Friday, October 30, 2009

John Brady, Boatbuilder

John recently sent a photo of his first boat. This is what he had to say:
"Here is a picture of me sailing the "Rocket" Joint Venture on
the Toms River with a brother and sister. I was 12 or 13 and my Dad took the
picture fromthe dingy."

John's first boat was an A R True Rocket which his dad bought when John was 12. The carvel hull had been sheathed in glass and father and son saw to the maintenance of the boat.
the example pictured is for sale here.

As advertised

Align Center
photos and drawings courtesy The Gingrich Group

The drawings

photo courtesy Barry Long, see more

John's most recent creation, Silent Maid, motoring into the dock for the Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival,
basking in the late afternoon glow.

At home at the Independence Seaport Museum on the Delaware River in Philadelphia

It's not all sailing and wielding a hand plane.

Workshop on the Water at the ISM is volunteer driven but must make it's way as a viable commercial concern.

photo courtesy Wendy Byar, see more

John at the helm during some exciting sailing on the way to St. Michaels

Wendy Byar took this shot of a happy crew from the beautiful interior of Maid

Barnegat A Cats racing

courtesy John Brady

Torch under construction at the WOW

courtesy John Brady

Spyder flipped
courtesy John Brady

And fitting out

courtesy John Brady

Philadelphia high school volunteers reveling in their work, specifically this newly painted Sneakbox

A traditional Delaware River Shad boat, synthesized from drawings and photos of older examples by John and built by the workshop. The original gillnet fishing boats would have likely had a sprit rig.

There is another version of this hull type exhibited at the Independence seaport Museum as a please touch display which details the building process.

Though not traditional to this boat type, the gaff rig looks great and performs well.

all photos of the shad boat courtesy John Brady

Interesting contrast.

all photos © Thomas Armstrong unless otherwise noted

John Brady is a consummate boatbuilder. Largely self taught, he served 'apprenticeships' at the South Street Seaport in NY and at the Workshop on the Water in Philadelphia, back when it was still really on the water, a barge/workshop on the Delaware River. Preceding these experiences he was building boats ' out of the back of a pickup' during his formative years. His greatest influence at this time was the "Mariner's Catalog" (along with help from 'great people') and it was a read it try it kind of education. Today he is the head boatbuilder for the Independence Seaport Museum, directing, managing, teaching and building boats at the workshop. John's romance with wooden boats began at age twelve when his father purchased a used A R True Rocket, a 23' carvel planked cruising sailboat whose hull had been sheathed in glass. This craft offered John his first experiences of maintaining a boat and of sailing as he and his father worked and played together.
John has built 25 to 30 boats plus some reconstructions, and has designed maybe 1o. He is committed to traditional construction and design archetypes, but not in a hidebound way, for instance, witness the Delaware River shad boat above. The original fishing boats would have had sprit rigs, but John chose to rig this example gaff. The boat was built during a period which John feels was his greatest learning experience. For seven years, the workshop on the water really was on the water, housed on a barge in the Delaware. Roger Allen was the museum director and John the lead builder. Their practice was to research, build, sail and exhibit an example of a different local boat type each year.
John also seems to have a passion for catboats, particularly the racing catboats of Barnegat Bay. His latest creation, seen above and featured elsewhere in this blog, the exquisite replica Silent Maid, he has built five of the Barnegat A cats racing today. They are Tamwock, SpyII, Spyder, Vapor and Torch. These A cats date from the same era as Silent Maid, are slightly smaller than the B cats Maid represents, very fast and very expensive to build and maintain, yet there is a spirited group of sailors enthusiastically campaigning these boats today. They are the subject of a beautiful book written and illustrated by Gary Jobson and Roy Wilkins.
I asked John what his favorite project had been and his reply was telling, ' the one in process!'. There are also frustrations, the biggest being that building in this day and age seems to pit business against craftsmanship, though John admitted this has probably been true for most wooden boat builders in any era. He feels it's nearly impossible to manage a viable business today building truly small craft, and he should know, as the WOW, though a part of the ISM, must make it's way as an viable business and relies largely on commissions and it's mostly volunteer staff, with an occasional grant. John also feels frustrated by the lack of openness on the part of most contemporary sailors to traditional ways, meaning techniques, hardware, hull and rigs, and will be campaigning the Maid in classic boat regattas, promoting the world of traditional boats and championing openness to ideas, both traditional and contemporary. I have noticed that the Maid does have some modern hardware.

When he gets around to it, John would like to build himself a 26' centerboard sloop.

Near the end of our talk I admitted to John that I was rather keen on his shad boat design and wondered if another could be built, as a youth program involving youngsters in the building and sailing as an educational program. He said he'd been mulling over the same idea for years. Now, if we could just find a sponsor...

all material © E. Thomas Armstrong

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ghost Ship 'Seasteading Community' growing in Singapore

The venerable Creed O'Hanlon sent me this communque' as an example of his ongoing quest to document all efforts at seasteading, whether communal, corporate or organic. Interesting story.

click the title bar and here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bolger Cat on ebay.

courtesy ebay

This is a lovely Phil Bolger catboat for sale on ebay. Elegant beyond description, and offered at what seems a reasonable price. There are more photos on ebay, including the interior which is warm and inviting. I must say this boat has some of the sweetest, cleanest lines I've ever seen, in my humble opinion. Listed as Bolger design#373. Take a look. Here's the ebay blurb:

1989 Atlas Cat Sloop. Bolger design #373
Vehicle Description

1989 Atlas Cat Sloop. Bolger design #373, built 1989. Solid fiberglass. Length 35'4", Beam 8'6" Draft board up 2'3" Displacement 12,500#. Ballast internal lead 4,500# Vessel kept in excellent condition. Last bottom job March 2009 with Pettit Vivid. New running rigging. Aluminum spars and mast. One mainsail, 3 jibs, all excellent condition. Stereo CD, VHF, DF, Solar charger, Yanmar 2gm Diesel. Very fast boat, with the prettiest hull on the water. Be prepared to answer questions underway and at the dock. Wineglass transom. Bulkheaded engine room. Integral water tank. Full Blueprints. Coast Guard safety equipment, docklines, ground tackle, and fenders all included. This boat has low headroom, but is very big inside. 4 berths are 6'6" long, one of those a double berth, enclosed separate head, equipped galley, heater, custom teak boarding ladder, and the list goes on. This boat is insured for $26,000, and replacement cost is well over 90,000.

The dates on the pictures are not correct. These are recent pictures taken a few days ago.

I am going to be out of town until Monday. Any questions about this vessel should be directed to the owner. His email address is You will get same day replies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

27th Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival

photo courtesy John Armstrong

Brother John and I made the trip down to St. Michaels, MD last Saturday for the 27th MASCF. Just in the gate and the first attraction was a beautifully crafted West Greenland skin on frame Qayaq. Owner built by Jennie Plummer-Welker, great attention was paid to details, such as holes in the runners for the rib lashing so as to avoid a bumpy skin.


Nice toggles!

photo courtesy John Armstrong

John and I then headed straight for the dock where we sighted Silent Maid, which we hadn't expected. We were greeted by prodigious boatbuilders Wendy Byars and John Brady, down from the Independence Seaport Museum in Philly. John runs the museum boatshop, Workshop on the Water and Wendy is a frequent volunteer. Silent Maid was lauched last summer at the museum and has been visiting up and down the East Coast since. My brother also volunteers, in the museum library, and we were soon aboard the Maid, invited for a sail.

John powered us out to the race course just in time for the annual free for all, with what seemed like a hundred small boats of all descriptions, from a Chesapeake log canoe to some very small decked sailing canoes.

Ready to start sailing

Find John's blog here.

An obviously exultant Wendy, (aka Sailorgirl) at the helm
. Check out Sailorgirl for Wendy's view of the entire 5 day experience

Part of the fleet as they jockey for position prior to the starting gun.

One of my crew mates aboard the Maid turned out to be Barry Long of Eye In Hand. He has a huge repository of beautiful images of the last three years at St.Michaels.

They're racing!

Marianne is a log canoe from about 1916, owned by the CBMM,

and true to type, she's quick.

Sabot, gunter rigged catboat designed and built by Fred Bennett

Buna Mon Iya, a Crotch Island Pinky designed and built by Peter Van Dine and owned and sailed by George and Marla Surgent.

John Allen on his 16/30 racing canoe. The design dates from the glory days of canoe racing very early 20th C. Many of the 16/30's were hard chine, as this appears to be.

Later in the day John heads back out for more. These boats developed in the Lake Ontario region and were considered the setup for canoe racing by their devotees. A revival of the design has been spurred by research and development at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY.

Timm Schlieff sailing his Nat Herresoff designed Coquina in the race. You can just see the committee boat behind him.

Later, near the dock. Timm builds boats professionally in West Virginia. The Coquina was Capt'n Nat's favorite boat and he sailed here summer and winter in Marblehead.

Ahoy, Two Keys! Ships boat (replica) for the Kalmar Nyckel, Delawares tall ship. She's a period shallop and sports a small cannon, which may have been the starting gun for this race.

Nice big Swedish standard. Kalmar Nyckel brought the first Swedish settlers to America and sailed up the Delaware River to New Sweden in 1638. New Sweden is today known as Wilmington, DE.

Two of the volunteers who make Little Key possible, Dave Dawson and Bob Reed

Here she is at rest.

I have a soft spot for decked sailing canoes and the day brought me into close proximity of two of the finest I've seen, brought down by a northern contingent.

This is Apple Pie, built by Dave Kavner and Dan Sutherland, and owned by Dave. Both of these characters were also involved n the 16/30 revival mentioned above. Here's a shot of the rudder designed and built by the third member of this triumvirate,

Bob Lavertue, mastermind behind the Springfield Fan & Centerboard Co., maker of finely crafted metal bits and pieces, including the bronze folding fan centerboards installed on both boats. Bobs work is unequaled and he supplies metal parts for sailing canoes with vintage design and a level of craftsmanship worthy of the Victorian originals.

As you can see on his 18' Pretty Jane, built by Will Clements. Both Apple Pie and Pretty Jane are built to JH Rushton designs. Rushton was the pre-eminent canoe builder in Victorian NY and if these boats interest you Atwood Manley's book is a must.

One of the things I was most keen on for this day was meeting Steve and Bruce and Spartina, above. I was hoping for a sail aboard Spartina, a John Welsford Pathfinder built by Steve Earley. Unfortunately I did not manage to track them down until rather late in the afternoon and too late for a sail. Oh well.

Bruce and Steve trailed the boat from Steve's home in Chesapeake, VA to Crisfield MD where they launched and set out on a multiple day tour of the bay with stops designed to sample some of the bays best crabhouses and other attractions. Steve reports that they encountered up to 27 knot winds and made 7.5 knots surfing 3' swells and never felt in any peril. John Welsford's Pathfinder has it's roots in the English Coble's and all his designs are known to be extraordinarily seaworthy. Steve and Bruce have an exemplary weblog wherein they chronicle their many adventures, here.

The CBMM has an active apprenticeship program where volunteers can learn and apply boatbuilding skills. Here's an example. The boatshed is open to museum visitors, and apprentices can explain their work toless knowledgeable visitors.

Apprentice Brooke Harwood explaining bevel and gain in the building of this Delaware Ducker to John and myself.

She is being built in the traditional lapstrake manner, with copper nails visible. In this photo Brooke is adding a plank.

Dubbed the small boat house , this stunning open shed houses Chesapeake workboats in various stages of decay and disrepair. Most of the boats here have placards describing them, but I was unable to locate one for this darling. Less of a morgue, more a sanctuary, this room is calm and contemplative. If I was more of a scholar I could relate what type boat this is, I would guess an oyster boat, but does it really matter? Her beauty shines through the decay.

Still life in the Skipjack shed.

A Northumbrian Coble owner built by Robert Slack to a design by Paul Selway, the boat is a modern adaptation of a traditional British workboat and exhibits the distinctive powderhorn sheer of the originals. Meaning a sheerline which incorporates both convex and concave curves. Robert had just moved his boat and unfortunately caught the mast on a tree branch above and injured the mast step, which he'll now have to rebuild! Robert reports that Paul fisher has drawn a larger version, 17' or so, but it has yet to appear on the website. Soon, I am told.

The Penguin was designed by Phillip Rhodes in 1938 and featured in Yachting Monthly in 1940 after which the class took off. Penguin is designed for amateur construction in plywood and is still racing with a viable and enthusiastic following.

I'll be right here next year! Camping on the CBMM grounds.