Green Wakes: Upcycling Old Sailing Gear

When a pair of foul weather bibs were no longer waterproof, this crafty sailor turned them into provisioning totes.

March 31, 2021
wet-weather bibs turned into a heavy-duty provisioning tote
When the wet-weather bibs no longer kept her dry, the author turned them into a heavy-duty provisioning tote. Heather Francis

I am always looking for creative ways to reduce waste. So when I had a pair of wet-weather bibs that no longer kept me dry, I didn’t automatically assume they were no longer useful. If sailing has taught me anything, it is to adapt to the conditions and work with what you have.

The overalls looked good, but they didn’t work. This was evident during a wet passage from Fiji to New Caledonia. When I got off my midnight watch, I was soaked. And when I woke for my 0600 watch, I noticed flecks of the neon green all over my body. Either I was slowly morphing into the Hulk or I was covered in the bib’s waterproof lining.

I was extremely disappointed that my newish gear had failed, but there was no way to return it. That ship had sailed, literally. It seemed a waste to put the heavy, durable fabric in the bin, so I put it in my sewing stash under the bunk. Of course, like most things shoved under the bunk, it was forgotten for months. OK, maybe years, but when I rediscovered it, I knew exactly what to do.


I’d been wanting to replace my defunct heavy-duty tote bag that I use for provisioning. I needed a bag that could comfortably sling over my shoulder and had a wide enough opening for large items such as a leafy head of Napa cabbage but could be tied shut so nothing fell out on a bumpy dinghy ride home. It had to be lightweight and foldable but sturdy enough to carry at least 20 pounds. It was time to turn those old overalls into the provisioning bag of my dreams.

Read More: Green Wakes

The obvious choice was to utilize the bib and body of the overalls. After removing the elastic shoulder straps and saving them for a future project, I cut off the legs. What was left was a good-size bag with a slight hole in the bottom, but it was nothing that a few seams and details couldn’t fix. I sewed the bottom closed, and doubled the reinforcement on the seam for added strength. Then I added webbing straps and created a long tie in the center of the bag opening, using both to keep the top closed and to tie the bag when folded small.


With the remaining fabric from the legs I made a smaller bag. I used webbing from an old camera bag for the shoulder strap, incorporating a plastic hook for somewhere handy to hang a dinghy key. I also added a narrow pocket on the outside, just perfect to keep a phone or radio within reach.

Strong, lightweight and washable, these two customized bags have become a staple when I head out to provision. I love that I am avoiding single-use plastic-bag waste. As the old saying goes, everything on a boat should do two jobs.


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