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Keeping 'em in stitches

Bob, bob, bobbin along

Perhaps not the most momentous post I've ever made, but to illustrate the sort of headspace I'm in, this little device was my Christmas present from my wife. The Speedy Stitcher may look like something acquired by using a time machine to mug a cobbler, but it's actually a handy little device that would have made my rode-driven Adventures in Whipping more effective than using a simple sailmaker's needle, as one does.

I just realized that last sentence will be somewhat confusing to my foreign readers. Twenty years ago, it would have been confusing to me. But I had to learn nautical English, which seems to have little to do with standard English, so you will have to, too.

I learned about this handy device on, a useful and somewhat less bombastic and more practical sailing forum I frequent. Available at the esteemed Lee Valley Tools for a far more reasonable price than had I bought it from, say, West Marine, the Speedy Stitcher seems, on first use (on otherwise good jeans worn through due to winter bike riding), to be a practical addition to the sailmaker's tackle box I've always carried. I actually like fabric repair and will occasionally make simple clothing. I find it calming, and, as a sailor, very useful going forward in the sense of applying chafe gear, patches and sail repairs. There's always make and mend aboard: you might as well have the right tools.

Mukluks? Maybe with built-in flotation.


John at NYC said...

Thank you Rhys. That device seems to be a very useful tool, much easier to use than a needle and thread.

Have you tried sail tape? I wonder how it would stick to a wet sail and how long it would last. I haven’t tried it, I still resort to antediluvian methods.

You mention sailing forums. There are quite a few out there, some inhabited by sofa sailors who seem to spend more time on the web than on the water. Which forums do you prefer?

John at NYC said...
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Rhys said...

It takes a little practice (and perhaps the viewing of the video a couple of times) to get the thread leading cleanly, but I think I've got it sussed. The awl aspect means you can push the needles (I've bought spares) more easily through several thicknesses.

I have tried sail tape. Maybe mine was old...didn't stick very well or for long. I tend to make an initial stitch to close the rip, and then I make a "sandwich" from two Dacron patches (which can be weakly sticky just to hold position). Then I stitch through the corners and separately stitch the perimeter. That will usually hold well and not distort the shape, and will serve until I have a sailmaker cut a new panel...or until I recycle a nicer sail.

There are a lot of sailing forums. I used to frequent, but I found the armchair admiral situation, as you point out, too onerous to bear. I do frequent Cruisers' Forum, which I find at times very stuffy and very lacking in humour. But they do have a fairly high percentage of active cruisers (not just Florida daysailers who've seen dark clouds that one time), and of, interestingly to me, professional mariners like harbour masters, 100-tonners and merchant mariners/cruise ship staff.

That's the appeal to me: getting the input of people who actually work on the sea.

The only other one I read is, started, as you can read a few posts below, by my friend Alex, who as a semi-pro racer in Portugal, got exasperated by know-nothings more interested in barbeques than in big air.

That said, a lot of guys on these sites are some distance from water or from owning a boat of their choice. There's an element of cabin fever in some of them, and it's best to be selective in what threads you bother reading. Me, I've learned a lot on line I wouldn't have anywhere else...acquiring a "Speedy Stitcher" is only one example.

By the way, the old "" mailing list was FAR ruder than these moderated web-based lists. Except for "". That one's pretty well nothing but rude, despite the high percentage of fairly skilled racers there.

It's like going to a sports bar: It can be fun to drink beer and cheer for a team with friends, or at least the like-minded. But sometimes you just want to get out and PLAY the game...not watch!