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From artist to designer to builder

CoveyIsland Boatworks builds a custom solar-electric ketch from a client’s watercolor painting

CoveyIsland Boatworks builds a custom solar-electric ketch from a client’s watercolor painting

Boats often come off the ways to be captured on canvas. Czarina was conceived on canvas, translated into a blueprint and then a boat.

Czarina’s owner, Tom Goodwin, an artist who lives in the Bahamas, “sent us a watercolor of exactly what he wanted,” says John Steele, president of Covey Island Boatworks in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia ( ). Based on an 1890 E. Stinson schooner design, Czarina is a 27-foot cold-molded solar-electric centerboard ketch, a combination of strip-planking and epoxy-impregnated plywood sheathed in fiberglass.

“For us to go from [Goodwin’s] highly developed concept to construction, we needed lines and dimensions,” says Steele. Nova Scotia designer Laurie McGowan did the translation from canvas to blueprint, and CoveyIsland built the boat — its 86th hull in 27 years. The 8,400-pound Czarina carries 467 square feet of sail, and the centerboard gives her a draft of 3 feet, 1 inch to 6 feet for the Bahamas’ shoal waters.

“Laurie’s the one who said, ‘How about an electric motor?’ ” Steele says.

“There was no room for an inboard, and Tom didn’t want to bother with one anyway, or an outboard in a well,” McGowan writes in a newsletter about the boat’s design. “So Tom opted for a very efficient electric motor for his auxiliary.”

Czarina has a 9.6-kW electric motor, and her eight 6-volt gel cells deliver power for five hours at 5.6 to 5.8 knots and 8 to 12 hours at 4 knots, Steele says. She is quiet, doesn’t belch exhaust, and works for Goodwin’s intended use: commuting between his island home and nearby Nassau. “When the boat’s on the island, it’s on a mooring where the solar panels can charge it,” Steele says.

This is Goodwin’s second Covey-built sailboat. His first was a 25-foot Bahamian racing sloop with a radical rig and powerful sail. “He wanted something that was easier to single-hand, a little less of a thoroughbred racer,” Steele says of Czarina. “This is more of a cruising boat.”

Steele says that when she is under sail, the props spin and turn the motor into a generator that recharges the batteries. When Goodwin is at the dock in Nassau, he “plugs in” and recharges. At the mooring, the artist sets out the portable solar panels to trickle-charge the batteries.

“Pretty and salty” is how Steele describes Czarina. She is strip-planked in Douglas fir from the sheer to the chine. From the chine down, the bottom is built of three layers of quarter-inch mahogany plywood. Masts and booms are Douglas fir, the trim teak.

Czarina is a custom build, though Steele says he’s always willing to build another if there’s demand. The price would be around $205,000 (U.S.). “Every custom boat I’ve built, owners thought there would be a lot more boats like it built because it’s their dream,” he says. “They think everyone will want it, too.” That seldom is the case.

However, Steele commissioned a 38-foot Spencer Lincoln lobster boat 25 years ago, and that one remains a perennial favorite, with 15 hulls built. “I keep getting people who want it,” he says. “I think I got his best hull.”