Building Arabella By Hand

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Stephen Denette and Alix Kreder

Stephen Denette and Alix Kreder

Growing tired of the grind at their day jobs, friends Stephen Denette and Alix Kreder decided to drop what they were doing and attempt something many people would call crazy: building a 38-foot Atkins ketch in their backyard, more than 100 miles from the nearest coastline, using trees they felled and milled themselves by hand. When they are finished, they will sail their handcrafted, two-masted sailboat Arabella around the world. Well, that’s the plan.

The project started just under two years ago, and Denette and Kreder know it will likely take several years to complete. They have keel timber milled and some frames assembled already. Recently they smelted, poured and molded their own 4.5-ton keel from thousands of lead wheel balancing weights they gathered from tire shops and lead keels they salvaged from a few fiberglass sailboats. The deal with the fiberglass boats was if they wanted the keel, they had to cut apart and dispose of the boats.

This video provides an update on the project, which the two call “Acorn to Arabella.”

The smelting and pouring process for the keel is particularly interesting. The pair created a smelter out of an old fuel tank, lit a fire under it and then poured the molten lead into a wooden mold in the ground. You can watch the pouring by clicking on this link