the day. While cruising through the Gulf of Aden, the couple had to make an emergency spinnaker repair.

“We were trying to keep up with our boating flotilla through pirate alley and pushed the spinnaker too hard,” Kelly Girl said.

They immediately pulled their spinnaker down and set to work on repairs. Kelly Girl was thankful that they were able to do the fix themselves.

“In situations like that, there isn’t a professional near you,” she said. “You don’t have to be an expert.”

While admitting that she is not the most talented sewer (Kelly is the go-to sewer on board), Kelly Girl feels a sense of pride from the things she’s DIY-ed. Together they’ve made a wide range of projects for their boat including: dinghy chaps, a binnacle cover, a shade system, jerry can covers, and courtesy flags.


Kelly Girl and friend, Lisa from s/v Ohana Kai, making flags with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1

Today Kelly and Kelly Girl are living in Phoenix, Arizona. They have a new 42 ft. project boat, Trini. She currently resides in Houston, Texas, where Kelly travels to work on her sporadically. The couple hopes to be living aboard again by this time next year with plans to return to coastal cruising soon after.

Kelly Girl urges other sailors dreaming of sailing full-time to follow their dreams.

“I just warn people if they do it, they might not want to come back,” she said. “If it’s the lifestyle for you—and it isn’t for everyone—but if it’s the lifestyle for you, go for it.”

Kelly Girl is the author of Sailing the Waterhouse: Swapping Turf for Surf, a story of the couple’s transition to life on the water and their first ocean passage. Her second book is due out next year.

To learn more about Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse and their adventures, follow their blog: Sailing the Waterhouse One Wave at a Time.


Jim and Connie Grant

Sailrite founders, Jim and Connie Grant share a love for two things: sailing and DIY. From building boats as a kid, to making sails to conserve money, this duo built a unique business out of their garage. Their love for sailing runs deep, and I recently sat down with them to talk about the role sailing has played in their lives.

Jim’s sailing story starts in 1949, when his Dad built the family a home on Crooked Lake in Columbia City, Indiana right after World War II. Growing up on a lake, Jim learned how to sail at the age of 12, when he, his Dad and his brother built a sailboat.

“We built a Sailfish […] and we sailed it until it sailed no more,” Jim said.

The family then decided to tackle another project, restoring a Lightning sailboat, complete with a parquet wood cockpit. Jim, along with his brother, also built and raced fiberglass powerboats in American Power Boat Association (APBA) races.

Jim met Connie at a party at Crooked Lake. The couple dated while Jim studied abroad and eventually married. Soon after, they moved to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago.

While in school, Jim and Connie bought an old Philippine mahogany sailboat for $600 and restored it with the help of Jim’s dad. When it was complete, they docked the boat at Grant Park Harbor. For two summers, to save money, Jim and Connie sub let their apartment in the city and lived on their boat. The second summer they even lived aboard with their 6-month-old baby, with only a Styrofoam raft as transport to the shore.

While in Chicago, Connie learned how to crew the ship for Jim and together they sailed competitively. In an effort to be thrifty, the pair also tried their hand at making their own sails.

“The first sail we ever made was for a Sunfish,” Jim said. “We made it out of sailcloth, or what the lady at the fabric store told us was sailcloth. It was a cotton sailcloth and it was too heavy. Every time the boat flipped it couldn’t be sailed again until the sail dried out!”

“No one made [their own] sails,” Connie added. “It was like a black art.”


Jim working on a sail in his current garage

They made an agreement with a sailcloth distributer that allowed them to finally purchase the correct materials they needed. Soon after, the pair sold their boat and moved to California, where Jim had accepted a teaching position in Political Philosophy at Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College).

For four years, Jim taught at the college, all the while building sails and racing boats. Jim and Connie built sails for their Cal20, which they raced locally. It was this exhibition of their homemade sails that would turn their hobby into a business.

“We raced that Cal20 and we did well,” Connie said. “We came in 2nd in Nationals and that’s how we started our business. All of our friends wanted us to make them sails.”

Jim and Connie ended up building sails for the entire local Cal20 fleet that year. Then Jim started writing articles for the Cal20 newsletter and giving lectures. The idea of teaching people how to make their own sails only grew from there. Jim took a leave of absence from teaching and never went back. A new company, Sailrite Kits, had been born.

Making sails on the waxed floor of their garage, Jim and Connie set up a business model for their niche business.

“Starting a business as a blank slate means that you get to make all the rules about how things should be done,” Jim explained.

They sold sail building manuals, sewing machines, and lots of 8 ft. Sabot sails, which were popular in the area at the time. To produce their own mail order catalogs, the couple even built their own print shop in their garage.

“We’re real do-it-yourselfers,” Connie said with a smile.


Jim sailing his MC Scow

When asked what he loved the most about sailing, Jim thought for a moment, and replied, “The competition is primary, and the ability to choose any destination is secondary.”

“To climb aboard the boat and sail anywhere we want to go without spending a lot of money,” he said.

“I think [sailing] is a great way to connect with people and make friends all over the countryside, and for people who cruise, all over the world,” Connie said. “This business wouldn’t exist without our Cal20 friends.”

Jim and Connie also see sailing as a great way to connect with their grandchildren. Jim has gone to sailing competitions with his grandson and all of their grandkids have tried their hands at sailing.

“They all try it, and some of them like it and some don’t,” Jim said.

“I think we’re at about 50%,” Connie added.

Jim and Connie are now retired, but their love for sailing and DIY still plays a major part in their lives. Jim is the Assistant Sailing Coach at Culver Academy, and continues to sail 7 days a week and races MC-Scows competitively. While not on the water, he is restoring a 1970 Islander 37, which he hopes to have in the water by next spring. The couple plans to take the boat to the Carolinas.

Longtime Sailrite customer, George Oprisko, is more than just the casual cruiser. In 2009, he completed a 15-year study of coral reef ecosystems that lead him around the world and on the adventure of a lifetime. George completed his circumnavigation aboard Pegasus, a custom alloy cutter that he built himself, powered by Sailrite sails.


The idea to circumnavigate the globe didn’t come to George all at once, but grew over time, starting with the desire to build a boat.

“I wanted to have a place of my own that no one could take from me,” George explained.

He commissioned a ship design from Frank MacLear from the Manhattan firm MacLear and Harris and set to work building his ship on his front lawn in Boone Grove Township, Indiana. When Pegasus was finished, George hired the Sailrite Loft to build her first set of sails.

At first, George took Pegasus out on the Great Lakes, helping graduate students conduct research. Before long George was craving adventure beyond the lakes.

“Once the ship was built, I realized I had new options,” he said. “I had always wanted to be an oceanographer[…]wanted to see and record the life of the coral reefs around the world.”

Together with the team at the Public Research Institute, where he is the Executive Director, George got an endowment to fund a 4-year circumnavigation and coral reef exploration. The route was all planned out and in 1995 he set sail solo through the U.S. river system to the east coast. 2013_July_Cpt-George-vertical-2

After several years at sea, the exploration was taking longer than planned, but it was in 2000 that it hit a major setback. The Public Research Institute lost their endowment, which meant that George had to find new ways to fund his return and complete the circumnavigation. Not discouraged, he set to work, building robots in New Zealand, and later teaching and lecturing in China.

In 2005, George built himself a new set of sails for Pegasus using supplies from Sailrite, sewing the panels together in the aft cabin.

“I was glad that I had the ability to build my own sails, and that Jim [Grant] published the books he did,” George said. “I did a full six sails: two staysails, two Yankees, and a main. The sails that I designed myself were the best fitting, highest performing sails on the boat.”

Being a do-it-yourselfer came in handy again for George, when his boat wrecked off the coast of Borneo.

“We were sailing off the coast of Borneo to Miri. In the middle of the channel, a barge was moored without lights,” he recalled.

After the wreck, George was able to do all his repairs himself, thanks to his boat building knowledge. During the journey, George even found love. He met his wife, Natalie, in Russia and she joined him aboard Pegasus. They then traveled together to Africa and the West Indies following her medical career. Finally, in 2009, they returned to America completing the study and the circumnavigation.


When asked about his relationship with Sailrite, George laughed heartily and said, “We’ve been together in one fashion or another for the last 25 years.

“I return to Sailrite again and again for the fast, friendly service, and quality products,” he added.

George sees himself as a token of what can be done with the kind of knowledge that Sailrite makes available.

“I wanted people to know what they could do with the assistance of the Grants,” he said.  “What I accomplished with Jim and Matt is something exceptional.”

What sets George’s circumnavigation apart from others is that he was the builder of his own boat.

“Only two [home builds] crossed the Pacific and went through French Polynesia in 2000. Pegasus was the only one sailed by the builder,” he said.

He recommends the cruising lifestyle for anyone who is considering it.

“If you want to go, get yourself a small boat and go,” he advised.

George and Natalie currently reside in Brooklyn, New York where Natalie is doing an internal medicine residency and George is readying Pegasus to head south. To learn more about the Public Research Institute and the Pegasus Expedition visit their website

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