The fourth running of our annual Camden Classics Cup regatta was one for the record books, with incredible weather and equally spectacular yacht racing. Keeping the wooden decks of those stunning vessels looking their best is what Larry Murray and the crew at Teak Decking Services do every day, and this month we take a deep dive into their craftsmanship. Finally, wood and composites aren’t the only materials we build (and repair) boats in, so we’re shining a spotlight on the metalworking skills that all our departments are bringing to bear on Gulf Challenger, an educational vessel. Our monthly Dispatches give you an in-depth look at an assortment of projects we’re working on in both Thomaston and Camden.
In this issue:
Record-Breaking Camden Classics Cup
Held under Maine-clear blue skies, building stratocumulus clouds, and 12- to 16-knots of freshening sea breeze, 67 yachts were on the starting line at the 4th Annual Camden Classics Cup. Starting off Ogier Point, near Camden Harbor in Penobscot Bay, the fleet was sent off at high noon through two days of racing that featured nine separate divisions of a full spectrum of contemporary, vintage, classic, modern-classic, and Spirit-of-Tradition racers.
Several local Maine day-charter schooners, including the Appledore II, also competed in their own division (Surprise won the drag race), organized by a race committee that executed its duties aboard the equally vintage Atlantide. This 123-foot luxury commuter was originally built in the United Kingdom in the 1930s, but Atlantide is most regarded for her feat of rescuing 35 troops from a disabled landing craft which she then took in tow during the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Courses varied by division, but overall the fleet was sent off into pristine 2- to 5-foot seas for remarkably tight racing, considering the diversity of the boats in the fleet. Of note, the Alden 62 Verissimo and Swede 55 Vortex traded finishing order in the Spirit-of-Tradition class but it was the custom Lyman-Morse-built and Stephens Waring-designed 65-foot Anna that was the runaway winner. The Sparkman & Stephens yawl Mah Jong and the Concordia 39 Snow Falcon played it close in their Vintage class. In the Classics Class, Palawan took it 2 and 1; while Mermaid took bronze both days and Cuilaun went 4 and 2 to finish 2nd overall. And it was essentially level racing between the Sparkman & Stephens 53-footer Anjaaca, the Cal 40 Towhee, and a 1970s One Tonner called The Hawk. Each battled it out for first, second, and third respectively in the split keel, Modern Classics class. Name a regatta where that assortment of boats can race that closely!
The tightest competition was for the Cup and the overall win itself. Yachts from the Classics and Vintage Divisions are eligible. The two dominant performances were between the two Vintage Divisions: Sonny, the custom Sparkman & Stephens 53’ sloop in Vintage Division 1, and Silent Maid, the 35-foot Barnegat Bay B Cat, in Vintage Division ll. They were effectively tied for the overall regatta win after two days of racing. The Race Committee had to drill down three rounds of handicapping tiebreaks for Silent Maid to be presented with the perpetual trophy – a sterling silver Tiffany Champagne bucket. Whew!
Icing on the Cake: How to Install Perfect Teak Decks
Murray, who got his start sweeping boat shops in Long Island when he was 12, is founder of Teak Decking Services, a marine teak installer and servicer. Murray leads a team that carefully measures the dimensions of a boat’s deck and then supervises the construction of either new or retrofitted teak decks. When the pre-constructed deck assembly arrives at that boat’s location, it’s Murray and his team that fits the pre-made custom structure expertly into place: The ultimate Stave puzzle or Dior couture.
“I saw a niche. I didn’t want to build teak decks in a boatyard, where we’re always underfoot,” says Murray. “Now we do the work in our shops. It doesn’t matter if the boat is in France, Germany, or New Zealand, or for that matter, in good old Thomaston, Maine.”
Murray is one of our favorite boatbuilding collaborators. His elegant teak decking and finishes have found their way into many major Lyman-Morse projects, including the custom yacht Anna , the recent refit of the Swan 100 Red Sky and Cabot Lyman’s own Seguin 49, Chewink . What makes Murray invaluable is he offers full service and installation on all-world-quality teak decking, at a firm price and lead-time. The amount of sustainably harvested Burmese teak he orders annually varies, but it’s easily thousands of square feet.
Not Your Grampa’s Teak Deck
The basic appearance of wooden decks, teak or not, has not changed all that much since the 1850s, when clipper ships were more common than the yachts we see today: Long wooden planks are secured to the structure hidden underneath. What differentiates Murray is how he combines cutting-edge materials and techniques to make his decks strong, beautiful and – most importantly – watertight.
Murray insists that the long narrow decking planks be carefully culled from solid teak logs to best reveal a vertical grain for better aesthetics and increased durability. Planks are then shaped using easily adjustable interlocking jigs, which can quickly find the shape and sheer of a complex curved deck in the rough teak stock. These jigs are so efficient that innovative tools like CNC machines can be used to shape the stock into planks. Next, the properly sized and shaped teak planks are laminated to a fiberglass backing scrim using a phenolic resin cured in a vacuum bag. The resulting sandwiched pre-structure is then finished off with roughly a ¼-inch of specially formulated caulk that gives the thin deck boards a lovely sweeping traditional look.
Murray’s high-tech laminate does away with the hundreds of screws, fender washers, bungs and other mechanical fasteners that almost always leak or fail, particularly as a boat ages and its joints soften. Murray’s pre-made teak panels can range from 40 feet long down to just a few inches, for small step-ups and treads. A specially formulated epoxy then adheres the finished deck panels onto a vessel’s existing subdeck, again using a vacuum bag to make the finished structure as durable and watertight as possible.
Murray and his team then finish off the deck with whatever trim, covering boards, and add-ons that a vessel’s design requires.
“Traditional teak decking just takes too long,” says Murray. “We pioneered a method where the complex work is done in our shop, to a very high standard, ensuring consistent quality no matter the design of the boat.”
Murray likes to refer anybody who’s interested in the entire process to a piece that ran in the February/March of 2017 issue of Professional BoatBuilder magazine.
The Joy of Teak
When asked what his favorite part of the teak deck making process is, Murray quips, “When the check clears!” But after a moment he says, calmly: “I am being 100 percent honest here: I get the same thrill from taking on a tender or a small dinghy as doing something major like an Anna or a Red Sky.”
Metalworking Aboard Yachts and Vessels of Higher Learning
Lyman-Morse has a thing for vessels associated with institutions of higher learning. Bowdoin, the Maine Maritime Academy’s training vessel, underwent a significant rebuild at our Camden yard a few years ago; Mashnee, a Buzzards Bay 30 owned by MIT, is a regular at the Camden Classics Cup; and now Gulf Challenger. This all-aluminum scientific exploratory platform is the flagship of the University of New Hampshire’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. Each vessel has its own story and taps into Lyman-Morse’s various strengths, be it wooden boat reconstruction, metal commercial workboat repair or construction, or participating in a great regatta.
“I’ve spent most of my career managing the refits and construction of custom yachts,” says Dennis Gunderson, one of five Lyman-Morse project managers. “But the cool thing about commercial vessels is, they are all about utility. Not so much time is spent making them the most graceful. However, they are extremely elegant in their single purpose.”
Gunderson is exploring his new interest in working with boats built to harvest marine data, along with Jonathan Egan, shop manager at Lyman-Morse Fabrication, also located in Thomaston. Gunderson and Egan are managing an intriguing round of service work on the 50-foot research vessel Gulf Challenger.
Gulf Challenger’s skipper, Bryan Soares, explains that the ship was launched in 1993 at Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Somerset, Mass. She was designed for research in and around the Gulf of Maine. She features twin Caterpillar C-12 660 HP ACERT engines and a beefy Caterpillar 1.5-liter, 13.5-kilowatt electrical generator and matching inverter that allows for both a flashy cruising speed of 17.5 knots and silent operation while drifting. Gulf Challenger can work both shallow estuarine and deep-sea waters. She can carry up to 39 passengers for short trips or maintain 5 or 6 scientists for overnight research out to a maximum of 100 nautical miles offshore.
The vessel is utilized by the University of Maine, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institution, NASA, and many private companies. “Most of our work is done near the New Hampshire coast but it’s not uncommon to find us as far south as Buzzards Bay or Martha’s Vineyard or as far east as Jonesport on the Downeast Maine coast,” says Soares.
Researchers, students and industry experts rely on Gulf Challenger to deploy and recover oceanographic moorings, study conductivity, temperature and depth probes. The vessel also manages autonomous underwater vehicles, helps develop and build side-scan sonar, underwater communication, and ocean-going acoustic equipment.
Built For Work
What intrigues both Gunderson and Egan is how Gulf Challenger is purpose-built for the business of science. She features a full laboratory below and features a series of oceanographic deck winches, a stern-mounted hydraulic “A-frame,” a folding stern platform for dive operations, and a 14-foot utility boat that can be launched from the foredeck. Gunderson and Egan are managing the Coast Guard-mandated service work for the vessel. The project includes opening roughly a dozen, 18-inch square access ports along the floor and deck in the main salon, as well as replacing a flybridge window and updating the hydraulic ram service and charging system.
Egan says that it usually might be expedient to use standard metal “fabbing” tools, like welders and plasma cutters to cut into the 3/16th-inch aluminum sheet stock found in Gulf Challenger. But such hot-work tools were specifically avoided because of the fire danger or potential damage to delicate equipment.
“A plasma cutter might make quick work of aluminum,” says Egan, “But then you have to think through the combustibles that might be at hand. So that’s obviously not a proper solution for this kind of boat.”
Instead, Egan and his team relied on cold-cutting processes that were not far from traditional boat building. All work on Gulf Challenger was done with standard tools like reciprocating, circular, and hole saws tooled up to manage the unique shapes found in this vessel.
“A lot of spaces were not convenient to work in” says Egan. “These tools worked best when we had to climb into the cupboards and tight spaces.”
Not Just Gulf Challenger
Lyman-Morse was a logical choice for Gulf Challenger’s skipper, as the yard has handled numerous high-profile aluminum vessels in the past. The company managed a two-year, ground up refit on the 73-foot Ron Holland-designed aluminum cruiser Volare. The project included a new engine room, mechanics, decking, and other systems. Lyman-Morse also operated with what was reported to be “surgeon-like precision” on a 1970’s era Aage Nielsen designed sloop named Hound. Corroded 4- by 8-foot aluminum hull plates had to be cut free, reinstalled, welded for true, and then faired, finished, and matched to the existing hull surface.
When asked what the differences are when managing refits on metal boats, as opposed to hulls of wood or composites, Gunderson replied, “The tools vary, obviously. You must think through corrosion and some other issues with metals. But essentially, it’s the same approach,” he says.
“We seek to provide the highest quality output we can, within our means.”
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