Sunday, August 23, 2009

32' seawind

on the subject of gravity
at the interface
of sky and sea
of flying and diving
of buoyancy
of laminar flow
and rolling waves
of wind and spray
and curiosity
of form
of function
and discovery

Although it was not a marine architect who coined the phrase,
"form follows function," the remark is seldom more clearly
expressed in any of man's endeavors
than it is in the hull of a sailing vessel.

Soon after I began faring the hull of the 50' schooner "Charlotte", designed by Nat Benjamin and built at Gannon & Benjamin, I asked Nat if there was a book or article he could recommend on the subject. I was surprised when he said that I should be writing it. I had been reporting back to him with my “discoveries” and the methods that seemed to be working, as they came up. Nat seemed amused. As we went off in different directions in search of lunch one day he said, "I'll see you back at the campus"

When Nat referred to the shop as "the campus," Plato, and my days as artist in residence at the “great books” school came to mind. Sharing ones discoveries is part of my definition of art.
When an educational institution allows ideas and questions to be discussed from multiple perspectives, without the customary, strict divisions between disciplines, surprising discoveries and solutions can result. It’s something akin to "cross pollination." The more I compared making art to wooden boat building, the more they seemed to have in common.

Training the Senses
In a classical art education, we study sculpture and drawing to learn to see more articulately, to see the object as if we are holding it in our hands.
Having binocular vision allows us to “triangulate” as our eyes dart about the space around us, from one point of focus to the next.

Sculpture: the articulation of mass and space.
Drawing: the two dimensional illusion of mass and space.

Seeing like Touching
It wasn't until Benjamin had made a number of half models, had taken lines from the models and had built the hulls, that he was able to truly see the form that a “lines drawing” represented. From that point on, when he made drawings he was drawing mass in space ... seeing, like touching.
Because Nat's mother was a sculptor, this process may have been instilled or, to some degree been instinctive. In any case, Benjamin has a refreshing regard for art and how it's interwoven with man's other pursuits.
Nat pointed out that it was the blind brother who was handed the half models for final approval in the Herrshoff brothers design team.

Alternating between the vantage points of art and the boatyard provides rich possibilities for comparison.
Having pursued some understanding of art for many years, I have a growing list of ideas about what art is and why it is be of value. I call the list, “another vain attempt at defining art,” in part because art expands to include each new addition
When this list of ideas is applied to the designing and building of wooden boats the similarities become apparent.

above excerpt from The Art Of WoodenBoat Building

clearly the 32' Seawind ll is fiberglass but what caught my eye was
the shape of the hull and the layout of the rig. It had the lines of a wooden boat because
her designer, Thomas Gillmer borrowed heavily from the classic H28 by L.F.Herreshoff.


  1. Similar line to a Hinterholler or C&C. Looks like a bathtub in the background.