People are wonderful. People are funny. Cruisers are wonderful in funny ways. We like to think —because we are doing something so incredibly special and rare—that the cruisers we meet are also special and rare. Well, we are, and they are, but only because people are special and rare. This is a tale of people.
When we finally got back to the Guna Yala in September (remember, those in the know spell it “Guna” but pronounce it “Kuna”) we anchored in the area known as “The Swimming Pool” to be near Jaime and Keith. They have since sailed east, but we remained, surrounded by pretty islands, great snorkeling, and new friends. Tate and Dani on S/V Sundowner are two of those friends. For similarities we can list: the cruising life, being social, love of food, love of music and card games, love of spousal unit, and a sense of humor. That’s it. We are far apart in age (20+ to 30+ years), education, and careers (they are scary smart, and I suspect Tate has a nearly photographic memory); and our Popular Culture meshes in strange ways.
As wonderful and funny cruisers, we are all willing to assist others, though EW and I are still far behind on the debits and credits list with S/V Sundowner. They loaned us their dongle so I could get online, Tate has given us many fillets from fish he has harvested, and Dani provided Tea Tree Oil that has been instrumental in helping heal EW’s shingles.
Also, Dani’s mom worked as a canvas maker for boats for a number of years, and helped Dani re-do all of the cushions and canvas on Sundowner. While EW was recuperating I began the interior cushion project, and Dani offered to help. I am not a fool and accepted with alacrity. We knew going into the project that the so-called professional’s patterning had been shoddy and that some of the cushions were not shaped correctly. I was determined to create new patterns and check them against the imperfect cushions. It’s a slow process, requiring patience, which is not one of my strengths. Enter Dani.
I had patterned the chart table seat, and the settee along the port side. (My “bible” for the project is Julie Gifford’s Canvas for Cruisers, the Complete Guide. I love this book and highly recommend it.) I made each pattern in the shape and size of the ideal finished cushion, and marked 1/2 inch around it for the cut line, just as Julie said to do. She also said that the edge pieces should be 1/2 inch wider than the depth of the cushion, and that the edge side with the zipper should be cut 1 1/2 inches wider than the cushion’s depth. Here we ran into….challenges.
The cushions were manufactured in Europe and are 8 and 10 centimeters in depth, not 3 and 4 inches. The wise cushion maker cuts the fabric the same size as the raw foam, with a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side, creating a cushion exactly to fit the space and, packed into the fabric for a nice tight seat or back. While I have been uncharacteristically precise on this project, I was more characteristically unconcerned about cutting the side panels and planned on “pretending” the foam was 3 and 4 inches, adding my half inch for the seam allowance to that.
Dani has an economics degree. Dani’s most recent position was as Budget Manager for the engineering firm that managed the construction on New Orleans's newest hospital. Can you say “Big Project”? Can you say “Detail Oriented?” Can you say “Number Cruncher?”
No kidding we had a 45 minute conversation about the silly little millimeters between 10 centimeters and 4 inches. We used conversion charts, one standard tape measure, and one metric tape measure. Dani computed and talked it through, “My mom said there’s always shrinkage in sewing, so if we go too small that could be a problem.” And later, “You know, if there’s too much fabric, the foam won’t compress to the right shape.”
It’s a puzzlement. (She probably has no idea where that quote’s from.)
In my new, patient, detail-oriented (“If I’m going to make the dang cushions myself, I am going to do it right”) persona I hung in there, assisted Dani in taking new measurements and cheerfully discussed the issues and millimeters involved. I was with her every step of the way. She was providing great insight and has become a friend; she’s helping me and I am grateful. I. Exuded. Patience. I was with her right up until she told me I’d have to cut the fabric at the 16th’s or 32nds. It just seemed to me that marking 3 and 9/16 is much more challenging that marking things 3 1/2. The lines on the tape are bigger at the 1/2 points. Furthermore, as the discussion continued, Dani showed me that she had computed we were talking about 0.07 and 0.055 inches in difference. This is not a chasm. This is a toothpick, admittedly the really good round toothpicks made in Maine, but still, we are talking the width of a toothpick, people.
We ended up agreeing that (1) I would cut the fabric for just a few cushions to start, and (2) I’d cut them on the half inch, and (3) if they were too loose I’d take that silly millimeter off, re-stitch that cushion and cut all others on the 16th of an inch.
Later that evening as all four of us got together in the cockpit, it came as no surprise to either of our spousal units that Dani is very numbers and detail oriented and that I am not. We are OK with that. Further discussions, ranging over a few days, reminded us that we are of different generations. My guess is that they won’t recognized the “Silly Millimeter Longer” phrase, either. We were surprised that they knew “Coneheads”. Tate reeled off at least six Conehead phrases, including “parental units”, “spousal units”, and “charred consumables”. We were stunned. Clearly they are too young to have stayed up for Saturday Night Live. “The Coneheads were big in the 90’s,” said Tate. “No,” we wise older folk replied, “the Coneheads were definitely from the 70’s.
After some back and forth we learned that they had watched the Coneheadsmovie which came out in 1993, and they are too young to have seen the original sketches which aired from ‘77-‘79.
The photo above is a perfectly “charred consumable” harvested and cooked by Tate. A couple of weeks prior Tate had made up a batch of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, his version of Chicken Soup, for the ailing EW. I’m sure that helped his shingles heal more quickly. (See what I mean about the debits and credits? We cannot keep up with these people.)
Dani came over three times to help me pattern the cushions. On her last visit, we got brave and actually cut the foam to the correct size. She also, bless her darling heart, contacted her mom about sewing a curve into the back of the dinette cushions and her mom sent an email with detailed instructions.
We will sail back to Florida for a while, and Dani and Tate will go through the canal next spring to continue their circumnavigation. Like many other cruisers we’ve been privileged to meet, they are special and rare and wonderful and funny and we will miss them and look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the way.
Postscript. I almost forgot. When Dani worked with her mom, she used a software created for making flow charts in order to help her lay out the fabric. OK. First of all, the have a program just for making flow charts? Evidently they have more than one. While anchored in the San Blas, Dani found a free one on-line, downloaded it to a thumb drive and taught me to use it. It’s fun, and beats the heck out of using graph paper. Every cushion has a unique color so I can make sure that I have four pieces—top, bottom, and two side panels—for each cushion. I’m not going to finish this project until we get back to Florida, but I know I have at least 4 extra yards of fabric. Thanks to Dani and DIA Portable. (I have no idea how to make a flow chart, but I rock at creating colors.)