Getting out of Amsterdam to the small town of Hoorn could not have been made more complex. But at least I was not the last one to turn up. Six men, not all with grey beards, and one woman were sitting around a table in a primary school decorated with Saint Nick,  Piets and other local Festive Season folk. Strong filter coffee with powdered milk was on offer, hands were shaken and more or less unpronouncable Dutch names refused to lodge in my tiny mind. The conversation flittered between Dutch and English, eventually we got down to the plan for the day.

Make sails.

We had all previously submitted the sailplans we wished to make, a complex computer program had calculated the necessary three dimensional shape from the 2D plan and a CNC laser had cut all the pieces from suitably coloured Dacron. So in a collection of plastic bags that we brought in from the car there were rolls of pieces with the detailed plan rolled into the middle, our names stickered on the outside with works like “Fok” that I had to presume were the Dutch equivalents of the German “Fock” meaning jib.

First job: work out which bits were which and clean up all the edges that would later be exposed, using a soldering iron to melt the edges to hold them together. Then we assembled the corner reinforcements, 4 layers of shapes that lay upon one another with the largest piece on the outside away from sailcloth itself. These were held in place with double sided tape until they were sewn into place with the sewing machines.

Ah. The Machines. Cast Iron. Heavy. Mechanical. No motors. The solid feeling of a handcrank. Pfaff 180. Ah!

Frank, our instructor, running the hand-cranked Pfaff180 through its paces. Heavy, reliable and completely solid, the machines took some time to get used to, but once we were there, they work a treat.

This took some getting used to. Getting the angles right, maximal width with just under 90 degrees from stitch to stitch.

But things happened. It was good.

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