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Walkabout at Brooklin Boat Yard, 91-Foot Cutter SONNY

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April 18, 2018

Sure, yachts are beautiful when the crowd gathers for launching day. But we wanted to see what it's like four days before launch day, so we asked Eric Blake for a insider's walkabout of Brooklin Boat Yard's new 91' cutter SONNY. It's hard to grasp just how much talent they have at that yard, until you see what lies beneath the surface. When he swings open the electrical panel, we swear that we heard angels singing at the sight of Ronnie Billings' electrical masterwork. This boat was a joint project between Rockport Marine (hull and deck) and Brooklin Boat Yard, with hefty contributions by quite a few other companies. Eric was project manager for Brooklin Boat Yard.

Navigate Further...


You can go to Eric's Guide page for more videos and walkabout posts featuring Eric's work.


This sail plan and interior arrangement are just two of over 300 drawings that Brooklin Boat Yard's design office created for the building of this 91-foot cutter.


Brooklin Boat Yard
Rockport Marine (built the hull and deck)

Acadia Sails & Canvas, Southwest Harbor, Maine
Americas Wood
Aurora CanvasBar Harbor Interiors
Gorilla Rigging
Hewes and Co.
Hylan & Brown Boatbuildiers
Nautilus Marine
North Sails
Offshore Spars
Wallace Interiors
Whetstone Boats

Comments, Thoughts or Suggestions?

You can leave a comment or question for OCH and members below. Here are the comments so far…

58 Responses So Far to “Walkabout at Brooklin Boat Yard, 91-Foot Cutter SONNY”:

  1. Avatar Dave Dickmeyer says:

    What a fabulous piece of art and craftsmanship! Thanks for the tour Eric. I would hope we’ll all get to see the launching video!

  2. Avatar Dustin Higdon says:


  3. Avatar Colin Rochester says:

    First reaction was great admiration for everyone in the design and build. But looking back, the total extravagance and consumption of limited and valuable timber resources on a single vessel makes me feel a bit sick. Brings to mind the historical obliteration of forests by seafaring nations. At least in those days there was no alternative, now there is.

    • Avatar Laszlo Morocz says:

      Trees at least are theoretically renewable. What bothers me about this is how many families are struggling to get by on minimum wage jobs (assuming they’re lucky enough to even have a job these days) with no healthcare during a pandemic and no internet access for their kids who can’t attend schools in person. Sure, this kind of extravagance gives employment for the boatyard ecosystem, but it’s a very inefficient way to get money into the hands of those that need it the most.

  4. Avatar Randy Frazer says:

    Great walk about the boatyard January 2019.Whatever became of the 91′ SONNY?
    Keep up the GREAT work. Most enjoyable

  5. Avatar Victoria Goldstein says:

    It warms Alan’s and my hearts to see WH 21 Sphinx being cared for by your capable hands. BBY did a magnificent rebuild of Whippet 20 years ago and it is our hope that the rest of the fleet will eventually be cared for by you…

  6. Avatar Roger Elmes says:

    The biggest boat I ever had was a 70″ cutter (removable hydraulic inner stay) with many of the same systems but much simpler (KISS). It was a stripped out racer (optimum off-wind up to about 25 knots surfing) designed for open ocean work. But this vessel is so far beyond mine in all respects it was a real pleasure to watch this video. Just think I only have to wait another 17 years …Something to ok forward to. In the meantime I look forward to videos of her after completion and under sail. Really looking forward to seeing her under spinnaker.

  7. Avatar Terry Smith says:

    I thought I’d seen just about everything. And then I discover (in a preceding comment) that this is for an owner who’s 94 and still going for the gusto. Well played, sir; very well played.

  8. Avatar Charles Jackson says:

    The project management and coordimation is worthy of a detailed study/report !, …love it, …..Thank you

  9. Avatar David White says:

    What a beautiful yacht! Highly impressive but I’m more impressed to know Mr. Phelps is still with us and sailing! Wow! I used to Sail on a Sonny with Mr. Phelps in the early 1970s in my teen years out of Stamford Yacht Club. That Sonny was a Whitby 45. Memories include playing with my first SSB and listening to a transmission from Australia. Just forward of the helm facing the cockpit was a sign saying “do not talk to the helmsman” and then there was a porthole to the galley that was labeled Madalyn’s …………. Great memories with a skilled and generous sailor.

  10. Avatar Gary herbertson says:

    If that were my project, and I were going to be move-ing her out of the shop in 4 days and then launch a week later, I think that I’d be pretty anxious. Eric seems pretty calm about craftsmen from all over the world descending on the site next week to finish up, though. WOW!

  11. Avatar Robin Blakley says:

    If you check out this site you can see the last SONNY built for the same owner, for sale…with some of the same great woodworking, including an almost identical settee.

  12. Avatar Ellen Massey Leonard says:

    Holy Moly is right! A great example of the KISS philosophy… In all seriousness, though, thanks for a great tour of an incredible piece of workmanship – the skill of the people at BBY and the other businesses involved is phenomenal. Can we have a video of launching and sailing??

  13. Avatar Geoff Kerr says:

    As soon as I stop trembling I will humbly go varnish a 17′ wooden mast. I’m curious about at what stage of completion the hull and deck were transported to Brooklin, and how that was accomplished?

  14. Avatar Rod McLaren says:

    Quite amazing. Proof of what co-operative efforts can achieve when meeting such daunting design challenges. If only we could put similar efforts into solving the many environmental problems our species has created on our Earth Mother/Gaia.

    • Avatar Stuart James says:

      Yes, a triumph of design, engineering and skllled artisans, congratulations to all at BBY ~ but probably not the sort of legacy I would wish to leave the world.

  15. Avatar Michael Bigos says:

    So proud of Brooklin Boat Yard growing into such a world class wooden boat builder. The finest craftspeople and designers building the most beautiful, seaworthy boats in the prettiest place. And Eric, you make a great ambassador.

  16. Avatar Ken Weinstein says:


  17. Avatar Richard Rylander says:

    What a fantastic build, AND in 18 months. Amazing!

  18. Avatar Fernando Fert says:

    Now i really wanna one of these…

  19. Avatar Scott Lundin says:


  20. Avatar Chris Methot says:

    Obviously, this is an completely amazing video, even for people who aren’t into sailing. Perhaps, you could wait a month and then post it on YouTube or the BBY website for all to enjoy? Please?

  21. Avatar William English says:

    Magnificent! Congratulations to all who are working on her. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more about her launching and trial. Video is a tribute to her majesty!

  22. Avatar Charlie McLaughlin says:


  23. Avatar Curtis buyser says:

    Absolutely fascinating. The complexity of this yacht is mind-boggling. Another excellent video!!!

  24. Avatar Dave Dickmeyer says:

    I’m so amazed at the quality and level of workmanship of all involved I really don’t have the works to express myself…

  25. Avatar Richard MacKinnon says:

    I like it. Where do I sign?

  26. Avatar Michael Barra says:

    I second Ted’s Holy Moly! Seeing is believing! Amazing craftsmanship and time management/coordination of subcontractors. Thank you Eric for the great tour. Can’t wait to see the launch.

  27. Avatar Rod Sipe says:

    If I were English I’d say that Sonny leaves me “gobsmacked”, but I’m just from Oklahoma, so I just slapped my forehead.
    You guys do such a great job of capturing the details that bring the process alive. I was always amazed at the sophistication the boatbuilding community applies to their craft, I didn’t expect that it would be so effectively applied to cinematography, as well. We need an annual award….”and now, to present the award for the best hydrodynamics explanation in a schooner build walkabout…”

  28. Avatar Chip Painter says:

    So impressive and Eric you did a great job with your description and tour of Sonny!

  29. Avatar Keith Pullin says:

    “Wow” !! What a great video, thanks for that. I hope were going to see the Launch & trials.
    Cheers Keith.

  30. Avatar J.D. Bondy says:

    I’m hoping for a time lapse video of the rigging of the mast!

    • Avatar Ben Mendlowitz says:

      Hi J.D., you can find one on my Instagram page @woodenboatphotographer. I’ll see if we can get it posted on the Navigate Further area under the video in a few days for those who aren’t on Instagram.

  31. Avatar Mark Weber says:

    I was lucky enough to have been in the shop the day before the first topcoat was sprayed. I was intensely curious about the details behind this great machine and really appreciate the quality and thoroughness of this video. Amazing from concept to completion.

  32. Avatar David Tew says:

    Isn’t this the second or third Sonny built for the same owner, or am I mistaken?

    • Steve Stone Steve Stone says:

      Yes, Dave. This is the third SONNY that BBY has built for the same owner. I hear that he enjoys the process of having a boat built at BBY with Steve White and crew so much, he just keeps coming back. I also hear that when he first called Steve White regarding this boat, he said something like: “I don’t need a boat, but I need a project.” Everyone I spoke to at the launch who worked on the project had bright eyes and a bounce in their step at how proud they were of their work and the entire experience of working for this owner. He is 94.

  33. Avatar Alden Reed says:

    What a treat. Thank you Eric! Can’t wait to see more of SONNY.

  34. Avatar Edward Hollister says:

    thank you for the walk about. is there going to be a video of the celebration of the launch ?

  35. Avatar David Ray says:

    Thank you Eric, great walkabout of an exceptional build by an enormous colection of very talented craftsmen.

  36. Avatar carl prestipino says:

    I’ll take two!

  37. Avatar Donald Fraser says:

    Very nice video, Eric. What I find impressive is the ability for many in the marine industry in New England and beyond to cooperate in building this beautiful boat in a mere 18 months…great work!

  38. Avatar William Hammond says:

    Mightily impressive!! Thanks for the backstage peek!!

  39. Avatar Jim Dumser says:

    I watched every minute and enjoyed it a great deal. I love that Eric is intimately knowledgeable about every aspect and gives such a great tour of something he is so obviously proud of being a part of building. I’m in shock that the timeline for the build was just 18 months. An exceptional crew must be involved in its production to have hit this timeline. Nice job.

  40. Avatar George Zentz says:

    thank you, Eric. It’s such a privilege to see this and to know some of the people who can build it. I saw her in wonder on the Reach Wednesday under power, then under sail. Beautiful, quiet elegance. Congratulations.

  41. Avatar Norman NOLAN says:

    My wife and I were lucky enough to have a walk through with Eric 12 months ago when this masterpiece was in its early stages. The finished article is mind-blowing! An absolute credit to Eric and his team! Can’t wait to see a follow-up of the launching and to see it sailing.

  42. Avatar mike kitchen says:

    A hearty “thank you”to Eric Blake and the rest of the OCH crew. There are no words to describe my feelings. Beauty,workmanship,craftsmanship, and holy %#&@!, are just a few that don’t even begin to do justice to this vessel. I never tire of OCH videos or of Eric’s fine play by play. I feel that Sonny just raised the bar for every boat that graces these pages. Well done again,folks.

  43. Avatar Tom Roderick says:

    Enjoyed the walkabout very much and am looking forward to a possible sailabout.

  44. Avatar Larry Cheek says:

    Well, it’s undeniably beautiful, the craftsmanship is stunning, and what people with vast sums of money choose to do with it is none of my business. So I won’t criticize it, but just report that I wasn’t really much interested. I found myself fast-forwarding through part of the tour, something I’ve never done before in more than five years of OCH membership. I’m much more impressed by and interested in boats where something beautiful has been realized through relatively modest means, such as Harry Bryan’s 20′ KATIE or Alex Spears’ 32′ VITO DUMAS (both chronicled in OCH videos).

    I’m glad Brooklin Boat Yard and the other firms listed above had the work, though. Without commissions from wealthy clients, a lot fewer good craftspeople would be making a living, and civilization would be poorer for it.

    • Avatar Sam Huber says:

      I’m right there with Larry, except for the fast-forwarding part — I watched every second in awe of the talent brought together to create such an extravagance. After the revolution, all those whose skills are represented here might actually get a chance to make use of “the drinking cockpit” — heaven save us from ourselves!

      Thanks, Eric, and congratulations on the craftsmanship of your team.

    • Avatar John Supan says:

      Ditto. I’m a small boat guy, but not everyone is. Imagine trying to use the emergency tiller and sail it “like a dingy?” An impressive design and build, to say the least.

  45. Avatar David Heal says:

    Wow! — Is it too tacky to inquire as to what would Brooklin Boat Yard would charge me to build a similar masterpiece for my weekend sailing pleasure?

  46. Avatar Philip Myer says:

    Wow if this a day boat I would like to see what the cruising version looks like ! Fantastic work, an amazing complicated piece of management and skill brought together in 18 months. Thanks to the Owner, Steve White, and Eric with all the OCH crew for the pleasure of having this fantastic guided tour. Eric is the grand master of nautical narration , his mastery of understatement is always entertaining.

  47. Avatar Ted Skaalerud says:

    I am totally blown away. I watched this video with my mouth open, Holy Moly!

  48. Avatar Bruce Brown says:

    Every once and a while it’s important to see how the rest of the world lives… I mean, sails.

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