In the Bag

floppy bag - 1
Floppy, sad bag.

I’d been working intently on what I considered an ingenious way to transport my awkward Danforth anchor and its seemingly endless lengths of rode, but now I was starting to wonder if I’d gone down the wrong path. 

The act of making something exactly to my own specifications is a great source of satisfaction and pride; it’s also one where tunnel vision can set in easily. This became apparent for me when my 13 year old son Pippin asked if he could climb inside the anchor bag I’d been sewing for the last few hours and I realized he might actually fit. Although it was sewed to the exact size I had sketched out and it appeared a little bigger than I expected, that was the final straw.

I’d been carrying the eight pound anchor in an old sail bag made of a stretchy vinyl fabric that was neither particularly strong, nor was it quite the right shape. The top of the bag had a cinch from which the anchor’s shank would often pop out, inflicting pain on unsuspecting crew or just scraping paint off the boat. There was also the issue with the rode becoming a big mess, making it hard to pay out during critical times.

top view anchor bag - 1
Top view

Being good Portlanders, we have a variety of reusable grocery bags in our house and one of them was noticeably different than the others. It was divided into two sections and on trips to the super market, it deftly kept the wet greens away from the dry, paper flour bag. I imagined that a slightly larger version of the same design would separate the rode from the anchor, making it easier to stay organized and safe in an emergency. Further, I envisioned adding a flap off the back, like on a giant messenger bag, that I would extend over the edge as I let out the chain. This would protect my obsessively varnished gunwales and make a way to keep the rode and anchor in the bag, even if the boat heeled far over.

I sketched different options, measured the anchor, ran the idea past a few sewing-oriented friends and finally got brave enough to start cutting fabric. I made the bag a little bigger than I needed in case I got a different anchor in the future, and also because I have a bad habit of sewing things that are just a little too snug. But once I’d sewn all the pieces together in earnest, I felt that I had made an homage to Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, instead of something useful.

drum set - 1

After stewing on this for a few more days, I slowly began to cut the bag apart and safety pin it into a new, trimmer form. I carefully sewed the canvas back together, feeling more and more paranoid that I might do it in the wrong order, creating an intractable problem. Soon old Bernina was humming along nicely, piercing through many layers of canvas and webbing without pause. Hours later, I had a bag in hand. Perhaps not as elegant as what I’d envisioned, but looking functional nonetheless.

man with bag - 1

As camping season starts coming around again, I’m anticipating the pleasure of sleeping at anchor. And even if that pesky shank won’t stay put in this bag either, I’ll still be smiling proudly as I pay out my untangled line, from a bag of my own making.

This is the second of three articles about sewing.

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