By Bill Conley, North Carolina Coastal & Piedmont Chapter
Since 1975 I have been building furniture for our house. A large wall unit, a curio cabinet, a grandfather clock, and a couple of bookcases. In 2003, we bought a condo in Beaufort, NC. I still lived and worked in Raleigh, NC, but we started spending a lot of weekends there. I volunteered at the Beaufort Maritime Museum’s Watercraft Center, learning to build and restore boats from the Boat Builder, Craig Wright. He was extremely knowledgeable and passed along that knowledge as I volunteered and took classes in boatbuilding that he and others taught. The classes included “Stitch and Glue,” “Framing,” “Planking,” and “Spar Making.” These were fun learning experiences, since furniture building and boat building are significantly different. Furniture building involves straight lines and square corners, while boat building involves compound curves, angled corners, and beveled edges.
One of the classes offered was a 9-day boat building class, where you could build your own boat from a design of your own choosing. I loved sailing, so I decided I would build a sailboat. In mid-2007, I started looking for a boat design that fit my desires – something small enough for me to sail alone or with one mate, and something that would be fast and spritely. I came up with an Arch Davis design, the 14’ Penobscot. Arch Davis designs were done with the amateur builder in mind. For example, the Penobscot has a lapstrake hull, but with stringers under the lapstrake plank joints to make it easier to fasten the laps together. I bought the plans, and before the class started, I made the transom, bulkheads, stem, keel, shear clamps, knees, and molds in my garage. I even made the oars. On the first day of class in September 2007, I took all these parts to the Watercraft Center in Beaufort and started to build the hull. In the 9 days, I completed the basic hull. I put in on a trailer and brought it back to my Raleigh garage to finish it.
Finishing included fairing and sealing both the inside and outside of the hull planks and painting them, installing the dagger board trunk, oarlock mounting blocks, mahogany seats, thwarts, breasthook, and inner/outer shear trim. The boat name was going to be “Little Blues” so the badge on each side of the bow is mahogany with sassafras inlay of a bluefish. The mast and gaff are both hollow to reduce weight. My wife, Sharon, made the sails from a Sailrite kit.
Little Blues had her first splash-in April 2008, and first sail in Taylor Creek in Beaufort on May 1, 2008. On May 3, she won the “Best Sail” award at the Maritime Museum annual wooden boat show.
I keep her in Beaufort, and sail her often, sometimes in the Maritime Museum regattas. She sails beautifully, fast, and responsive. And she looks great flying up and down Taylor Creek too.