I’ve seen a lot of extremely beautiful things in the course of writing this column – custom-made clothing, exquisite, one-off jewellery, and made-to-measure everything – but I don’t think any have been as spectacular as the bespoke wooden boats being produced by Artisan Boatworks, a group of singularly talented craftspeople based in Rockport, Maine.
“Many clients who come to us know what they want,” explains owner and master builder Alec Brainerd. “They’re looking for lasting value and environmentally sustainable boats that will stand the test of time. For many, the restoration of a family heirloom or the commission of a custom boat is the culmination of a lifelong dream.” And from precise replicas of classic designs to the latest in high-performance carbon-fibre and cold-moulded daysailers, racers, and cruisers, these are boats built to endure.
Artisan Boatworks brings new meaning to the “custom” concept – it works collaboratively with clients to meet deadlines, respect budgets (really) and ensure that the end result is exactly what you’re after. Bringing years of combined seafaring experience – Brainerd has sailed across the Atlantic, aboard a William Fife ketch, through the Med and around New Zealand, where he oversaw the refit of a 100ft 1939 Camper & Nicholsons yawl – this design collective is inspired by such yachting greats as Nathanael Herreshoff, Starling Burgess and John Alden to create vessels that “blend timeless beauty and wholesome performance”.
The classic rowboat – a Nutshell Pram with Norwegian origins, or a Catspaw Dinghy (from about $5,000-$50,000) – can be elevated to high art, and makes a great tender for a larger coastal cruising yacht. Sailboat varieties are endless and include the Nantucket Indian, a small keel daysailer that performs well in a range of conditions; the Murmur (pictured); the Haven 12½, a hard-to-capsize boat (all from about $70,000); and the Boothbay Harbor One Design (price on request), a daysailer that is capable of great speeds.
Particularly special are the Watch Hill 15s (from about $150,000) – fast, responsive beauties that ply the water with slick ease – as well as the International Dragon, a European-inspired racing-class boat that’s built to handle rough waters (price on request). These specialised creations feature hull planking of northern white cedar, frames of bent oak, finishes of Burma teak and Sitka spruce, as well as brightwork crafted from Honduras mahogany – all of which combine to “satisfy the senses in a way that a boat constructed with synthetic materials never will”.
Artisan Boatworks’ wooden heirlooms are delivered all over the world – from the south of France to the UK to Newport, Rhode Island – and as Brainerd points out: “The value in these boats is in the pedigree, not in adding unnecessary bells and whistles. We work within an aesthetic element and these boats continue a tradition that spans the centuries. They will always be the choice of a true connoisseur.” Here’s to a lifetime of smooth sailing…