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The Rope & Canvas Sailor

Practical marlinespike and hand-sewn canvas projects for small boats.

July 21 – July 27
Brooklin, Maine
Experience Level
Activity Level

This is a five-day course ending Friday

Hervey Garrett Smith’s classic 1953 book, The Arts of the Sailor, is the inspiration for José’s introductory course on traditional rope and canvas work. While many people have an interest in learning how to sew canvas with a sailmaker’s palm and needle, there is little practical instruction available, and even less information on where to find good, modern substitutes for tools and materials once used by sailors aboard tall ships. Here is a great opportunity to gain some of those skills and plenty of information on knots and ropework, as well.

The week will begin with the fundamentals of palm and needle sewing, discussions of tools and various materials, and basic marlinespike rope work. Students will work on several projects throughout the course. Everyone will make their own ditty bag with a decorative marlinspike handle.

Most “fancy” knots have humble and practical origins aboard ships. José will show you how to create useful items that will look good and feel at home on a small wooden boat. Students might make a monkey’s fist heaving line, a lanyard, small mat, Turk’s heads, bracelets, etc.

At the conclusion of the week, each student will come away with a good set of basic tools, the knowledge to use them, and, hopefully, the inspiration to take on other projects for their boat or around the house.

  • Who is this course best suited for?

    This course is appropriate for someone with little or no experience.  The course is designed around the idea that you have not done this before or know very little about the subject.  Students should pay more attention to suggested readings or videos to help familiarize themselves ahead of time.

    This course involves a low level of activity throughout the week including: occasional standing and working, seating is usually available, working on your own project at your own pace is common.

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