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Maine builder launches 98-foot ketch

It took Hodgdon Yachts two years to build the luxury yacht that went down the ways in July

It took Hodgdon Yachts two years to build the luxury yacht that went down the ways in July

“I always believed the saying, ‘Those who say it can’t be done, should get out of the way of those who are doing it,’ ” says Tim Hodgdon, 51, a fifth-generation boatbuilder and president of Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay, Maine.

Almost 1,000 well-wishers watched the boatbuilder launch the sailing yacht Windcrest on July 29. The 98-foot composite (cold-molded, wood-epoxy) ketch is the 406th vessel launched by the Hodgdon family since 1816.

That year Caleb Hodgdon built his first boat, a 42-foot pinky, Superb. Scores of traditional plank-on-frame fishing vessels up to 76 feet long slid down the ways into the Damariscotta River through the 1800s.

Tim Hodgdon can trace his boatbuilding lineage from Caleb and his sons, who built wooden fishing boats, to Caleb’s grandsons who built more than 100 traditional yachts for wealthy urban vacationers, to his father George I. (Sonny) Hodgdon Jr., who kept the yard afloat by building lobster boats after military contracts ceased following World War II.

When interest in traditional wooden boats dwindled in the 1960s, Sonny and his handful of craftsmen refocused on building a few wooden boats of superb quality. At first these were plank-on-frame. Then, in 1984, an order for an 83-foot composite motor yacht thrust the yard and project head Tim Hodgdon, then 29, into the 21st century. Yorel required a new, larger building, new technology and impeccable craftsmanship. Tim and his 30 crew met the challenge, crafting the yacht over four years. Yorel received rave reviews.

“Tim and [his father] eagerly embraced the wood-epoxy building process, an unusual adjustment for a long-established traditional boatbuilder to make,” says Bruce King, neighbor and naval architect known for his composite superyachts with traditional topsides and modern underbodies. Hodgdon Yachts perfected cold-molded composite construction (multilayers of thin wood planking, layered with epoxy, and cured with heat and a vacuum to form a monolithic structure). Custom joinery and interior furnishings use traditional woodworking skills.

Other impressive wood-epoxy superyachts, designed by King, followed: the torpedo-stern 80-foot commuter, Liberty, in 1996; the 124-foot sloop Antonisa in1999 (ShowBoat Magazine’s 1999 Boat of the Year in its class); the contemporary 151-foot ketch Scheherazade in 2003. Now there is Windcrest, designed by Ted Fontaine of Fontaine Design Group of Portsmouth, R.I.

As specified by owners Tristram and Ruth Colket of Philadelphia and Maine, Windcrest was designed for extensive coastal cruising. The large-volume hull with centerboard can be easily driven by the powerful rig on carbon fiber masts and stowaway booms or the 370-hp Lugger diesel engine.

Accommodations include two crew cabins, crew’s mess, galley, laundry, two guest cabins with ensuite heads, and owner’s cabin with two ensuite heads. The saloon features a wrap-around settee and dining for six. The pilothouse contains the navigation area, plus a settee, dining table and bar. Hodgdon Yachts designed the interior assisted by Bunny Williams Design, New York, and the owner’s representative, Jon Barrett of Newport, R.I.

Interior joinery is traditional beaded cherry panels, with cabinetry panels of flame (crotch) veneers and bulkhead panels of flat-sawn cherry. The walnut sole is finished with high-gloss varnish. Leather and fabrics complement the natural woods. The overhead and selected upper panels are painted off-white. In the galley and crew’s passageway the cork sole has walnut trim.

Interior joinery hides hydraulic, electrical, water, mechanical, communications and ventilation systems. Two Northern Lights diesel generators produce power for everything from touch-a-button sail-handling, to climate control, to satellite communications systems for uninterrupted entertainment, phone and e-mail anywhere in the world. The computer network monitors all systems and displays the information on nine screens.

Windcrest — one year in the planning, two in building — involved 186,000 man-hours by nearly 80 Hodgdon Yacht employees. Work was also subcontracted to Marten Spars of New Zealand and firms state-wide, including Custom Composite Technologies, Bluewater Fabricators, Nautilus Fabricators and K.C. Yacht Enterprises.

“The Colkets gave us a tremendous opportunity to build a yacht of this caliber, and I will always be grateful to them for their patience, dedication and commitment,” Tim Hodgdon said at the launching. “It’s rewarding to turn wood, plastic and metal into a powerful sailing machine and a majestic yacht. Everyone who worked on Windcrest brought a piece of him- or herself to the job. I’m in awe of their level of talent and skills.”

Tristram Colket said the work and workmanship on Windcrest are tremendous.

“We are so pleased with this vessel,” said Colket shortly before his wife cracked the champagne bottle on Windcrest’s bow.

Blasts from boat horns, cheers, clapping and cannon fire resounded as Windcrest rolled down the railway into the Damariscotta River, not far from where Hodgdon’s great-great-grandfather launched Superb in 1816.

Windcrest will remain at the yard into October to complete the interior and fitting out. “The owners plan to sail to the eastern Caribbean in November, then cruise New England waters next summer,” says Ted Smith, Hodgdon Yachts project manager and custom yacht representative.

By week’s end, the 20,000-square-foot main shed was reconfigured to begin construction of a prototype 82-foot Navy vessel for transporting Navy SEALS. Hodgdon Yachts collaborated with the University of Maine Advanced Engineered Wood Composite Laboratory, Donald Blunt and Associates and Eric Greene and Associates on the design for the Navy‘s Office of Naval Research.

The carbon fiber and foam vessel, to be launched next summer, will enable the Navy “to compare the properties of composite construction with aluminum,” says Smith. It is Hodgdon Yachts’ first military contract since the Korean War.

Luxury yachts are Hodgdon Yachts’ focus, however. Hodgdon co-founded “Maine Built Boats” two years ago to market the state’s boatbuilding industry beyond Maine. Smith attends the annual Monte Carlo, Monaco, superyacht show for “continuing recognition” in the European market, and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Every vessel built at Hodgdon in the last 25 years is still cruising; most, if not all, in the hands of their original owners, Hodgdon says.

Windcrest Specifications

LOA: 98 feet

LWL: 75 feet, 4 inches

BEAM: 23 feet, 11 inches

Draft (board up): 7 feet, 9 inches

Draft (board down): 18 feet, 2 inches

Displacement: 262,000 pounds

Ballast:83,400 pounds