Why is it that the sight of a boat under construction can stop so many of us in our tracks? Todd French has ideas on the subject, particularly now that the USS Sequoia, a National Historic Landmark, has arrived at his shipyard in Belfast, Maine, for a three-year refit.
In this issue, French tells writer Kim Kavin that at a time when polarization is strong and politics so heated, people are finding the simple act of looking at a boat with a common history to be almost therapeutic. “The public is connected to it,” French says of the 104-foot former presidential yacht. “We’ve had so many visitors show up to view this project. They are just in awe, taking pictures. It’s like they’re coming to church.”
Many people who love boats experience that sense of reverence when they look upon things with ties to nautical tradition. That includes Soundings Contributor Dieter Loibner, who discovered a deep respect for a master craftsman in Port Townsend, Washington. Ed Louchard creates everything from sailing hardware and knives to blocks and sheaves without digital tools.
Loibner says a mutual friend introduced him to Louchard at the artisan’s shop (a barn), where he was blown away by a space crammed with all the tools anyone could ever want. “I also learned Ed is the former owner of the legendary yawl that carried the first German singlehander across the Atlantic in the 1930s,” says Loibner. “That’s something Germans want to know about, so from the moment we shook hands, I knew Ed was my next project.”
German history aside, Loibner says the deeper reason for his interest in Louchard is an infatuation with people who just know how to make stuff. “I envy these avengers of the analog, who pick up a random piece of material and instinctively know what it will become in their hands. Ed’s example inspires me to turn off the screen and use my imagination and dormant skills to create something of practical value. At the very least, this type of work is cool therapy.”