Crushing the Marine Canvas Crunch

COURTESY SVC

ABYC-certified technician Mike Reese teaches advanced marine canvas classes at Skagit Valley College’s Marine Technology Center in Anacortes, Washington.

“Think outside the box” is more than a business school cliché, and Mike Beemer, department chair at Skagit Valley College’s (SVC) Marine Technology Center in Anacortes, Washington, is on a mission to prove it. In the coming months his organization will launch several initiatives to address necessities in the education of marine trade professionals and to help alleviate known bottlenecks that impact business. “It’s a need in our industry, and we know that from surveying some of the local yards,” Beemer replied when asked what prompted this enterprise. “Boatyards send staff to the [Cruisers College] weekend courses for boat owners because they want their workers to get trained.”

Starting this July, SVC will offer a two-part course to introduce students to professional marine canvas making. Canvaswork and upholstery are custom projects often in high demand among vessel owners. But canvas shops are mostly small operations stretched to their limits, so wait times can be several months, with some shops refusing new business. “People are aging out and often don’t have a successor in place,” said industry veteran Mike Reese, an ABYC-certified tech and a surveyor who started SeaBound Canvas in 2016 after struggling to find a builder for an enclosure on his 40 (12.2m) trawler.

Reese has been teaching DIY canvas classes at the Cruisers College and now partners with SVC as the instructor for two-week courses in the fundamentals of marine canvas fabrication, including: thread and canvas selection, tension control, stitch types and applications, sewing techniques, hardware and components, safety, tool- and material-handling, measuring and templating, patterning and layout strategies, cutting and sewing best practices, and installation and finishing for professional results.

Week 2 is dedicated to advanced projects such as bimini tops and enclosures and correspondingly covers frame construction and bending for stainless steel tubing; design, layout, patterning, cutting, and sewing bimini tops; installation and hardware attachment; design considerations; patterning and fabrication; and installation for various enclosure configurations.

“We want to open a channel that creates access for folks who want to learn and understand the craft of industrial sewing, either for their own projects or to go into business for themselves,” Reese said. He estimated that an investment of approximately $3,000 for a used sewing machine and miscellaneous materials is sufficient to start and to become productive with small jobs and repairs fairly quickly, while building and refining the skillset for bigger projects. “It’s a craft, it’s learnable, and it’s welcoming to all,” he added. For those who like the idea of canvas making but might hesitate to take the plunge, he has a simple tip: “Sewing machines are just a different kind of power tool.”

Part 1 starts July 15, and Part 2 on July 22 at Marine Tech in Anacortes. There’s a strict limit of 10 participants; cost is $2,000 per week, which includes supplies. Students can also choose to take only one part. Online registration is available at: www.campusce.net/skagit/course/course.aspx?catId=120.

Skagit Valley College, Marine Technology Center, 1606R Ave., Anacortes, WA 98221 USA, tel. 360–766–6282.

—D.L.