27 inches, why do you ask?

Mast inside the boat with quilt on it

Karen’s mast quilt

The compass roses on our charts are very practical, necessary, and boring. They include true and magnetic north and a circle of numbers and tick marks to help us plot courses.

Flutterby recently acquired a much more beautiful compass rose, with blue cardinal points, green ordinal points, and gorgeous purple for the secondary intercardinal points. It is reminiscent of the ones used on historical seafaring charts going back to the 16th century, and it is a stunning piece of art.

It started with a picture that we posted on Facebook of Barry standing in Flutterby’s galley, next to the mizzen mast. In the comments about the photo, our friend Karen wrote, “Crazy question, but what’s the circumference of that mast?” Barry promptly replied (he has some interesting specifications stored on his computer), “The circumference is 27 inches where it goes through the galley.”

It was an odd exchange, since although Karen is a curious soul and a voracious reader, she isn’t a friend I think of as interested in the minutiae of sailboat refits. We met over 15 years ago on a computer BBS and shared a love of cats, dancing, and hilarious late-night conversations. Karen once distinguished herself as the best house-sitter on the planet when we returned from a trip to find a fresh-baked, homemade apple pie in our oven.

So after the initial question about the mast circumference, Karen dropped the subject. At least, that’s what I thought. And since she lives in Port Orchard, Washington, and she wasn’t likely to visit us on the boat very soon, we dropped it, too.

Nine months later, the next time we were in Seattle, Karen said she had a special something to give us. We had no idea how special!

Karen with the compass rose side of the quilt

Nautical side of the quilt

The surprise was a double-sided quilt, 27 inches square, with the dramatic compass rose and a blue-and-white fabric with boat plans on one side. Such a perfect thing to wrap around the mast in the center of our main cabin! It makes the boat look like an art gallery — the quilting itself was taken from a stained-glass window with butterflies in it.

But it is the other side that truly takes my breath away, because it illustrates how perceptive Karen is about the Adventures of Meps ‘n’ Barry. It’s a convergence quilt, with successively smaller pieces starting in the four corners and working together in the middle. It’s very colorful, but the predominant colors are restful browns and beiges. What the colors and the fabric represent are the four corners of the USA — the corners that we have explored and blogged about from the Squid Wagon.

As we set out on our latest voyage, heading south down the ICW, I am delighted to be boating again and to share my stories of life on the water. Our beautiful quilt is hanging on the mast with the compass rose facing out. But that is only a portion of my life. I’ve just gotten back from a trip overseas, to Brazil, that was taken on an airplane. And as Karen has beautifully illustrated, I am very proud of the voyages and the writing inspired by our travels on land, here in the USA. And I am very, very proud to call Karen Jake — fabric artist, crazy cat lady, librarian, and dedicated caregiver for her Mom — my friend.

Barry holding the quilt, showing the landlubber side

Barry and Karen with the landlubber side of the quilt


You can see samples of Karen’s work on her Flickr page.

5 thoughts on “27 inches, why do you ask?

  1. that is a remarkable gift! and two sided as well, your friend Karen certainly has a knack for combining colors and beautiful stitchery. I am in awe of people with that kind of creativity! Wow!

  2. Karen’s lovely quilt effort will brighten the Flutterby
    “downstairs” and bring to mind a much larger quilt
    sewn by another lovely lady, a young Gullah girl on
    St. Helena Island, SC, who sews quilts to order.
    Margaret will probably have to wait for her inheritance for that one. It has her name on it at her dad’s house in Vero Beach.

  3. I know just enough about quilting to know that this one is extra special. It’s very lovingly designed and creative. I’d be one of your friends from the “landlubber” side of the quilt.

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