Sew what?

Before we even sailed away on Blue Heeler, we knew there would be plenty to sew aboard a vessel. In 2010 we invested in a Sailrite Ultrafeed sewing machine from the U.S. and purchased a stack of sewing items including fabric from Sailrite. The machine didn’t take long for the machine to pay for itself. It will sew thick items including sails, except the thick clew or tack.

Recycling materials is good for your wallet and good for the environment. Many of my new ‘creations’ (below) are made from re-using fabric and materials I have on hand.

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2009 – Life before the Ultrafeed! Hoisted up high to hand-stitch a seam on the foresail.


2014 – Madagascar, replacing worn stitching on deck is much easier than strung up the mast


2011 – Dinghy cover from Sunbrella ‘Sunflower Yellow’ and ‘Captain Navy’ and Stamoid vinyl fabric (navy) around the hand-holds and under the bow. In 2016, I refurbished the cover. Despite the fading, it’s still going strong.


2010 – Seat covers in saloon help keep the original upholstery clean. A new set of covers made in Mauritius in 2014.


2017 – In Thailand I had seat covers professionally made, but I was never happy with them. They were too long and difficult to stow, and the light grey Sunbrella I chose was difficult to keep clean. Reusing the fabric and zips and adding some new Navy Sunbrella, I’ve made eight separate cockpit cushions to compliment our store-bought Comfort Chairs.



2013 – Using a friend’s hatch-cover template, I produced my own for the three large hatches on Blue Heeler using Sunbrella ‘Captain Navy’ and 3mm line to tie down. These help protect the new acrylic we had installed the same year.


2018 We bought a Cobb bbq and I made a Stamoid cover using a zip from an old bimini. Perfect!


Jerry cans and outboards are forever in the sun and Sunbrella covers are easy to make and help protect them from the elements; #4 brass grommets used for the jerry covers – Navy Sunbrella plus two made from blue Top Gun.

Covers protect Jerries

Navy Sunbrella, one inch black seam tape to trim; one inch webbing nylon and clips used for the outboard lift.

2013 – In Thailand’s Boat Lagoon, our small apartment became my sewing room. New curtains replaced the old worn ones using material bought from Spotlight, Australia, as I couldn’t find any plain fabric in Thailand!


Courtesy flags can be hard to find in remote places, and they can be expensive to buy so it pays to make flags whenever possible. Typically I’ll use the Sailrite sewing machine to whip them up beforehand, although on passage that isn’t always feasible and I have to hand-stitch. For the trip across the Indian and Atlantic oceans, I had a stack made by Rolly Tasker in Phuket who made them for A$10 each in 2013. Sometimes though you make do with what’s on hand – like my Dominican Republic flag which was made with old white curtain, old umbrella fabric, and the centred Coat of Arms was drawn with pastels!!


Anchor Sail2009 – The very first thing we made was an Anchor Sail which helps to keep the boat pointed into the wind.

Top Gun material, grommets, sliders and threads purchased from Sailrite and sewn with our Ultrafeed.

Instructions are available on the Sailrite webpage.




2018 – Storing bikes on board is a bit of a challenge. Recycling Sunbrella and zips from our original bimini cover, plus some left-over naugahyde and one inch tape, I made two bike-bags. With one wheel off and the pedals removed, two bikes are easily stored aft and the covers keep the salt away from moving parts.

Fender covers are easy to make and over the years I’ve made at least three sets. Mostly they deteriorate through canals as they tend to scrub the slime from the concrete walls of locks. With different size fenders and using new blue bath-towels, I can whip up at least six covers quite inexpensively compared to store-bought covers.