Boatbuilder, Designer, Oarmaker, Rower, Sparmaker, Sailor, Teacher...
Professionally, I'm really not sure what I am exactly. My ideal day perhaps best decribes my passion: in the morning I wake up and drink my favorite coffee (either French Press or Pourover method, since you are wondering). After a brisk row I'll get right to my computer and drafting table. I'll open up the latest project, usually a sail or rowboat in the 8-25' range, and begin where I left off, sketching, tweaking, calculating and laying out files for CNC cutting or a new 11x17 layout for a plans package. After lunch, I'll be in the shop building a boat, making oars or spars, or working out construction details on a new boat model. At night, I'm often back at it in the design studio or planning out the latest shop project. These days, I am working a day job, but still design kits on the side. I hope to be back at it full time in 2016.
|Clint at The Landing School where he teaches boatbuilding, design, and develops curriculum. Christmas 2013.|
Getting on the water is very important to me. Spiritually and physically, it keeps me connected to my body, to my boats, and to the ocean. My specialty is in fixed-seat rowing and I have found that the exercise it delivers is ideal for me, as someone with all sorts of slight hip-knee-back issues. A hard 4-6 mile row is truly a full body workout. And to do it in a highly refined, fast rowboat is a dream.
|Rowing Drake in the 2011 Small Reach Regatta.|
Rowing and sailing keeps me connected to my boats. In fact, using my boats on the water is an integral part of the design process that I employ to create, make, and refine the finest small boats around. When boats are being put into hard service in all sorts of conditions, things break, issues arise, and design flaws are discovered and fixed right away. (The same goes for the first construction of a model) On the water, a lot goes well, too. But often I find in the first season that the things you expected to be fine (or weren't even aware as a potential problem) are the things that become the issues. And the things you worried about turn out to be no problem! This experiential data -- from my own use or customers' use of the boats -- feeds the design process and tweaks are made to the models. Plans and kits are updated and the next builder benefits. Furthermore, this design spiral brings the boat design towards that elusive point of perfection.
|Fixing a broken mast step in the Small Reach Regatta, after a squall blew through the previous day. This is one of those experiences in the Drake Rowboat that helped refine the design of the sail rig and mast. If I hadn't broken my boat, my customers wouldn't have benefited! Look, I'm pretty happy about it, too.|
Rowing and sailing keeps me connected to the ocean. For me, that is the major driver: to design and build a boat that nails the design brief, safely and efficiently carries me to where I want to go, and allows me to enjoy the voyage. My sailing and rowing grounds range the entire Northeast coast but focus on southern Maine. A good day is a quick 4 miles of sailing and rowing after work and the best days are 20+ mile days or rowing and sailing in places like Casco Bay.
|A selfie during a 20+ mile rowing trip through Casco Bay. On these voyages I bring the downwind sail rig as auxiliary power. When the wind is fair and above 10 kts I'll fly the "squgsail".|
My passions also extend not to just the boats, but the devices that connect boat to wind and water. Oarmaking is about as fine a nautical art form as one can explore. Here is a process of removing a chunk of wood and leaving just enough to create a light, balanced stick with a blade on it to propel the boat. I teach an oarmaking course at The WoodenBoat School called Traditional and Modern Oarmaking. You can learn a lot by reading the course description at the School's website
. Oars are the medium that connects oarsman to boat; boat to water. When the oars are just right, rowing is a true joy.
|Getting my first rowing race award at the Essex River Race.|
Another area of mine is making hollow-birdsmouth spars. I've refined the technique and continue to do so to make the lightest, strongest hollow spars achievable for small boats. The process is fun to go through and the results are beautiful and durable. I've been been consulted with more than a couple well known boat designers looking to broaden their understanding of the hollow-birdsmouth sparmaking techniques and delivered workshops on the subject. It is an ongoing challenge and source of learning for me.
|Applying the evil eye while sighting a 25' mast being glued up in a jig.|
Teaching is an important outlet for me. I love to teach people to love the craft as much as I do. To see a student begin to understand how a tool works, or get their head around a process, or see why something works the way it does through direct experience is rewarding work. I teach regularly at The WoodenBoat School -- two classes in strip-composite construction and another in oarmaking. My work at The Landing School however is year round and full time. I've taught boatbuilding for several years at The Compass Project in Portland, Maine. And I've given workshops at boat shows a other boat shops. In all these settings, I find great reward in seeing students grapple with the skills, patience, and persistence it takes to craft boats, oars, spars, and new designs.
|Giving demonstrations at the annual Lie-Nielsen Tools open house at their headquarters in Warren, Maine.|
In summary, my passion truly lies in the complete design spiral: seeing a mental image of a new boat come to life on paper, go through the CAD process on the computer, leave the computer as prints, quarter scale models, and eventually as CNC cutting files. The parts get cut, assembled, finished and sea trials commence. We're only 3/4's of the way through the loop. It takes times to make all the decisions that lead to a revised boat model and a new start to another design loop. It really never ends, and therein lies the beauty of boatbuilding, design, and getting on the water: there is always something new to learn.
The best teaching of all is helping my kids learn to love boats and the water like I do....
|Jia learning to row at 5...Dad has her...see that rope to the right!|
|Oliver, 8, taking his Dad out for a sail!|