From the Drawing Board
Occasional ramblings from
a Small Craft Designer

by John Welsford

Boatbuilding does not happen in isolation

2004, Snuck up on me while I wasn’t watching! I am dead surprised to see the date, as I hadn’t even got used to being in the new millennium yet.

But with the new year there is the inevitable review of ambitions and progress, of how last year went and what next year holds, some disappointments some victories and some unexpected happenings.

One unexpected happening was our decision to move house. My office is not big enough and is part of the house so work is always there glowering at me as I walk past, the workshop is nowhere near big enough for the new boat project so I was going to have to build another barn 20 m x 8m x 5m high stud ( about 65 ft x 25 ft x 16 t) on the end of my existing shop, the mortgage here is more than we like having to find every month and the old house is doing its best to fall to pieces faster than I can fix it up. (Don’t even think about the ½ acre lawn and the gardens)

So the last month has been spent disguising the shortcomings of the old place with new paint and carpet, new bits of wood nailed over the old and fixing the plumbing, packing up close to 3000 books and about the same number of magazines, buying furniture to make the place look as though someone other than a junkshop owner lives here (the number one Daughter has just set up house with her dearly beloved and was hugely appreciative of being given all the old stuff, more brownie points for dad!) and I have finally managed to stop the roof leaking.

The for sale sign goes up next week and I have been out in the garden with the biggest weedwacker I have ever seen, the rose garden yielded enough hay to feed four horses for a week and I have an armed party doing a reconnaissance patrol through the vege garden to see what will be needed there!

I’ve spent a pile at the garden centre and have been carefully watching those home renovation programs on the telly, I can tell you that its not nearly as easy as they make it look and the guy that I hired to paint the roof is nowhere near as good looking as the girls who the TV company hire to run their programs.

Its been a hot summer, and the last of the carpet goes down tomorrow.

We have been planning to build our big motor boat and to go voyaging for a while now, have a huge pile of wood, about 100 litres of adhesive and enough stainless steel screws to start a shop, all the machinery and tools that a small shipyard could wish for and have even started the frames. But progress had come to a halt.

Whats missing? Money for one thing, to pay for the boat as well as our mortgage meant that two jobs were necessary , with two jobs on the go between us there was no time and with no time there was no progress.

The solution, invest a bit of time in preparing the place for sale and find someone who will love the 6 acres, rambling old home and huge workshop , find a nice piece of dirt over near the sea and build a purpose designed building that will combine the functions of living space, workshop, woodyard storage and design office. If we do it right we will be able to have a quick word with the Bank Manager (bye!) and will have enough cashflow from our combined efforts to live and to finance the project without my having to run a job as well as the design practice. Drastic problems sometimes need drastic solutions!

Boatbuilding does not happen in isolation, in our case the funding is an issue as the boat will cost as much as a modest home: to fund it requires planning and commitment; to find the 4000 hours or so needed to build the boat means that the project is either a near full time one or a very long one; to provide the space and the machinery to build such a craft means that all the facilities of a fulltime boatbuilders shop need to be available and we still need to live.

We’re almost there, but the final step was a biggie, sell, buy, build, find somewhere to live while in between and then move in. Denny (my wife) is really impatient to be aboard and setting sail, and has been the main motivation in making the move so we are all on the same wavelength which helps, but the next 6 months are going to be interesting ones!

This year also holds other prospects, we have two new agents , one in USA who is building kitsetted versions of selected designs, and one in UK who is distributing plans to get around the long shipping times and provide a support service a bit closer than New Zealand where I live.
I have visited my Brisbane based agent Ross Lillistone a couple of times in the past, have met Chuck and Sandra Leinweber albeit briefly (how did we get onto politics Sandra?) but have yet to meet the guys and guyesses at Kent Island Boat Works and Fyne Boat Kits up there in Englands Lake District. It's time I did, so have been down to my friendly travel agent (they are very very friendly when you want to spend THAT much money) and have worked out the budget for the trip. Just as well I am planning to do the trip in October, it will take that long to save up for it!

I am hoping to work it in with boat shows or sailing events so I can meet some of the locals at each stop, I hope to visit some people building “my” boats, and am really looking forward to going over the plans and boats with each crew so they are better able to help the customers in their areas.

The trip will take me from NZ to Texas and Chucks place (the home of Then to the Cheasapeake and Donna and David Romasco of Kent Island Boat Works with their kitset operation. (They build Sherpa kits and more designs to come) From there its back through the airport security and on the big silver bird to Manchester (UK) thence to the shed that featured in the Swallows and Amazons books as “Mr Walkers Boatyard” (it really existed) where Paul Stanistreet operates Fyne Boat Kits and their plans service.

After what I hope will be a nice break from travelling it will away again from there via Manchester and London to Hong Kong and to Bayside Wooden Boats in Brisbane where my family will be waiting to take me off to a quiet spot so I can sleep under a shady tree for about three days. We plan a short family holiday there, some time with Ross, and from there its only a four hour flight home. Whew! (But think of the airpoints!)

It will be a real adventure, and apart from spending the equivalent of 60 hours flying time and a dreary lifetime in airline terminals, as well as having jetlag for two weeks solid I am really looking forward to it. The guys at each point will be organising some sort of gathering so I can meet lots of people, and I am hugely looking forward to catching up with lots of you. Watch this space for dates and times!

2004 , a busy and interesting one, I’d better go and pull the old carpet up so the carpet layers can do their thing tomorrow.