Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information

(Published in The Ash Breeze, Journal of the Traditional Small Craft Association, Vol. 26, No.4, Winter 2005. By S. K. Hopkins with photos by The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Dr. John Hawkinson.)


Seven boatbuilding apprentices at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD got an introduction to small-craft sailmaking, and ended a week-long course by lofting, sewing, and hand-finishing sails for their recently-completed Eastern Shore Stick Up Skiff.

Bob Savage, Museum staffer who helps manage the CBMM apprentice program, conceived the idea of adding sailmaking to apprentices’ boatbuilding skills, and invited me to conduct what he called a “master class,” to include sharing the skills needed to design and make traditional Bermudan, sprit, sprit-boomed, gaff, lug and gunter sails.

This seemed like a big order, but after noodling up a course outline, I loaded my van with a hand-crank sewing machine, Tyvek (for practice) and Oceanus sailcloth, plus the tools and furniture used daily in my loft, and presented myself for duty. Bob helped me organize an impromptu “loft” in the Boatshop, and assisted the project throughout (that’s him helping apprentice Tom Kindling).

We adopted Emiliano Marino’s excellent Sailmaker’s Apprentice as our text, practiced theory and art on the Tyvek for a few days, and then the apprentices tackled the real stuff.

Using their newly-learned rules of thumb and techniques, with minimal coaching from the instructor, they produced very creditable sails for the “unicorn skiff.” Their work included every step of the process -- designing, determining edge rounds and broad seams, lofting, cutting up the cloth, machine sewing the panels and patches, hand sewing corner rings, and working the rope beckets to take the sprit tips. They even scouted out Museum logos to sew on at the tacks.

Finally, they all got a chance to sail the skiff, and study their handwork.

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