Designing and Building the Taylor 49c

A productive and thoroughly enjoyable collaboration with Brooklin Boatyard

It all started with a phone call from Brooklin Boatyard’s Steve White in August of 2012, not long after the BBY 47 Lark, sporting my designs for her keel, rudder, and rig, had won the Eggemoggin Reach race. Steve had called to ask if I was interested in designing a new custom boat in the 47-49 foot range. In a weak attempt at humor, I said “nahhh…”, but quickly reversed course with “thunder and lightning yes!” or words to that effect, before he could hang up. Steve had built two previous boats for the prospective client, who liked the look and build quality of those boats, but was seeking better performance. A three-way e-exchange of preliminary drawings and specifications between the client, Steve, and me quickly established that we were on the same page conceptually, so a formal design contract soon followed.

A September, 2012 start-up was possible, but attempting that would have been a warp speed challenge for all concerned. As it happened, orders for two Eggemoggin 47 sisters to Lark and a duplicate of BBY’s 2000 70-footer Sonny came in at about the same time, so construction of Mr. Weber’s boat was pushed off nearly a year, until late summer 2013. This was mildly disappointing in that we would not be sailing the new boat until 2014, but it was also a relief that neither designer nor builder would have to rush our work. Instead, we would have the luxury of an unusually long and healthy ‘gestation period’ for the project, that would allow plenty of time for careful consideration and refinement of all the design details for what evolved as a long, lean, low freeboard, ‘Spirit of Tradition’ 49-footer.

Brooklin Boatyard has built dozens of great boats in cold molded wood, and they did not need a lot of input on the essentials from a designer who can recall doing just two previously. As a result, most of our early designer/builder exchanges were devoted to assuring that my drawings would reflect the well proven construction details and techniques that they had developed over all those years. Typically, when I would ask ‘why?’ regarding some detail, their patient ‘because…’ answer would make perfect sense to me, I would incorporate it, and we would move on. Sometimes, however, I would come back with a ‘yes, but what if we do it this way instead?’, and I was thoroughly impressed with how open they were (still are!) to new ideas when they are good ones worth pursuing. The owner referred to these early e-mail back-and-forth’s as technoid ‘tennis matches’, but every rally was useful and informative. The give and take continued right to the end of the project, and it has unquestionably resulted in a better, more sophisticated, and more refined, finished product. It is hard to imagine a more open, productive, and enjoyable, collaboration between designer and builder. With luck we will be able to carry it still further on future projects together. In the meantime, we are all very much looking forward to going sailing aboard this one.