This is the spirit of this page. It’s more than a list of links. It’s a delineation, a web of people and institutions informing the themes and currents we examine here.
Boats need to be built. Boatbuilders are people who have self-identified in that role. This hopefully growing list is made up of builders I know personally from over thirty years of interactions.
Eric and I went to Boat School together. My first boatbuilding experience, and my first professional design project was working with Eric in his shop in his grandfather’s old mechanic’s garage. The years I spent with Eric exposed me to the old Downeast Maine. His family goes back to early colonial times on the land and waters where he still lives and builds boats.
I don’t know how anyone could have an interest in boats without having run across Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin’s names and reputation. Their shop on Martha’s Vineyard celebrated its thirty fifth anniversary this summer. Their boats have defined quality traditional New England boatbuilding in the present era.
Jim is a fine woodworker, and cabinet and furniture maker living in New York City. He has a fine eye and great fluency with wood. He also trained as a sculptor and as a lapsed surfer, a canoe sailor, and amateur boat builder and designer; he has dedicated a significant portion of his life to the water and boats. He cares deeply about how to relate an aesthetic appreciation with an active participation in building and sailing.
Dan has been someone I’ve only known peripherally, but every contact I’ve had with him has been valuable to me. He is a boatbuilder with long experience, he’s also written about boats in various and interesting ways. He’s now publishing, head of Fore and Aft Publications.
Geoff’s isn’t a household name in boatbuilding. He has built a daysailer to my Small design. He has followed a career emphasizing the educational potential of boatbuilding to help disadvantaged inner city youth get a different perspective on life than they would have otherwise been exposed to.
Suzanne Leahy is another tenacious and talented boatbuilder. She has made spars for some of my boats. She brings a sculptor’s eye to her work and has an ability to navigate the social worlds that intersect out on the water.
Thad Danielson is unique. His work puts us in direct contact with the oldest traditions of boatbuilding in New England. His boats “Channel” the techniques and ethos of boats built a hundred even two hundred years ago. This is incomprehensibly hard to do. Somehow he manages it.
Maritime Museums & Foundations
Joe Youcha founded this place, which now boasts a fine building and many programs. Joe and I go way back, having worked together at Shipskills Inc. in the early 1980’s. We worked with Larry Murray, among others, under Andy Melee and Jim Kricker’s watchful eyes.
John Brady is running this amazing facility on the waterfront in downtown Philadelphia. They have a boatshop on site, as well as a basin with small-craft programs and two large ships. Along with a WWII Fleet submarine Becuna, they are custodians of the only remaining warship from the era of the Great White Fleet, the cruiser, Olympia. Bruce Mackenzie – Bruce and I went to WCVTI, “the Boatschool,” together back in the mid seventies! – is in charge of the shop where they are currently building a whaleboat for the soon to be refurbished Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport.
Ben Fuller is a curator at the Penobscot Bay Marine Museum. I’ve known Ben for over twenty years. He’s not only a curator, that cross between a Historian and a diviner of the past. For me he’s been a patient guide and together we’ve come up with one of the boats I’m most proud of, the Harrier design. I’ve been fortunate with the quality of my clients, if not always with the overall number! In that company I put Ben and my collaboration at the top of the list.
Brett Hart is in charge. This facility, located in an old dye mill in the heart of the neighborhood provides inner city youth from North Philadelphia with an after school boatbuilding program during the school year and sailing and rowing and marine ecology programs in the summer. I’m currently designing a boat for them and we’ll be unveiling it to the world very soon!
Adam Green runs this program in the Bronx, New York. They work directly on the front lines of boats for difficult times in a place that has had a long history of hardship and where there are people who get together to grow strong in the face of adversity.
Thomas Armstrong’s blog has caught my eye and my imagination. I’ve only been following it for under a year, but I’ve been struck by the quality of what gets covered and the breathtaking simplicity of the concept, it lets the breeze blow right through, and our imaginations with it.
This is an old term for something that barely exists today. I was fortunate to have seen a few remnants in my youth. Chandlery was the name given to supply houses that stocked all the myriad and sundries needed for boats and ships. The products were mostly of simple and robust manufacture and they carried all of the alchemical elements used in traditional boatbuilding and rigging. I’m using this title for a list of suppliers of things or a level of quality of things that are essential, although no longer generally available.
This is as close to an old chandler as can be found today. In fact they’ve been at it for over a hundred years. They still carry what Arthur Davies asked Caruthers to pick up for him in the Priories before joining him in the Frisian Islands in that incredible adventure, the first spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. I have also had the pleasure of knowing their North American distributor Gordon Laco.
Andrew Moore has taken the old Lunenburg Foundry Shipmate Stoves and brought them back into production. Just think about what that entails, a lone individual bringing back what had been done by an entire factory. Besides pattern-making and casting and finishing he’s had to shepherd their compliance with modern regulations and then develop a market and promote their use. My home is warmed by one of his Sardine Stoves fed what I call Zen Firewood, re-cut and split fine to fit its tiny firebox.
There are so many people designing boats around the world. I don’t know many of them, and there are fewer I believe are boat designers, not Yacht Designers, Naval Architects, or designers for the “Leisure Industries.” This is a short and idiosyncratic list. – You may have already guessed, this entire enterprise is deeply idiosyncratic!
I’ve listed Nat as part of a partnership building boats. He’s listed here for his designs. He’s had the wonderful opportunity to design for a shop he’s embedded in. His style has consistently combined a spare elegance with straightforward construction to the highest standards. Designing and building all these years have honed his instincts in a way that is as close to what Nat Herreshoff was able to do in Bristol a century ago.
I’ve only written one “fan letter” to a designer and that was to Paul. His work has consistently combined a clear clean aesthetic with a commitment to traditional types. His boats cover a wide variety of types, but every one is immediately recognizable as his.
I don’t know Michael Schacht, yet. He was recommended to me by Thomas Armstrong. Thomas’ blog, 70.8% is the most interesting boat blog I know. His recommendation counts for me. My own experience with multihulls is extremely limited. I am drawn to their provenance as among the earliest boats ever built, and their abilities, both as fast daysailers and incredible passage-makers, convinces me of the necessity to include multihull people here.
I met Andrew on a trip to Britain in the nineties. He was doing and has continued to do wonderful work. His boats are close to my heart.
A co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project. Their basic premise,
A rallying point to a renewed strength.
Kay is my wife. She’s also the best photographer I know.
I’ve been drawn to Britain for many years for many reasons. Pete Greenfield called me on “Boxing Day” in the early nineties and gave me one of my first “breaks” offering me space to show and write about design in his new magazine, The Boatman. He had started Classic Boat, then in a tour de force reminiscent of the castle builder in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, when the first one was bought out from under him he started another, then when it happened again, he found his own backing and started Water Craft.
I was in living in Brooklin when Jon Wilson was starting WoodenBoat in a barn a few towns away. I would never have been able to build or design boats if it hadn’t been for WoodenBoat. This is true of any of us who’ve been involved with the traditional boat revival in America. WoodenBoat published Designer & Client and given me the opportunity to meet and interact with an incredible list of their editors and contributors over the years.
Jenny was working for the Boatman when I first met her. She became the lead off client for Designer & Client. The boat we came up with in our collaboration, Small, has been my most successful design in terms of numbers of boats built. She has gone on to Water Craft, WoodenBoat, and was Editor in Chief for Maritime Life & Traditions. Most recently she wrote a Sail Trial article for Harrier that appeared in WoodenBoat’s, Small Boat Annual.
Kathy was my line editor on Designer & Client. This was in the relatively early days of life on-line. We corresponded by e-mail and telephone, often with multiple exchanges in a day. Her patience and focus was instrumental in not only getting that manuscript pulled into shape, but our interaction was an education for me in how to develop as a writer. Her edits were always on target and at the same time she never attempted to steer me away from my own voice.
Christian has been a screenwriter and film director. Underpinning all his endeavors, he is a writer with an eye for telling visual detail. His essays on Hogsalt are a master-class in how to write clearly and accessibly on complex, difficult topics. Someone I confide in. Someone I turn to for help. Showing me the connections between editing and directing, he has had a profound influence on how I write. We are working together on some long-term projects I look forward to sharing with you sometime soon.
Jim was, he’s now deceased, Senior Editor Emeritus at W. W. Norton, and founder of Quantuck Lane Press. He was the first person “in New York” to read my fiction when Nat Benjamin passed along my manuscript to him. Sitting across a table from Jim at 500 Fifth Avenue, discussing my work in the same house that had published Patrick O’Brian, was a heady experience. His continued moral support has been a tremendous boon as I buck the tide in my efforts to get my fiction published. Jim has passed away. He will be missed….
Peter was my editor for Designer & Client. He nurtured my ambition to write something worthwhile and his attention and regard gave me the confidence to get on with it.
This is a very short list. It’s important to deal with local sailmakers whenever possible. This list includes the few lofts I’ve had direct experience with.
Nat built the sails for my Little Cat, Harry. He also built the sails for the USS Constitution.
Stuart K. Hopkins’s loft built the sails for the Factory One Design.