Friday, May 11, 2012

Running Lights and Sandblasted Dragons

Last week my comrade in arms for all things blog posted a great piece about the biennial Classic Yacht Symposium held at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island.

In it she touched on the level of thought and care that goes into the restorations of historically significant classic yachts and of how this yard has developed a restoration philosophy that leaves room for the owner’s tastes and preferences.

Ours is probably not the true purist’s preferred approach. It would not surprise me if curators of master works rendered in other media took umbrage to this methodology. I find that where you happen to find yourself standing in the debate about the importance of originality is far less important than creating an atmosphere where the debate actually occurs.

Here in the design office we may be a little less reverent to originality with respect to materials and construction techniques than is called for at times. This might have something to do with a tendency I have noticed for individuals with a highly developed appreciation for the quality of their own ideas to become architects and designers. But then we have project managers to rein us in and the crew we work with, the boatbuilders, machinists, fabricators, mechanics, riggers, and painters here have been known to point out the distinction between a design office designated “good idea” and the actual merit of that idea. The goal is, in the words of our most recent client and collaborator, “more than emulating the style of a bygone era, this is taking the aesthetic vocabulary of then and raising it to a new and contemporary level of realization”. You have to welcome debate of all sorts if you hope to pull that off.

But enough talking about it. For this week’s post I thought it might be interesting to take a close look at two examples where these questions of originality versus contemporary function are playing out in the ADVENTURESS restoration.

ADVENTURESS will carry a traditional skylight immediately forward of the cockpit. It is large and beautifully built and will let a tremendous amount of light into the owner’s stateroom below. The only downside to all of that light is that it doesn’t leave much privacy for the owner from guests and crew walking about on deck. Martha Coolidge and Burt Elliott devised an elegant solution to the problem in the form of an intricately detailed pattern sand blasted into the tempered glass. The pattern itself is a medley of the letter "A" transitioning into a version of the signature Fife cove stripe. 

Burt refined the design and had it computer cut from vinyl to precise tolerances by the good people down the road at Adventure Advertising. The vinyl is indexed and applied to the glass and serves to mask off those areas that are to remain transparent. As this test piece shows, the vinyl wasn’t quite up to the job of resisting the blasting process in one or two spots.

Apparently there is a more robust product made especially for masking off sand blasting and bead blasting patterns so we’re confident the next batch will look just right.

It’s not every day that you get to design a custom made running light. These days the power savings available through the use of LED technology for cabin lights and navigation lights is compelling. The fixtures aren’t cheap, but neither is providing and maintaining the battery bank you’ll need if you don’t take advantage of energy savings when you can. For the stern light and running lights we settled on Lopolight. They are well built and will last about 40,000 hours. Perhaps most importantly they satisfy the requirements placed upon us by the classification authority Lloyds Register of Shipping. Unfortunately all of these LED lights have a sleek, modern appearance to them that would look out of place on ADVENTURESS.

These fixtures that arrived with the boat are more in keeping with the era, but with the plastic Fresnel lenses and generally rough condition of the fixtures we decided to start afresh.


Our fix is to build a more traditional looking housing in bronze with Fresnel lenses made to order by Gillinder glass. Elliot Lowe will build the fixtures to our specifications. In addition to having the coolest logo of anyone we work with:

Elliot builds the finest yacht and residential hardware available anywhere in the world. The lopolight fixture will sit within the traditional housing and deliver the best of form and function.

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