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Atkin Encounter in Boatbuilder

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  • jkohnen@boat-links.com
    George Buehler let loose with some thoughts about Billy Atkin in an article about a little schooner in the latest Boatbuilder magazine. I thought you might
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27 9:07 PM
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      George Buehler let loose with some thoughts about Billy Atkin in an article
      about a little schooner in the latest Boatbuilder magazine. I thought you
      might enjoy it, so, with George's permission, here's the relevant bit of
      the article:

      "Thoughts About Building Uncle Sam

      "I'm lucky enough to have experienced the marine press in the 1950's and 60's
      and early 70's back before it, other than this rag and too few others,
      became advertisement-driven rather than content driven.

      "One of my favorites was MotorBoating & Sailing, today known as MotorBoating,
      with current issues reviewing $50,000+ 24' outboard plastic boats. And such.

      "But back then, each month they printed an entire boat plan with an article
      about how to build it. William Atkin did most of them and some of his
      designs were and still are simply outrageous, or "outta sight!!" in my
      generation's vernacular. His "Eric," a 32' double ended ketch sailed by a
      Brit, was the winner of the first single handed around-the-world race. Her
      plans were in MB&S back in the 1940's, I believe. Atkin's Thistle, a flush
      deck cutter and the original version of Eric, was "plagiarized" and the
      freeboard raised, and it was a smash success in the production boat world
      under the name Westsail 32. Atkin's name was never mentioned. Atkin's
      incredible Ingrid design was first built out of plastic in Seattle by Don
      Pitblado in the late 1960s, who bought the plans from MB&S and built the
      boat for himself. The hull was used without Don's permission when it was
      hauled out in Pt. Townsend, as a mold, and later many hulls were (and might
      still be) sold under a local name. The same design was built and heavily
      advertised under a name I can't remember -- "Alueyla 38" or something.
      Neither gave mention to Atkin. In fact, there are numerous examples of
      plastic boat companies taking Atkin's designs, building molds and selling
      them, and not giving credit to the now dead designer or money to the family.
      There's at least one still selling an Atkin rip-off today here in Washington
      state.

      "There are also a few Herreshoffs being built in glass which is especially
      funny because he wrote in his wonderful book Common Sense of Yacht Design,
      "fiberglass is a material suited only for the sons of labor leaders to take
      bad girls up the river in." He was a tremendous draftsman, maybe one of the
      best of the 20th century (many of the 19th were freakin' magical and at his
      par....), certainly one of the most gifted designers ever, and actually had
      equally the versatility and originality of his father, Nathaniel Herreshoff.
      And, he was an entertaining writer. He was also a rather pompous, rigid,
      opinionated, and probably insufferable old coot, just the sort of person who
      is interesting. I wish I had met him and it kills me I never bothered to do
      so back when I was running around his neighborhood in the 1960s. I didn't
      appreciate him particularly then, although one of his early designs,
      Wagonwheel, is one of my all time favorites and I did dig it then.

      "But back to Bill Atkin. Atkin was a prolific designer and a wonderful writer
      about boats and was able to turn out a "how to build" article about each
      design almost monthly. His designs, along with a few other designers' stuff,
      were compiled by MB&S (a name that is now gone] in a series of books printed
      in the 1940's, 50's and 60's and now long out of print. I own three of them.
      You occasionally find them on the used book market, but good libraries will
      have them all.

      "Don't steal them! Photocopy them! The Seattle library has one of the best
      collections of boatbuilding stuff in the US. The books are all reference and
      can't be checked out, which is why they still have them. You can photocopy
      whatever you want from them.

      "If this were an Atkin article he'd give a brief description of how to build
      this boat, embellished with a story, made cute but friendly, yet oddly not
      corny, with a steady use of calling you "shipmates" and establishing a
      connection with the reader and a gentleness that is yet to be matched in
      boat stuff writing. To show you how corny and innocent Atkin was, in WWII he
      flew in front of his home whatever flag of whatever US ally was winning
      whatever battle. Some days that meant the Evil Empire (USSR). The FBI
      investigated his son, a merchant marine officer, over that! Too bad the gay
      rights stuff happened 40 years later. If J. Edgar hadn't thought of himself
      as a closet pervert and had instead accepted his, ah, "bent," things would
      likely have been different today. . .

      "But anyhow, this ain't an Atkin article and I do not have his skill of
      describing the building briefly. So I wrote a book called Buehler's Backyard
      Boatbuilding and it does tell you how to build boats like Sam. Not briefly,
      either. You can buy it through this rag, if you look in the Books For Sale
      section on pages 32-33. Or from me if you go to my web site which is
      http://georgebuehler.com "

      The little schooner is a nice one:

      http://www.georgebuehler.com/unclesam.html

      --
      John <jkohnen@...>
      http://www.boat-links.com/
      Correlation does not imply causation; except, of course, to your cat.
      <Craig O'Donnell>
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