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The Goose Gets Her Final Touch

Onne and Tenley van der Wal bought their 1986 Grand Banks 32 in late 2020, and although a good chunk of the renovation work would fall to Onne, when it came to the boat’s décor, Tenley was in charge.

“It was all a bit tired and well used,” Onne says about the dated upholstery that came with the boat, so the couple made a trip to Noank, Connecticut, to talk to Katie Bradford at Custom Marine Canvas. Bradford had done previous canvas and upholstery work on the van der Wals’ 1972 Pearson 36 sailboat, Snoek, and Onne’s RIB, Onnesignment, so they knew they would get quality work.

When it came to selecting fabrics for Snow Goose, Onne knew it was time to get out of the way. “I had nothing to do with that,” he says about the upholstery selection and other interior design work for the boat.

Onne is very handy with tools and woodworking, but Tenley has a degree in interior design from the University of Texas at Austin and spent 20 years as a commercial interior designer. She now runs their photo gallery on Bannister's Wharf in Newport, Rhode Island, where she sells Onne’s work to interior designers and residential clients.

Onne was happy to leave it to the professionals. “Tenley has a good design sense and Katie knows how to make it work with cushions, piping, etc.,” he says. “They have good rapport so the two of them went to town.”

Tenley and Katie peruse the multitude of fabrics.

Tenley and Katie peruse the multitude of fabrics.

The van der Wals knew they wanted Sunbrella materials. “Sunbrella has so many fabrics and styles,” Onne says. “They have scores of those 8-inch-thick books with all these fabrics. They look like bloody bibles and Katie knows what is hard-wearing and what will work.”

Because the salon has so much teak and casts an orange tone, Tenley decided to go with a navy-blue pallet for contrast. “I wanted a bold pattern to pop against all the monotone of the wood,” she says, “but I also wanted a traditional feel that would work well with the gorgeous parquet cabin sole that Onne so painstakingly refinished.”

To make that happen, Tenley chose Sunbrella Luxe Indigo for the salon cushions which has a small yellow fleck that Katie Bradford at Custom Marine Canvas suggested they highlight with some Sunbrella Buttercup throw pillows. Once the most dominant fabric was chosen, Tenley says it was easy to choose a simple navy fabric, Sunbrella Royal Navy, for the cabin cushions in the forepeak and a traditional navy and white stripe, Dickson Paris Navy/Natural, for the exterior seat cushions on the fly bridge to add a visible nautical flare.

Once the fabrics had been selected, Katie and Custom Marine Canvas employee, Donna Ingram, visited the boat in the yard over that winter to take measurements and make patterns, which they used to sew the materials for the cushions, pillows and backrests.

The van der Wals are very happy with the way their 35-year-old boat turned out

The van der Wals are very happy with the way their 35-year-old boat turned out

Snow Goose came with that name when the van der Wals purchased her, and Tenley told Onne it would remain. “Onne once told me that “goose” is slang for “girlfriend” in South Africa,” Tenley says, “and I am originally from Minnesota and love snow, so it was a perfect fit.”

To add the finishing touch, Tenley got some artistic snow goose images from Clemens van der Werf, a Dutch photographer friend. A shot of snow geese taking off shows a lot of movement as the birds fight for air. Tenley had a dye sublimation print made on matte aluminum, which she says is very light and easy to care for on a boat. Onne mounted it over the forward bunk, and he installed another snow goose image in the salon.

The van der Wals are very pleased with the way their refurbished boat turned out. As Onne says about the final result, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” 

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