If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Ditty Bag

November 7, 2016

It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.

A reader brought to my attention recently that I have not talked much about our ditty bag. A list of its contents is in My Boat Lists but I now see that the list is nowhere near complete. In fact, we must have recently cleaned out the ditty bag right before I wrote that list, because I have never known it to be that empty. So in order to rectify this lack of attention to a well-used, much-loved, often-cussed piece of canvas, here's a little ditty about our ditty.

When we first moved aboard in 2001, I had a list of canvas projects to complete. I had a $5 sewing machine from the 1940s that I'd bought at a yard sale, and I was determined to wear that poor thing out. Many of those projects have since been replaced. Dave has built us 2 or 3 dodgers since the one I built using that little machine. We don't even still own the headsail that I spread out on my classroom floor the week before school started so I could replace the suncover. We are down to 2 canvas buckets from the original 5 I built that summer. (We gave one away as a gift, one we completely wore out, one was a sacrifice to Neptune (Thanks, Nick!) and the other is simply missing.) But the ditty bag is still with us, full beyond capacity, and always within easy reach.

Bag of goodies

I found the plans for both the ditty bag and the canvas buckets in one of Lin Pardey's excellent books, though I admit that I've since forgotten which one. (I believe it was Cost Conscious.) While I was building the ditty bag I was sure that it was overkill. Too heavy duty. Too big. What would I ever find to put in all those pockets? Now, I have so much to put in the pockets that I have labeled them with a Sharpie and still have to throw dozens of "essential" items in the bottom of the bag. By the way, this bag is completely original. I've not restitched a single seam, I've not replaced the draw string or a single grommet. Good plans. Good materials. Excellent end product.

Building a ditty bag is also the first sailmaker's lesson, as is evident in Emiliano Marino's Sailmaker's Apprentice. But the most amazing thing about this bag is what is in it. Some of these items, such as our sailmakers palms, are part of the original ditty bag contents. Other items have been added over the years. If it has anything to do with sewing, sail repair, or anything we may need to locate in a hurry, it's in the ditty bag.

Here is a list of its contents as of today:
In the pockets:
sewing kit with dozens of needles for hand stitching and for the sewing machine, a handful of bobbins of various colors and thread size, a needle threader, seam rippers, some small Velcro pieces, a couple of magnets, some small screwdrivers, a sewing tape measure, and a stray zipper pull
zipper lube
several buckles for using on nylon straps
a brand new roll of black V-92 for when we get around to using all that black Sunbrella we bought cheap for redoing our canvas
a highlighter, Sharpie, white laundry pen
a fid, an awl, and a sewing awl (LOVE this thing!)
several hunks of wood for banging in grommets
Sambo pliers
several different sized grommet sets
a left- and a right-hand sailmakers palm
a spool of everyday cotton thread
a spool of sail twine
Gingher scissors and snippers
a pack of sail needles

In the center hole of doom:
more wood
nylon webbing of various widths
two enormous packs of grommet and canvas snaps
a roll of blue tape
a bag of leather bits
sail slides
sticky-back Velcro pieces
several spools of thread of various weights
about a mile of string of different size and lengths
a white canvas pencil
a spool of waxed twine
some D rings
a bag of miscellaneous sail making and repair hardware
several knives
a small can of Super 77

I'm sure there is more stuff in there than I saw while I was digging around. It's surprising how many times I answer, "Do you know where..." with "Check the ditty bag." I built it because it was on the list of things to have before we went cruising. But unlike many of those items, we still have this one and use it at least once a week. We have found over the years that the simple things are the ones we still have and use. The more complicated an item, the better chance it broke sometime in the past 15 years or we simply decided we no longer needed it. Could we have gotten a plastic bin or container to put all this stuff in? Likely. But it would not have survived the past 15 years or the constant use by three growing boys. Plastic never does.

It looks a mess.

Every time I think I'm going to "clean out" the ditty bag and empty it of all its goodies, rather than getting rid of anything, I find a treasure I'd forgotten we had. And I add it to the mental, "It's in the ditty bag" list. Maybe I should have one of those written down somewhere...


MONDAY we'll go back to the galley with a post devoted to coffee lovers.


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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