Monday, January 30, 2012

Cockpit Conundrums

I’ve noticed that when my work comes up in social situations the conversations tend to be brief. But I have it on good authority that there is some indication one or two of you are actually reading these posts—which is, of course, encouraging. I would describe my reaction as just shy of surprise when I heard that. Perhaps what I had attributed to a less than compelling topic of conversation has more to do with my shortcomings as a conversation partner… but you’re reading, at least a few of you, so for the time being I’ll keep writing.

Yacht restoration is a curious endeavor. My impression is that archivists, fine art conservation specialists, and other restoration professionals have had the benefit of formal education specifically tailored to the restoration process. With the exception of graduates of the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, Rhode Island, (which, by the way, has a fantastic reputation) the rest of us in the field of yacht restoration are on our own. We’re here because we like pulling things apart and putting them back together, because we’re methodical, and because it’s fascinating.

I used to worry about my lack of schooling specific to restoration. Sam and I both trained in yacht design. We’ve each even received a few paychecks working as boatbuilders in this yard and others, though that was both brief and long ago. But I can’t really claim to have been schooled in restoration per se.  I look up these days and notice that we’ve spent a fair bit of time helping the Rockport Marine crew restore some pretty spectacular yachts. 

Besides, one danger of having framed diplomas and certificates that establish you as an expert in your field is that you might one day begin to believe that they do. The best part of not having them is that you get to ask questions of everybody. I’ve got access to machinists, fabricators, wood-workers, mechanics, electricians, systems engineers, painters, purchasing officers, riggers, sailors, accountants and business managers all under one roof. Expertise doesn’t begin to cover it. It’s pretty awesome to be a part of what happens when you have that crowd to learn from.

Here in the Rockport Marine design office there’s a sort of ongoing debate about the best way, the right way, to approach Restoration. You’ll hear things like “How much do we replace?  Should we use a different material here?  How much deference to the designer and original builder is appropriate here? Even if the original design broke?  Okay so at some point in the last ninety three years a structural component subjected to a marine environment and an unknown number of load cycles failed. You’re telling me that scenario doesn’t exceed the design brief for this part? So what’s your criterion for success?”

If you’ve been reading these posts you know we’re deep into the restoration of the 83’ Fife Schooner ADVENTURESS. I don’t think any other part of the job brought more of these questions swirling to the surface than the redesign of the cockpit. Aesthetics, function, whether to re-use the original steering gear, the relative wisdom of “improving” on design of portions of the original equipment, all were considered, debated, settled, re-opened, argued, settled. “That’s it. Agreed? No, sincerely, I don’t ever want to talk about that again. Crap, you know what we forgot? How do we attach an autopilot to that thing?”

So here it is. Before and after. Well not so much “after” as “during,” plus a rendering of what I think it’ll look like once the incomparable Tom Dayhoof is finished with it. I’ll post more photos later for “after”. The concept of “final” is comedy in this field. 

-Brendan Riordan

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At May 31, 2012 at 8:33 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

i am inspired when i saw the photos and it gives me some idea from my mind too .

thanks for this post..

Yacht Decking Installation


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Location: Rockport, Maine, United States

Rockport Marine is a group of talented craftspeople who design, build and restore wooden yachts with unparalleled expertise.