Need a new tote? Run this one up the flagpole.

Totes at Sea Bags on Newbury Street.
Totes at Sea Bags on Newbury Street.

Ahoy! Sea Bags has a new home at 128 Newbury St. The company, headquartered at Custom House Wharf in Portland, Maine, specializes in jaunty tote bags made from upcycled sail cloth and hand-spliced rope.

“I describe the bags as an affordable indulgence,” says chief executive Don Oakes. Medium totes cost around $150. Wristlets, wine bags, and hand bags are also top sellers.

Sea Bags has shops in traditional seaside communities like Portsmouth, N.H., Chatham, and Rockport. Oakes describes each shop as “upscale yard sale,” outfitted with netting, buoys, and lobster traps. A focal point is a wide wall of tote bags at the back of each shop, outfitted with seafaring insignias like anchors and whale’s tails.


Boston’s offerings will be imprinted with vintage city maps depicting landmarks like Long Wharf and the State House. An Octopus Tote ($150) is imprinted with an illustration from the official expedition report of the HMS Challenger, the 19th-century scientific cruise that laid the foundation for oceanography. The lining is printed with Charles Darwin’s handwritten notes from “On the Origin of Species.’’ Customers can also customize their own designs.

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The totes are durable, too. Most are made from vintage canvas or Dacron; some are repurposed from boats that are more than a century old. Sea Bags employees work with sail lofts, yacht clubs, and directly with sailors to repurpose their castoffs.

About that: Customers can trade in their used sail cloth for a tote in return (trade-ins vary depending on sail size).

“If you happen to get a spot out front on Newbury Street, we’re happy to trade you for a product,” says Oakes.

Kara Baskin can be reached at