SAM DEVLIN LOVES HIS BOATS.

Passage Maker - - Devlin Details -

He’s been build­ing boats for close to four decades and his love is con­stant—whether it’s de­sign­ing, work­ing in the shop, prov­ing them in the snot­ti­est sea con­di­tions or just talk­ing and writ­ing about them. Most in­trigu­ing, Devlin is among the very few pro­duc­tion builders of wooden boats.

He is per­haps the lead­ing prac­ti­tioner of stitch-andglue fab­ri­ca­tion, in which Devlin builds craft of high-qual­ity marine ply­wood pan­els sewn to­gether and then fin­ished off with resins, fiber­glass fab­rics and a top­coat of paint. He de­scribes the process as “wooden boat­build­ing with mod­ern epoxy tech­nol­ogy.”

Over the years, I’ve cruised aboard and writ­ten about sev­eral Devlin craft. I best re­mem­ber the 45-foot clas­sic work-boat-styled Sock­eye and Devlin’s skill in nav­i­gat­ing her along the shal­low and elu­sive chan­nel out of Ham­mer­s­ley In­let at the south end of Puget Sound. And then there was the Surf Scoter 26 we flew across the wa­ters of Budd In­let, near Olympia.

I last found Devlin at Trawler­fest-Ana­cortes, where he was hav­ing a good time show­ing off the new­est model from his Devlin De­sign­ing Boat Builders—a 30-foot, 6-inch go-fast boat, the first in a new se­ries he calls Py­la­dian. Devlin was guess­ing that buy­ers now are more in­ter­ested in boats of 30-some­thing size than 45s. He pro­posed a trial run and I agreed.

800 BOATS Devlin de­scribes him­self as “just an av­er­age guy with a per­va­sive love of boats and the wa­ter.” This life-long af­fair be­gan shortly after he grad­u­ated from col­lege with de­grees in ge­ol­ogy and bi­ol­ogy and went to Alaska to spend a sea­son work­ing aboard a tug. The re­sult of that ex­pe­ri­ence, he says, “was that I wanted my own boat.”

So, in 1977 he cre­ated Devlin De­sign­ing Boat Builders in Eu­gene, Ore­gon, and in a few years it had grown from a back­yard business to a rec­og­nized and suc­cess­ful builder. In 1982, he moved his shop to Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, and a site on a small cove that opens on Puget Sound and its ad­ja­cent wa­ters.

His shop has built and launched 318 boats, rang­ing from 7 feet to 48 feet. A 33-foot power­boat and a 20-foot sail­boat were un­der con­struc­tion as this was writ­ten. His sons, Cooper and Macken­zie, lease an old shop build­ing from Devlin and are work­ing on boat restora­tion projects.

Devlin also sells small-boat plans and kits for hob­by­ists who want to build his de­signs at home. He es­ti­mates that about 500 have been built and launched by back­yard and garage hob­by­ists world­wide. “It’s dif­fi­cult to keep track of, but it is the rare week that we don’t hear of two or three boats be­ing fin­ished,” he said.

“I feel we are just start­ing to scratch at the sur­face of what the true po­ten­tial might be,” Devlin said. “Stitch-and-glue boat build­ing has the flex­i­bil­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity to al­low both the pro­fes­sional and the am­a­teur…to pro­duce high-qual­ity and in­no­va­tive ves­sels from tiny sizes up to re­ally large sizes.”

A Devlin boat project be­gins with care­ful de­sign. Some might say that draw­ings from his draft­ing ta­ble also are darned good—they’re mar­itime art. Then, sheets of marine ply­wood are cut to fit pat­terns and wired to­gether along the seams. After epoxy seal­ers are ap­plied to the seams the wires are re­moved and lay­ers of fiber­glass ap­plied. “By us­ing high­grade marine ma­te­ri­als and epoxy tech­nol­ogy we can lit­er­ally weld to­gether the ply­wood,” he said.

“The in­te­ri­ors are clean and un­clut­tered by ribs and ex­cess fram­ing…main­te­nance is kept to a sane level and the life of the boat is greatly in­creased.

“The de­signs are meant to be used. Con­struc­tion is strong, the rigs are sim­ple and all de­signs fo­cus on sea­wor­thi­ness… the use of th­ese boats is limited only by the owner, not by de­sign or the con­struc­tion method.”

It all sounds quick and sim­ple, but it isn’t. Pre­ci­sion is ab­so­lute and takes time—the first of the Py­la­dian se­ries re­quired 4,700 hours of la­bor.

COM­MUTER The boat that brought us to­gether again is a sin­gle-en­gine craft with a large open af­ter­deck and whose de­sign hints of lob­ster­boat styling. The Py­la­dian de­sign evolved from Devlin’s 33foot Storm Pe­trel, a twin-en­gine boat built five years ago with a dis­tinct lob­ster-boat character. It is, he said, “one of the best per­form­ing sea boats I have ever had the plea­sure of run­ning.” A 48 launched last year shares that hull form.

Devlin’s de­sign goal: “What we were after is some­thing that will go through any wa­ter and not slow down.”

Devlin called re­cently and the next af­ter­noon I stood watch at the end of Cap Sante Ma­rina’s C-dock as he paused overnight in de­liv­er­ing the boat—named Sally-Chris­tine— to its own­ers in Bri­tish Columbia. A sparkling green hull and red

boot in­stantly caught my eye as she rounded the break­wa­ter.

The own­ers are Randy Repass, the founder and chair­man of the West Marine chain of chan­d­leries, and his wife, Sal­lyChris­tine. Ex­pe­ri­enced sailors and cruis­ers, they have a home on a small is­land in the Gulf Is­lands of south­ern Bri­tish Columbia and in­tend to use Sally-Chris­tine to com­mute be­tween home and the nearby com­mu­ni­ties of Lady Smith and Nanaimo to pick up sup­plies or friends and have din­ner out.

As I stepped aboard, how­ever, it was ob­vi­ous he has ad­di­tional uses planned. Her af­ter­deck was stuffed with the most so­phis­ti­cated crab traps I have ever seen. On the star­board rail was a power hoist for pulling crab and prawn traps. Other fish­ing gear likely was stowed out of sight.

The en­gine box, hous­ing a 315hp Yanmar 6LPA, takes up space on the af­ter­deck, too. Once the traps are in the wa­ter or hauled ashore there would be good room for pas­sen­gers—or for the gro­ceries and build­ing ma­te­ri­als they may be haul­ing from Sid­ney to their home on Py­lades Is­land. Devlin added stor­age for parts, sup­plies and what­ever in the in­ner face of the tran­som and in ev­ery other pos­si­ble place.

Repass sim­pli­fied long-term main­te­nance by elim­i­nat­ing var­nished wood on the ex­te­rior. In­te­rior trim is sim­ple but im­mac­u­late. The in­te­rior deck sur­face is vinyl, but looks like teak. At the helm, are two fixed com­fort­able seats on plat­forms and each plat­form con­tains three stor­age draw­ers. Another uphol­stered seat is mounted on the cabin’s after bulk­head. Win­dows all around pro­vide a 360-de­gree view. That’s good when you’re run­ning at bet­ter than 20 knots.

Deck pan­els lift to re­veal a bat­tery com­part­ment and a wa­ter heater. That quick look also re­veals how com­plete a Devlin boat is. All bilge sur­faces are fin­ished with sprayed truck-liner com­pound—which makes them neat-look­ing, durable and easy to clean.

For­ward is a V-berth for two, a small un­der-counter re­frig­er­a­tor, a gal­ley sink and stowage spa­ces. There is no cook­top. There’s a shower on the af­ter­deck. The head is for­ward and hid­den by a cur­tain. Fea­tures added by Repass in­clude a pair of so­lar pan­els mounted on the cabin top and a forced-air fur­nace.

GUEMES CHAN­NEL We took the boat into Guemes Chan­nel, but calm wa­ter de­nied us a test of Devlin’s goal of build­ing a boat ca­pa­ble of tak­ing any sea con­di­tions with­out slow­ing. I ran the Yanmar up to top speed and cut dough­nuts in the chan­nel and then quar­tered our wake—noth­ing stress­ful hap­pened—and then put the wake abeam, and we rolled just a bit.

Top speed is about 26 knots. I cruised along at about 20 knots (ac­cord­ing to the Sim­rad GPS at the helm and also my hand-held unit). Sam said he es­ti­mated that at 18 knots the boat runs five miles on a gal­lon of fuel.

At top speed, with the Yanmar run­ning hard be­hind us and the after cabin door open, con­ver­sa­tion re­quired a lit­tle ex­tra ef­fort. At slower speeds that noise dis­ap­peared.

My view: She’s a well-built, hand­somely styled craft that will sat­isfy her own­ers’ re­quire­ments, be that run­ning from Seat­tle to the Gulf Is­lands in a sin­gle day or drop­ping crab pots, haul­ing gro­ceries and guests or gunkhol­ing in the beau­ti­ful wa­ters of Bri­tish Columbia. And what do the own­ers think? “I don’t think we could be hap­pier,” Repass told me later, after he and his wife had been us­ing the boat sev­eral weeks. “It’s per­fect for the ap­pli­ca­tion and we can go out for sev­eral days, too. “It han­dles chop well and it’s fuel ef­fi­cient.” Sally- Chris­tine, the per­son, said, “The boat is warm, com­fort­able, dry and feels safe. This boat meets our ba­sic needs and it is beau­ti­ful.”

She praised the de­sign for hav­ing a tremen­dous amount of stowage and for be­ing very func­tional. And then she said she tested the boat the first time out by turn­ing dough­nuts and steer­ing through its wake. “It’s a ro­man­tic lit­tle sports car,” she said. Randy said they were at­tracted to Devlin’s work when they first saw a Black Crown 30. Later they saw an ad for a Black Crown and ar­ranged to meet Sam. Then they or­dered a new boat.

DREAM­ING While on our trial run along Ana­cortes’ water­front I looked west along Guemes Chan­nel and to­ward Rosario Strait—the route Sam would follow the next day in de­liv­er­ing the boat to its own­ers.

I could imag­ine the long run up Trin­co­mali Chan­nel, past the fa­vored places of Ganges and Mon­tague Har­bor, to­ward Py­lades Is­land. Just beyond the is­land are a cou­ple of tidal rapids that must be crossed to reach Nanaimo or to cross Ge­or­gia Strait. Nor­mally boaters do the rapids at or near slack, but Sam and I en­vi­sioned boom­ing on through re­gard­less of the cur­rent know­ing Sally-Chris­tine would have no prob­lems.

It was not go­ing to hap­pen. I slowed the boat to 9 knots, turned to­ward the ma­rina and be­grudg­ingly re­lin­quished the helm to Devlin.

The next morn­ing Devlin cast off and headed north for Canada’s Gulf Is­lands. I would like to have been in the watch­man’s seat.

Our Com­pre­hen­sive Out­fit­ting Ser­vices In­clude:

• Blis­ter re­pair with 10 year war­ranty • Deck core re­pair • Com­pre­hen­sive elec­tri­cal ser­vices by

ABYC cer­ti­fied tech­ni­cians • Cer­ti­fied weld­ing - all met­als

The set­tee aboard Sally- Chris­tine sim­ply begs for some­one to curl up with a book.

De­signer/builder Sam Devlin (above); for­ward cabin (left).

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