Moroccan Leather

Protective patch on the sprayhood

 Morocco is renowned for its leathergoods – many visitors take home handbags, purses, wallets, belts, hats or bracelets purchased in the souk. If you poke around you’ll find behind the souk stalls workshops tanning and dying hides, cutting or embossing leather with gold leaf and sewing pieces together; the whole process from raw skin to finished goods can be seen though not necessarily in the same place.

Having leather items on board a sailing boat is not a good idea. They are prone to mould in the salty damp air so have to be watched and frequently aired. I learnt the hard way, a small leak through the deck found its way into my hanging locker and thence to a cloth bag containing the remnants of a life time of handbag collecting – result three mould covered lumps but leather is extremely durable. Despite what the manufacturers may have instructed a good wash under a cold marina tap and a bit of a soak in Vanish then fabric conditioner followed by some time in the sun restored them to a usable, sweet smelling state once more. Fortunately none of my bags are large or suede.

Turks Heads on the central spoke

On deck however leather is extremely useful as its toughness makes it ideal for preventing wear or simply offering comfort. Temptress’ wheel sports a traditional leather cover to keep hands comfy.It was replaced several years ago by Lambourne Leather and mainly because it has been protected from the extremes of UK weather by a canvas cover when not in use, is still as good as the day it was done albeit a little faded. The sprayhood has leather patches on either side where the jib sheets pass to protect the canvas and a long strip sewn across the rear edge of the top where everyone leans when standing to look ahead.

Forward at the pulpit (the stainless steel frame at the bow) leather covers the taped pins that hold the guard wires in place to prevent the metalwork wearing away the genoa. These pieces, one either side of the bow regularly need replacing, lasting sometimes a year occasionally two and our supply of leather, scraps from when the sprayhood was refurbished a few years ago, was almost depleted.

View of the pulpit

Port side is ok for now
Starboard side worn out leather

We are in Morocco, leather is plentiful so it was time to go shopping… in a little alley off Rue des Consuls in Rabat’s Medina we found a tiny shop scarcely wider than a door but deep. Hanging outside were a couple of large leather skins dyed green – fortunately they were too thin for our use otherwise I think the skipper may have bought one. I persisted with pigeon French “forte”, “bruin”, “blu” (brown or blue being the preferred colours) and the worn cover I’d brought as a sample. The shopkeeper pulled out and rejected various rolls of hide from a floor to ceiling high stack at the rear of his narrow shop. Then smiling he brought two forward to the half door across the entrance that served as a counter.

The mid brown thick leather smelt wonderful and was exactly what we needed. How much? Kevin tried to barter then faltered as his brain whirred through a quick conversion to pounds and realised that it was a tiny price. So after a quick visit to the ATM to get the cash we paid a grand sum of three hundred dirhams (£22.70) for a whole hide (You can buy a similar one online in the UK for about £100, certainly that was the price of the hide used to refurbish the sprayhood several years ago). The plastic carrier bag was heavy to carry home but Temptress now has a life times supply of strong, supple leather. I’ll ensure that there is sufficient to cover the wheel should we have to and plenty to make pulpit patches, then what else can I use it for? Perhaps another handbag?

A whole hide