Last year Averyl and I went to visit my friend Dave in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he is building a vintage inspired 32 foot wooden Lobster Yacht named “Calidris.” He’s building it by himself, by hand! I’ve built, with help from the team I supervised, over twenty yachts during the course of my career, so I was happy to offer him some advice. I was very inspired by Dave and his dedication to making his dream come to life.
Although Dave has built or repaired many types of boats, this is his most ambitious project by a long shot. Whereas most DIY boat builders would be happy with a small row boat or sailing craft, David has decided to build a thirty-two foot version of an old “lobster yacht” design from the early 1900’s.
Even with my background in building larger and more complex boats than David’s project, his decision to take on a project by himself that many professionals would consider long and hard before tackling is nothing short of inspired passion wedded with a certain degree of idealistic craziness.
That being said, David started having conversations with me and many others as to how the boat would be built and what it would look like almost ten years ago. Towards that end, he made the decision to have his ideas and concepts committed to paper by a professional boat designer and builder.
Some might argue that this step may seem like a bit of overkill for the “backyard” boat builder.
I would counter that the amount spent in proper planning and design will enhance the the entire scope of the project and make the building process a much more enjoyable one.
David keeps a “mistake” in the shop to remind himself (and others) of the dangers associated with unbridled enthusiasm upon starting a project. Even armed with a proper detailed design for the curves representing the stern (back end) of the boat, he was so eager to get started, that he failed to read the plans correctly and glued many pieces of wood together in a beautiful arc that would never fit where they were intended to go. It’s my contention that this early hiccup was a lesson that no teacher anywhere could have provided. David’s grace and humility (and a wonderful sense of humor) are what allow him to exhibit this piece proudly in his shop.
What David has created to this point is the basic hull of the boat.
The hull is the dramatic “boat shape” we all know.
When this step is completed the builder (and anyone else willing to risk getting covered in dust) gets their first real dramatic sense how the boat will appear full scale.
When Averyl and I visited today, David was involved in “fairing” the newly completed hull.
This is a long and arduous task where all the humps and bumps in the hull are removed by heavy doses of sanding the entire hull to a consistent smooth finish.
This is one of the most physically demanding parts of boat building but it pays great dividends in the finished product.
Dave’s workshop was previously owned by a gunsmith who specialized in making cannons.
This is the workshop from outside before we all headed to Dave’s house for homemade squash soup and gluten-free iron skillet cornbread made specially for Averyl.