by John Thomas member of ACBS

I think that this journey is not even about the boat. It is about the subconscious forces within that kept eating away at me – a kind of unrest to design and build this boat. I even awoke from a dream one night telling me that I must design and build this boat, and time is running out. It was that dream that was the final inspiration. It gave me the sense of urgency I needed to start designing this boat – thus the “Ghost”

The actual time it took for me to design and build this boat was a little over seven years. During that seven-year period I experienced my first wife contracting cancer and passing away. I also met, courted, and married my current wife. The building of the boat was a great refuge for me during my first wife’s illness. I could go into the garage and work on the boat for certain periods of time to distract my mind from her illness and subsequent loss. It was definitely a test of one’s mettle and persistence.

This fascination with boat building actually started a long time ago when I was in seventh grade in Chicago. I always loved boats and being on the water and I wanted to build a boat. So, I saved my paper route money and bought a 14’ wooden kit boat. With the help of my father, I built my first boat. By the time I was a teenager, I had built two kit boats. My real love of boats were the designs of the 1955 and 1956 models of Century boats, especially the Coronado and the Arabian models. These were the two boats that inspired the design of my boat.

In the professional world, I work as the Design Principal of an international Architectural firm. However, as a creative person I have found that sometimes clients and other circumstances can stifle creativity, and therefore as a creative intuitive I often look outside of my profession for creative expression. In this case it was the boat building project.

In designing and building a boat the only limitation is your own imagination linked with the limitations of wood structure. The advantages of designing a wooden boat in today’s high tech society is that there is a technique called “cold mold lamination” boat building where you use modern epoxy resins to bond thin layers of wood together to form the skin of the boat or what has been traditional referred to as the planking. In essence you are making your own plywood that takes the shape of the boat. This technique allows tremendous freedom in creating exaggerated curves and detailing for the boat hull design while providing superior strength.

As my boat design evolved, I was elated at the total sense of freedom I felt as a designer. The advantages of designing a wooden boat in today’s world as opposed to the old “woodies “ is that the curvilinear designs of the 50’s era wooden boats was always limited to how much a piece of ¾” thick piece of mahogany could be bent for the hull planking without breaking.

The boat design started in October of 2001. In January of 2002 I started drawing the frames full size so I could trace them on the wood and cut them out. I started construction of the boat in May of 2002. It took six months to build all the frames and set them up on the building form. It took approximately one- and one-half years to cold mold the sides and bottom. It took another year to design and build all the custom deck pieces, and then figure out how to construct all the compound curves etc. I then sent the boat out to have professional engine installers install the engine which took another six months. I designed and had a custom windshield made which took a couple of months. Through my relationship with the windshield manufacture, I found a fantastic marine upholsterer. He took about two months. Then at last, I put all the final detailing touches on her.

All in all, I think that the building of this boat was not about the boat at all.
It was about learning a lot of lessons about one’s life journey the people, the experiences, and the events that happened along the way. As one guru said, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey enjoy the ride!”

The journey of this boat brought me to the understanding of how one event must happen before another event can occur. This processing of events became evident in a lot of what took place in the building of the boat. For example, I purchased my African Mahogany veneers from a company in Montreal Canada who then told me where I could find my custom classic metal deck fittings fabricated in Manistee Michigan. The local custom metal fabricator in Santa Ana helped me find the custom windshield manufacturer in Placentia.

4 Comments

  1. Amazing, John. Well done. Thank you for teaching us what talent, perseverance, strength, integrity, vision and kindness in a person and a project look like.

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