Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bimini Cricket

What an amazing two weeks it has been!  Since my arrival in Santa Barbara, Adam and I have done a little traveling, some socializing and lots and lots of boat work. So goes the life of a boat owner. Actually, one of the more candid books I have read about the cruising life defined cruising as the art of doing boat repairs in exotic locations. Luckily the majority of our projects have been related to improvement rather than repair.  Still, we are currently stocking up on extra engine parts and reading (tantalizing, I assure you) instruction manuals for the many devices on the boat.  While Adam puts those rock climbing skills to work and shimmies his way up the mast for rigging and electrical work I have been rather domestic. Aside from freakishly organizing the entire boat into a series of labeled Ziploc bags, and becoming acquainted with our Fisher-Price-sized kitchen my big project of the past few weeks was to create a sun-shade, or bimini, for the cockpit of the boat.
Rachel sewing by headlamp
The trip down from Seattle was not particularly sunny, but for where we are headed a bimini may help us to avoid looking like lobsters.  Due to the 24/7 exposure to UV radiation, most boat canvas is made of a special material called Sunbrella.  This synthetic fabric with individually died threads has the advantage of not decomposing or fading in the sun but it also carries a hefty price tag. Hiring someone to do the canvas work for us was definitely out of the budget.  Frankly, hiring anyone to do anything for us is out of the budget.  Luckily, I have been stitching away since I was old enough to see over the machine while sitting on two phone books. However, as I learned in July while doing some sail repairs, my Mom's Singer is far tamer than the industrial beasts required for heavy duty work.  It is as if you had learned to ride on a Shetland pony and then you drew the baddest bronc at the rodeo.

Another obstacle was that I had never sewn something this large without a pattern.  Sure, the Bennie Baby sleeping bag (there may have been multiple) I constructed as a middle schooler was nothing short of a work of art, but for the bimini we are talking about a much larger scale.  We soon came up with the brilliant idea of stitching together two bed sheets to make a pattern of our own.  This was a much larger production than it sounds due to the fact that without a canvas cover holding them together, the bows of the bimini are free to move and fold as they will.  After expending an entire role of masking tape to stretch the sheets into place I drew the desired outline of our bimini.  A fool proof plan if I ever saw one! Pattern in hand, Adam and I zipped around downtown Santa Barbara on our folding bikes to order the canvas before we left the harbor to anchor for a few days off the beach.  More on this experience later.

When your home constantly moves, and has no flat surface larger than about three feet square, it is not exactly conducive to large sewing projects.  You have to get creative.  My creativity led me to the local carousel where there are large areas of semi-covered concrete on which I could spread out to cut the final pieces of precious Sunbrella. In the end, the pattern ended up looking more like an overgrown, oblong amoeba than any bimini I would want to sit under.  After many renditions of the fabric wrapping exercise discussed above we eventually got the correct shape, despite the fact that we were now anchored and the boat was actively rolling. (Not so good for sleeping either...)

Bobbin-eyed from too much sewing...

To make a long story short, with lots of help and patience from Adam, car rides and phone calls from my Grandmother, Rob at Bob's Canvas and a wonderful man named Grant House at Grant House Sewing Machines I was able to construct a bimini that we have now been enjoying for a week.
Moments has a new hat!
Today Adam told me we will have to cut some holes in the back in order to mount the solar panel.  Alas.....