Nat has been sailing since he was a small boy, doing his first offshore delivery (to St. Thomas) when he was 20. When he arrived in the Caribbean there were still many classic yachts – wooden of course – in the charter fleet and Nat feasted his eyes on lovely old beauties from the drawing boards of Alden and Herreshoff, Sparkman & Stephens, Fife, Camper & Nicholson, Rhodes, and many others from the golden age of yacht design. Since then Nat has gone on to do many more deliveries and to sail on many different boats (some of his own design and construction) all around the North Atlantic rim. In 1972, Nat and his family sailed into Vineyard Haven Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard on a Johan Anker 10-meter sloop.
With Ross Gannon, another craftsman hooked on boats and sailing, Nat founded a boatyard in 1980 that specializes in the design, construction, repair, and maintenance of wooden boats, and named it Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway. Nat and Ross wished to establish a “funky, friendly boatyard” on the beach such as they had seen in the Mediterranean and in the Caribbean. Since its founding, G & B has built or repaired many boats, nurtured many budding craftsmen, and taken a lot of people sailing. After more than three decades, Nat and Ross and their families have clearly settled into the island community.
Together Nat and Ross have built over 60 substantial boats, mostly to designs by Nat, and a small fleet of smaller row and sailing boats, also of Nat’s designs. The partners take pride in building boats that are known for their seaworthiness, practicality, speed, and elegant simplicity as well as for meticulous craftsmanship using the highest quality materials. Nat comments that they prefer to work for people who share their passion for sailing. “I try to combine the basic ingredients for safety, speed, and comfort, with a strong emphasis on good looks,” he says. “I’m not concerned with any rating system. I prefer to see men, women, and children sailing with a smile. I feel it is very important to keep an eye on current trends, but not to be influenced by the glitter, only the grace.”
In addition to his qualifications in wooden boat design and construction, Nat is a delightful companion and anyone fortunate enough to sail with him is in for a truly special and memorable experience. Nat holds a USCG 100-ton license.