Monday, January 14, 2013

Meet Project Manager and Carpenter Eric Sewell

Rockport Marine does some wonderful work, but the best part of the yard is the people. Wooden boatbuilding, especially, seems to draw in people that are interested in craft and doing things right, and  have good characters.

A few years ago, we started a tradition to celebrate an long-time employee at our Christmas party each year. In December, we honored Eric Sewell, who has been building boats at Rockport Marine for thirty years. He is a man of exceptional talent and great personal integrity.

The first thing one notices about Eric was that he never stops moving. It is marvelous to watch him work on a boat project—he is smooth, efficient, productive, and seamless. He looks about the same as when he began at RMI, lean, wiry, with dark hair and beard that is beginning to gray—the only outward sign of aging. Eric has been known to work circles around younger, more muscle-bound, taller or more-caffeinated employees—come to think of it, pretty much everyone he has ever worked with. It has been theorized that his superior strength and trim physique is due to his steady diet of grape soda, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, homemade cake, trail mix and baloney sandwiches.

Speaking to Eric’s co-workers, the same descriptions kept coming up. Everyone mentioned that he was one of the best woodworkers at Rockport Marine—a highly skilled shipwright who did large timber work on boats such as LYNX, ADVENTURESS and GODSPEED, but also turned out the finest of interior joinery work on boats such as the P-class BERNICE, one of the many projects he led over the years.

Eric Sewell led the restoration of the Owens-designed P-class BERNICE. 
Eric and the crew of the GODSPEED project
Most recently, Eric led the transfomation of GYRE from a cruising boat to a family daysailer.

Eric brings his vast expertise to every project he does. The projects he runs are done well, efficiently, and people like working for him and with him. Eric is never flashy with his graceful competence, he usually waits to give his opinion until someone asks him, and that opinion is always smart, thoughtful and practical. He is a natural leader of the type that inspires people to do good work rather than asking them to do it. When people work with him, they are compelled to do their best. 


Eric grew up in Waldoboro, Maine. Rockport Marine machinist Carl Waterman, who grew up with him, described the youthful Eric as “an all-American boy.” He also revealed, “Eric was an early grower of facial hair,” which is how he got the nickname “Whiskers” as a young man. In fact, when he was first hired by Luke Allen, Luke looked at his bushy beard and said, “We don’t usually hire men with beards.”

Eric and his controversial beard, and Bill Brengle

Luckily, Luke managed to look beyond the beard and found that he had hired a talented, hard-working man. Eric’s skill and the skill of many other people is the reason that Rockport Marine can do the work it does. Eric has also gently mentored many builders who work here.

Eric graduated from Unity College with a degree in forestry, and spent many years in Allagash Waterway in Northern Maine working as a surveyor for the state. He worked at Morse’s boatyard in Thomaston, and also dug clams. I once asked him how he got into boatbuilding, and he told me, very matter-of-factly, “the boatshop was warm, and the clam flats were awfully cold. So I chose boatbuilding.”

Eric drills for the rudder of BOUNTY

This is, of course, seems like an absurd statement now. Eric not only has a great gift for boatbuilding, he is also a mechanic, metalworker, electrician, and rigger. He often jumps in to other trades if needed, installing a head or running some wires. This past spring, when we were short a Travelift operator, he willingly ran the lift for several days to fill in. This versatility allows his to contribute to and understand all the parts of the projects he manages.

Planning and lofting

When Eric started working at Rockport Marine, there were 5 employees. Coffee breaks were taken in the kitchen of the restaurant, and included complimentary blueberry muffins. Eric was known as a great prankster, and enjoyed scaring the wait staff of the Sail Loft, sometimes with a hand-carved, wooden rat. As the boatyard grew, it took on more staff, including Eric’s future wife, Diana. It was at Rockport Marine that they met and courted, and began to make a life together. 

Break time in the old Sail Loft's kitchen.

Making a lead ballast keel

Aside from his skill and competency for building all manner of things, Eric is known for his kindness. Painter Bill Brengle, who has worked at the yard as long as Eric, told me that Eric Sewell has been sharpening his jackknife for years. Bill said, “he has probably sharpened my knife a thousand times.” 

-Maria Simpson

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At January 22, 2014 at 1:41 PM , Blogger Matthew said...

Beyond just following the plans to guarantee a build is well-constructed; the project manager is responsible for keeping the build running to a predetermined timeframe and within a specific budget. Other responsibilities are likely to consist of acting as a go between for the various on-site contractors, writing contracts, hiring subcontractors, obtaining permits and providing estimates for various stages of the work.

what is contract management


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