Lucky John England. The former master shipwright at Rockport Marine, in Rockport, Maine, England has probably never worked on an ugly boat. The Maryland native saw his path at a young age and attended North Carolina State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in wood science and technology. After graduation, England worked in the furniture business, managing factories for about 5 years.
In 1976 he began his career as a boatbuilder at Lee’s Boat Shop in Rockland, Maine. His first build was the Bruce King-designed Whitehawk. England moved between Maine, North Carolina and Virginia for several decades, building boats and teaching boatbuilding. From 1996 to 2017, he was at Rockport Marine, where he was project manager for the restoration of Bolero (the legendary Sparkman & Stephens racing yawl) and led the construction of Godspeed (a replica of one of a three-boat flotilla that came from England to America in 1607), Louise (a Buzzards Bay 25), Cadenza (a Rozinante), the W-class yachts and Dream (a 36-foot lobster yacht), among others. When he is not building boats, England enjoys delivering them and has also participated in classic-yacht regattas around the world.
First memory of being on a boat: In 1952 my dad had a Chapelle-designed skipjack built in Shadyside, Maryland. Exciting delivery to Breezy Point, Maryland. Many great sailing, fishing and crabbing memories followed.
First boat you owned: I bought a Herreshoff 12½, hull No. 806, in 1978. Eight wonderful sailing years in Maine, North Carolina and Virginia. Except for a Nutshell pram I built in 1988, the 12½ was the last boat I owned.
Favorite boat you’ve owned or skippered: As the owner of very few boats, I would have to say my 12½ was my favorite. In 1978 my dad and I built a Herreshoff Araminta (Virginia) together. This was not only a great experience, but she was a wonderful sailing boat. I enjoyed sailing her in the Chesapeake Bay, on a trip to Newport, Rhode Island, and in Maine.
Your dream boat: I long ago realized that, for me, OPBs (other people’s boats) were my favorites. More fun, less work and expense.
Favorite projects: I have been a boatbuilder for 41 years, so nearly all of my sailing experiences have revolved around building projects, from dinghys to cruising boats to cold-molded racing yachts to powerboats to 16th-century merchantmen to great restorations. All of the projects have been rewarding in different ways. Building Virginia with my dad, building Whitehawk (my first boatbuilding project), building the W-Class yachts, building the Elizabeth II and Godspeed, Rozinante, Buzzards Bay 25, an S&S 6 Meter, restoring the great racing yacht Bolero and many more have given me great satisfaction and opportunities to sail different boats in many different venues. One of my most rewarding sailing experiences was the delivery of Bolero to Newport after a complete rebuild. Even in heavy weather upwind, there wasn’t a single creak or groan below — a great source of satisfaction to a builder.
Scariest adventure aboard: On an overnight delivery on the Alexandria,( ex-Lindo, an old Baltic trader) from Urbanna, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., we had 70 knots of wind and heavy rain. Staring through the footropes at D.C. was really eerie. When docking in Old Town Alexandria, we had to drop the tender, slide down the davit tackle and hang on to an old Navy mooring buoy while the boat made a second pass to drop her stern line to us. When that old black three-master came out of the driving rain and dark bearing down on us, I wasn’t sure I’d see morning.
Most memorable experience aboard: Marrying my late wife, Carolyn, on board Whitehawk in 1979 has to top the list. Others include a full-moon overnight reach aboard Ticonderoga, racing the Fife Clio in Scotland and Italy, sailing on the same boat (Kristin, an Ohlson 37) for 30 years in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta and winning nearly every award aboard Bolero at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in 2011.
Longest time at sea: Nine days from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to Tortola, BVI, with my two brothers. Downwind in heavy air, but nothing broke.
Favorite destination: The finish line at the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. Close second: the BVIs. I loved it.
Favorite nautical book: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I learn something new each time I read it.
Favorite nautical cause: The building and restoring of classic yachts. The beauty of these vessels adds so much to the world.
Favorite quote about the sea: “If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most.” — E.B. White
This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue.