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What's A Sailor To Do?

When The Industrial Sewing Machine Used To Repair Sails Acts Up...

July 13, 2013       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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David McBane, crew member of the tall ship Peacemaker, knew there was a problem with the ship's portable industrial sewing machine when he walked to Bay City's downtown post office on Saturday. He didn't know that he might find a solution.

The Peacemaker is a unique ship. Operated by the Twelve Tribes, an international messianic community, and sailing out of Savana, Georgia, the ship is crewed by members of the community living in a family based organization. They are self sufficient and repairing their own sails is an important part of their life on the seas and Great Lakes.

On his way to the post office, David found himself walking past The Fabric Fair in downtown and within sight of the river. He walked in and asked Kelley Kent if they might be able to help.

Machines of the type David described are not what you find in a sewing store like the Fabric Fair, with it's modern computerized machines. Still, Kelley said one of them would be glad to at least come take a look. After making arrangements to get into the park after closing, Kelley called Mary Kern, the store's sewing machine technician. Mary said she could come down and take a look.

So at 8:00 that evening, Mary and her husband Tim, along with Kelley, walked down to the ship. While Matthew Lemay, a French Canadian, went below to get the machine, David gave the Fabric Fair group a private tour of the ship.

Matthew set the machine up on a table in the main salon and Mary began to inspect it. Matthew said that needles were breaking and there were other problems. The heavy duty machine was nothing like the machines Mary sees every day, but the mechanism was fairly basic and familiar.

Mary soon found the area giving problems, but repair was another thing. She just didn't have access to parts like that. Filing down one damaged part, and adjusting tensions controls and other movements helped but after nearly three hours, complete repair just didn't happen, although the machine worked.

The evening was still a worthwhile experience for everyone. Matthew learned what he might do next. Mary made adjustments and what repairs she could do. It proved to be interesting and instructive for everyone. (Not to mention homemade apple pie and ice cream that David served.)

The evening was a small act of helpfulness, and another example of the willingness of Bay City to do all it can to make Tall Ship Celebration a great stop on the Tall Ship circuit.


On Monday morning Mary and Tim returned to the Peacemaker. They took the machine with them and visited Bonnie's Sewing Center on Euclid, which stocks Singer machines and parts. There, in a box of used parts, Mary found a "hook" that fit the industrial machine.

With the replacement hook installed, Mary and Tim returned the machine to the ship. By they time they arrived the gang plank had already been withdrawn and the ship was preparing to leave. The sewing machine was ferried to the ship in a smaller launch.

The final outcome still wasn't perfect, but with the replacement part it was better. Mary and Tim waited and watched as the ship left Bay City. As Mary said "It was kind of emotional seeing them leave. We did what we could and hope it works."

David McBane gives a tour of the ship for the Fabric Fair crew.
View from the bow shows the new anchor
The main cabin is occupied by a married couple on the crew.
Tim Kern looks into the main salon from outside.
The ship was constructed in South America in 1989 from native ironwood and mahogany harvested and milled specifically for the project. The lumber baron who commissioned the ship built a mill specifically for the lumber and brought shipbuilding craftsmen from Italy to do the work.
Matthew Leman and Havah Cleveland watch as Mary Kern inspects the machine.
Matthew, Mary, Kelley, Tim, and David's back.
As the sun sets Matthew and Mary are still at it.
Pottery is made and fired on the ship and sold as a way to raise funds. As members of the Twelve Tribes community, the crew receives no pay.
Plants abound on the ship.
Geranium outside a window
The wheel house interior shows a completely computerized control board.
The ship was is powered by two 400 hp diesel engines. It was designed as a sailing vessel but build without the masts. After the Twelve Tribes bought the ship they completed the rigging with full sails.
View from the main salon.
The ship is fitted throughout with custom made brass castings. The bell and many other brass pieces carry the name of the builder's wife, Avany.
Some of the best sunsets are those seen from shipboard. The Tall Ship Celebration in Bay City was blessed with great weather for the entire three days.

5087, 7775, 7776

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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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