Sunday, January 22, 2012

Worth Doing Right

WoodenBoat Magazine used to run a feature section called Matters of Detail. I always lingered on that page. The descriptions were brief and usually accompanied by a photo of some especially clever solution to a common boatbuilding challenge exquisitely rendered in oak or bronze.  Something tells me Maynard Bray was behind it but I could well be attributing one of his colleagues’ good ideas to him. Anyway I haven’t seen the Matters of Detail section in a while. Truth be told it never quite seemed to fit in the magazine. I remember it as a welcome non sequitor in the middle of the issue. In a way it was the first boat blog; little testimonials to people living out the axiom if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
But here I am writing a boat blog from the design office at Rockport Marine. The shop bays here are a revolving museum of some of the finest wooden boats ever conceived. There are some 50 odd men and women creating these matters of detail here every day. You could argue that here in the design office it’s a big part our job to scheme these things up.

Trade publications have been generous in featuring our work in the pages of books and magazines, but the sheer quantity makes it impossible to feature this level of detail in an article. So I’m going to poach the idea and use some of these design office blogs to feature the details that go into these projects.

It’s not every day that you get a chance to design a fireplace for a boat. The main Salon for Adventuress presented that opportunity and the result is quite stunning. Designers talk about the design spiral. It’s the process of identifying a problem or challenge and devising a solution. It happens iteratively, adding detail and identifying additional complexities each trip around the spiral until you’ve answered all of the questions. One of the best parts of working at Rockport Marine is that this process is collaborative here. Project managers pose a challenge. Designers sketch, refine, sketch. Project managers brainstorm improvements with the person who will build the piece. Designers incorporate feedback, draft, 3d model when needed. Patterns are plotted. Builders refine. And in this case when we’re too busy to do it all ourselves, Josiah Bartlett and the crew at Rockport Steel took the lead on fabricating the steel fire chamber.  And there it is. How cool is that?

A Charlie Noble is a pretty simple thing really. Really it’s just a smoke stack on a boat.  Sometime in the mid 1800’s a British merchant service captain, Charles Noble, discovered that the stack of his ship's galley was made of copper and ordered that it be kept polished. From that day to this, ship's crews have referred to the galley smokestack as the "Charlie Noble." We use them all the time here at Rockport Marine, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never before put one in the spine of a butterfly hatch skylight. Hank Keane and Rob Ball at Edson International are the best in the business for custom castings like this one. They are in the process of casting this for us so we don’t have the finished part yet, but here’s a rendering of the part.

Designing and fabricating all of the rigging hardware for an 83’ Schooner is an enormous task. Take a look at some of the collaborations between Ian Bruce and the Rockport Marine fabricators Joel, Carl, and Chris. The design and fabrication of custom hardware for ADVENTURESS deserves a blog all its own. Stay tuned for more…

-Brendan Riordan

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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.