Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some Designs In The Offing

Descriptions and Links To Design Blogs

(someday this will be a website)

     The purpose of this blog has from the start been an effort to advocate for the elegant pastime of a life in sensible boats. This thought has from the perspective of these writings been built around a simple, central theme: that a good boat is one that gets used often.As a philosophy of design this is all encompassing, as boats are designed for many purposes and circumstances, but only the good ones get used often. This applies equally to the simple skiff and the most extravagant yacht, with neither having the slightest claim to any value at all if they never leave the dock; or, either may have value beyond common measure if used often and successfully on the voyages of escape and renewal that compelled their creation from the outset.

     This blog has evolved into a philosophy of boat design narration, which is well and good and arguably necessary for the greater world of pleasure boating. Future postings will continue to expound on this theme, in the interest of presenting general ideas about types of boats that will best serve defined purposes and so be used often. From these discussions, specific designs will emerge.

     More to the point, specific blogs will also begin to emerge that will describe and display the details of specific designs as they emerge. These will be divided between the four categories, Masters, Journeyman, Apprentice, and Working. Links to these blogs will appear (as they become active) at the top of each of my boating-related blogs. Whether individual designs will ultimately have their own blog will be decided in time. One final note before briefly discussing upcoming designs:

     some day this will be a website

     Details, drawings, and photographs for the following designs and design concepts will appear and be expanded on at:

I) 42 foot Motor Cruiser: Hull design by Seth Persson
       In 1974, the 42 foot party fishing boat Capt. Bob II was launched, and went on to serve for more than thirty years in that capacity. The hull design by Seth Persson features a round hull at the bow, developing into a chined cross section from midships to the stern. The resulting vessel has the seagoing capability and smooth ride of a round hulled vessel and the efficiencies of a chine hulled motorboat. With 14 feet of beam, this design affords the potential for a spacious, comfortable, long distance motor cruiser. 
     Over the coming months, work will commence to produce the designwork needed to construct a well appointed, capable cruising motor vessel. This will include modifications to the construction plans aimed at utilizing modern materials and methods to improve the quality and longevity of the finished boat.

II) 28 foot Down East motor launch. 
     Also incorporating the round hull forward to hard chine aft hull style, this design by Jon Persson has the narrow beam (8 ft. 6 inches), classic sheer, and tumblehome aft which mark the Down East-style lobster boat. Intended for a variety of engine and power systems, this launch will be configured as either an open launch or cuddy-cabin weekend cruiser. The hull design will afford an efficient, comfortable ride with a good turn of speed.

III) 18 foot Connecticut River Pulling Boat
     Designed on 1982 by Jon Persson, the Connecticut River Pulling Boat is a recreational sliding seat rowing boat capable of being used on moderately open waters. Stable and roomy, this design combines practicality and elegance for the enjoyment of light exercise and serene settings.
     Originally built as a lapstrake plywood boat with steam bent oak frames, this design is  to be modified to allow the option of cedar strip planking. And, while custom built rowing gear has been the choice in existing boats, provisions will be made to accept manufactured rowing gear and rigs.

IV) Mink. This was the working name for a 32 foot sloop developed by Seth Persson as a boat for himself and his family. With this design, Seth combined the best features of a Nat Herreshoff design with a 1930's boat named Driad and the highly successful Finisterre. While Mink was lost in the fire of 1964, her lines survive and her design will be completed for construction as a modern 
cold-moulded  boat.

V) YOT's. This is a long-held notion to develop a set of designs for classic and quite able sail and power boats in a size range that makes them easy and simple to use with crews of all ages. The premise is to work in the 16 to perhaps 25 foot range (large enough to be genuinely useful), while maintaining the look of much larger yachts. The list of designs being considered include a 21 to 22.5 foot classic sloop, a 21 foot version of  Down East launch, a schooner in the 25 foot range; a square rigged yacht, a commuter boat, a sailing machine with ballasted keel. The intent is to produce designs fun to own and use, which will as always get used often.

VI) Valhalla. This is an idea for a 47 foot ocean cruising ketch that has been under consideration for some time. A balance between comfort and ableness is sought, with a good turn of speed coming from a well-proportioned, full keel, full displacement hull design. A practical interior is planned, working around the real needs of long distance sailing on the open ocean. Construction will again incorporate the best of modern materials and structural design, with wood/epoxy being the probable choice. A second choice of plank on frame construction may be designed as well, if just for sentimental reasons.

     Further information on these concepts will appear and grow with time at To discuss these ideas as they develop, I may be reached at

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Technology, Tooling, Materials, and Craftsmanship

   Work Of The Masters In The Modern Era

     Technology, Tooling, Materials, and Craftsmanship represent multiple levels of advancement in human knowledge and skill. Fire and stone axes were the advanced technologies of early boatbuilders, who learned to choose the best trees from which to carve a canoe, the most highly developed design of the age. Over time, each field of knowledge grew, typically as an overlapping of the fields; better materials and techniques in the hands of skilled craftsmen resulted in better tools, which allowed for the better use of better materials to build better boats. And so on. Tools tend to develop from work, as does tooling, as does technology; the practice of craft presents challenges best met by new designs of tools and techniques. Knowledge only grows, efficiencies and qualities increase, and through it all the craftsman's work is the critical interface between technology, tooling, and materials.

     At the time of Easterly's building, wood was still the most commonly used material for boats of her size; the oak, cedar, mahogany, teak, and spruce were the best woods available, bronze and monel the best metals. This brings us to a pertinent question: Easterly represents a high point in the skill and craftsmanship levels needed to build a fine small yacht, but would we build a boat the same way today? The answer is, if one seeks a challenge and a showpiece, then yes; the skills needed to build such a boat are of the highest order, and the finished piece will provide several generations worth of pleasure and prestige. Otherwise, no: we need to acknowledge and understand a fundamental truth, that what we now call "classic" or "vintage" was in it's time, the state of the art. Everything about technology, tooling, and materials advanced at an accelerating rate throughout the 20th century, as did the role of craftsman in the process. The intent and purpose of a given vessel must be weighed in the decisions surrounding it's creation.

     In reality, the development of modern technology, tooling, and materials is an entirely logical continuation of a long historical progression. The imperative to find better ways to do things, always resisted by the status quo, has moved humanity steadily forward to the point we are now at, which is certain to change as time progresses.

     Boats are the beneficiary of much of this development; in the past watercraft often provided the impetus for technology, tooling. and materials advances, but today's advances are the result of large, multi-discipline, multi-source research and development. Designing sailboats would never have led to developing computers and software, nor to computer numerical control routers. But, the availability of such technology/tooling simply changes the nature of boat building.

     My father once, when he was nearing the end of his passage through this life, commented that a production boat should be of higher quality than a custom boat, since one may invest so much more into the templating and set up work. It is indeed a truism that the more sophisticated technology, tooling, and materials become, the less skill is required to produce a high quality, finished product. This of course is because the level of skill and knowledge that goes into the technology, tooling, and materials is at once so highly developed, and also utterly repeatable, that better results are achievable than with hand-crafted work with less skilled craftsmen and less time required. In Easterly's time, bronze screws were a prime example of this, a combination of sophisticated metallurgy and mass production machinery, producing fasteners easier and faster to acquire and drive home than the less secure, handmade trunnels and nails they replaced. Today, epoxies and other adhesives, correctly and strategically used, allow even higher quality and more durable connections to be made, with arguably less skill required than driving screws home.

     This too follows the the historical trendline: the skill and talent of individual boatbuilders, designers, loftsmen, toolmakers, sawyers, and sailmakers has always been reflected in the quality and performance of final products. Having all the skills, knowledge, innovation, and labors of chemists, engineers, programmers, manufacturers, and tool and die makers on the boat builder's palette provides the option to create especially good and fine boats with details of finish and function brought to a never before achievable level of structural integrity and longevity. Such boats may be entirely custom or built in volume (either and all benefit from the underlying, highly advanced technology, tooling, and materials); they may incorporate the finest or the most functional of joinery and finish. The skill of the sawyer to select the best tree has been supplemented by the ability of chemical and manufacturing industries to develop the best materials and technologies. It is in many ways the best of all times for boat designers and builders, and for the owners and users of boats. But, it is only worthwhile if the boats produced get used often.

     The next posting will, at last, be a set of short descriptive pieces on designs in various stages of completion or concept that I will categorize as Designs for the Master. This will include a Link to a separate blog for such designs, where I will be able to include some thoughts on the construction and the processes and approaches to be taken for each design. As this work progresses, drawings, photographs, and further detail will be added to each design.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easterly: A Confluence Of Masters

      Easterly  was arguably the finest yacht built by Seth Persson, which makes her one of the finest yachts of her size ever built. She was also one of his two favorites, for a variety of reasons that form the purpose and the lesson underlying this brief review. 

     Whenever one approaches an object of work that stands out, in detail and in whole, as of a special quality even when measured against the finest of contemporary examples, there is at first viewing an appreciation of the object, quite separate from the skills and labors behind its making. This is the hoped for, intended effect of every craftsman and builder; moments of awe and praise to reward the hours of labor and the years of practice that preceded. This posting will seek to break down the process, the thinking, the skills, experiences, and personalities which make the rare project such as Easterly a reality now past her fiftieth year. 

      (The following photograph of  Easterly by Wavelength Studios was taken during a race off of Newport, Rhode Island. Click on the file below, then on the tab that opens below that, to view this photograph.) 

     Any project of a relative magnitude requires the work and input of many hands. The expectation of exceptional quality and finish demands that the many hands posses a high degree of skill, lead by the eyes and experience of people with a rare talent for distinctive detail within the context of the larger whole.This is a culmination of many careers, many life's paths, set upon years earlier, meeting in a confluence of talents and experiences, opportunities and raw capability. To begin with the basic materials, blank paper and rough wood, metals and machinery, is a simple matter; but to end with the final product, constructed as desired and envisioned, is a complicated process. It begins with young people, young boys in this case, sketching sailboats on their notebooks while dreaming in class about the things they will build and the places they will go. But the people they will meet, the ones they will work with and for, is not in the vocabulary of the young, though this be as important to their future as any mechanical, or monetary, skill.

The Designers

     Easterly's story begins with her design. She was the second boat built to this particular design, the first having been built in 1947 and named Rascal. That a second boat of this design was desired by another owner more than ten years on is testament to the quality of the design as proven by extensive and satisfied experience. The designer was Sparkman and Stephens, at a time when there was a blend of artistry and burgeoning science at work in that office, which gave free rein to the designers on staff to retain the elements of classical grace and beauty that would slowly disappear from yacht design over the ensuing decades. Rascal's owner took this a measure beyond, specifying that not one line in his boats' design be a straight line. 

     This was purely for aesthetics, one assumes, though the question of whether water flows more efficiently around graceful curves or straight-sectioned hydrodynamic foils being unresolved, then and now. But the result is a design that is of a special and timeless appearance, her profile a single, proportional, delicate, powerful and purposeful line. Rascal was designed during the time of the CCA rule, which favored moderately long overhangs, wholesome displacement, and practical rigs. She was kept narrow, 10'8" of beam on 45 feet of length; and deep, 6'4". Her waterline length of 31 feet was in keeping with the proportions of the day.

     Rascal's cross sections also carry the elegance and grace of that era, slightly tumblehomed, fair and powerful lines carrying from rail to ballast keel. There is a balance present in such a design, compatible with comfortable sailing on open oceans, a point more important to sailing than all the dockside luxuries of modern boats. With a 7/8's sloop rig carrying 909 square feet of sail on a 64 foot mast, Rascal proved a fast and handy sailor for a yacht of her size.

     Sparkman and Stephens has been a unique organization in the annals of yacht design history; for, while most yacht design firms are built around the talents of their principle designer, S&S has since early on been a place where talented designers have gathered to combine their talents. In his autobiography, Olin Stephens paid tribute to the many hands who made up the design staff at S&S. The ability to attract such talent was directly linked to the ability of S&S to attract a well-to-do clientele; talent must be paid, and a steady stream of work is needed to maintain a working team. Amongst the field of talented designers on the S&S team was Al Mason, who was primarily responsible for producing Rascal's design.

     There is a tendency in reports such as this one, to breeze over the contributions of people such as Al Mason to projects such as Rascal, and the later Easterly; he worked for S&S, he produced the designs and drawings. But this is an examination of the people and the course of events that makes these projects possible, and so it is worth a little time to consider exactly what was entailed in the acquisition of skills to bring expression to the talents and interests of, in this case, Al Mason.

     He began at a young age, learning enough about boats to produce the design for the 60 foot schooner California when he was just 17 years old. His daughter Anita Mason, who worked with him in his private practice, has been compiling a book explaining how someone so young could be able to know enough to design such a vessel. Interest, is the answer, or passion, or any of those words which describe, just barely, the furthest edges of those pursuits that keep a mind happily occupied for sixty years while wanting more. 

     Yacht design in the days of pencil and inking pen on vellum was a craft and trade of many skills; lines drawings were a combination of freehand drawing, drafting with battens and French curves, all done within constraints of various measured and mathematical restraints; overall dimensions, measurement rules, displacement, and Olin Stephens' favorite, the prismatic coefficient (a measure of the fineness of the largest cross-section in proportion to length). The artisan skills of drafting in curves, the three views coinciding not just in dimension, volume, and proportion, but in fair, efficient, attractive lines, is a special skill born of many hours over many years of solitary, trying practice. There are few who possess this skill, fewer who combine technique, technology, mathematics, and artistry as did a man of Al Mason's capability.

     To this is added the wooden structures of keel, stem, floortimbers and plates, frames, planking, bolts and fasteners, deck and cabin structures; and then, the interior, spars, rigging, hardware, engine, tanks. S&S was known for the extensive detail included in their designs, including all the hatches, doors, galley details. As lead designer on this project, Al Mason had to be more than simply knowledgeable about each of these, he had to be intimately and professionally knowledgeable. And, at S&S, he would have had the expert input and assistance of still more of the top designers and engineers then employed by S&S, which in the years following WWII numbered around 250.

     All of this work was done under two sets of watchful eyes, each with a view to bring the high standard of sought perfection to the last and smallest detail. The first, belonging to Olin Stephens himself, who would oversee and review every design as it progressed from concept and sketch to finished draft. Second would be Frank Campbell, client and owner of Rascal from first glimmer to final glean, who commissioned the design and construction of Rascal for cruising with his young family on and about Long Island Sound. 

     Somewhere along the course of the next decade, another set of eyes became enamored of the Rascal's design, and in an extended process for the vessel at the midst of this anthology, became client and owner.

The Client

     Richard Cooper was a man who understood the principle of trajectory. He was a director and officer of the Fafnir Bearing Company in New Britain, Connecticut, an industry critical to all things industrial,  from automobiles to airplanes, engines to lunar missions. Roller bearings are amongst the unseen miracles of modern societies, critical to the efficiency, reliability, and durability of our now assumptive everyday lives. 

     Fafnir employed 8,000 people between its' several, international factories, and produced some 200,000 bearings per day. As a man who shouldered his share of  the weight of considerable responsibility for the employees, customers, and shareholders of Fafnir Bearing, Rick Cooper was a man accustomed to, and successful at, considering the long range consequences  of his words and actions.

     And so, when presented with a question of any magnitude, Cooper would think a moment about the question, its implications and potentials ; then, he would form his response, carefully, and completely, in his mind, considering the trajectory over time, and the possible, positive or negative, consequences; and finally, he would voice his response, slowly, and with clear, concise words. Perhaps in our time this will seem too sluggish for the frenetic pace of the global economy; yet it was this very philosophy which built an industry like Fafnir Bearing, and led to the building of a yacht such as the Easterly.

     For the better part of ten years, Rick Cooper would stop in at the boatyard of Seth Persson to see the latest project and talk boats with Seth. He was an unpretentious figure, dressed rather casually, and Seth assumed he was a working man who liked boats. Seth was always open to conversing about boats with knowledgeable people, which Cooper was. These were the halcyon days in Seth's career, when he was building Carleton Mitchell's Finisterre and the Alden ketch Abigail, to name a few. There was much for Cooper to see, though perhaps not much time for the two men to talk.

     And then one day Rick Cooper stopped by the boatyard with a set of drawings for a 45 foot S&S sloop, and said that he would like Seth to build her for him. "You can't afford this," was Seth's response, aware of a working man's means. "Yes, I can," replied Cooper, aware of his own means.   In retrospect, Seth realized that he had spoken to Cooper while he was at his Fafnir office; Seth recognized the voice, but could not place it with the rather reserved man who on occasion visited his boatshop.

     Richard Cooper was indeed a man of means, owning an extensive property on the Connecticut River at Ely's Ferry in Old Lyme. He sold this property, and donated 112 acres of vital waterfront property to a land trust to be conserved in perpetuity. He then bought and improved a home with dock inside Hamburg Cove, a well known hurricane-haven on the Connecticut River. Here, he would dock the Easterly, and a 42 foot Dyer powerboat named Southerly. In the first decades following the war, these were substantial yachts, as America was then a nation with a strong middle class where wealth was more evenly distributed than in the decades before or since.

     The contract for Easterly's construction was simple, and had no set price or delivery date. This was a matter of trust and confidence, each knowing the other would deliver what was promised and required of them. With such constraints and the inherent compromises removed, it was possible to proceed with a working theme to build a boat where every detail was "as nice as it could be," the exact words every craftsman longs to hear.

The Boatbuilders

        Everything about building boats from drawings begins with full scale lofting and layout, of which Seth Persson was a true and prolific master.This was due in part to a natural talent and aptitude for "seeing" how to work in complex shapes; and, to the unique and organic educational process which Seth underwent. Through circumstances of family, location, era, and environment, and through intentional self-initiative mixed with fortuitous opportunity, Seth was able at a very young age to gain both the knowledge and experience needed to understand and produce the objects of his life's work to the level of his fond aspirations. 

     The interest in boats stemmed from his father, Frans, who after some ten years "before the mast" came ashore in New York. There, in his leisure time, Frans built a number of boats for himself and later his family. Seth began his boating life as an infant on board  a 22 foot motor launch Frans designed and built, followed by a youth spent sailing on the 28 foot yawl Valhalla. This was all good experience and introduction to the intricacies and insights of boats and sailing, and Seth was set on a course early on to work on boats throughout his lifetime.

     This process began in earnest when Seth dropped out of public school at the age of fourteen. He enrolled in an International Correspondence Course to earn his high school diploma, while designing and building his first boat, a 12 foot gaff rigged sloop. Once he had completed his basic education requirements, he moved on to a very thorough and well taught ICS course in ships drafting. This included an extensive course of study of three-dimensional layout and development, plus all of the drafting and inking skills required for the trade. 

     At seventeen years of age, Seth took another important step forward in his education and training when he went to work for the Consolidated Shipbuilding Company on City Island, New york. This was in 1925, when the Consolidated was still building yachts up to 150 feet in length; it may be argued that this was the finest builder of fine and advanced motor yachts then operating in America. There were between 2000 and 2500 men working for Consolidated at that time, many of them Germans who were highly skilled and had come to America after the war seeking a better life. During the years of the Roaring 20's, an interested craftsman could not have found a better life than this.

     Seth arrived at Consolidated just as the last formal apprenticeships were coming to a close, and so his was an informal learning experience while there. This was perhaps one of the more fortuitous opportunities of his life to that point, as he was an energetic and impatient youth with more knowledge than most people his age. His time there was spent working in the shop that built boats up to 50 feet in length, primarily bright-finished motorboats of exceptional quality,

     Seth encountered some of the major mentors of his life during the 2-1/2 years he worked at Consolidated, including a German boat builder named Tommy Brodersen, who taught Seth many of the finer points of wooden boat building. Jack Kraft, lead foreman at the shop, recognized Seth's abilities and after six months or so, had Seth doing the same work as the other men in the shop. A Norwegian named Ole Olafsen taught Seth the value of thinking through one's work while saving time with careful layout.

     During this time Seth designed and built a 17 foot sloop for his own use, finishing it out to the same yacht standards he was learning at the Consolidated. The plans, and a photograph of the 17 year old boat builder sailing his creation, appeared in Motor Boating magazine. By age nineteen, Seth was ready to start his own boatshop. 

     His first shop was built on pilings over a salt marsh. There Seth designed and built a number of motor and sail boats, establishing a solid reputation in both fields. When the Great Depression closed in, Seth had to close down his shop, and went to work for the Jakobson and Peterson shipyard as chief mould loftsman. Seth was at twenty-three years of age quite young to be taking on a job of such importance, but his educational path had prepared him well for the work. He lofted the last wooden and first steel tugboats built at the Jakobson yard.

     Another, valuable, completely informal and organic source of learning for Seth came from visiting a multitude of shops and foundries with his father during his formative years. Always interested, he picked up many insights to not just the basics, but the finer and often rarely known, aspects of many trades. He especially gained a wealth of knowledge about metal casting, which would play a major part in his pattern making over the years to come.

     Meanwhile, Seth and his father were building the small boatyard in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where he established his boat building business and reputation. He had been working the boatyard for 25 years, and was by then fifty-two years of age, when Rick Cooper placed the order for the sloop which would become the Easterly. Seth was at the pinnacle of his working life, with his shop firmly established and his best crew in place and available. 

     A project of the scale and complexity of an Easterly entails many thousand of highly skilled working hours to complete. Having the best people on hand to do the work to the standard and in the style of the master builder is an essential and often emotional interactive experience. This can range from the immensely frustrating to the uplifting of enlightenment, depending on how the personalities and perspectives intermix. On the Easterly project, Seth was extremely fortunate to have an assembled crew of men with whom he had worked extensively and well over the course of numerous previous projects. 

     Tollef Tollefsen had worked with Seth for some five years by the time the Easterly project came along. Born in Norway, Tolley was a fine craftsman capable of turning out the best work. He was especially responsible for building the spars for Seth's boats. Joining Tolley was Ed Dempsey, a solid and hardworking boat builder with a complete range of skills. Seth was also able to bring one of his favorite master craftsmen, named Charlie Pratt, on board. Seth had met Charlie while building gliders during the war, and quickly came to appreciate his woodworking talents. The two men were also quite congenial and shared a working relationship based on mutual respect and complementary skill, which made for a particularly enjoyable working relationship that Seth would recall fondly for the rest of his days.

     Some new hands also signed on during this project (Seth also built a small motorboat, and hauled, stored, and repaired about 25 boats alongside the Easterly's construction). Most notable was Charley Howard, who joined the crew as painter during the final press to finish Easterly. Charley proceeded to "kick everyone off the boat" so he could do a proper job of the varnish work; Seth, who had certainly seen his share of bright work, would later say that he didn't recognize the interior of the boat for the high quality of Charley's varnish work. Charley stayed on and was renowned for his finish work at the Persson yard for the next 20 years.  In addition, the Greaves brothers, Tom and Harry, moved from their native Ireland to join the crew near the close of the project.

     Each of the men who worked on Easterly's construction had been working in the trade for many years prior to joining Seth's crew; they possessed the skills, patience, perseverance, and temperament so critical to working as a cohesive and productive team. In a shop and on a project such as this (be it a sculpture, mural, building, boat, etc.) there is a lead master craftsman whose role is to posses and convey a certain vision of the finished project at each step of the process to a crew of workers fully capable of producing each finished piece. The lead person must be able to see both the whole and the parts, and know how each step in the process will add to the last and prepare for the next. To be able to do this with a gathered crew of workers capable of sharing the vision while patiently producing the pieces in the process is a rare and necessary gift if one is to produce a work of the caliber and complexity of an Easterly. The time spent on this project is also telling; Easterly required eighteen months to complete, partly due to the competing workload, but mostly because of the hours that go into such a project. Here is the double-edge of time experienced by all craftspeople in a world of economic realities; to on the one hand maintain a high level of focus for eighteen months, and on the other, to produce such a piece of work in only eighteen months.


The Project

          Every one of Seth Persson's boat building projects concluded with a thorough cleaning of the boatshop. All the shavings, planer chips, scrap wood, and general debris would be swept up and taken away, the blocking and staging stowed. Tools that had somehow disappeared somehow reappeared, and everything returned again to its proper place and condition. This was a time to sharpen tools and oil the machinery. It was also time to paint the mould loft floor.

     Painting the mould loft floor is a transitional moment, done with thorough preparation and serious intent, as the first act of the last project is coated over with white paint to make way for the opening act of the new; all the challenges of that once fresh beginning, now a success, the end product having sailed away, the stage is set  anew. In this instance it was the lofting for the 45 foot Rhodes sloop Hi Q II that was forever painted from present view, making way for Easterly's lines to be lofted.

     Lofting a boat simply means to reproduce the primary drawings to  full size. This is the secret and science of handcrafted boat building, as it allows the three-dimensional hull to be accurately drawn and developed in two dimensions first, with all of the major structural and interior components also drawn full size. In lofting the lines of a boat, a level of accuracy of 1/16th of an inch is maintained (boats traditionally are built within 1/8th of an inch). Each of the three views must be drawn both fair and correspondingly accurate at each of the intersecting points.

     Lofting the structure of a wooden boat requires laying out keel timbers, frames, floortimbers, planking, and deck structure. The rabbet which allows a structural connection of the planking to the backbone is also developed; the curved transom must also be developed as a flat surface first, which Seth would do using a method of unknown origin but with particularly effective results.  

     From the lofting, templates are made, accurate and fair with pertinent information and layout lines right on the templates.This is in many ways the entire purpose of lofting, the taking of scale drawings to the full-scale reality of finished boats. Templates are in effect information transference systems, an accurate and eminently useful means to move between the two-dimensional and into the three-dimensional parts which when assembled equal a complete and proper boat.

     The selection and use of materials in any project is of critical importance to the longevity and service of a vessel; understanding  not just which materials are best, but also the physical characteristics, strengths, and limitations of materials is essential. Generations of building wooden boats resulted in a solid working and engineering grasp of which woods and metals to incorporate for various purposes, and the best way to utilize them. As is usually the case, the best way to build anything is also the most labor intensive way, the specifics of which will be addressed as this discussion of Easterly's construction progresses.

     Seth used a unique method for bending and setting up the steam bent white oak frames for his boats. This required lofting each frame onto a 12 ft. by 12 ft. scrieve board; each frame was then individually bent, using a steel strap with tight end blocks to compression bend the frames. Compression bending oak (which should always be white oak, for strength and rot-resistance reasons) literally means that the frame is compressed on the inside of the curve as it is bent. For example, a 2" by 2" piece, 48" long and bent to a sharp curve, still measured 48" on the outside curve but was  42" on the inside curve when finished. This is an example of how knowing how to work with a material can add tremendously to the working strength of that material. Once cooled, the frames were beveled inside and out using a scale (which Seth learned  in New York) which allows bevels to be taken directly from the frame lofting, and transferred to a corresponding scale set up on the bandsaw.  The same scale is used for beveling oak floortimbers. 
     Once beveled, the frames were hand planed to a fair line, requiring a good "eye" and much skill with a hand plane. This brings up a point of craftsmanship when building a vessel such as Easterly; these frames were always planed and finished absolutely fair and clean, with the same sweeping curves and complete lack of any bumps, hard spots, or flats such as is the standard when designing and lofting such a boat. Here, the craftsmen's skill and eye were tested, as Seth quietly insisted that each frame meet his considerable standard of absolute fairness. This, too, is one of the secrets of fine boatbuilding, unseen, unsuspected, and to the uninitiated perhaps a seemingly unimportant detail which in fact will go far in determining the quality of the finished product, first because all fine and good works are built in steps and stages of equal care and conscious quality, and second because a fine product requires a dedication to and attitude of perfection in every detail from first to last.

     But, this must be accomplished within the realm of effective and efficient work, which will produce value commensurate with cost. To turn out the highest quality work more quickly than most can produce even rudimentary work is the mark and the joy of all craftsmen. It is a point which must be taken by each new generation of craftsman; careful, even perfect, work does not translate to fussing endlessly with each piece. A master craftsman sees the finished piece before the first cut is made, and works quickly, directly, and efficiently to complete the finished piece.

     Seth's method was to assemble the finished frames and floor timbers, working from the scrieve board to within the 1/8th inch tolerance. The frames were then set up and fastened to the keel structure, with ribbands added to bring everything into final fairness. From there, the planking commenced, with an inner layer of cedar and outer layer of Honduras Mahogany, set in shellac. The inner layer of planking was fastened to the outer layer for added strength. Cedar is used for the inner planking because of it's rot resistance quality, and light weight; this is always the first choice for planking that is of thin dimension. Mahogany, from Central America, with fine and tight grain, is stable and strong, ideal for planking. Seth kept his planking as narrow as practicable, to minimize the shrinking and swelling which is inevitable in planked wooden boats.

     Seth was renowned for his planking skill, even in his days back in Brooklyn; which in traditional boat building is amongst the most challenging skills of all. Planks must fit the curve of the frames, the bevels between the planks, and be proportioned in width to the length of each frame. A good job of planking results in the seams being tight  along their entire length, which, besides requiring accurate beveling, calls once again for perfectly fair lines.

     There are many approaches to this work, but Seth added an approach of his own, which he called his "planking rack." This was essentially a series of cross pieces which held battens long enough to lay out a full length strake of planking, mounted on a hinged base. A full length spiling was taken from the boat, and the battens set to the shape that developed. Planks could then be laid out from the battens while maintaining a full-length fairness, which greatly improves the quality of the finished work and reduces the time needed to complete it. This was largely due to the consistently fair lines the planking rack resulted in, combined with Seth's always sharp eye and skill with his aluminum jack plane. Seth could produce one full strake of planking per day, and keep two men working at final fitting and fastening the planks as he made them. This method of spiling and laying out planking generally allowed three strakes of planking to be produced from a single spiling.

     Sailboats of this era typically incorporated metal, either cast or welded, into their construction and rigging hardware. During his years in New York, Seth had learned a great deal about both pattern making and foundry work; he had a natural artistic gift, enhanced by time spent in figure drawing classes; and, he had a good sense and knowledge of the engineering imperatives incorporated in the shapes of metal structures. Seth would make the patterns or templates for cast or welded bronze or monel pieces in his evenings and on the weekends

     The results of this work continues to function as intended, most visibly in the deck hardware, the chocks and cleats, stanchion hardware and stem fittings. Seth had his own, unique design for chocks which were particularly easy on both the eyes and the docklines. But every owner of a Seth Persson boat is quick to pull the floorboards and show visitors the bronze or monel floorplates with their natural, flowing, fair lines, and the functional tabs that are carefully filleted and blend  into the whole of the piece, tabs that hold tanks or engine beds while adding strength to the whole part and vessel.

     The beauty of all these pieces goes back to an earlier observation, that we recognize aesthetic  beauty for logical reasons; what we recognize as beautiful, graceful, or simply "right" is a recollection by our non-logical, right-brain of past observations of objects that are in fact highly refined for purely structural purposes. Fair and well proportioned parts distribute working loads and so add strength and extended life to the part. When this knowledge and philosophy is carried throughout an entire project, the result is a work of great beauty and elegance as a whole and in all its parts, which will as a result serve it's useful purpose for many years.

      This point was expressed by the observation of Easterly's present owner, who noted that a complex weldment near the transom, hidden from plain view, still carried the artist's mark of graceful, delicate lines; but this is not surprising in an object of practical purpose expressed with such elegance as is Easterly, for just as angel's wings may enchant us with their visible and delicate grace, their true majesty lies in their perfectly proportioned supporting structure, seen by none but their Creator.

     Connecting hull to deck is always a crucial and often under built part of a boat's construction. Given a degree of free rein, Seth and his crew laminated a heavier than typical sheer clamp that provided both the ample connecting points needed to secure deckbeams to frames, and so hull to deck; and, to add stiffness and stability to the Easterly's hull. Fifty years later she maintains her graceful sheerline, in large part due to the added strength of this structural member.

     Easterly's deck is of sprung teak, with the planks kept narrow enough to minimize the shrinkage and resulting open seams of teak decks made with wider deck planks. Where the cabin joins the deck, a rabbeted piece was made; the cabin trunk was then also rabbeted, forming a half-lap joint where deck and cabin meet. This required a high level of accuracy when building the cabin trunk, which was built seperate from the boat.

     Seth always had a particular fondness for dovetails as a structural joint; traditionally, many boats and ships would have cabins that were dovetailed together. But those were fairly simple, box-like cabins, and Easterly's cabin was far from simple. Besides being curved, it is steeply angled for aesthetic reasons; and, there is a dog house at the aft end. All of which makes the dovetailed corners of Easterly's cabin all the more interesting as a piece of  workmanship. Seth of course did all of the careful layout of dimensions, angles, and dovetails; and while he was eminently capable of cutting and fitting the dovetails himself, he had Charlie Pratt cut these dovetails.

     The coamings, too, are dovetailed, the corners made from heavy teak and carved into tight curves, connected to their main parts with end-dovetails. These are examples of workmanship that always catch the eye of people who encounter the Easterly, though they are details done in this manner because Seth felt this was the best way to build a cabin or coamings; cabin cornerposts are notorious for leaking and rotting, coamings joined with scarfs tend to split and come apart. This is evidenced by the fact that Seth also dovetailed the sides of his cockpit wells, which are not objects placed on open display.

     The dorade boxes and other such pieces are, of course, dovetailed as well; with one on the foredeck angled and rounded for appearance and, one assumes, to avoid snagging the random sheet or dockline.

     All of Easterly's deck structures are made of teak, for the durability inherent in that species of wood.

     When Seth would describe the work he did and expected of his crew, he would often pinch his thumb and forefinger together to demonstrate exactly how tight a joint should be, a gesture repeated decades later by such men as Tolley Tollefsen when recounting the experience of working for Seth. This is apparent in the tight hook scarf joints of Easterly's teak caprails, which maintain their fit because they were so tightly fitted in the first place. But this standard was carried throughout the construction of Easterly, whether the piece was on constant display or never seen again. This is a matter of structural integrity, which is ultimately a question of commercial integrity, since the client for such a vessel is making a considerable investment in the expectation that the resulting boat will be in uninterrupted use for many decades to come. Tight fits where they are never seen is vital to constructing a plank on frame wooden boat that fulfills this purpose.

     Charlie Pratt did much of the interior joinerwork, with it's many small drawers, lockers, and trimworks. Harry Greaves and Ed Dempsey also worked on the interior, earning the rare compliment from the normally reticent Seth. At Rick Cooper's direction (and using a potion of his devising) Charlie Howard bleached the mahogony bulkheads to a blonde finish, and applied the varnished finish that awed even the, as ever, reticent Seth. Master craftsman are not particularly forthcoming with feel-good compliments. Tollef, meanwhile, built the Sitka Spruce spars, while Seth made the hardware and fittings.

     Seth adopted as his personal trademark the seven-spoke steering wheel. Adopted is perhaps the wrong word, since he was probably the first to make a seven spoke wheel (traditionally, wooden steering wheels have six or eight spokes). Besides being unique, there is something especially pleasing to the non-symmetry of a seven spoke wheel; and, accurately laying out seven spokes within 360 degrees makes for an interesting challenge in one's evening hours. Seth of course made his own hub patterns (and wheelnut patterns), and made the spokes by eye from a master spoke, the design of which was unique to each wheel he made. He also made seperate, three-layered laminations of alternating colored woods to form rings that were then "let" into the main rim, to cover the screws that held the wheel together with a touch of artistry instead of the usual wooden plugs. A ring of the same description also marked the king spoke, which is at top dead center when the rudder is centered.

     Some years later, Cooper had Seth do an inlay of the name Easterly around the top of her steering wheels rim. This was done in the same alternating woods as the inlays and kingspoke ring, a project which took many evenings of intense concentration to complete. Seth never put any plaques or other marks on his boats to identify himself as the builder, except when specifically requested by a client; his intent was that the seven-spoke steering wheels would be his calling card, so to speak. However, as happened with virtually all of Seth's clients, Rick Cooper was so fond  of this unique and special piece of workmanship that he kept it when Easterly found new ownership.   

     Easterly was painted gloss black for her first decade or so, something Seth refused to do for any other client. But Easterly, low slung and sleek to start with, was the one boat that needed to be black, her delicate beauty given a slightly ominous edge that served her image well. Later owners have painted her white, which in fact is better for a wooden boat, but Cooper wanted to make an impression, and he succeeded. She was the last boat launched out of Seth Persson's original, wooden boatshop; the next boat, and the shop, were lost in the fire of 1964. And while Seth rebuilt, and built more wooden boats in his new shop, more than shop and tools were lost in that fire; a piece of Seth's soul and spirit never recovered,  casting an ever present shadow on the remaining days of his life.

     Easterly was launched in 1961, and for her first decade was sailed, cruised, and raced by Rick Cooper along the New England coast. When his beloved wife Debbie passed, some of his desire for the boat passed with her, and Easterly moved on to new ownership; which Cooper regretted once his grief had subsided. But Easterly has excelled and prospered under her now three subsequent owners, this number itself unusual given her now fifty years of existence. Over these years she has been sailed repeatedly between the Caribbean and Martha's  Vineyard, to Maine, Iceland (multiple times), and extensively along the New England coast. She stands as arguably the finest creation of a master boatbuilder and his best crew, working from a proven design by a firm at it's prime, for a client who knew what he wanted but also knew to allow the best talent available to have the freedom to do the best work they were capable of. Most important, though, is that for all her grace and attention to detail, Easterly has for fifty years fulfilled what has become the operating adage of the Persson legacy and mission: that a good boat is one that gets used often.






Monday, November 14, 2011

Works Of The Masters: II

     We were gluing up a wooden mast, and my father assigned me the task of making the glue paddles. These were always a disposable item, used once and thrown away, so I (the wise fourteen year old) wasted no time band sawing out some rough paddles quite worthy of being thrown away. No, said my father, they need to be thinner, beveled on the working edges, cleaned up. Quickly, I refined my glue paddles, and as quickly was reminded that I knew how we make our glue paddles. He then showed me; a chisel-like blade, sides and end angled off to thin, sharp working edges, cleaned up with sandpaper, with a long and comfortably sized hand grip. They were fine tools to do a fine job, an extension of the hand and the mind's eye. To do fine work one must have fine tools, which allow the practiced craftsman to see only the work and not the tools. This is a lesson not just of tools, but of the mindset of the master; glue paddles may seem a trifling matter, but as Michelangelo said, "trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." Those glue paddles were thrown away when that job was done; of late, I have taken to re-using these fine little tools.

     This is not to imply that every, or indeed any, detail of craftsmanship should be endlessly agonized over; that is the Apprentice's burden, who struggles with his first-steps in rudimentary tasks (such as, making the glue paddles); who then learns the economics of the trade as Journeyman, becoming proficient at performing fine, repeated tasks with precision and speed. The Master works with directness of purpose and a minimum of motions; they see the finished work before a single cut is made, work which seems to just fall from their hands. This is necessary for the craftsman in a competitive marketplace; and, desirable for the hobbyist and aspiring boat builder who understands and appreciates that the satisfaction of fine workmanship lies in the constant growth and refinement of skills and knowledge, as is true of sailing, golf, or any valued pastime.

     But before a single cut is contemplated, the design must be clear, even precisely calculated and drawn down to the final detail. This is a matter of process left to personal preference; some will work through the parts as they come to them, relying on creativity and experience as their guide. This will give results as good as the builders' knowledge allows; much as with the historic, often single generation, exemplary examples noted previously. Conversely, there are methods, techniques, records, technologies, which are the intellectual tools to bring the virtues of past works forward to present works. This is worth discussing before we proceed to specific examples of successful, Master-level vessels.

     The process of design is the process of accounting for multiple requirements of energetic and static function, large and small, until a single operational whole made of many interconnecting pieces has been achieved. It is best that the accurate determination of intention be acquired at the outset; that is to say, the actual use for the boat, in fairly specific terms, in order that form may be made to follow function. Here, it must be said, that design often does require agonizing over the small details, as there are so many competing factors to be simultaneously considered within limited dimensions, space, and available energy. This is the fascination of design, almost always beginning with seemingly impossibly competing complexities and evolving towards absolute simplicity, the most complex thing of all to achieve. Nature always seeks the path of least resistance, refining her designs to do the most with the least energy and materials.  All good design follows this path to least resistance, efficient in the use of material and energy, confirming again by mathematical proof the natural beauty in all good design.

     Designers thus always draw on works of the past to propel their present work forward. Whether taking guidance and lessons from the ancient or contemporary, or from their own most recent work, it remains that knowledge must build on knowledge. Failures, particularly spectacular failures, are often most fruitful. Ultimately, however, successes yield the most consistent successes, and boat owners no longer bang their shins on sharp protruding bunk corners if their designer has been adequately aware and diligent.

     The science of hull design for pleasure boats presents a unique set of questions to the embodiment of collected, most often mathematically expressed, knowledge of the subject. It often seems the most pertinent questions go unasked; by the client of the designer, or by the designer of the environment and conditions to be operated in. Defining purpose, asking questions, is the first step in producing successful designs. Computer technology has created the opportunity to mathematically model the complex forms of boat hulls, though the computer program must ideally be updated to reflect real world experience (science is: the facts of our experience set in order.) Into this modeling, then, must enter a level of experience (ideally of all parties) to begin the process of model-making; purpose must shape the math, to some extent. And then, the questions posed by the marine environment enter the equation, especially for human, wind, and small engine powered vessels. Yacht design has been called a series of compromises, but it is in fact a series of averages. The exception is highly specialized craft operating in controlled environments, such as racing shells and flatwater kayaks.

     Having moved this discussion along a winding course, the next several posts will (finally) be devoted to specific, successful vessels, including reflections on their design, construction, and careers. Of interest is the role played by all of the parties to these exceptional craft, the owners, designers, and builders. There is ultimately a point to these posts, which hopefully will begin to become clear if you bear with me a little longer.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Works Of The Masters: I

     Knowledge builds on knowledge; experience bridges the generations and, if dedication prevails, refines the methods of building knowledge and the work that knowledge builds. Cave paintings of the distant past still mesmerize us with the skill of the ancient unknown masters; somehow, we know, the line from those cave artists winds its way through time until Michelangelo adds his own cave paintings to history's caves, a feat impossible without that first, equally brilliant artist. So it is with all masters.

     To lash logs into a useful raft without rope or saws required a series of skills developed over generations, plus a single-minded initiative to try it for the first time. Trial and error lead to the best methods and materials available, but knowledge is only gained if passed along to new generations. And, someone in every group was always more skilled, more naturally gifted with clear vision to guide practiced, inspired hands; the Master. This line winds its' way down streams and rivers and across oceans to the heights of  toolmaking and craftsmanship we will discuss in this posting. And, of materials, as the science of materials and their best use has been and remains at the heart of the Masters' palette.

     Boat building before the advent of modern adhesives and beddings was completely reliant on the skill and knowledge of the boatbuilder. Tight joints were more than a mark of the builders' skill; tight joints are structural, they prevent the twisting and working that leads to leaking, rot, and oblivion. This is another point where right-brain intuition recognizes the quality in tight fitting joints for the logical reason that tight joints equal structural integrity.

     It is worth remarking that when we examine the watercraft of successful waterborne peoples, we invariably find a functional gracefulness present in their vessels. Where life and livelihood depend on successful design, all contrivance is literally washed away by that greatest of teachers, experience. From this functional seed comes the intuitive recognition of good design, which over time has become recognized as beauty.

     Howard Chapelle, the prolific chronicler of America's historic watercraft and ships, noted that vessels of exceptional ability and performance would typically originate from one place for a span of perhaps fifty years; the working life of a rare individual. Before and after the time of these local masters, local watercraft were indistinct from other vessels of that region. Indeed the quality often dropped precipitously even as the lingering reputation kept orders for new vessels flowing in; until too many disappointments soured the reputation. We must take pains not to underestimate the gifts of rare individual ability, even in this age of technological wizardry. 

     There is, I hope, an obvious point to this discourse; that there are throughout history living and dead those rare individuals conceiving and creating exceptional works of beauty and function in this universe of waterborne craft. Next we will look at the process of transferring and translating the product of rare talent to new works, both as direct production and the discerned elements of skill.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Designs For The Master

     The master craftsman sees the finished work before a single cut is made. This requires a combination of vision and confidence, born of experience and dedication. Watching a master at work enlightens one to the possibilities of human ability; as my father once said of such craftsmen, "the work just seems to fall from their hands." It is good to know there are paths to higher places if we are inclined to go there.

     I have always maintained that the work of the master deserves to be displayed in a palette worthy of the master's skill. In the design of boats, whether large or small, there exists a unique opportunity to create form with function, at a level of interaction with nature that exists in few endeavours. Wright could only marry his architecture to one natural setting, but the designer, the builder of boats has every ocean and port to challenge and display his work. There is an imperative, I believe, to bring beauty and grace to every aspect and detail of a fine boat design, which becomes the basis, the palette, in which the master may work. 

     The process of designing boats for what I am calling the Master's level begins with this mindset, I believe; that every line and part must be drawn and planned with singular purpose and proportion, in context of the whole and finished work. Hulls must first be refined and functional; but railings must be tapered on both planes, to also look proportional and to best complement the boat. Cabins, coamings, seats, interiors, need to be scaled, shaped, curved, and arranged to appear completely natural and provide complete comfort. This attention to refinement in detail will make the craftsmans' efforts worthwhile,  for builder and owner alike. It is a truism that exceptionally fine boats tend to be built well and serve their owners for many years.

     In earlier articles, I addressed the role of technology in the design and building of boats. Here I would like to expound for a moment on the concept of beauty and aesthetics in design, as we have seen for many decades now a trend  towards designing what I will politely refer to as unattractive boats. This has been especially true, as we know, in mass production boats, which must serve many purposes for many people, mostly in the context of a boat show in winter. In the world of sailing, blame must also always by laid at the feet of rating rules, the IOR  of the 1970's being particularly offensive. Once a concept is successful in competition, it is inevitably adapted for general use, except when the requirements of "general use" are combined with optimized performance, the result is generally awkward at best. Thus we have the ubiquitous deep-V racing powerboat transformed into beamy pleasure boats,  when the deep-V really only works well in narrow boats going 80 knots or better. Out of these decades of mass production boats, poorly conceived sailboat rules, marketing driven boat design, and the endless call for more comforts of home when people leave home, an odd belief has taken hold amongst so-called (self-called) boating experts, that beautiful boats are slow, and boats must be ugly to be fast.

     Added to this has been the improvement in computer design capability, with an especial increase in the ability to use mathematical models in the development of hull design, and we have a complete transition to boats that seemingly meet the criteria of advanced design through improved technology. They do tend to look like they were drawn by machine, however; and while this may in fact be immaterial to a boats' performance, it raises this perhaps esoteric question of why some things "look" right to us, while other objects do not.

     The answer lies in our bifurcated brains. Specifically, it lies in the right side of our brains, which is the non-verbal, non-logical side; which, it turns out, processes information 100 times faster than the logical left side of our brains. This means that, when we look at an object, our left brain makes an analytical study of the object, based on prior knowledge and the facts that are readily apparent or attainable at the moment (the boat is deep-V like an offshore racing powerboat; it must be fast like an offshore racing powerboat). Our right brain, meanwhile, makes a rapid, non-verbal, non-technical analysis of the object, and quickly discerns that the boat is too wide, too deep, and too heavy to be truly fast. This is communicated to the left brain as a "feeling", a gut sense. Similarly, show your brain a Ferrari, and it will know the Ferrari is fast, because it is streamlined and just "looks" fast. The same is true when shown an old bi-plane and a fighter jet, and so on. Boats seem to be the exception that proves this rule.

     My approach to boat design attempts to combine the two, the logical and the aesthetic, sides of the brain. I still use half-models carved of pine, to develop my hull shapes. But, I also work with the fundamental theories of hydrodynamics to establish necessary  parameters and proportions.This is in practice an admittedly arduous approach to what is already a difficult trade. But I feel the combination of technical and aesthetic input results in better boat designs: if they "look about right," my experience is that they will be about right.

     The above reference to railings needing to be tapered on both planes is not simply for appearance sake. If a rail is taller. it requires a wider base to be sufficiently strong. This is why structures that are not proportioned properly "look" weak. I should add, that the process for arriving at proportions for structures may take several courses; there are scantling rules, which generally err on the side of caution. For the less critical, but eye-appeal sensitive pieces, there is the practiced, experienced eye. And then, there is the pure and proper engineering approach, which is to determine working and high stress load potentials, and engineer the structure accordingly. This will always result in a structure as perfectly proportioned as a birds' wing, and for the same fundamental reason. Structures developed to fulfill a purpose waste no weight in material, and so are absolutely graceful. Or, if a structure looks clunky, it has not been refined to its best potential.

     I mention all of this because boat design is, first and foremost, functional. Boats must perform under the harsh real conditions of water and weather, over extended lives, but with no excessive weight or mass. Proportion and grace are, then, functional; it is the refinement of functionality that brings gracefulness to the finished work.

     In my next postings, I will examine and describe some designs which in my estimation have achieved the level of Master's design; this will be followed by some thoughts for builders, amateur and professional, on the approach to take before building a boat such as these.





Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Four By Four

     After these many years of working on boats, their design, new construction, and maintenance, I have become aware that different people want boats that possess different levels of finesse and finish. This may be for reasons of taste, utility, economics, or upkeep; there is no right or wrong here, only personal preference, and if the plain boat gets used more than the gilded one, it is by my lights the more successful boat. Having reached this conclusion, I have (perhaps arbitrarily) decided to divide my design work into four distinct groups, based on the levels of skill, time, and finish each will take to construct; and, with a concurrent consideration of the skill levels needed to use and maintain the  finished boats. I have given these four groups the distinguishing, traditional labels of: Masters, Journeyman, Apprentice, and Work Boat, which I trust will aid in providing clarity of the intent behind each design in each group.

     I have also learned over the years that there are in essence four ways by which someone (individual, group, family) will come to acquire and own a new boat built in the one-off or one-at-a-time universe.The first is to have a boat built to order by a professional builder to an agreed upon level of finish. The second is to purchase a pre-cut kit, and assemble and finish the boat yourself. Third is to build a boat for yourself in a classroom setting. And, fourth, build for yourself a boat from a set of plans (or digital files). Naturally, there will be some overlaps between these, as one may want help with parts of assembling a kit, or one may take some classes to learn how to build a boat at home. But these are the four primary ways a person may come to acquire a new, personalized boat.

     The process of deciding which approach best suits an individual must consider such factors as cost, time available to work on a project, timeline for when the boat is wanted, personal skills, intended use for the boat; and, the nature of one's personal interests; as some want a project and others want a boat. There is also the question of customization, available in every format and level, but an issue always subject to time management and the value of usefulness added to the final product.

     In separating boat designs into four levels based on finesse and finish, it goes without saying that here, too, there is some overlap and blurring of the lines. I have built simple, flat bottom skiffs with bright finished mahogany throughout (the Masters Skiff); while my father designed and built one of the finest motorboat hulls in existence, finished plain for charter fishing. But, as a general point of discussion, I will next offer my definition of the four levels in my forthcoming postings.