Thursday, February 11, 2010

A few things that aren't as easy as they seem - no pun intended

Some time ago it was decided that sewing the single dipping lug sail for the Monomoy did not justify the expense of a canvas sewing machine. So for the last two weeks or so, I've been cutting out and seaming the panels by hand. I don't want to go into a whole dissertation about sailmaking, but I should mention a few good resources. Emiliano Marino's The Sailmaker's Apprentice has been very helpful in designing the sail and providing basic information about seaming and construction. Next your local sailmaker - in my case crazy Irishman Jerry Mullins. I invariably find nothing so useful as consulting a professional, for two important reasons 1) they provide a lot of common sense guidance on your specific project, and 2) there is now someone to laugh at you if you give up. Both are important when setting out to sew your first sail, and Jerry is an exceedingly splendid source of both requirements.

I did have a slight leg up in starting my first sail. Marino urges first time canvas workers to make a ditty bag by hand. Cool! Been there, done that! Back in school I made three or four, each of which served various uses from collapsible bucket that can be hidden under a coat (for use in pranks) to a stirrup (don't ask) to one that caught a friend's sea sickness in the South Atlantic. That bag I gave away as a gift soon after. But I do have some canvas working experience. And raiding my stores, sure enough, there were about half a dozen needles, my old roping palm and an ungodly huge ball of beeswax (where the hell was that when I was making boat soup last time?!). Work started in my living room in earnest, partially because the lofting bay is taken up by the molds of the 24-foot Launch and partly because this is my 'I'm feeling lazy' project. After all, most of my time doing it is spent sitting on my ass, listening to Mahler. It should be remarked, by the way, that Mahler or Brahms both provide great seaming music. Sibelius should not be attempted - you might find yourself skewering your hand on the needle intentionally if it's allowed to go on for too long. Just sayin'.

So now, after two weeks of stretching folded strips of canvas across my living room floor and sewing until my hands look like they belong on Ed Norton in Fight Club, the sail's panels are all one solid mass of folded canvas. In the next week I'm going to hijack a gymnasium somewhere so I can lay it all out and mark the perimeter, then start in on tabling and patching. All in all it will be some time before I attempt to show this work to anybody, lest they should figure out that I'm not having fights I can't talk about in my basement after midnight.


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