Skipper was quickly hooked on design

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A year ago, Geoff Marshall had a design concept to make the new cockpit for the Marshall Sanderling 18 a reality.

What he needed was an owner to test it on — a dyed-in-the-wool catboat skipper who would commit to the project and be patient as the new component took shape. “A guinea pig,” says Marshall.

Allure, with her light green hull, stands out among catboats.

That’s when Steve Bieglecki turned up.

The 58-year-old consultant from Chester, Conn., is a devoted sailor with a soft spot for catboats. Even though Marshall had nothing more than an idea, Bieglecki saw the potential.

Once he’d signed on, Bieglecki brought both enthusiasm and his own eye for detail to the ongoing project, says Marshall.

“He would come by once a week, bringing these delicious pastries for the crew, and we’d go look at the boat together,” he says. “He had a great eye for detail and would often bring up things we hadn’t thought of yet.”

Bieglecki has been hooked on catboats since taking a sail on the 36-foot Wilton Crosby cat, Southwind, more than 20 years ago. In the late 1980s, he took ownership of a Marshall 22, Spellbound, and he is an active, longtime member of the Catboat Association.

Looking to replace a powerboat he had at the time, the allure of the catboat took Bieglecki to a summer boat show in 2007 in Rockland, Maine, where he met Marshall. “He had his new Marshall 18 Open Cockpit on display, and I was captivated by how he was able to evolve this classic design that his father created 40 years ago into something new,” says Bieglecki. On a subsequent visit to the shop in South Dartmouth, Mass., Marshall mentioned that he’d like to take on the redesign of the Sanderling cockpit.

In early 2008, acting on a whim, Beiglecki called Marshall to ask if he was still interested in pursuing that project. “He said all he needed was a customer,” Bieglecki recalls. “I said that I would be that customer.”

Most of 2008 was spent designing and engineering the cockpit, then making the plug, which was fabricated by Yacht Management Systems in Bristol, R.I. Marshall then had both a new hull (Bieglecki’s boat) and a used boat with the older design to ensure that the component could be easily retro-fitted.

Bieglecki’s hull was molded in January and the boat, with its new cockpit, was launched under the guidance of Marshall’s shop foreman, Chris White, in late May. With its distinctive light green hull and the name, Allure, lettered in gold across the wide catboat transom, it looks every inch a Marshall cat, says Bieglecki.

“It was fascinating to observe Geoff’s connection with this boat,” he says. “It was almost as if he picked up were his father had left off some 30 or 40 years ago. He knew precisely what was to be preserved and what was to be modernized. The result is a significantly improved boat that hasn’t lost one bit of its classic appeal.”

See related article:

- Classic catboat reborn with redesign

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the October 2009 issue.