The Sailboat Search Chronicles: Part 23 (Cushion Issues)

The reupholstered cushions – vastly improved, but not quie there.

Having the settee cushions recovered should be about the easiest of the numerous boat projects we have to do, right?

You choose the fabric, hire some sewing wizard and call it good. You would think. I wish I could say that the work turned out splendid and that I’m overjoyed about the revamped cushions. But it’s become a bit of a saga.

I posted a while back that we were having our settee cushions reupholstered at a shop in Tucson, at one-third of the cost of having the work done in Seattle. After much debating over fabric (Is white too Miami Vice? Does that tweed look like granny’s couch?) we settled on a neutral, taupe marine vinyl, since we have a white cat who sheds madly, and arranged to have the work done.

We picked the cushions up on the way down to San Carlos in November and they looked terrific. The fabric looked exactly like it did on the sample card and the light color was a great complement to the teak in the boat’s main cabin. But when I put the cushions down, the fabric bunched oddly. There was just a little too much fabric. I tried rearranging them, figuring maybe I put them down wrong, but the same thing happened. I’d smooth them out, sit down and when I got up …. more puckers. It started to drive me to distraction.

I pointed it out to Marty, who shrugged and said the cushions looked fine to him. I took photos and showed them to my mom, who agreed with me. So I called up the upholsterer and explained the problem. He said he’d need to see the cushions (he doesn’t have email; who doesn’t have email?!), so I told him I’d ship them as soon as the boat arrived in Seattle.

The nautical theme: good in small doses.

The nautical theme: good in small doses.

I dropped them off at a FedEx outlet the other day and just about fell over when the girl there gave me the total: almost $200 for the three boxes. The cushions were delivered in Tucson today and I’m expecting to hear from the upholsterer soon. He said he’d probably need to either re-sew the covers to take up any slack or add more Dacron padding to fill the space. He seems like he knows what he’s doing, so hopefully they’ll turn out fine.

In the meantime, I got a big box from with three throw pillows I ordered for the boat. One has a dark blue background with alternating lines of white whales going in opposite directions—a little cartoonish and tongue-in-cheek. The other ones have an off-white background; one has a blue octopus on it and the other has sailboats.

I’m a little wary of going down the nautical road. It’s a slippery slope—you start buying whale-patterned pillows and before you know it, you and the mister are decked out in matching sweatshirts with anchor motifs. I will throw myself overboard before that happens, I swear. But I think these three pillows are still within the safety zone.

I’ll admit I’ve become a little obsessed with this whole cushion/decor business. On the one hand, having cushions reupholstered is spendy and I want them to be perfect, at least at first. On the other, does it really matter so much what I rest my butt or head on? I never felt any compulsion to replace the limp chenille throw pillows or the old upholstery in our previous boat, Camelot.

But that boat didn’t start out being mine, and I’ve realized that makes all the difference. Marty lived on Camelot when we met. I became a part owner through marriage, but to me it was always Marty’s boat that I acquired a stake in, rather than a boat that started out being ours—both of ours. Our new boat is one we chose, bought and are working on together. It’s been a partnership from the start. And it’s the first boat I’ve ever bought, which is a Big Freaking Deal. I feel a sense of ownership and a level of engagement with Three Sheets that I never quite had with Camelot.

So yeah, it all matters to me, from the type of shaft seal we opt for right down to the minutiae of interior décor. I blame this completely on Marty. He got me hooked, and hooked good.

3 Responses to The Sailboat Search Chronicles: Part 23 (Cushion Issues)

  1. Carolyn January 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Good that you are addressing the cushion issue now Deborah.I think they look beautiful and once the slack is taken care of they will be perfect.You are correct, they really compliment the teak in a lovely way!

  2. Christian Holm January 15, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    Hello Deborah,

    I think you have a wonderful blog and follow it regurlarly. Thanks for keeping everyone updated on your new vessel. The Two of you must be very excited.

    Anyway, We just returned from two weeks in San Carlos and we have to say we really like it down there. Though we love the NW there is lots of advantages to being in warmer waters. We have a Westsail 42 SV Summer Solstice based out of Eagle Harbor.

    My interest is to inquire more information about the trucking firm and obstacles to bringing a vessel up and or down as the case maybe. From Seattle, my guess is that it will take a month to sail the vessel down to San Carlos (which is the reason I am considering trucking it down). Was wondering if you thought it might be quicker going down vs returning.

    While in San Carlos I obtained pricing for painting our Hull and topside… I was blown away 5K for Hull and Top. I saw several examples of Alturo work. Very Nice I have to say.

    Part of my interest in being down south is that vocation takes me away from Seattle for the Summer (I am a US Forest Service Tanker Pilot) even though we dont let winter stop us from sailing you have to admit the Sea of Cortez is pretty nice in the Winter.

    Any way, any thoughts you have would be appreciated and a great job on your blog.


    Christian Holm
    SV Summersolstice

    • Deborah Bach January 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

      Hi Christian,

      My apologies for taking a few days to respond – we had a busy weekend working on our boat. Thanks for the kind words about our site. We launched it a year ago and are having a lot of fun working on it. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

      What did you do in San Carlos? Did you sail at all? I agree – sailing in the Northwest is incredible, but it’s lovely to be in warm waters for a change! We’re hoping to get back there in a few years.

      I’d be happy to provide any information I can about our experience trucking the boat north. We used Dudley Transport for the leg from Tucson to Seattle and were very happy with them. They’re a local company, based in Fife, Wash., and have an excellent reputation. For the portion of the trip from San Carlos to Tucson, the only trucking option I know of is through Marina Seca, the boatyard and dry storage in San Carlos that’s affiliated with Marina San Carlos. They contract a Mexican trucking company to take boats back and forth from the U.S. border, and as far as I know that’s the only game in town. Our only complaint with them was that they have one trailer only, and it was stuck at the U.S. border with a boat for about three weeks while some paperwork issues were straightened out, which delayed our delivery date. But it wasn’t that big of a deal, really; we just had to wait a little longer.

      I’m not sure if it would be quicker going down than returning – it might be, since it seems very easy to arrange for trucking through Dudley Transport. If your truck has to wait in Tucson to be picked up by the Mexican company it would likely be taken to Marco, a crane company, to be transferred from the U.S. truck to the Mexican one. That’s how ours was transferred from one truck to the other.

      In terms of cost, expect to pay around $9,000 for the trip, including the Mexican portion, plus $500 for the crane, and recomissioning/decomissioning costs on top of that. Would you decommission the boat yourself? I’d suggest doing that – it’ll make it much easier to put back together if you label and organize the various pieces of the rigging yourself.

      Please let me know if you have any additional questions; feel free to email me directly at


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