This is a cautionary tale about what is OK and what is not.
If you plan to build a boat to go to sea, you either have years of experience building them or you’ve studied the principles and have some sort of background in practical fields, not just as a computer buff.
Above all, you don’t rely on misplaced faith to compensate for basic flaws which many people tried to tell you about. When I read this story, I shifted uneasily in my seat because I count myself a subscriber to Christianity but never would I take it upon myself to decide which wood and then ignore timberyard advice, never would I use glue and glass in a way not recommended and above all, never would I cut corners on structure.
It’s not so much how bad it looks, it’s that he did crazy things. He claimed he was building using “old methods” and yet no one built using straight bits of short plank with no overall structural beam running through the whole, e.g. a keel, a spine. He apparently bolted these boards on – bolted, thinking that equalled strength and then spoke to people of strength as I’m doing now.
He’d never built a boat and had never studied design. For example, he guessed ballast and just piled it in, instead of calculating draught from volume and weight. It’s quite easy to get the weight of standard materials but these weren’t standard. From standard weights, you can calculate ballast to overall weight, what thickness wood you need [rule of thumb says 1/4 inch for every ten feet] and further – is it for coastal or ocean?
I could get away with half inch on inland waters [40 feet] if built right but in the sea, at least the bottom would need to be inch or 3/4 sheathed minimum. It’s also how it was built – scarfed, butt-joined, what?
The theme running through the whole tale though was, as the coastguard said, “the guy was in way over his head”. He was living a dream, it was for hm to live on, he was running a two person crew on an 88 foot boat with 3000 sq ft, he went out in winter unprepared, with little safety gear and he justified it all through his dream of creating something for disabled kiddies to be able to sail on.
Some people took the line that all progress is through eccentrics who’ve had a dream and so on. Trouble was, as every sailing forum and every authority also said – it was unseaworthy outside of protected waters, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
First time, all three masts came down. Now this isn’t rocket science – there’s a formula for hollow and solid masts v length, skin thickness and sail area. He was told they were too small and said it was OK. The coastguard rescued him.
Second time, the planking came apart in places, the boat took on water, the coastguard rescued him.
Now he is moaning that they were all against him and had scuttled his ship, which lies below 6000ft of water and no one is offering to bring the sad lady up.
Chillingly, he says his dream is not dead and he’ll produce something for disabled kiddies yet. The sailing world shudders. Someone described him as charming, funny, a nice guy but arrogant and refusing to listen because his faith told him all he needed to know. There’s a place for refusing to listen and that is when someone is attacking your beliefs. The design and building of a boat is when you listen to the experts.
Shudder again. Sorry to bring it up but Abby Sutherland‘s father was like that. It’s one thing being Christian but to publicly say prayers on camera in a media spot – that fills me with foreboding. Sure you say them to bless the ship but first you get the ship right.
And personally, I’d prefer a hardbitten, hardswearing, practical curmudgeon with decades of experience to look over the boat rather than an ideologue. Sure there’s raw faith but there’s also idiocy. Idiocy which has cost the taxpayer a number of times now. The guy’s strange, his boat is strange and that’s good coming from me but at least I can look at this and quietly go back over all the specs again, measuring them against standards laid down and accessible by any who would build.
The money was the issue. He blew everything on the boat so that he had none left for ongoing maintenance, safety gear, compliance. He built it the largest he could without covering all the ancillary building necessary to go with it, e.g. something inside. It was like Noah’s Ark apparently.
The story is here: