Love Letter to Sailrite

I learned to sew in 8th grade home ec(onomics) class and picked it back up a few years ago with the desire to make garments. I’ve since made all sorts of clothes and worked with increasingly difficult fabrics – turning silk into my wedding dress and old sails into tote bags for friends. Azimuth called for a main sail pack, dodger, weather cloths, lee cloths, and a few other odds and ends. The dodger would be my magnum opus and courage to give it a go has been building for the past many years.

I first came across Sailrite when researching how to make weather cloths – a fabric and webbing creation that keeps a napping sailor on the couch. They had all the supplies and a video on how pull together the custom measurements for a boat. Eureka! It came together fairly easily and the pay-off was the most delightful naps on our way south to Monterey in 2019.

Scott and the weather cloth

I next moved along to the main sail pack, and actually did this project twice. The pack helps drop the mainsail safely shorthanded and the brighter blue one now lives on a friend’s boat. She traded me some rum and the book “First You Row a Little Boat”.

I made the first on the boat and dock when we had 20 year old sails, and the next sprawled out at a friend’s house over a couple weeks. When we bought new crispy sails, the pack hardly fit and the opening by the mast spelled sun damage. This was my biggest project to date, and taking it one step at a time with Sailrite was super fun.

This go-around the instructions for batten pockets clicked in a new way, extra space for cutting in sewing led to straighter lines, and the mast flap I spied on someone else’s page provides coverage without a finicky zippered piece that needs to be stowed (reader, we would not have kept taking it on and off). All the extra time spent sewing masks and bags and pants contributed to an improved pack.

We’re leaving our slip in Alameda for good on Thursday and the dodger couldn’t be put off any longer. Our old dodger came with the boat and had broken zippers, mildewy fabric, and a frame that hit right in my sight line – making it harder to helm. In a moment of DIY desperation, I called around to canvas shops and received quotes of $5-7K and 6-12 months to fabricate. (Yikes!) Surely I could do better than that with Sailrite’s $750 kit, patience, design help from Scott, and a little help from a friend who lent her living room to the cause.

Leaned on Scott’s design and detail skills to make the pattern out of duraskrim material. Starting with a strong fit led to a much better final product.

We had about 72 hours of housesitting and “went ham” on the dodger. Matt from the Sailrite videos became a part of the team – pausing and rewinding and progressing through the 4.5 hour how-to video.

Laying out the pattern at our friend’s house in Alameda

I was shocked by how incremental the project was – all steps and techniques I’d used before in relentless succession. There’s something comforting to me about throwing myself into long sewing or knitting projects. A lot of the work is tedious and leaves space for thinking. The finished product is a reminder of the effort and process. Here’s some more pics of how it turned out:

Fit test before installing Strataglass windows

Tossing the project “out the window” while running it through my Singer Heavy Duty machine. This turned sewing into a team sport and would have been nearly impossible without a helping hand.
Fasteners installed – just pending stainless handrails. We’ll probably get to this step on anchor somewhere.
New and improved view from the helm – now I can seeeee! Boxes everywhere as we prep for haul out on Thursday.

If you made it this far and are considering a preposterously large project, I’m sending you good gumption to go for it! Step by step.

Published by Ash

Knitter, sailor, and sewist on the move from San Francisco to the Chesapeake Bay aboard a 36' sailboat named Azimuth.

2 thoughts on “Love Letter to Sailrite

    1. Hey thank you! Made my day to hear. I had it on my list for 2 1/2 years before working up the gumption. I learned a lot from the sail pack and other sewing endeavors, but have heard of folks who jump straight in too.

      Liked by 1 person

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