A blog about dinghy cruising a Welsford 'Navigator' around the coastal waters of SW England
Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit www.YouTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
John Welsford got me thinking a few weeks ago after a comment he
made to me on a Facebook post. It went something along the lines of ‘dinghy
cruising is like land backpacking but on water and with a little extra space’
Interesting as we were having a discussion at the time about charging
small electronics on a small boat. I was trying to argue the need for packing
succinctly and lightweight. John was pointing out that Arwen could handle the
weight of a small 12v system installed in a box in her hull!
If you want to follow that argument – see previous recent posts on
charging small electronic devices in a small open boat during May _ July 2019
What John set me off thinking on – was ‘what equipment have
I got which doubles up as dinghy cruising stuff and for use on travel, cycling,
camping and trekking adventures?’
So here goes: some of the essentials I seem to use on all my adventures,
irrespective of transport mode
Packing cubes –
are such a simple thing but make life in a rucksack or waterproof duffle bag so
much easier. Basically, a bag with a zip in which you put clothes – mine are
organised in a simple fashion – one bag has one complete set of clothes in it –
socks, underwear, shirt, trousers and fleece. I have two or three of those
depending on length of trip. Another bag has two spare sets of socks, underwear
and shirts. Another a spare fleece and set of trousers. Another holds
toiletries and towels. Simple, efficient organisation – each in a dry bag
within a larger dry-duffle or each in a dry bag stored in the under deck forward locker.
Cotton sleeping bag liner –
used in some dodgy hotels in rural China and Tanzania; in rather humid Gambia
and Costa Rica. I sometimes use it instead of my sleeping bag in warm weather
on Arwen and then throw a lightweight fleece blanket over the top if there is a
chill in the night. My 4-season down sleeping bag can be very hot and
uncomfortable some August nights!
Waterproof 30 lt dry sac rucksack from
Lomo – inside it are various sized roll top dry bags. Used in downpours
in Costa Rica – this day sac with its various dry sacs has gone many places
with me and is frequently on Arwen – carrying camera gear and batteries – even my
DJI drone. The rucksack folds down small and tucks out of the way. I can clip
it in the rear cockpit or store it on the front thwart under the fore deck.
I rarely prompt products on my blog. However, occasionally I will make an exception to this, particularly when I find kit that is value for money. I have bought only Lomo dry bags for the last few years. Despite some rigorous testing conditions on the boat and whilst cycling, none have ever failed me. In fact, the front zip on the above rucksack suddenly split about two months ago and is now non functioning. The first failure of any piece of Lomo equipment I have.
my Sony HX 90, Canon 800D and GoPro’s travel in air and watertight plastic
boxes inside dry sacs inside the Lomo rucksack. Triple layer protection against
water ingress in event of capsize.
Canon 800D starter kit came with 18 - 55mm and 55 - 200mm beginner lens
I have posted before about taking photographs from boats and my camera gear and tips for photography from a boat can be found in this previous post.
I adore this lightweight compact camera - the only draw back is it wont take an external mic
Portable power banks and solar
charge panels – see recent posts on small boat electronics but in essence I travel
with a combination of big Blue 28W solar panel charger and then a combination
of power banks depending on my needs – iMuto 20000mAh and/or Power Monkey
Traveller Extreme (5v and 12v outputs). It is one of the most used gadgets I
have – taken on all my travels. One bank charges all the batteries and mobile
and android tablet during the night and I can often get two- or three-nights
worth of charging from one power bank. The solar panel charger then charges up
the power bank during the day sail or cycle ride.
My posts about using this can be found here
The Imuto 20,000 mAh - so far it has charged my mobile phone 7 times before I needed to recharge the pack itself
PowerMonkey Traveller expedition extreme - indestructible - love it!
My stretchy Mountain Equipment balaclava – yup – it
goes everywhere – even hot climates if I intend getting up in early mornings,
during the night or am tempted to do some mountain climbing. It acts as a
beanie, balaclava and neck covering. Don’t go anywhere without it! Now 20 years
old – it is still going strong – you get what you pay for – it cost a lot – its
been worth it.
A first generation original Gortex bivvy bag – bought in
the mid 1980’s I goes with me if I am off-road travelling in any country, on
any camping or mountaineering trip and always on an overnight cruise on Arwen. Lightweight
and small size it is an extra layer at night. I can camp on a beach without a
tent, being inconspicuous. Brilliant piece of kit – love it.
A set of Helly Hansen base layer thermals –
depending on the season but often go with me on Arwen and regularly in my
expedition kit - it can get cold at night even in the tropics, the Med or stuck
up a creek up the river Tamar in August.
My beloved small Trangia stove – if I am
camping, cycle touring or dinghy cruising – this goes with me. How attached am
I to it – when I climbed Kilimanjaro both times – it came with me! Lightweight,
compact, with a small bottle of meth’s, this stove has never failed to work or
cheer me up with its bright flame and hiss – even in the most desperate of
situations! Sadly, it no longer looks as gleaming as the one below but you can see many videos of it in action on my associated YouTube channel - www.YouTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy
My spork – well two of them in fact. A spork for the
uninitiated is a spoon, fork and tiny knife in one. I use it for street food
when travelling abroad, an eating utensil on camping and cruising trips. A tip - take two. An individual spork is next to useless - wait until you come to cut a pork chop with it!! Then you will understand!
Waterproof case for my mobile phone and a waterproof, submergeable plastic credit card holder – both AquaPac – if I’m heading anywhere wet, monsoonal, near the coast, on a river –
these goes with me. I always encase my phone when on Arwen.
Quick dry micro fleece towels –
normally I take two of these – one extra, extra large and one smaller – they dry
quickly, pack down tight, weigh barely anything and double as sarongs, slings
and lord knows what else over the years.
LuminAID solar powered inflatable light – I think
it was Steve Early who put me onto this one a few years back – although I will
have to check with him. Anyway, an inflatable, collapsible light giving LED
light during the night with a built-in solar panel. Attach it to backpack,
cycle panniers or thwart during the day in the sunshine. Simple and clever –
amazing gadget which now goes with me on off-road trekking, travelling and
SPOT PLB messenger – goes with me on every sailing trip;
goes with me on any wilderness cycle, trekking or travelling trip – here and
abroad. Can send simple ‘I’m OK’ messages back to designated mobile phones. Hit
the red button and summons help, irrespective of wherever you are in the world.
Relies on Satellites not internet or mobile networks.
Mine is the generation 2 version - I can send regular update messages to the Boss's mobile phone just telling her I am OK. The tracker function sends regular updates of position which she can follow on a laptop. All very useful if I happen to be out of mobile phone range or in a non mobile phone connectivity area. I can hit an SS button and it relays messages to an emergency centre which then alert UK emergency services that I need emergency help at a specific Lat/Long location. I am, in truth, also thinking of investing in another PLB which just immediately alerts emergency services.
Swiss army knife and Gerber small multi-tool – go everywhere
with me on any travels or dinghy trip – hidden away in hold luggage if
travelling internationally – the Swiss army knife is of very high sentimental
value – I’ve had it for over twenty years now.
Well there are some of my favourite items which cross all my
adventures. I could add more and I am sure you have many of your own. What pieces of kit do you take on/across most of your outdoor adventures? Share
them in the comment box below.
Sail ties? What to do with them after unfurling your sail?
In the past mine have been dropped somewhere in an 'out of the way' corner of the cockpit - a crumpled heap of tape, ready to trap the unsuspecting foot.
But now, they won't! Instead they will be quickly stored in a new, convenient 'sail ties storage bag' that will hang from the inside of the front starboard side coaming - within easy reach since I always unfurl my sails from the starboard side of the boat (don't ask me why - no idea).
30 cms long, 25 cms high
two sides simply stitched together
1.5 hrs work whilst listening to afternoon Radio 4 programmes
Having run out of waxed thread, probably a good thing, I am now planning a sea man's duffle bag and maybe a new wallet. In the meantime, I have no excuse for not tackling the three steep lawns and trimming back the hedges and woodland area. Rats!
Below is a photograph of the two ditty bags side by side. The blue was MK 1 and the red MK2. I'm personally favouring MK 2. It is neater all round. I think my ancestors would approve more of version MK 2.
Now neither bag is pristine. I cleaned that work bench several times and despite this, both bags ended up looking slightly grubby.......I prefer 'deliberately aged and distressed' as part of the authentication process!
I have written in an earlier blog about how I went about making the bag including details of measurements and alterations I would make (have made) if I were to do it again.
Under the photo below, I have put a little more about the history of ditty bags that I have researched off various internet websites for those of you who are interested in such things.
It has been really nice getting feedback from some of you via FaceBook and the blog about your thoughts on the ditty bags. Thanks to those of you who took the trouble to point me in the direction of some YouTube material as well. Most appreciated.
Both bags will be used on-board Arwen, as outlined in my first blog post on ditty bags. In the meantime, rather enjoying my improving canvas work skills, I might turn my hand to making a one or two other items. Perhaps a canvas wash bag and a sailors canvas bag. of no practical use whatsoever on Arwen, but a new set of skills to learn and something fun to do once the autumn evenings draw in.
On the workbench, waiting patiently, some blocks of Douglas fir, sheaves, brass pins, SS thimbles, hemp rope and waxed seizing twine.......making some stropped wooden blocks for Arwen - seems a worthwhile 'side' project to undertake in he next few weeks.
Some history to Ditty Bags
I briefly outlined some of the history of the ditty bag in my first posts on making my first ditty bag but here are some further details from research gleaned off the web. A good place to start is
There is considerable variance over the origins of the term 'ditty bag'. Possibilities include:
Derived from the old Saxon word 'dite' meaning 'tidy'
From the old English word 'dittis' - a type of canvas material
There is a Scottish word 'dight' meaning 'to clean, repair or make good'
Old American naval sites suggest that the term originates from the word 'ditto bag' because it contained two of everything e.g. two needles, two spools of thread, two buttons....you get the idea. Anyway, over the years 'ditto' was dropped in favour of 'ditty'.
The existence of the word can certainly be found in records dating back to the 18th century and Admiral Smyth in 1867 referred to the term in his 'Sailor's word book'.
A ditty bag is a small, portable bag that kept tools , equipment and personal items. It went alongside a sailor's sea bag or sea chest and old sailors often referred to a ditty bag as 'me housewife' because it held all the essentials for the repair of clothing, personal belongings and everything on deck! it was kept close to hand, often slung from a hammock ring or a peg/hook next to the sailor's bunk in the forecastle.
Very often, a ditty bag (and a sea bag) were the first items an apprentice sail-maker made. In making these items he would use the same stitching techniques when making and repairing sails. Seaming, making twine grommets and sewing eyelets were all important skills. In fact, old timers would often insist that 'a proper sea bag' would have five flat seams with the bottom also being put in with a flat seam too.
Although referred to as a ditty bag - I'm not sure this example is - I think this is a sailor's sea bag - an entirely different beastie in my opinion - but I am happy to be corrected - after all - what do I know? (Generally very little if truth be told).
Given that sailors of old would often spend any down time sewing new clothes, patching up old ones and making decorative patterns to demonstrate self-expression, sewing was a critical sailor skill.
Most ditty bags would contain the following items:
case with needles
wax blocks and/or horn full of grease
fids of assorted sizes
balls of twine
and often, a fancy little serving board
There seems to be some agreement as to the dimensions of a ditty bag and these I shared in the first posts about my first effort.
What I was aiming for was something like a cross between this…….
But what I got was this…………
Not a straight stitch line in sight – despite careful
measurement and pencil lines.
Despite taking my time and checking everything at least
Despite un-stitching and starting again……..
HOW, I ask myself?
I mean, really, HOW?
It just doesn’t make sense! How can I get everything I make
Our brains are amazing, wonderful things. 100 billion
neurons gathering and transmitting electro-chemical signals along myelin
sheathed axons to synapse nodal points where neuron dendrites intertwine so
that these signals can be shared with muscles and nerves in hands and eyes. Individual
neurons firing signals across a vast network.
I mean seriously, HOW?
How can I not co-ordinate the simplest of measurements or
construction tasks? How does every straight line I ever draw in life, turn out sinuously
For reference, here are the plans I worked from.
I am, sadly, unable to locate a source for the diagram I found on the internet
I have no evidence to support this, but I have always like to
think that heredity, biological inheritance, call it what you will, has passed
down through family DNA from one generation to the next, a series of familial
traits. That my siblings and I have this overwhelming need to either live near
the sea, (minutes away from it by foot or car) or to escape to the coast
whenever they can, is one such trait. The sea calls us constantly, the sense of
wilderness adventure and exploration strong in all of us. After all, great
Grandfathers and great, great grandfathers were seafarers, dockside watermen
and boat pilots, chief stewards and sailing masters for wealthy sailing Victorian
entrepreneurs’, dockside importers and exporters and of course, engineers and
hill farmers. All practical, highly skilled and knowledgeable men.
In the twisted tangle of neuron networks within the deepest
recesses of my brain, all is clearly not well. The electrochemical messages flitting
between neurons that should carry these heredity genetic codes of marlinspike
work, seamanship, simple design, precision measurement and proud craftsmanship are
And failing badly.
Despite their best electrically charged efforts, my little neurons
regularly heave a collective sigh and give metaphorical shrugs and eye rolls of
their dendritic shoulders.
Craftsmanship just isn’t going to happen. Ever!
Perfection, even mere satisfactory ‘slight imperfection’, in
measurement, construction and seamanship is clearly beyond the capability of this
latest descendent. Synapses across my cortex resignedly conclude that it will be
another long generational wait before someone picks up and displays the ability
to use the skills of design, form, function and coordination of hands and eyes
to produce something of beautiful, ornate perfection. Heredity has not passed
on these skills from father to son. Only time will tell whether there had been
a generational gap and hope will reignite in the only grandson. It doesn’t look
good though, his enduring reply to any question about making something, ‘Dad,
do these hands look suitable for manual labour?” Academic researchers - eh?
In the meantime, digressive thoughts aside - back to producing
an old-fashioned ditty bag.
I have always wanted to make a sail riggers little ditty
tool bag. This desire comes from several factors but two in particular drive it.
Firstly, I have never
been one for toolboxes. I have no idea why, given my father has a very
impressive collection of them dating back through his career as an engineer, to
when he started out as an Apprentice Fitter. I have always selected
what I tools need, carrying them in my hands and the pockets of my work apron
to the job being done on Arwen and then returning them to their respective wall
rack back in the garage. No toolbox desire for me.
But, as I have grown
older, the number of trips between garage and boat 10’ away on the drive have
Annoying at first, it elicited
mild cursing under the breath – but now it has morphed in to an inevitable ‘regular’
forgetfulness that permeates all aspects of my domestic and former working
Pushed to self-honest
reflection, I would have to admit that one of the reasons for early retirement
was the inability to retain so much new syllabus knowledge in my head. So many
curricula content changes, so many variations to working practices. Always one
to embrace change and development across my career, age is finally catching up
with me. A teacher with extensive ‘memory’ notes in hand because he cannot
remember, recall or just plain forgets the core ideas he wishes to share and
explore - is never inspiring for teenagers is it?
And so, retreating from this digression, a ditty bag seems a
perfect solution to this problem of tool forgetfulness. The tools I use regularly
on Arwen, stored in one bag, ready to go. A perfect solution.
Oh yes, and the second reason?
Well if you have ever worked on a boat that resides on a
steeply sloping driveway, you will feel empathy for this problem. That fearsome
clunk, clink, clickety click, as a tiny nut or shackle pin rolls off the
sloping thwart down into the deepest bilge board recess. That screwdriver you
reach for, no longer there because it has slide beneath your feet into that
space below where mast and sails lie across the cockpit.
Ah, the joys of maintaining a wooden boat on a steep driveway,
the pain of ‘avoidable expended energy’, as you contort body into confined
spaces to retrieve a tool or fitting – dear reader you cannot understand that
pain and frustration, unless of course, you’ve been there!
In researching a little
about ditty bags I came across Hervey Garrett Smith. In his excellent little
book ‘The marlinspike sailor’, he notes that
marlinspike seamanship is what distinguishes a true sea man from the man who
merely ventures out on the water at infrequent intervals”
Since I merely venture out
in Arwen at infrequent intervals, it is clear that I need to develop my
marlinspike seamanship to become a true seaman!
“No one should
become a skipper, or should aspire to that distinction, who has not mastered
knots, palm and needle work………and the few required knots, hitches and bends
should be so well known that they can be tied blindfolded or in the dark. The rank
of able seaman must be earned”.
Well clearly, I have some
work to do!
Ditty bags were possibly the most distinctive, idiosyncratic
item that any sailor owned. From storing pipe and tobacco to clothing or tools
for sail making or even scrimshaw, ditty bags became examples of a sailor’s
ability to sew, decorate canvas and produce fine marlinspike rope work. Canvas
and wood, the odd copper tack or two, they had carefully crafted grommets and
spliced hemp handles. Soft bottomed so that they wouldn’t scar deck or hull
sides, they were a companion to the sailors’ sea chest, the ditty bag hanging
on a hook by his hammock.
Most ditty bags had similar dimensions. 15 – 20 cm in diameter, 30 – 38 cm deep,
generally with a round bottom wood insert and four to eight eye holes around the
top – marked by hand stitched grommets, into which were worked the legs of the
spliced lanyards. Often these lanyards were elaborate works of art in their own
right, dependent on the skill and fancy of the sailor concerned, an opportunity
to display knot making – a Matthew Walker’s knot, a plaited or crowned sennit
or two. The sailors initial stitched in coloured twine to show ownership.
A brief summary of one of the kinds of stitching method I used on my ditty bag
The other stitching tool used, other than needle and sailors palm was the speedy stitcher sewing awl
Knowing my inability to replicate anything well from a plan,
I was aiming for a simple bag, as my first attempt!
My ditty bag will contain various tools on the outside in
deep pockets – pliers, sharp knife, screw drivers, a small hacksaw, fid’s,
pencils, a small clamp and cutters. Inside, sail needles, sail twine spools, a
sailmakers leather palm, a ball of waxed cotton thread, speedy stitcher, awl, a
spare shackle or two, some thimbles and a reel of electrical tape. Spare bolts and screws of assorted sizes,
some wooden bungs, a few plywood patches and a tube of underwater epoxy putty
may be added. The tools and bits and pieces to cover most minor maintenance
eventualities on Arwen.
It is fair to say, my first effort would gain a ‘good
effort but further practice needed’ on any report card and so I feel once again,
the metaphorical shrugging of my heredity neurons within my deepest cortex
recesses….’maybe next time’.
But, on the bright side, skills have been trialled – sewing flat
diagonal stitching, creating a nesting ring grommet, tying my first running
turk’s head knot.
Baby steps, baby steps! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day
and I have every intention of making a second ditty bag, the same as this one,
only better, with some modifications – ideas learned through this first
Below, I have laid out the basics of how I constructed
this first effort, along with some suggested modifications. If I have
failed to explain in sufficient detail how to do something, internet searching
will reveal an explanation, and please forgive my omissions.
So here goes……………
·Old duck cotton material salvaged from an old
1950’s scout bell tent – a whitish cream colour and in good condition. The diagram further up gives size dimensions and
was the nearest thing I had to a plan
·Not on the plan and therefore self-worked out
(hear those neurons sighing?) – blue thinner canvas for the pockets – I’ll give
measurements further down – although there was a little trial and error
·Half inch three strand hemp rope – I used around
a metre and a half of it for handles, opening outside grommet and, when
untwisted, for making small grommets for handle holes in the canvas
·Around a metre and a half of 6mm three strand
hemp rope for making running turk’s head knots
·A 6.5 inch diameter piece of 9mm thick plywood,
for the base
·Several metres of waxed sail twine
·Around 50 cm of 1 cm wide, 4mm thick, leather
strip for the base
·20 or so 10 mm long copper tacks
·Some evo-stick contact cement - I cheated!! Just a tiny, tiny bit
·Sharp utility knife
·Steel one metre ruler
·Steel set square (40 cm long sides)
·Pointed nose pliers
·Sail stitching needles – various sizes
·Swiss army penknife
·Bandsaw and sander
·Heavy duty scissors
1.Layout your canvas on a clean flat surface. If
it has creases, go iron them out – no seriously – go iron them out. Learn
from my mistakes!! A crease will
affect your precise cutting – trust me! Come back and add the measurement
pencil lines, marking the positions of grommet holes, folds and seams in pencil
or dressmakers white chalk. Tripe check the accuracy of your measurements off
the plan below. Cut the cloth accordingly, ONLY after you have checked your
measurements for a fourth time!
2.Now pre-crease along all the fold lines – I used
a rounded wooden piece of dowel to help put in firm creases. And this is where
I did the only cheat, something no traditional sailor would have done – after checking
the fold lines were correct – I stuck down some of the folds with dabs of
evo-stick – to retain them for easier stitching along later. Sorry! (Of course,
I tested the glue on an off-cut beforehand to ensure it didn’t stain or affect
the cloth in any way – never forget people - do your stain test!)
3.Now looking at each of the folds that would need
stitching – I visualised where the stitch seams would go and drew in pencil
guidelines to stitch along – hopefully thereby ensuring straight stitch lines
in the final outcome. If you are a perfectionist, you can even mark on the
needle hole positions at fixed intervals. I wish I had done that – I did the
stitch line positions but not the stitch hole intervals. Learn from my
4.I started by turning down the top of bag entrance
folds and hand stitching them in place using the stitching pattern in the
illustration below. I then did the same to the bottom fold and side fold seams.
next time - I think I would leave the side seams unstitched – i.e. not folded
back on themselves and stitched. The reason for this is that when it came to
the stage of stitching the cloth into a tube – at the joining seam I was trying
to put a needle through what amounted to four layers of canvas – and it was
5. There were no instructions with this plan I
found and so it has been trial and error. Having done the above I put the
canvas aside and decided what size handles I wanted. Having made this decision,
I then made four simple thin rope grommets – I went for the ‘wound style’ in which
I wound twine around the grommets and secured it with a hitch or two – thus hiding
the hemp rope inside an outer covering of waxed twine and basically making a ‘waxed
twine ring’. (Later I stitched these in place using the same method – so that
the little rope grommet essentially had two outer coverings of wound wax twine –
see stage 7 below). (In
retrospect – I
wish I had gone for a far better handle design – see step 11 below for further
6.Before marking on the position of the holes for
the rope handles, I decided to stitch in place first the outer hemp rope
grommet that strengthens the neck of the ditty bag. Here I was lazy and rushed
things. I didn’t make a proper rope grommet. Instead I cut the length of rope
to the length of the cloth when laid flat and then stitched it in place so that
the two ends would meet and butt against each other when the sides were finally
joined together. On the positive side – I did ensure that the stitching was hidden
within the rope. (In
retrospect, next time – I’ll be far more professional and actually make a
proper rope grommet where the ends are correctly spliced together. Then I will
add it after the canvas has been stitched into a tube).
7.After stitching in place the outer rope
strengthener above, I made the holes where the handles would go in the top folded
lip of the bag. Measuring out equal spacing for their location, I used awl to
make initial hole, penknife scissors to cut the holes and a fid to help widen
them to the correct diameter. I’m sure there must be an easier way of doing it –
but I couldn’t find one on-line. I suspect a dress maker will have a pretty
good idea on how to do it better. Each grommet was placed over its hole and stitched
in place. I used the simple wound stitching – so that the grommet was covered and
attached. (In retrospect
– next time I will go for a neater, more seaman like alternative – the hitched
grommet, as shown in the picture below. Instead of winding the twine around the
grommet, it is put around the rope with a series of individual little hitches.
A tip – when you have cut the holes where the handles will go, mark an outer circle
in pencil a few millimetres away from the hole edge. This will form the stitch
insertion line guide – leading to a better finished product than my feeble
first attempts – remember – learn from my mistakes!).
8.Preparation of the main bag area is now
completed. Thus, attention turned to the outer pockets and here I made it up as
I went along. Using some blue lighter weight canvas I had left over from a
halyard bag making project a couple of years ago, I marked it up in a similar
fashion to the main bag. Fold and stitch lines were marked on in correct
positions. I made sure that the top entrance lip would have a double fold
thickness for stiffened strength, the bottom of the bag, a similar
strengthening fold. These were glued and stitched in place along guide lines
(not that you could tell from the disastrous wonky stitch lines on the finished
article – there goes that metaphorical neuron shrug again). I then decided what
width I wanted each pocket to be and marked on pencil lines as a guide for the
vertical stitching that would be required. Happy with the measurements I then
stitched by hand or with the speedy stitcher the blue canvas pockets to the
main bag whilst it still lay flat on the workbench top. (In retrospect – next time I will stitch the bottom
of the pockets to the bottom of the actual main body of the ditty bag – not like
I did in the picture – where I left a 1.5” gap between the pocket bottom and
bag base – I have no idea what possessed me to do that – it meant that the
bottom part of the bag collapses slightly when tools are put in the pockets –
doing it the alternative way mentioned above – will lead to stronger pockets
and less bag collapse).
9.Now it was time to take the canvas and turn it
into a cylinder. I made sure that one side overlapped the other edge by around
an inch and then I marked on an outer stitch guide line around 3mm from each of
the seam edges. I stitched down both edges to ensure the bag was secure using
that diagonal stitch shown in a diagram above. I couldn’t find an easy way of
doing this stitching. I tried turning the bag inside out – it didn’t make any
difference – I still ended up with one hand inside the bag pulling the needle
through and pushing it back out again. It was fiddly!
10.With the finished cylindrical tube now finished,
I test fitted the sanded plywood base. It was a snug fit.
11.Next came the attachment of the bag base and I
turned the cylinder bag inside out to make it easier. Having pre-folded the
outer rim of the canvas base, making sure it was firmly creased, I proceeded to
stitch the base fold and the bag fold together using both speedy stitcher and
hand sewing stitches. Then it was just a matter of turning the bag back on
itself so the outer side was indeed on the out side and then re-inserting the
wooden base. Hey presto – the base fitted neatly into the area where the two
folds had been stitched together.
12.The bag base was secured to the plywood with
small copper tacks at 1” intervals into the side of the plywood edge, making
sure that I kept the bag base really tight against the plywood base at all
times. Once secured with the tacks, the leather strips were added, their bottom
edge lining up with the bottom edge of the bag. Again, copper tacks at 1”
intervals were used to secure these in place.
13.To all intents and purposes the canvas work on
the bag was now complete – leaving only the rope handles to work on. And hear,
another personality trait emerged – Keen to finish the bag I took short cuts
and rushed the finishing touches – and on completion – immediately regretted
it. I cut two pieces of three-ply hemp rope – half inch diameter – each around 18
inches in length. I whipped all four ends – pretty professionally – whipping rope
ends is something I have finally mastered. I then threaded each end through its
respective grommet hole and secured it on the inside with a overhand knot. When
the loop handles were installed – I seized the tops of the handles together to
form a small loop through which a stainless-steel carabiner could pass. Having
tied a running turk’s head knot over my fingers, I transferred this onto the
rope handles. This knot slides up and down thus helping close or open the neck
of the ditty bag. (In retrospect
– what I
should have done – was displayed more pride and craftsmanship – I should have
actually spliced each handle around its individual grommet hole and then
whipped the splice with waxed twine – a far more professional finish – lesson learnt!
And, whilst I think about it – I think I would go for just a single handle, not
the double. I envisage the handle being two parts which can be secured by a
toggle and loop affair at the top – perhaps I need to think this bit through
And so, there is the story of my first ditty bag and attempt
at learning some marlinspike seamanship. Call it a work in progress!
I have every intention of doing this again, making the
modifications I have outlined. Hopefully within the next few months. I will
post the results of the second attempt here as a postscript to this post. Maybe
next time! After all practice makes perfect!
Anyway, I feel the need to try and sooth the restless synaptic
shrugs from my heredity ancestral DNA!!
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. Follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen, grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about our travels and adventures. Subscribe on this blog and at www.youtube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy for videos about dinghy cruising. I look forward to hearing your comments, tips and thoughts.
Whilst waiting for the new 24W Big Blue solar panel to arrive, I am now turning attention to investigating whether I can establish a connec...
John Welsford's 'Navigator' design
The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". She weighs 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sq ft. Rigged with a standing lug sail, she has side, centre and front thwarts and space for four although she is an ideal single hander. There are a huge number of locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm
I have added two portable galley boxes, a collapsible sleeping platform, boom tarp tent and outboard bracket along with re-boarding straps. Details of all these adaptations can be found in various blog posts. Use the search blog facility.