Saturday, February 19, 2011

So that's why - duh!

As the hull of my emerging PMD was upside down to receive her pretty Hatteras-white bottom, I was pondering WHY I was so attracted to this particular design, a Norwegian Pram, as to choose it for my first boat-building project.

I really did not get it! The pear-shaped hull with its huge rocker would appear to make for a fairly slow-moving shape. Okay, the boat is light, so it should move readily without too much of a breeze. But why not build a Skerry or Northeastern Dory, two other CLC designs both of which have a sleeker hull shape with comparable flexibility of purpose?

Somewhere it did not make sense. I like fast sailboats - live slow, sail fast - you know?!

But then it finally hit me over the head like a ton of bricks - duh - and a FB friend already blurted it out - soon after I had realized what was actually going on! Let me show you some family pictures... those might explain a thing or two.

My grandfather was a musician, a performer, an instrument builder, a collector and an important promoter of Renaissance Music long before the term Early Music came in vogue. He was as much passionate artist as he was consummate artisan.

In his shop in Markneukirchen, he built recorders, harpsichords, clavichards, viols and - lutes. Right there on that picture which was the front cover of a brochure advertising his instruments, you can see my grandfather seated at a clavichord surrounded by his instruments. He oftentimes went on tour playing the lute, solo as well as accompanying songs by John Dowland and other Elizabethan composers. When I grew up, my grandfather made a huge impression on me. He was larger than life in many ways.

Now take a closer look at this instrument called lute.

Unless you already know something about this exquisite instrument these two pictures here don't exactly convey what I would like you to notice.

The voluptuous shape of the lute body consists of the sound board, the flat top of the instrument and the pear shaped "belly" or shell which is made up of many paper-thin ribs.

Here is a better view of the shell of the lute.

Mold to shape the ribs of a lute
To ensure a consistent shape, these wonderful curves of the ribs are constructed over a mold such as this one.  The delicate maple ribs of the lute shell (it's belly) fit together much like the strakes of this Norwegian Pram albeit minus epoxy.

Need I say more?

Here I thought that this nascent shipwright was on to something entirely new to him when - all along - he was merely retracing his way blind-folded back to impressions of  early childhood.

I was surrounded by these musical shapes from early on and evidently - unbeknownst to me - I needed to build a lute that floats - no strings attached.

So there you have it!

However, I have detected on occasions some interesting sounds as the drone of my orbial sander over the hull resonates hues of F# Major. I fully expect the dagger board to break out into song  once the little nutshell jumps on a plane - but it won't be a Galliard by John Dowland.

* * *

Here is a taste of the exquisite sounds of the lute... as played by the incomparable Paul O'Dette playing Downland Lachrimae Pavan and another example within a consort, John Dowland's Lachrimae Antiqua.

And here a short snippet if you want to learn a little about the lute.


  1. Chris,

    If you are going to sail the Passagemaker Dinghy strings (lines) will be attached! Looking forward to seeing it on the water!


  2. Good point! One halyard, one sheet and a downhaul - yes... but the mast will stand unsupported by shrouds or fore-stay.