Born to Be Wild: Donald Tofias, the Man Behind the W-Class


Article Courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine

Where did the term Spirit of Tradition come from? From behind dark glasses, Donald Tofias shrugs. “It was me, it was Kenny Coombs—we came up with the idea for having the first Spirit of Tradition class at the Antigua Classics. But the real credit belongs with Jill Bobrow, who wrote a book called In the Spirit of Tradition in the 1990s, about boats that weren’t really classics. She came up with those words.”

“That was a pivotal time, the mid-nineties,” reflects Tofias. “That was just before I conceived the W-Class.”

We’re sitting under the blue skies at a table outside Belle’s Cafe overlooking Newport Shipyard. Tofias has bought us breakfast—with extra fried tomatoes and mushrooms because we’re English—and is holding court in a way that only Tofias can. Continue reading

Replica of a Lost Fife – From Classic Boat Magazine


In July of 2015, Wooden Boatworks, Inc., of Greenport, New York, launched a new plane-on-frame William Fife III 8-M. The yacht is named Invader, commissioned by Brian Hunt Lawrence of New York City and Oyster Bay, New York. Invader is 48 ft. 2 in. on deck. She carries a 30 ft. 8 in. waterline, an 8 ft. 6 in. beam, and a 6 ft. 6 in. draft, well representing a class with great international appeal in the first part of the last century. 8-Meters were, and still are, a competitive racing class and they formed an Olympic class from 1908 to 1936.

This contemporary Invader was constructed as a historical new-build of a 1930s era 8-Meter calledInvader II, which match-raced for the Canadian team in the 1932 Canada’s Cup. This competition was the freshwater equivalent of the America’s Cup, a decades-long rivalry between the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and the Rochester Yacht Club on Lake Ontario. Although the Canadians fought valiantly for over 50 years, the Rochester Yacht Club stubbornly retained the Canada’s Cup from 1903 to 1954.

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Cambria Flies Again – From ‘Classic Boat’ Magazine

Cambria Flies Again

The much-loved cutter is in fine fettle after a challenging,
year-long restoration in Southampton.

Article courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine


It was said in an entirely different context, but Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick” is curiously apt in the case of Cambria. Her captain, Chris Barkham, never raises his voice, regardless of provocation, and her spruce mast is one of the largest and most impressive wooden yacht spars in the world.

In typical style, they have just completed a truly remarkable, major refit at Southampton Yacht Services (SYS) in Southampton, and then quietly departed back for the Mediterranean with hardly any fuss. The work was the culmination of several years of thought and evaluation by Chris and his team. Few captains know their charge as well as he knows Cambria; and it was apparent during the last refit in 2008 that the time was coming for major work.

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“Classic Boat” Feature: Cambria Flies Again


The much-loved cutter is in fine fettle after a challenging,
year-long restoration in Southampton.

Article courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine

It was said in an entirely different context, but Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick” is curiously apt in the case of Cambria. Her captain, Chris Barkham, never raises his voice, regardless of provocation, and her spruce mast is one of the largest and most impressive wooden yacht spars in the world.

In typical style, they have just completed a truly remarkable, major refit at Southampton Yacht Services (SYS) in Southampton, and then quietly departed back for the Mediterranean with hardly any fuss. The work was the culmination of several years of thought and evaluation by Chris and his team. Few captains know their charge as well as he knows Cambria; and it was apparent during the last refit in 2008 that the time was coming for major work.

Cambria is composite, with steel frames and backbone all riveted together; it is an integrated form of construction that makes restoration work very challenging, and in some hands this might well have resulted in a multi-million-pound complete rebuild of the whole hull. With the support of a loyal owner, and despite the “expert” opinion often ranged against him, Chris’ approach was diametrically opposed to that; the guiding mantra throughout the work was to repair and retain original material wherever possible. The overwhelming success of the work owes much to this ethos, and to the intelligent and dedicated work of the team in interpreting and implementing it.

Chris’ loyal, long-serving crew and subcontractors worked alongside the skilled workforce of SYS, many of whom, such as lead shipwright Barry Argent, had forged close ties with the boat during previous works. It was a set-up that allowed a prodigious amount of work to be coordinated successfully in a tightly controlled program, and the result sets a new benchmark for how to approach major composite hull restoration work.

Cambria’s first refit at Southampton Yacht Services took place during the winter of 2008/2009. The work mainly involved engineering, and included a redesign of the engine room—which, incidentally, is forward of the saloon and accommodates a single engine driving the two sets of sterngear hydraulically—as well as rewiring throughout and a new navigation area.

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A Vertue Bound for the Arctic

Story by Dan Houston and Photographs by Emily Harris
Courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine

Is this the best restoration of a boat that has been called the best of her class? Vertue No111, Tom Thumb, an all-teak cabin cruiser, was built in 1962. Now she’s been fitted with a new deck, rig, interior and cockpit and is ready to be shipped to places of interest, for some adventure cruising.

We have come to Plymouth, to the vaulted home of Stirling & Son at No1 Covered Slip, built 250 years ago to build Royal Navy warships – and the oldest Royal Dockyard slipway of its kind in the world.

It is a large space – 173ft (53m) long with a high Dutch-barn-style roof supported by two lines of wooden buttressed pillars. The roof came later, in 1814, and you can see how the prevailing wind – the slip faces southwest – has tilted it back somewhat. You can also see “footholds” – notches cut into the pillars, where yard workers would climb into the roof for maintenance, high above the granite block floor.
The slip was derelict for 60 years; though it is one of Plymouth’s great seamarks – you can see its great gaping entrance from miles out to sea. But for the last two years this is now home to a few boats, as Will Stirling and his team of 14 or so craftsmen moved in – Will’s own Integrity is here, along with Mirelle – both were due to slip as Mirelle’s refit nears completion. There is also the main project – a 72ft (22m) Silvers motor yacht, here for serious restoration. So after decades of neglect, this heritage slip, which had begun launching ships of the Georgian Royal Navy, is now back in service, as a heritage site – serving heritage vessels. 

Impressively it can take vessels up to 200 tons with its reconditioned ex-RNLI winch, which had done years of service at the Lizard, and which Will found in a field in the South Hams.

And its most recent relaunch before our visit was Tom Thumb. She was built in 1962, by J Kimber and DC Blake of Bridgewater, to the exacting specifications of Lloyds 100A1, and kept in class since then.

She was described by one gushing broker as a floating Fabergé egg. She has teak planks on a teak backbone with Canadian rock elm frames. As Will says: “No one would build a boat like this, out of materials like that, these days.”

So he has set out to improve her further, with materials that will prolong her longevity, over a six- month refit. Outwardly she still looks like a Vertue, albeit one in concours condition, with a fair hull and that deep gleam on her brightwork that says: “Yard kept”.

This of course extends to a lot of stuff you don’t see. For instance the team replaced all the ironwork, like her iron dumps along the centreline, with bronze. She has new bronze keelbolts holding her lead ballast keel in place. Her lodging knees, hanging knees and floors were all replaced with copper. It’s an approach that requires someone to be quite relaxed about using his chequebook, but it also describes an overall attention to detail that is building strength and longevity into the boat. And therein lies peace of mind… especially if you are going to take her into places, like the Straits of Magellan, where you are both going to be tested. Inwardly Tom Thumb is in another league. Will and his team – she had two craftsmen working on her most of the time – replaced her whole interior with tongue and groove oak, now painted an eggshell white, with teak trim.

The space inside a Vertue is not large, though Laurent Giles managed to make it look as though it belonged to a yacht five feet longer, even all those years ago in the 1930s. But Will has achieved a Tardis effect in this one, so that when you sit on one of her bench bunks, tilted back that couple of degrees to keep you nicely against the hull while at anchor, you look around and feel quite positively posh. The finish is exemplary.

Will has redesigned the interior so that the forward cabin, behind its signature Giles-arched door below the mast step, now houses just the Baby Blake head and storage space. In the saloon the port bunk extends under an open locker forward, which houses a Faversham stove. The stove pipe is kinked so that it emerges into the forward cabin as well, providing a drying heat there before exiting through the deck. The starboard bench is not long enough for most adults, but Will has made a quarter berth to starboard, extending under the cockpit seating.

Opposite this the Taylors stove and sink (of beaten copper) provide a functional galley. The chart table is a folding saloon table bolted into the cabin sole. Everywhere you look the workmanship is deceptively plain, almost Quaker-plain in the way it creates a calm space, but it’s beautifully designed and expertly finished and it’s the sort of cabin you can imagine reading in, by the light of the Danish fishing trawler oil lamp, or wan daylight through her raised coachroof windows as wind and rain buffet her in some secluded Scottish anchorage.

The modern mind tends to think it needs a lot of space to be comfy in a yacht cabin, whereas designers like Giles knew the opposite to be the case. The space between the bunks allows you to sit with your feet resting on the teak trim of the opposite bunk – you can wedge yourself quite comfortably like that while gale-size waves take hold of the hull and give you a bouncy ride on the bosom of the ocean. In a wider cabin you’d be slipping off them.
Likewise with cooking; you can wedge yourself into the arrangement here, between the fridge locker to starboard and the galley, which gives you better control of the fat pan of bacon and eggs. More space and you’d have to use a restraining belt, or lurch around like an astronaut on a space station, but speeded up…

But this space is just for two, according to the brief, and the result is something that feels quite luxurious. The tongue-and-grooved oak seatbacks, set against Tom Thumb’s Canadian rock elm frames, are tilted just right for your back. There’s good sitting headroom here and standing headroom under the raised coachroof – Giles’ later nod to necessity, having designed the early 1930s Vertues with trunk coachroofs extending aft, and no standing headroom below.

You emerge from this cabin, somewhat reluctantly at first, over the bridge deck into the cockpit, which has also been redesigned. This now has a slightly raised sole so that drainage is efficient through the drain holes aft. “The problem with most cockpits is that rainwater pools in places and that introduces the chance of rot,” Will said. “So this cockpit sole is actually a glassfibre tray with a moulded gully around the edges that collects water and allows it to run out of the drainage holes. I got this idea from Alasdair Flint (Arthur Beale chandlery et al), who has taken his Vertue Sumara of Weymouth to the Arctic.”
Above left to right: signature Laurent Giles arched door into the forward cabin; rebedding the window frames; pressure washing below deck under new deck beams

It’s interesting that Will needs to point this out, because I was looking at the cockpit sole and thinking what a fine and well-fitted bit of teak-grating it had. I love the idea and peace of mind this arrangement must give. And I think the design is a brilliant concept, to be adopted by restorers of boats like this. After all, your main task as a restorer of a wooden boat is to try to eliminate the amount of rainwater (with its payload of rot spores brought down from on high) that can enter the below decks space.

“When we brought Tom Thumb here we kept her afloat for a while and purposely went out beyond the breakwater into some heavy weather to see how things worked,” Will says. “And we found that to be a very worthwhile experience. When a boat is being pressed like that you can appreciate what is right about her deck layout, how the leads work and so on. But you can also find out what is not working well and work out how to change it.”

So for instance Tom Thumb has extra stays, running back stays with Highfield levers, which can be set up quite quickly for serious weather conditions, though ordinarily she does not need them.

The refit included a new deck, with deck beams, with a swept teak deck Sikaflexed over a plywood sub-deck. Another detail here: “We replaced the iron chainplates, which used to emerge through the deck, with bronze straps which are now bolted on to the outside of the hull,” Will explained. “These are now through-bolted to bronze straps extending down the inside of the hull, which spreads the load and also means there is no movement through the deck which could cause a leak there.”

The engine control panel is inside the cabin on a little bulkhead below the bridgedeck, along with the few electrics that have been allowed in this refit (VHF, nav lights, steaming, heater and depth). In the cockpit the Kobelt morse control is easy to hand and guns the reconditioned Volvo diesel.

For CB to photograph her, Will took Tom Thumb out for a sail around and just outside Plymouth Sound and from the start he was demonstrating her balance and seakindliness by leaving the helm and going forward on deck to attend to something. “She’s absolutely brilliant to sail,” he avows. “The helm is finger light and she handles very easily. We are used to Integrity, which is 62ft (19m), and you realise with a boat like this how much easier they are to handle – you can do a lot with muscle, which you just can’t do on a bigger boat. And that gives you more leeway to go to a whole lot of different places – because you can just grab the sail and pull it down, or push yourself off. And we’ve already been out in some bad weather… we just sat in the cockpit in drysuits and felt bulletproof.”

The concept for this restoration was for the boat to be taken on adventure cruises. And the first of these is already under way. Will has just put her as deck cargo to go to the Baltic. The idea is to cruise areas like the Aaland Islands, leaving her for the winter, and then next year to cruise further north, far into the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Arctic circle, both in Swedish and Finnish waters. “These will be training cruises,” Will says. “We want to shake the boat down, and get used to her before shipping her to the Straits of Magellan in two years’ time.”

Having spent five seasons sailing in the Arctic, including aboard the 1909 pilot cutter Dolphin, Will is under no illusions about the weather conditions in that area at the southern tip of South America, where the continent pushes its toe Cape Horn out into the roaring forties. But he is confident that Tom Thumb is the right boat to do it. 

Across the Atlantic in my Folkboat

Leo Goolden tells the story of his voyage from Falmouth, England to the Caribbean, much of it solo and without GPS, in his rebuilt 25-footer.
(Article of Courtesy Classic Boat Magazine) 

clas15-1544 I hoist the mainsail with the mooring lines still tied. A few curious faces peer over the railings. “Is that a Folkboat?” says an old fella’ with a bag of chips. “Where you off to?” “France!” I say. He gives me an odd look and wanders off down the stone quay. I hoist the jib, untie the spring, and flick the bow line over the bollard.

I back the jib, holding the clew to leeward on the foredeck until the bow falls off a little, and then give the wall a good kick from the stern. I take up the slack in the main sheet as Lorema bears away and the sails fill, the wake widens, and I hear the sound of the water accelerating over the clinker planks.

As I pass Trefusis point, I turn and wave goodbye to Falmouth and Cornwall and all the friends I have made there – until next time. After two years it feels like home, but I am finally embarking on the trip I have planned for so long, and I can barely contain my excitement and nerves. I am heading south, destination unknown, and it feels good.clas15-2234
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Stephens Waring: The Spirit is Strong

Bob Stephens and Paul Waring still draw lines plans in their boat design process. Then they apply modern design parameters and materials…

Story and Photographs Dan Houston, Courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine 

To Belfast, in Maine where I am meeting the design duo of Bob Stephens and Paul Waring, who are carving a name for themselves designing Spirit of Tradition craft which are extremely easy on the eye. The office is on the top floor of a three story red brick building on Main St, just a couple of blocks up from the waterfront of a pretty harbour. It’s a pleasant airy office with extra light brought into the design studio from a floor-to-ceiling artist’s window.

And I am a little surprised to see, alongside the wide computer screens with their CAD drawings of yachts from unusual angles, draughtsman’s tables with spline weights, like heavy black mini sperm whales – the traditional tool of the designer to hold the long splines in position to draw the curves of his design’s lines.

“We still draw out designs because it can actually save time at the beginning stage of the design process,” Bob says. “A hand drawing is also a great presentational tool for a prospective owner. It feels personalised and it’s a good size to be able to see the whole concept of the boat at once.” Of course I need no persuading about this and I love lines plans which are made by hand – they are far more like a work of art than the printout, albeit at A1 size, from a computer- aided design (CAD) programme.

But I’m just surprised to hear that it’s quicker. Bob and Paul avow this is so: “We use hand drawings in two ways,” Bob continues. “First it’s a quick way to develop the ideas of a design process. And secondly we find that when we are developing the construction details we also do that by hand because it’s quicker. But then we transfer that to CAD and the drawings we give to a builder will always be CAD.” I’m quite surprised to hear this because re-drawing the whole boat must surely take time. But Paul adds that this is how they mainly work in the beginning stages – even though the drawing in his desk is number four in the evolution of a design consultation.

With this faith in the speed of hand drawing it’s not too surprising that Bob says he was ten when he realised he wanted to design boats and started drawing properly aged 14 when his parents gave him a draughting set. It was some time before he was able to make his living from drawing boats – helping Joel White in his design office after a couple of years with his son Steve of the Brooklin Boatyard. “I did that for four years before he died in 1997, which was just before we launched the W Class Wild Horses.” About this time Paul had arrived in Brooklin and the pair teamed up with Steve White to become Stephens Waring and White, aiming to design lightweight SoT boats that were fast and easy to sail but which also looked good against the backdrop of so many classics in the local waters.

But after a couple of years the partnership ended and Stephens and Waring carried on as a partnership. Some of their signature designs were from this time,with boats like Hoi An, Geranium and Ginger, overleaf, redefining the way people saw Spirit of Tradition boats. The the recession struck and they had to endure some lean times: “Sometimes we would design a boat that never got built.” Three years ago they moved to the Belfast office and more recently business has turned up with several projects.

And they are excited about the future of their type of boat which can take from any classic design or tradition, from a sandbagger to a sailing barge and apply modern design parameters and building materials to make it sail faster. “It doesn’t always have to be long overhangs and a little spoon bow. There are many traditional designs that transfer well,” Paul enthuses. Watch this space…

Jet boat which acts as superyacht tender

While the SW partnership mainly concentrates on sailing yachts they have designed a number of motorboats and Bob was keen to show us Pandl, a 26ft 3in (8m) tender which is used to ferry crew to and from their 50ft (15.2m) 2003 creation, Hoi An.

But the boat is also a result of a design needing to cater for specific needs, and so, for instance she has an open transom to make it easy for owners to swim from her. Local experience of the area being littered with lobster pots also led to her being designed with a jet engine – so there’s no propellor to get caught up in a lobster buoy line, plus it makes swimming off the back easier too. To be able to access local beaches she has a very shallow draught – of just 14 inches (355mm).

“I drew this boat while I was still employed at the Brooklin Boatyard,” says Bob. “She’s very much a one-off and partly designed for the owner’s wife to be able to visit her mother on a local island offshore here. It would be 60 miles by road but only ten by sea. So she has a 240hp Yanmar four-cylinder turbo diesel that powers her along at 31 knots with a Hamilton Jet.”


Bob takes me out in Pandl to let me get the feel of the boat. She’s partly influenced by the local lobster boats which are so common in these waters… but you’d have to look twice to really see the provenance. It’s more in her lines than her steering and deck arrangement. She weighs just 5,200lbs (2,358 kg) which gives her a feeling of stability without seeming heavy. The jet is like a bucket which directs water. It takes a while to get used to but makes the boat very manoeuvrable. And an emergency stop just turns the bucket mouth from aft- facing to forward and you come to a halt in the water in a couple of boat lengths.

We don’t try this at speed because of the open transom!

Bob says there was a plan to put a gate across the stern but so far there has been no need to do that. We power up and in my notes I read that at 29.5 knots she “tracks like a witch, with no sense of waver, and you can walk around the deck without having to hang on”. But do note the calm waters we were in.

Tel: +1 207-338-6636,

At the Mercy of the Elements

I have been loving Vimeo for giving us a filmmakers view into the cooler woodshops and boatyards around our planet. These beautifully made films highlight the craftsmanship and total dedication of the gentle souls who pour a lifetime – sometimes many lifetimes and generations – of talent and skill into these wooden projects. It takes the boats and crafts they make to a new level when you can watch a film to see inside the passion of the shipwright or woodworker.

C Blunt Boat Builders in based in Victoria, Australia. They are another example of a cool old yard (Since 1858) handing down the passion over 5 generations. They do things the right way, even if it takes longer. And they still employ the marine railway – another sign of a boatyard with badassness and old timey coolness at their core.

Enjoy checking out this great boatyard. I even think they are hiring: Anyone?

The Detailers: Robert Darr

If the opening frame of this video doesn’t draw you in, then you can go back to watching your reality TV shows…. you must not be a [snowbound, longing for springtime] sailor. What is it about having the tiller in one hand and the mainsheet in another – sitting quietly in almost no breeze – aboard a little wooden beauty of a sailboat that captivates every sailors imagination? Am I right? Have you clicked?

We reached out to boatbuilder, Robert Darr, to get his insight into the work he was doing in our featured film. He had some cool insight to offer us about his work and about this boat in the film:

RD: The boat that I am hand-planing in the video is the ‘Eleanor’, named after my daughter.  I designed it about 12 years ago as part of the design class that I teach at the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding in Sausalito, CA.  The vessel is a sturdy mini ocean cruiser, 21′ long sloop with a displacement of nearly 2 tons. We cut the pepperwood and black locust trees for her hardwood, and local fir for her deck. We cast her lead keel and also patterned and cast her bronze fittings.  The other boat in the shop is the Loon, which I designed about 9 years ago, also in our design class.  Loon is 20′, with a displacement of one ton, half of which is in a bulb keel that adjusts from two feet to five feet of draft. Viewers may be interested to see other designs at our website:

Another tidbit about Bob and his school’s work that seems worth mentioning is their basic philosophy about teaching the craft of boatbuilding:

The Arques School has, since its inception, harvested its own lumber as much as possible, abandoned the use of toxic fungicides, and limited the use of harmful glues. Power tool noise hazards are reduced through an emphasis on hand tools, which also reduces the production of wood dust. The Arques School’s classes have been developed over the last twelve years to provide adult students with an authentic understanding of traditional boatbuilding.

Bob and the crowd at Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding is yet another example of fine boatbuilders who have, for many years, bought various products from Jamestown Distributors.  We are proud to have contributed the great work being done by Bob and his boatbuilding students. Thanks for the inside scoop on ‘Eleanor,’ Bob.

Sailing on the Herreshoff Schooner, Eleonora

Too much snow covering your fine yacht? In the northeast the sailing season is a distant dream, and hoisting and trimming sails seems foreign to those muscles now reserved for shoveling. How to remedy this on a fine winter’s day in February? GO [virtually] SAILING!

Eleonora is a replica of the mythic Nathaniel Herreshoff schooner, Westward, built in Bristol, RI in 1910. She was the fastest schooner of her day and this replica built in Holland in 2000, also impresses with her speed and beauty.

Beautiful wooden yachts such as Eleonora, tend to require lots of paint and varnish and Jamestown Distributors has it all! As we wait for the snow to melt and the season to crank up, it’s a great time to be working on putting coats down on your teak and mahogany pieces. From tapes to rollers, trays, brushes and all the paints, varnishes and coatings you could need – our store staff and call center is ready to help you select the right tools for your jobs. Let our top rated customer service reps get you started…and finished! So you can hit the water and sit back and admire your winter work.  Until then – Enjoy the sail!