To a certain degree, every passage is a shake-down passage. I mean, it’s rare cruisers pull up to a dock or anchorage after a trying-but-successful passage and say, “Yep, we did everything exactly right. All of our equipment worked just as we intended and we executed everything with unquestionable precision and skill.” Please. If you know cruisers like that, unfriend them. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. There’s always something to learn or take away from a passage. That’s the beauty of sailing. It’s all about shaking–shaking things up, shaking them down, keeping the dust and cobwebs off. There are a million things we learned during our trip last year to the Keys. We’ve forgotten half of them by now, but most of the important lessons stuck. There were also many things we learned we wanted to do to the boat to better prepare it for our next BIG trip. We started keeping a running tally as we were going and then prioritizing–which projects were musts, and which were luxuries. One of our higher-up items on the list was replacing the old leather cover on our steering wheel.
Yeah, that ratty thing.
While a leather steering wheel cover for the boat may sound like a luxury, we consider it a necessity. If the auto-pilot will not hold and you’re forced to hold that thing for hours on end, anything that keeps your hands comfortable and less prone to cramp and ache while you’re doing it is anything but a luxury. Our leather cover had served us well since we bought the boat in 2013, but had suffered a few holes and missing chunks over the years.
And, if I had to hear Phillip gripe one more time about this flap, I was going to rip it off and throw it overboard.
That thing drove him nuts. Heck, it drove me nuts. I’m one of those that can’t leave a scab or a wayward cuticle alone. If it’s snagging and catching on things, or just bugging me in general, I’m going to pick it until it’s a big, infected bloody mess, but at least the flap is gone! Take that flap! Phillip had to watch me closely during the Keys trip to make sure I wasn’t tempted to rip this obstinate little piece off (because it would have caused the whole cover to unravel and fray). Luckily, I didn’t. This worn, ragged cover made it back home in, well, a couple of worn and ragged pieces, so it was high time we replaced it.
Thankfully, our previous owner, Jack, was meticulous in his care of the boat and he kept all of his receipts, manuals, instructions, etc. While we weren’t surprised to find he kept the receipt from his purchase of the leather cover, we were surprised to find that he had bought it in 1992!
So, that the ratty cover we were cursing had been on the boat for 22 years! TWENTY-TWO?! Do they make anything these days that lasts that long? Other than diesel engines, I can’t think of much. When it came to replacing it, we really had no reason to branch out. We were pleased with the product and it had clearly proven its durability. It was an easy decision. Another Boat Leather steering wheel cover it would be. Tom, with Boat Leather, even had Jack’s old records, so he already knew our wheel size, making the order a snap to refill. Within minutes, our new Boat Leather cover was on its way, along with a detailed instruction guide to show us how to accomplish the specific herringbone stitch needed to secure it around our wheel.
Tom has also published a very helpful video on his website which shows, in real time, his perfected method for installing the wheel cover. Armed with our instructions, the new wheel cover and a thick needle, Phillip and I picked a sunny August day and set to it.
I have to admit, the first final RRRrrrrip! of the old leather cover off of the wheel felt good. “Take that flap!”
Our wheel sure was pretty underneath–all polished and shiny!
We are the original gangstuhs.
We didn’t let her breathe for long, though. The next step was a thin layer of double-sided tape to hold the leather cover in place while you wrap it around the wheel.
(That’s my pretty work face)
The Boat Leather cover comes pre-sized specifically to fit your steering wheel and, you can see here, it has holes pre-punched into the leather to make the stitching easier.
Ahhh … the stitching. That was definitely my favorite part! The taping and wrapping was followed by about three hours of super-fun stitching.
I’m smiling here because I didn’t yet know how much “fun” the stitching was going to be. I felt like Forrest Gump experiencing all the different “directions of rain” in Vietnam. We stitched backwards, sideways, upside down.
It honestly wasn’t too bad, though. A nice sunny day, some good Gordon Lightfoot playing in the background and I could have stitched all day. Before we knew it, we had made it around full-circle and were putting the last stitch in!
And, then she was done!
Wheeeh-whoo! Ain’t she a beaut? One hot afternoon of stitching, and she was on there–a new Boat Leather steering wheel cover, ready to take us cruising another 20 years. The Captain was obviously pleased with my stitchmanship.
“Why thank you ma’am.”
And, the best part? No more flap! Our wheel is now soft and smooth and a true joy to hold. We were so impressed with the product, we knew when we saw Boat Leather listed as one of the exhibitors at the Strictly Sail Miami show this past February, we were going to have to stop by the Boat Leather booth and tell Tom ourselves what an awesome job he has done putting out such a quality boat product for so many years.
Tom was incredibly humble and grateful and asked us only for one small favor in return … a live testimonial from yours truly for his soon to be updated website.
Me?? Have something to SAY about something? Never!
I didn’t hesitate (although perhaps I should have–I could have planned my giddy teenage spiel a little better, but alas … it is done). Tom clicked his phone on video and I took off, talking ninety miles a minute, raving about his twenty-year product, throwing in a blog mention and ending the whole thing with a wicked thumbs up. YEEEAAAH!
Remember when I become famous, you saw it here first …
So, replacing the wheel cover? Done. Next time, we knock off another biggie of our Post-Keys Project list. That’s right followers, it’s time to do some sol(ar) searching. Join us!
Many thanks to the folks who make these posts a little more possible with PATREON.