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On the water review of the Barracuda


Rebecca Childress sent us a very thorough review of her experience using the Reliable Barracuda sewing machine.  Rebecca leaves no stone un-turned, which makes writing this post a breeze for me (thanks Rebecca)! Enjoy!

“I researched many options before I purchased the Barracuda 2000U-33, and finally decided on this machine a few weeks ago.  We live on our sailboat, and have been slowly circumnavigating for about 4 years now, with at least another 4 more to go.  Money is not abundant, but we did need a machine to repair and maintain our very tattered canvas throughout the boat, and to do some basic sail repairs. Sailmakers are not an option out here (Majuro, Marshall Islands) – not for 2000 miles…

The Barracuda arrived in good order, ready to sew with. I’m a beginner and found the instruction booklet a little thin, but I had purchased some basic sewing guides and DVDs from other sources to learn how to use and repair this machine and how to sew with it a bit before it arrived. Luckily the machine is built in a similar way to a lot of other machines out there made for canvas and sail repair, so everything was pretty transferable and I was up and running very quickly. I found the machine to be just OK for thin material like for the fitted sheets that I made first –  I had to really back off the tension to do these very thin fabrics…but it was possible with lots of upper tension reducing. I then tackled my steering pedestal cover. It’s very old sunbrella; the zipper was falling off, and most of the trim was falling off too. The Barracuda 2000 sewed through the material very nicely, and never skipped a stitch. I was hesitant to sew through so many layers in places, but it went through it all like there was nothing to it. Then I began a bulkier more important project – repairing our mainsail cover which was all but destroyed. I had to sew leather on to a few corners, lots of restitching, lots of reattaching the heavy vinyl inner pieces back to the sunbrella material, and a few other things. The machine really enjoys these thick materials, and despite my lack of experience, it came out looking very good,  almost professional! Within a week of experimenting with increasingly difficult repairs, I was working through the list of repairs needed for our boat quite quickly. I can’t wait to start in on some brand NEW products for Brick House…I have found the machine very easy and fun to use.

What I like about the machine:

That it does the things I need it to do – repair my canvas, make household items, and quite surely it will do my sails with ease as well, although I haven’t tried that yet.

That you can tell by the look and feel of it that it will last forever with minimum care and hassle… It’s a heavy duty machine, with nothing flimsy or cheap about it to be found anywhere.

That it’s a very universal machine that I will be able to get parts and additional accessories for easily…nothing proprietary about it.  Also, I did buy the CudaCrank wheel right up front – it’s a must have. I tried it with and without and it’s so obvious the extra power it affords for going through the thicker material. If you were just doing home sewing it would probably be OK to leave on the standard one, but home sewing is probably not why one would buy this machine. It’s really meant for sailboat canvas and sails.

The price tag!! A straight stitch, Zig Zag,  walking foot heavy metal quality machine like this for under 500$ ? Look around…it’s a good buy even if it didn’t have the zig zag component to it! And then you have the option to add exactly what you want instead of having to pay for all the extras whether you want them or not.

Customer service seems good. I requested a spare parts kit so that I would have what I needed when and if I broke anything, and they were quick to respond with a complete kit for me. And although it wasn’t an option for us because of our remote location in the Pacific, you can bring the machine in to any Reliable Service location and they will fine tune the machine for you and make any adjustments you need for no charge for the first 90 days. There wasn’t really anything that needed to be done to the machine when we got it, so perhaps they tuned it for me before it left because of my location. But that is a nice service.

It is critically important to us to find the best value for our money, and we really feel like we have found a gem with this purchase. It doesn’t have some extras that other similar machines have, but we aren’t paying for those things either , and quite honestly, we don’t miss them. The machine does everything we want and a whole lot more for half the price of other similar machines. I like that a lot.

What I don’t like about the machine:

I didn’t like the base that it came with very much and it seems like it would break fairly quickly if the machine is moved around much, although while set up its quite sturdy and convenient for the smooth extra sliding area it provides and the little storage compartment in it.   But I don’t like it when I have to get under the machine, or when I need to put it away for the day.  The sturdy handle on it is great for lifting it somewhere, but storing it somewhere is difficult on the boat.  I had to buy a case from another company to put it in, which it fits in to very nicely with no modifications. I guess this is part of how Reliable keeps the price down on these machines down. Not everyone needs a hefty case, but you can buy one easily enough if you need one.

The instruction book wasn’t quite as bad as the other reviews have said, but there are much better ones out there to learn this machine and sewing. It doesn’t take much looking online to find them. I’m told Reliable is working on an improved version of theirs as well.

The other thing the machine could use, is a light. Reliable has an LED add on light that may be worth looking at. Has anyone tried it? I have installed with Velcro a small 5$ book reading LED that has no wires and seems to do the trick, although brighter would be better. Maybe I will try that next.

I think Reliable has made a good move leaving off a few optional items on their machines in exchange for saving the consumer hundreds of dollars over their competitors. The important things are there, it’s a quality machine, and it’s everything you need if you want to do a lot of canvas and sail work, but don’t want to spend top dollar. The Barracuda offers excellent value without compromising quality. I recommend it without reservation.


Patrick and Rebecca Childress from Rhode Island, have been cruising on their 1976 Valiant 40 “Brick House” for 4 years now, and are meandering slowly through the South Pacific islands and atolls. Patrick completed a circumnavigation back in the 70s aboard a Catalina 27 “Juggernaut”, and then spent many years as a professional captain, among other things, and met his wife Rebecca on a yacht delivery to the Caribbean. His wife Rebecca came with many sea miles and their Valiant 40, and a whole lot of enthusiasm for this adventurous, independent lifestyle.  They find themselves becoming more and more self sufficient as time goes on, this year adding a Reliable Barracuda 2000U-33 sewing machine to their bag of tricks.


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