Re-leathering a Bowsprit Traveller…

…is all in a days work but I thought it might interest some of our loyal customers.

This job, like so many of those we undertake was in a sorry state. In itself it does not matter too much but when one considers the damage caused to the bowsprit by an unleathered, rough, abrasive lump of galvanised steel being dragged up and down it, I am often surprised at the poor condition of many travellers.  Varnish is expensive and the labour and effort involved in applying are not inconsiderable, not to mention replacing a rotten spar, the cost of re-leathering seems very reasonable by comparison.

Bowsprit traveller before









The first thing to do was to strip all the old frapping and remnants of leather off and wirebrush the ring to remove all traces of rust and so on.

6 stripped

At this stage a decision has to be made, either regalvanise the ring or prime and paint it.  In this case the galvanising was not too bad and after a good clean it was etch primed and painted using two coats of metal enamel.

Now comes the tricky part!  This ring required the use of 3mm thick veg-tanned shoulder leather.  All the leather used here is full grain and is suitable for wet moulding.  After soaking in tepid water the leather strip is applied to the ring and gently moulded to take up the shape of the ring.  It takes a very long time, moulding, wetting, moulding  and wetting until the shape matches and the leather can be clamped into place.


Whilst still wet the new leather may be stitched into place.  I always use saddle stitch for this, it is strong and if done carefully, can look very neat and tidy.  One often comes across bowsprit travellers that have been fixed in place using the ubiquitous ‘speedy-stitcher’, nothing wrong with that but it really is not as strong and is certainly not as neat or ‘seamanlike’.









Stitching complete the work is put to one side to air dry.  As drying takes place the leather shrinks a little, gripping the ring securely.  Next step is to trim and apply the first treatment.


In this case this was a pre-dye treatment to seal the leather and provide a good surface for the dye.  Saddle Tan is my prefered colour, nice and traditional looking.

Almost there.  Next comes two or three applications of waterproofer and wax polish, followed up with three applications of dubbin and a final covering of best quality lambs tallow.









So, this bowsprit traveller is now ready for another 25 years of service and, as an added bonus, will not strip the varnish off of the bowsprit.  Well, as long as the tallow is ‘topped up’ from time to time.  And the cost?

To re-leather a bowsprit of this size will cost between £65 and £75, worth every penny I think!

A picture says a thousand words…

…and maybe a video says even more?  Maybe not.  In any case we thought a little video of just a few of the steps and processess involved in leatherwork may be of interest.  Let us know what you think.

As an aside, the music on the video is performed by my youngest son, David Delarre. Indeed the first tune was composed by him as well. If you like what you hear you may like to visit his website at, he is also a founder member of Mawkin.

Cheers, and please let us know suggestions for future videos, we need all the help we can get!

Every day presents a new challenge!

You never know what lies around the next corner.  We recieved a rather unusual commision the other day.  Nothing to do with boats but a challenge all the same, just the way we like it!

A customer came into our workshop and we got chatting about this and that.  Somehow the conversation got around to his wrist problems, a mixture of RSI and Carple Tunnel Syndrome.  This customer has to wear a wrist support constantly to protect the affected part of his wrist and the commercially available ones are made from synthetic materials, which after repeated wearing, can become a smelly and unpleasant.  They are made from foam and nylon with velcro fasteners.

Having a few minutes to spare we had a look and came up with an alternative design using 100% leather.  The reasoning being that leather would not harbour the nasty bacteria that make man made materials unhygenic.

Now, we do not claim to be ‘surgical appliance specialists’ but we were rather pleased with the end result, as was our customer.

Wrist Support 2Wrist Support 1

We used 2mm veg-tanned shoulder for the main body of the support and soft veg-tanned side for the inside. After much trial and error we settled on press studs for the straps and adjustment is provided with laces. Simple and effective.

To give the whole support protection from the elements it was stained using an oil based dye and several applications of leather dressing.  Finally we applied two coats of polish to provide a touch of luxury!

The customer lives in the USA, not far from LA and we were concerned that returning it for adjustments would be difficult and expensive, so we added leather laces that can quickly and easily take up any give in the leather that may occur due to wear over time.

Wrist Support 3

Wrist support 4 So there you are.  No matter how unusual your request, if it can be made out of leather, we can make it for you.  Just drop us a line at and describe what you need, with a day time telephone number and we will get back to you for a chat.

New look website!

As business continues to grow, we finally took the plunge and have invested time, tears and cash in this all new site. The idea is to create something that is easier for you, our valued customers, to use.

Over the next couple of days the content will be overhauled with new photos and info.

One innovation that is already up and working is a cleaner and easy to use shop section. All of our cases and small leather goods are easy to find and buying is just a click or two.

We hope you will pop back soon to see how we progress. Any comments would be most welcome, but please be gentle with us!



Here at Blackwater Leather we have a thing about doing things in a traditional way.  We only use natural vegetable tanned leather for instance.  On our own gaff cutter we use old fashioned Tung Oil based varnish, it looks and smells wonderful.  For preserving wood we use our own mix of Kiln Burnt Stockholm Tar, Pine Turpentine and Linseed Oil.  Another traditional but unbeatable product we use is traditional Tallow.

Our tallow is made by a local high street butcher in limited quantities.  Essentially it is rendered sheep belly-fat.  Sounds yucky but in fact it is a convenient and useful product that would otherwise be disposed of, possible in incinerators or landfill.

250gms Tallow

Tallow has lots of uses around the boat, mainly lubricating gaff-saddles, bowsprit traveler rings and helping lanyards pass smoothly through dead eyes.  Tallow resists rain and spray and does not go rancid or smelly in use.  Some traditional boat owners prefer to use modern silicone based sprays or grease, these work fine but are a real problem come varnishing time!  Varnish and other wood treatments simply will not ‘take’ where silicone has been used.  Tallow can be removed, and the surface prepared for varnishing/painting simply by washing off with hot water and washing-up liquid.  The only downside we have come across is that our labrador licks it off the mast at every opportunity!

We can supply strictly limited quantities of genuine lamb tallow at around £5 per tub plus p&p, each weighing about 250gms,  enough, on our boat, for several years use (unless the dog finds it).

Please email us for further information or to place an order.