BROOKLIN — Tucked up inside snug Center Harbor, the Brooklin Boat Yard has developed a reputation for building big, fast, beautiful sailing yachts from a variety of designers.
There’s a 91-footer in the shed now scheduled for a spring launch, and over the past few years, BBY has delivered the 91-foot Bequia, the 74-foot Foggy, styled by architect Frank Gehry, the 72-foot Toroa and the 68-foot Isobel, as well as several boats in the 40- to 60-foot range.
Each of those boats represents a unique design custom-built for a particular owner — no two alike.
Now BBY is turning its hand, or one hand at least, to a completely different venture. Later this year, the yard will start building a cold-molded version of the 26-foot centerboard Alerion sloop designed in 1913 by Nathaniel G. Herreshoff, the “Wizard of Bristol,” for his personal use. The boats won’t be exact replicas of the original, but rather a slightly modified boat, the “Alerion Class Sloop,” developed by Alfred Sanford and first built by the Sanford Boat Co. of Nantucket in 1977.
“It was pretty radical, taking an old design and using contemporary wood construction,” Sanford said. “We wanted to make a wooden boat, we made a wooden boat, that could be maintained like a fiberglass boat.”
In all, Sanford built 27 Alerion Class Sloops, 21 of them between 1977 and 1981 and a half-dozen more beginning in 1996. The company also licensed the design to a Cape Cod boatbuilder that produced two more boats.
Steve White, Brooklin Boat Yard’s owner, is excited about the project.
“We are the official builder for Sanford Boatworks of Nantucket for the Alerion Class Sloop,” White wrote in an email. “We have also purchased the ground floor of the Odd Fellows building,” located on Reach Road at the entrance to BBY. “We are going to set up the first floor as a small boat building shop” that will be dedicated to producing Alerions.
On the BBY website, White explained why the yard got involved with Sanford.
“I have wanted to build a production boat for some time now,” he said. “With a production boat, we can give our customer three big advantages: the customer knows he is buying a proven boat that has been tried and tested, the customer knows the price and delivery, all he has to do is write the check; and we, the yard, know we can deliver a superior product without any unpleasant surprises.”
Sanford is excited too. A lifelong sailor, he became a customer of BBY, which he calls “the best boatyard in the world,” in 1987. Though he lives on Nantucket, he and White have become sailing companions and good friends.
“His philosophy and our philosophy are perfectly merged,” Sanford said.
If all goes as planned, work on the first BBY Alerion will get underway this summer and should take “three or four months” to complete, Sanford said. The first boat could be ready to launch in October.
“It’s going have to have a Florida owner,” Sanford said with a laugh.
Once the building process is established and the BBY crew becomes familiar with it, each boat should take about two months to complete.
“We’re going to try to have two going at once,” Sanford said, so the production from the shop should be “about a boat a month.”
The Alerion sloops won’t be the first Herreshoff-designed boats built by Brooklin Boat Yard. Over the years, BBY built several of his 33-foot Buzzards Bay 25 daysailers designed in 1914, a year after Alerion.