SKETCH­BOOK

Soundings - - Contents - BY SAM DEVLIN

Sam Devlin’s TugZilla 26 is small enough to be a real har­bor-type tug, but is ver­sa­tile enough to serve in many ca­pac­i­ties.

Ahand­ful of years ago, I de­signed the TugZilla 26. At just un­der 26 feet long, she was small enough to be a real har­bor-type tug and could be pi­loted with­out a full cap­tain’s li­cense. A cus­tomer named Tom started on the hull him­self as soon as I pre­pared the plans. Years later, Tom moved on from the project and made me an of­fer that I could not refuse for the par­tially com­pleted hull.

I was trans­fixed with ideas and dreams. I fan­ta­sized about set­ting her up as a lo­cal har­bor tug for my home­town. I have a 100ton mas­ter’s li­cense and could eas­ily op­er­ate the boat, but I loved the idea that she would be small enough that any­one from our small com­pany could do so legally.

My two sons and I trav­eled south about 110 miles to pick her up on one of our shop trail­ers, and soon af­ter she ar­rived back home, I tried to find a slot in our build­ing sched­ule to fin­ish her. But as fate would have it, we took on a much larger project for a re­peat cus­tomer named John. It was his sixth project in a 26-year time span, and be­cause he was 95, we felt pres­sure to get it done. He was such a lovely and in­spir­ing friend that I did noth­ing for the next six months ex­cept work on his boat. Mean­while, the par­tially com­pleted tug lan­guished un­der cover in an up­per stor­age barn.

Once we had John’s boat fin­ished, we blasted into an­other cou­ple of projects. Be­fore I knew it, a full year had passed with noth­ing done on the tug and no line of sight for any­thing hap­pen­ing soon.

It had been a long win­ter. Spring was in the air, and na­ture re­minded me daily that it can­not be sup­pressed. Though the air still seemed cold, it was sim­ply too wet to bring the tug out of stor­age. But I found my­self think­ing about warm sum­mer sun and what projects I wanted to wrap my head around.

On a Sun­day morn­ing, while hav­ing cof­fee with my wife, I learned that her list dif­fered greatly from my own. New coun­ter­tops and a kitchen makeover topped her list, plus new gut­ters and a long-un­fin­ished land­scap­ing project.

These chores didn’t seem like they would be much fun. I slinked away to my office un­der the guise of work­ing, for what I hoped would be a few mo­ments of in­spired cre­ation. Cof­fee mug in hand, I tuned the ra­dio to the weekly “Sun­day Morn­ing with the Bea­tles” show and started sketch­ing ideas for the TugZilla hull.

Fin­ish­ing her as a tug­boat seemed unin­spired, but I re­mem­bered see­ing pic­tures of a vil­lage, maybe in Ire­land, where lo­cals had turned old fish­ing hulls into roofs for cab­ins. What if we turned the TugZilla into a small cot­tage — a man-shed, she-shed? (Yes, that may have been a bold at­tempt at blunt­ing the sure-to­come haz­ing).

A bit of sketch­ing with the TugZilla hull as the base de­sign cre­ated a cou­ple of op­tions. The first would be to turn the hull up­side down and build a small hut un­der it. It would hold just a bed, a small head and a tiny kitchen, sort of like a tree­house

on the ground. The draw­ing looked good, and I was just about to head back to the house to show my wife when an­other idea bounced into the light of my con­scious­ness.

How about cut­ting the boat in half on sta­tion num­ber five and stand­ing the two ends up, with the deck sides fac­ing each other? A shed-style roof be­tween the hull halves could be as large or small as I wished. This idea re­ally was ap­peal­ing. But be­fore pre­sent­ing the sketches to my wife, I had an­other thought: to make a cou­ple of models il­lus­trat­ing these ideas. She needs more of a nudge to see draw­ings jump to flesh in her mind’s eye.

I would love to write that her ac­cep­tance was im­me­di­ate and fully em­brac­ing, but that was not the case. Her first ques­tion was, Why do we need an­other lit­tle build­ing on a prop­erty that has build­ings ga­lore?

I didn’t have an easy or quick an­swer. But when I pro­posed that we might think of it as a small B&B ren­tal nook, she started to see some light. So, I worked on the con­cept a lit­tle fur­ther.

Be­fore din­ner, the draw­ings had pro­gressed and the models were just slightly be­hind in de­vel­op­ment. Soitza had had time to mull. I in­cluded the orig­i­nal tug draw­ings as part of my evening pre­sen­ta­tion, along with a cou­ple of other vari­a­tions to be fair to the con­cept. An aft-house trawler ver­sion had sur­faced, along with a longer-house, fer­ry­type float­ing ver­sion, per­haps to be built en­gine­less as a float­ing B&B.

Five draw­ings and two models on the ta­ble out­lined our op­tions. While I can­not defini­tively say that we are go­ing to do one or the other, I can tell you that for a brief Sun­day’s mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion, I had the plea­sure of see­ing what a truly cre­ative few hours might con­coct.

There is much dis­tance be­tween in­spi­ra­tion and the fi­nal ex­pres­sion, but it’s the jour­ney in be­tween that is the mea­sure of a truly in­spired life.

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