Soundings - - Classics - rock­port­ma­ —P.V.H.

An Aage Nielsen sloop, a Bunker & El­lis lobster yacht, an L. Fran­cis Her­reshoff Roz­i­nante, a Ralph Stan­ley lobster boat, a 45-foot Joel White mo­to­ry­acht, a 1938 Alden mo­tor­sailer, a Ge­orge Stadel Pi­lot Cut­ter, two lovely peapods and a half dozen other clas­sic wooden boats are docked in the far cor­ner of this pic­turesque har­bor. All are in Bris­tol con­di­tion. It’s a mu­se­um­wor­thy col­lec­tion, but this is no mu­seum. This is Rockport Marine’s water­front fa­cil­ity in Rockport, Maine, and boat­ing sea­son has be­gun.

While the boat­yard’s staff preps the ves­sels at the dock, a Con­cor­dia yawl on a trailer is swiftly driven down the steep, nar­row road, past the yard’s of­fices, and adeptly backed up to a 76-foot Hinck­ley. The Con­cor­dia, Golden Eye, is one of 14 that the yard main­tains, and has come from one of Rockport Marine’s six off-site stor­age build­ings. It passed through one of the yard’s three paint bays and is now ready for launch­ing. The fiber­glass Hinck­ley, the largest one ever built by that yard, is be­ing re­fit­ted with a wooden in­te­rior. Rockport Marine doesn’t build fiber­glass boats, but to the work­ers here, any kind of wood­work­ing is akin to walk­ing.

In­side the yard’s clas­sic red shed, a 1941 50-ton sar­dine car­rier is near­ing re­birth as a cruis­ing yacht, a Her­reshoff 12½ has just re­ceived an in­board elec­tric mo­tor, and the 1955 40-foot Philip Rhodes-de­signed sloop Piera is in the last stages of bot­tom re­pair to ad­dress a se­vere case of asym­met­ri­cal hull de­for­ma­tion.

To cor­rect Piera’s dis­fig­ure­ment, the yard’s crew se­cured the boat from stem to stern to the shed’s roof and walls, lock­ing it in place while they re­moved its keel, stem, horn tim­ber, a large num­ber of its planks and even more of its frames. The plan is to re­place each part and re­turn the boat to its orig­i­nal de­sign spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

But it’s now June 6, and although she is once again fully planked, the hull still needs caulk­ing, fair­ing, sand­ing, prim­ing and paint­ing. The owner wants the boat back in the water for the Fourth of July, and with less than four weeks to go, Piera looks far from fin­ished.

The dead­line, how­ever, seems to leave Rockport Marine co-owner and op­er­a­tor Sam Tem­ple un­per­turbed. Piera’s re­pair crew are hav­ing lunch be­hind

the yard’s of­fices while other work­ers use the Trav­elift to launch a Buz­zards Bay 25. An­other em­ployee mo­tors a sail­boat to the dock to have its mast stepped, and a me­chanic in­stalls a new bat­tery in the Alden mo­tor­sailer. No­body is rush­ing, and ev­ery­one seems to know ex­actly what needs to be done. Although the yard is quiet, ev­ery­thing runs like clock­work. It’s like an ant colony at work.

When asked why the yard ap­pears so calm at such a busy time of the year, Tem­ple says his team is “like a duck, calm on the sur­face and pad­dling like hell. So much of this work is about com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the cus­tomer. It usu­ally starts with con­ver­sa­tion and a spread­sheet in the fall and con­tin­ues with weekly up­dates and de­tailed billing. And we have a re­ally good group here. When I’m check­ing on projects, I usu­ally find that the prob­lem­solv­ing has been done.”

Bruce John­son, for­mer pres­i­dent and chief de­signer for Spark­man & Stephens and now di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for Brook­lin Boat Yard, Belfast’s Front Street Ship­yard and Rockport Marine con­curs. “I am con­tin­u­ally im­pressed by the wealth of boat­build­ing knowl­edge at the yard,” John­son says. “They are com­pletely un­ruf­fled by the var­i­ous chal­lenges that arise. They are truly mas­ter crafts­men.”

None of this should be a sur­prise. Rockport Marine has been build­ing ev­ery­thing from dinghies to plank-on-frame 16th­cen­tury repli­cas to lobster boats and cold­molded mod­ern sail­ing yachts — and, of course, dunk­ing boats ev­ery spring — since 1962, well be­fore Tem­ple was even born. But Tem­ple is no neo­phyte. He started work­ing at Rockport Marine at age 11, and in his twen­ties did a five-year stint at Brook­lin Boat Yard, which his grand­fa­ther, yacht de­signer Joel White, founded. His un­cle, Steve White, now owns and op­er­ates that yard. Tem­ple’s step­fa­ther and co-owner of Rockport Marine is Tay­lor Allen, the son of Rockport Marine founder Luke Allen. (In the boat­build­ing com­mu­nity, the fact that noted writer E.B. White was Sam’s great-grand­fa­ther is merely an in­ter­est­ing side note.)

Main­tain­ing, re­pair­ing and build­ing wooden boats is some­thing Rockport Marine has been do­ing for more than half a cen­tury. They know how to do it, which is why the work or­ders keep com­ing in and the boat­yard’s crew con­tin­ues to ful­fill them. It’s June in Maine and the clients want their boats in the water. In this Downeast boat­yard, full of clas­sic wooden yachts, it’s just busi­ness as usual.

Trade Wind is a 1938 Alden mo­tor­sailer.

Rockport Marine’s com­mit­ment to Bris­tol con­di­tion is clearly seen on Trade Wind’s fore­deck.

This 6 Me­tre yacht, Jill, which was re­built at Rockport Marine, demon­strates the yard’s wiz­ardry with wood.

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