What materials have you found which please the eye and feel pleasant but can withstand the rigours of sailing?
Are you one of those amazing people who make all their own sail
covers, awnings, and other exterior stuff, or, like us, do you find the whole
subject too terrifying to tackle? Whether you make it yourself or have it made,
interior upholstery and external livery is important to the whole look and feel
of a boat. The right colour scheme can elevate a boat and the wrong one has been
known to induce feelings of nausea in people who are already feeling less than
steady on their feet at the start of a voyage!
Even if you plan to have everything made for you, it helps if
you know a bit about the topic so that you can assess the services of those who
are offering to do your work and the materials best suited to marine life.
Many boats carry a sewing machine aboard, mainly for the purpose
of making running repairs to sails which have fallen foul of any of the many
potential hazards at sea, chafing against stays or being caught out by a sudden
squall, to name but two obvious instances. Some cruisers make absolutely
everything for their boats themselves but most of us have the bulk of the work
done by professionals and confine our efforts to making small items.
Quite a few
of us hand sew, not because we are die-hard traditionalists but because we have
never been able to get the hang of machine sewing! Naturally, this limits the
amount of finished work we are likely to find time to produce, but there is a
certain satisfaction in making things entirely by hand which is hard to beat.
Some of us do things better than others and we certainly wouldn't claim to be
particularly pleased with most of the results we get, from the aesthetic point
of view but there are some who shine in the hand-stitching department...
they are not sailors they live by the sea, which is the next best thing, and
when we visited the Anglican church on the seafront for our Places
Of Worship page, we met the ladies of Bequia learning to sew from a
senior member of the community, one was sewing a shirt for an infant, another a
table centre, and we thought you might like to peek in at them, hard at work...click
on any mini-photo to see the full-size version.
We are proud to have this page sponsored for the first edition of MarineZine by
the Fensom family business which took on and completed a total canvas and
upholstery refit for Leopard Normand III in 1998/99, moving into the premises
they now occupy during the same period, and did us proud in a handsome shade of
dark blue Sunbrella for the three sail/boom covers, the cockpit seating
and scatter cushions, a cube containing two folding sun mattresses and eighteen
winch covers, not to mention a wonderful cover for Bella McCaw's cage, with
spray proof windows, sun-blinds and a door flap;plus a white Sunbrella cockpit awning and
Down below, Carlos Fensom, originally trained as a
sail-maker, re-designed the single berth upholstery to give us nearly six inches
of extra mattress width and more comfortable backrests than the boat has ever
had, made new mattresses for both double berths, covered in Sunbrella, made us
fourteen new pillows, using the feathers from six old pillows to make seven of
them and filling the rest with a modern synthetic stuffing. He also made us two
covers for each pillow.
Three tired out and enormous old duck down duvets were
emptied (ugh, horrible job!) and the contents used to make two lighter double
duvets and three singles, using one of the many wonderful upholstery
fabric designs available in Trinidad. Using the same fabric, Carlos, helped as
always by his lovely wife and brother, then made us another set of duvets in the
same sizes but, again, with a modern synthetic filling. They then made us a
'bolster'-style cover, in the same fabric, for each duvet and covers for all the
pillows too, so that the berths all look like sofas in the day-time.
The U-shaped seating around the dining table was re-covered and we picked out a
selection of compatible fabrics which Carlos used to make several sets of covers
for the scatter cushions and sofa cushions on the other side of the saloon, as
well as seat-cushions for the two late Regency chairs which occupy the fourth
side of the dining table.
The quotations he gave us were neither the highest nor the lowest we got but we
liked his attitude and the care with which he measured and assessed everything
before calculating his 'quotes', as well as the time-scale he suggested which
was practical and prompt. The quality of the work was excellent, he was
perfectionist about everything.
We exclaimed in delight at the U-shaped seat
covers and he shook his head and said that they were not good enough, there were
one or two places where he didn't feel they fitted perfectly, whipped them off
the seating as was gone! Two hours later he was back and this time, although we
hadn't seen what was wrong before, it became obvious that, with his practised
eye, he had spotted something because, sure enough, they looked even better the
second time around!
The Fensom family try not to make the mistake that so many
of the businesses in the area tend to make, of taking on so much work at once
that someone will be let down when time runs out. They are very clear about when
they will be able to start and how long the work will take, and they then
concentrate on each client's work, pausing only to do guarantee work for
existing clients if the need arises, which it tends not to unless it is because
materials let them down - we had a problem with a branded fabric and Carlos
replaced it, at no cost to us, when the material turned out to be from a
Whilst much of the work which was done for us in Trinidad was, to
say the least, disappointing, we are full of praise for Alpha Canvas and
delighted that they have chosen to participate in our new venture by sponsoring