Sponsor Pro-File: Harbour Bags

(inset) Bob Steele and George Andrade stitching sails at the Manchester Yacht loft. (above) Andrade today, making a Harbour Bags tote. Photos courtesy George Andrade.

It’s interesting the ways in which early boating experiences prove useful throughout life. In George Andrade’s case, it was an early apprenticeship in sailmaking that has served him well. New England Boating recently caught up with Andrade, the owner of Harbour Bags, Inc., as he was enjoying his annual winter retreat in Sarasota, Florida, before returning to his home port of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Andrade uses a modern embroidery machine to customize his bags. Photo courtesy George Andrade.

Originally from New Bedford, Andrade moved to Padanaram Village in Dartmouth, on the western shore of Buzzards Bay, when he was 12. In his late teens he found employment at Manchester Yacht Sales, where he learned the art of sailmaking from an old New Bedford sailor named Frank Taft, who had once made and mended sails aboard whaling ships.

“As a young man, other apprentices and I didn’t much care for Frank’s strict work ethic, but now I’m grateful, because he taught us a lot,” recalls Andrade, who also learned to sail as part of the job.

Andrade went on to become a master sailmaker, but ended up enrolling in the New Bedford Textile School, where he studied industrial engineering. After graduating he was hired by Borg-Warner, who shipped him out to Ohio for a few years. He then returned to New England and settled in Padanaram.

Former whaling crewman Frank Taft taught a young George Andrade how to sew sails. Photo courtesy George Andrade.

After 12 years with Borg-Warner, he took a job with American Tourister in Warren, Rhode Island, where he spent many years in a division devoted to designing and making bags for computers and other office equipment.

“I really enjoyed this part of my career, as it allowed me to combine my sailmaking and engineering skills,” says Andrade.

Throughout his “official” career, Andrade ran a side business in Padanaram, making sails in a small loft adjacent the Tripp Boatyard. Called Harbour Sailmaking, the shop mostly made sails for small boats such as Beetle Cats, and eventually Andrade branched out to offer tote bags made from the leftover canvas sailcloth and old sails.

A sail is laid out at Manchester Yacht Sales. Photo courtesy George Andrade.

He also dabbled in boatbuilding with some friends. He recalls one effort involving a modified Beetle Cat featuring a hard chine and a vee-bottom. Later, he tried his hand at fiberglass molding with Bob Steele, now owner of Steele & Rowe Canvas Shop in North Dartmouth. The 2 men stumbled upon the mold for a small sailboat and, with help from an engineer at Dyer Boats in Rhode Island, built 2 boats for themselves.

Although Andrade started off a sailor, his love of fishing eventually led him and his wife, Sally, to the world of powerboats. The couple purchased a 16-foot Wahoo skiff in 1994, then moved up to a 21 Stratos, a 2470 Pursuit center console and lastly a 28-foot Boston Whaler Outrage, which they sold shortly after Andrade retired in 2003.

A cringle machine. Photo courtesy George Andrade.

Upon retiring, Andrade dove full-time into the bag-making business, mostly as a way to keep busy. He makes all of his bags by hand, working out of his homes in Dartmouth and Florida. He uses his old sailmaking machines for much of the work, along with a modern embroidery machine that allows him to customize the bags with the owners’ boat name, logo or an image of his boat type. Andrade also gets orders from yacht clubs and businesses looking for custom-made bags.

“I came to realize that a bag is a bag is a bag unless it’s personalized,” he says. “That’s what make our canvas bags stand out.”

Andrade works strictly in cotton canvas, which he says is getting more difficult to come by. He stitches every part of the bag himself, including the handles, and estimates that it takes him 45 to 60 minutes to make one of his large bucket tote bags from scratch.

Rope being prepared by hand. Photo courtesy George Andrade.

Harbour Bags offers several products, including small, medium and large bucket totes featuring a zippered top and handy side pockets to hold items such as tools, cell phones, portable GPS units, books and pens. Andrade also make open totes, duffle bags, and a neat little canvas carry-all that can hold several small items. As mentioned, all Harbour Bags products are hand-stitched and can be custom-embroidered. Available trim colors include red, green, navy and tan.

In a few weeks Andrade will be heading north to his summer home in Dartmouth, where he’ll continue to make his quality canvas products in a part of the country steeped in the traditions of both manufacturing and sailing. And while he doesn’t currently own a boat, he still loves to fish, so we’ve extended an invitation to chase stripers and fluke aboard the Zane Grey, the official New England Boating boat. We’ll let you know what happens!

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