A Boatbuilder’s Schmee – Wayne Roberts

Co-Founder Steve Stone traveled to New Zealand and helped Wayne Roberts build a boat. The experience was so delightful and the effect so enduring, it was one of the initial sparks of inspiration for OffCenterHarbor.com. When having a boat built, the first step is determining if the “schmee” of a boatbuilder fits with the experience you want to have. We love Wayne Roberts’ schmee. But what is “schmee,” you ask? Schmee is common term used around Off Center Harbor to describe the essence of something. The thing that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. The “gestalt” shall we say. In our “The Schmee of…” series, we’ll be visiting with boatbuilders and sailors all around the world to capture the essence of why they do what they do. Their “schmee.” Settle on in to that chair in front of the fire and enjoy. It’s worth noting the enduring message of Wayne’s schmee — as this was recorded nearly 20 years ago and is even more relevant today than it was then.

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26 Responses So Far to “A Boatbuilder’s Schmee – Wayne Roberts

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    Allan Burke says:

    Another excellent video!…couldn’t help but note that longer oars would have made for easier stroke-making.

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    Douglas Wilkin says:

    I get it. In theory. However, in practice, there’s nothing like a cozy cabin with a stove to make a cup of tea. A shower after a long day. A cozy bunk for the night. Not to mention GPS, VHF, a diesel and other modern amenities. There is a sweet spot. A fiberglass boat with lots of brightwork, and a teak interior is the best of both worlds.

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    What a wonderful story. My late husband was jokingly called by our close friends as “the man with a million boats”. Well, that was a ‘tad’ of an exaggeration… because he only had about 20! Sailboats, a couple of small power boats, row boats, canoes, dinghies, and rafts all comprised his boat empire. Our biggest treasure was (and still is for me) our 40-foot Bill Garden sloop, the Sea Turtle, with its double keels/shaft – a very unique design, built with Redwood/Fiberglass overlay. Its hull is very thick. The Sea Turtle is an absolute joy to sail, very steady even on rough waters.

    However, JD’s most joyful moments were spent on a beautiful, wooden pram that glides with such smoothness one cannot even see the ripples on the water. This pram was his absolute favorite, and he would take it out for hours on end thoroughly enjoying the solitude and simplicity of it all. I learned early on from him that to enjoy a vessel of any type, one does not need all the bells and whistles – simply being on the water, taking in the breeze, and being thankful for having such privilege is all we ever need.

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    Donald Sullivan says:

    From Wayne Roberts, to Roger Barnes, to the Townsend Tern . . . and everything in between; what a great 10 years. Thank you 🙏

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    Timm Sahs says:

    Long story short. I have spent most of my life, 73 years to be exact, working on wooden boats of all kinds. Starting with a sneak box sailboat to a 1916 R- sloop (which never got back under sail while I possessed her). To finally sailing again, only this time with a 17′ sailing rowing Swamp Scott. Its wooden of course!! I can sail it by myself, row it myself or with my wife. Or row it by myself. Or sail it again, if the wind picks up. Back to basics in a Dory. I can’t wait for spring, start early with this boat, go to my wooden rowing shell in the summer. Back to the Dory in the fall|!!!

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    Joseph Wl Haley III says:

    I have owned half a dozen small sail. Sailed as crew of large sail. But one of the most fun craft that I sailed, in my youth was a ‘Two Man Life Raft, when no money for a proper boat to
    sail. I used junk wood to build a thwart with Leeboards, one of the aluminum paddles for tiller and rudder. A wooden closet dowel for mast, with shower curtain for a spritsail. Sailed her all over Sarasota Bay with my buddies sailing by with a wave and Ha Ha !! Didn’t mind. I was on the water under sail.

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    Peter Strock says:

    In the video Wayne scoots by a ? Stonehorse ? which reminded me of 40+ years as a cruising chum of Mait Edey, of Edey and Duff, the builder of the Stonehorse. He was a knowledgeable friend of L. Francis. If you can find the little brochure that Mait wrote about the characteristics that made the Stonehorse a perfect selection as a coastal companion it is Version II of the Compleat Cruiser. And interestingly in the end Mait was sailing a Swampscott Dory design modified by Pete Cullen to a yawl rig. Sort of a Caledonia rig. Simplicity itself.

    His simplicity had him go without an “iron wind”: If the tide was against you it would change, if the wind dropped it would come back, and an ash wind was always available.Varnish was nice, but required maintenance. Spars got a coat of Linseed oil and turps and turned black in the sun. Wood was best but fibreglass made sense, not unlike L. Francis and his attitude to plywood. Just don’t build boats resembling Clorox bottles with it. And never THROW the anchor ! Lower it.
    I am sure there are lots of others with icons whose wisdom and experience it is hard to pass on in this intense world we seem to live in. Perhaps OCH could serve to collect such cruising wisdom, much like the Compleat Cruiser, which could help guide a generation that thinks it is all to be found on the Internet. I would offer: the rules for eating an open faced PB&J without spilling the J but with one hand on the tiller. It is simple to do !

    Fair winds

    Peter Strock

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      John Wujack says:

      Season’s Greetings Peter, The boat in the background has a raised deck, but it certainly is not a Stone Horse. As a Stone Horse owner one of my prized possessions is the original SH brochure of which you speak. I can’t tell you how many times I fell asleep dreaming with that bit of wisdom in my head. It wasn’t until decades later that I became an owner. I met Mait once in Key Largo, Florida in the mid 1980’s. He happened to be visiting some friends the day that I launched my Munroe, Egret Sharpie. I remember him saying, “She’s right on her waterline. Well done! A sweet remembrance from many years ago. Best regards, John

  • Denis Hazlewood

    Denis Hazlewood says:

    I’m 83 and in 2018 I built a 12 foot sharpie skiff to get out and row, because I hadn’t had a boat for the previous 12 years, for the first time since I was 19. Folks ask why an old man doesn’t have a motor. I’m the motor and that’s as it should be. At one with the water, just like when I was 12 and rented waterlogged flatiron skiffs at the fuel dock for a penny a minute.

    A jug of water, a couple of Snickers, an “Oh S#@t” gear bag (cause I’m old) and a beautiful pair of Shaw & Tenney oars, Heaven on earth, and dirt simple.

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    Peter Balcziiunas says:

    I’ve been on the water for most of my 80 years; bigger boats (other peoples)smaller boats (mine0. There is so much to learn about the world and yourself while afloat. For me it boils down to the wisdom of TAO: there are rules in the universe which require us to belay our egos, to learn what the conditions require, and find adjustments and strategies that aline our desires with the demand wind and water. This issue the way to peace and satisfaction in our goals

    Peter Balcziunas, aboard the Old Coot, out of Burlington, VT

  • Suzan Wallace

    Suzan Wallace says:

    Thank you! Beautiful, Simple Message encapsulates how I have felt sailing, rowing and paddling a plethora of small boats my entire life. Big boats are great, but “nothing beats the intimacy of a small boat set off for a day’s adventure”.
    Capt. Suz Wallace USSA Instructor, USCG Master Mariner, President of the Traditional Small Craft Association

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    One must have wisdom to do and enjoy the simple but priceless activities that life throws at us when we become too impressed with our accomplishments. Sailing the Chicago to Mackinac Island race seven years in a row hardly qualifies me to be a member of the “Old Goats” flootila; for it takes 50 races to become a member of that crew of sailors.However, it does reset one’s priorities in life so that you place the simple pleasures of life- and of sailing at the head of each days Log Book entry.
    George C Velbeck Past owner of the vessel, STEELAWAY

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    Brent Williams says:

    Such true statements, it’s being on the water that brings such peace and joy. I would rather cross the ocean with old style navigation any day. #1 having that knowledge will take you anywhere, if you loose that knowledge and you rely on electronics and they go down what are you going to do. Any true weathered seaman can tell you that anything can happen at anytime on the water.
    Really enjoy this group and site. Sail fast and true my friends

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      Laszlo Morocz says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that knowing how to navigate without electronics is one of my most satisfying accomplishments, BUT…

      For the price of a good sextant you can buy a dozen handheld GPS units, batteries and waterproof boxes to store them in. Scatter them throughout the boat and in any situation that leaves you enough boat to navigate you’ll also have at least one GPS unit that will give you your position to within 10 meters.

      The answer to the old question, “What are you going to do when your electronics fail?” has now become “Grab one of the spares”. Now back to the older question, “What are you going to do when it’s been overcast for 3 weeks?”

      Merry Christmas

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    Thomas Buzzi says:

    After kayaks and dingys my first “real sailboat” was a 1974 Montgomery 17. I enjoyed the heck out of it. That was back in 1983. In the ensuing years, I would own a Flicka 20, a Cape Dory 28 and an S2 36′ racer. Now retired in 2020 I own another Montgomery 17. It, once again, supplies the best “bang for the buck” I have experienced in sailing.

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    Ian Weedman says:

    Listening to Wayne narrarate invokes the same feelings as the experience which he describes. More please….

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    Sandy & Sidney van Zandt says:

    Sidney and I have fond memories of sailing into Opua in the Bay of Islands after a 1200 n/m passage from Fiji in November 1991. We hired Brian Douglass to rebuild our Volvo 11 MD 3.
    We stayed on a mooring at Orin’s Boat Yard,while Brian was working on the engine. I sailed with Brian on his 28 ft sloop in the Wednesday evening races. We usually ate a meal at the Opua Sailing Club after racing. Our mail was handled with care by Colleen at the PO on the dock. George Batman was the Port Captain for the Ocean Cruising Club and was always so helpful. He helped organize a Thanksgiving pot luck celebration at the OSC with about 100 attending….Opua Day was a great festival with sailing races, canoe races with the huge canoe with 114 paddlers . There was also a swimming race for dogs, starting from a barge anchored
    out in the harbor. Orams was building a all Kauri motor-sailer.
    Such wonderful memories.
    Sandy and Sidney Van Zandt Noank Ct

    Sandy and Sidney Van Zandt. Noank Ct

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      Doug Day says:

      Great words of wisdom. Wayne Roberts reminds me of Buck Smith, the first time I met him. I was fogged in on North Haven before the days of any radar or GPS in my life. I sailed blind over to Green’s Island to “meet that artist” and he emerged down the mossy path barefoot, as we see Wayne leave us, leaning his oars against an alder. Both guys carry themselves with an enviable confidence, esp. when building a boat.

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    Neil Henderson says:

    I spent my childhood with my parents and 2 sisters messing around in an 11′ Gull Dinghy – I have never forgotten the sheer joy of sailing her across the loch (Lochcarron) on my own and the fun we had as a family on fishing trips in her. She was a very simple boat but she taught me and my sisters that fun was not something that comes from a complex boat – it’s simplicity that is fun.
    That is why I am now building a fairly straightforward 17′ clinker day boat.

    Hence the issues with the current format of the Americas Cup – not fun!

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    Chris Noto says:

    That’s a beautiful piece, Steve. I have been a member here for only a short time, but I’ve circled back to this one. I was moved by its deep and simple rightness even before I saw Wayne’s dates at the end. With my own sixty-seventh birthday coming within four months, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reminding me of the prescious nature of each day.

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    Warren Doucette says:

    Looking for a sailing skiff design to build. 15ft flat bottom 5′ 6” beam. Do you have any suggestions

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      Jerry McIntire says:

      The Goat Island Skiff of course unless you want a comfortable seat. The Core Sound 15 if that is the case. Neither are traditional construction, but both are light and fast with somple rigs.

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    Kip Otteson says:

    Thanks for posting such a great nugget. I’m just about to start building my Caledonia Yawl with my kids and this video gets at the heart of what I hope to teach my kids concerning simplicity and doing something on our own. It’s refreshing to be around boat enthusiasts that aren’t rich and can’t afford the lifestyle, and don’t want it, that comes with sailing, but enjoy the essence, schmee, of being on the water. This is the type of video that is fairly rant-inducing!

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    William Boulden says:

    As I matured and watched my children grow up, now having my oldest out on his own. The memories they hold dearest is the time we spent doing something simple. Like figuring out how to operate our first little sailboat together. Thank you! Great vid.

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    Bob Lister says:

    I enjoyed the vidio very much and can’t help but think it is our job to instill these ways of thinking to our youths. They are quickly forgetting that you don’t need electronics and a big motor to enjoy life. While building a skiff at the museum the younger visitors could not grasp the reasoning for a sculling notch as opposed to an outboard cutout.

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      Steve Stone says:

      Thanks Bob. With our young kids coming into boating age, Eric and I feel lucky to be around these guys who’ve seen the deeper pleasures available through simplicity.


Sensible Cruising Designs, by L. Francis Herreshoff

The Compleat Cruiser, by L. Francis Herreshoff

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