Kids can have big dreams

Old 21 SLOOP (Medium).jpgOld 45 SLOOP AUX.jpg

I was a sophomore in High school. I was a percussionist in the school band. I played the snare drum. I was getting "creative" one day in band class when the teacher, a bit of a numb skull, announced that I was now kicked out of the band. Wait till I tell my parents. I was marched off to the office where I sat down with the vice principal while he tried to decide where to put me. It was half way through the quarter and the potential class choices were minimal. "We'll put you in mechanical drawing." " Cool" I thought. I had always liked to draw.


Off I was marched to the mechanical drawing classroom which was a very interesting classroom. It had drawing boards, drafting tools and Mr Kibby. Mr. Kibby was about 6'5" and 300 lbs. We affectionately called him "the walrus" because of all his chins. But we all liked him. He had a firm and gentle way with rambunctious boys in an all boy class. He kept a tight ship without threatening us. I took to mechanical drawing. In about two weeks I owned that class. Me and a kid named Jay Spearman. Jay was very quiet. But there was no mistaking the fact that we challenged each other to be the first to finish each drafting assignment and to turn out the best work. Before long Mr. Kibby arranged for me to buy my own drafting board, about 30" by 40", a T square and a couple of triangles. I had a job after school and I had the money and buying through the school I was able to get the drafting gear pretty cheaply. I wanted to pursue mechanical drawing at home. I credit Mr. Kibby with almost everything I learned about drafting. " It's all about line weight Perry" he'd say. "Lettering! lettering! Work on your lettering Perry!" Mr. Kibby was a great guy.


So, there I sat with my little drafting board and my new drafting gear. What should I draw? I had just started sailing. I was quickly getting interested in sailing yachts. " I know, I'll draw a boat!" What I drew was my version of a Civil War iron clad battleship. I had no curves and the MERRIMAC type shape lent itself to using a straight edge, But before long I realized that I really wanted to design boats. I had seen a cover of POPULAR BOATING that had a nice cover shot of a Chesapeake 32 on it. I looked at that Rhodes design and to my 15 year heart I thought I had never, ever seen anything quite so beautiful designed by man. "I must do this." I slowly began buying drafting gear suitable to draw boats. I still have the very first French curve I ever bought. They cost $3.50 each back in those days and I'd save my dough so I could buy them. The full set was about $120 dollars and came in a beautiful wooden chest. $120 was not within my reach but one at a time I collected a good set of curves. But curves limit you to their curves. Sometimes you want a curve that doesn't exist on a rigid ships curve. I tried some flexible curves but they didn't work worth a damn. You just couldn't get a fair line with them. Something was missing in my drafting gear arsenal.


One day I was reading SEA MAGAZINE, an article about a hydroplane designer, Stan Jones, had caught my attention. There was a photo of Stan at his drawing board. Across the top of the drawing board were these "things". "What the hell are those things?" They looked kind of like whales with prongs stuck in their faces. He had about a dozen of them all in a row. " What ARE they? I found out later they were spline weights and used to draw curved lines when used with a flexible spline

(See the blog entries on old drafting gear). Spline weights were expensive, $3.50 each and you really needed about ten of them to draw a reasonably long curved line. Shit! That's $35 That's not going to happen.  But one by one I began buying spline weights with the money I earned working at Ray's Meat Market. My parents gave me three weights one Christmas. To me that was a huge gift. I still have all those old spline weights. They are very well used.


Then my geometry teacher Don  Miller became aware that I was drawing boats during class. Like Mr. Kibby he was a kind guy who probably realized that I was not a worthless screw up but a kid that needed some directing. Mr. Miller suggested I join the Corinthian Junior Yacht Club and start sailing My earliest sailing adventures had involved really crummy rental boats and some near disastrous misadventures usually with my non sailing friend along, Jim Barnaby. " Are you sure this is the way you are supposed to do it?" " No." Then Don Miller suggested I call Bill Garden and arrange to visit his office so I could see what I real yacht designer did. I called Mr. Garden, "Call me Bill" and my Dad dropped me off at his office one Saturday morning. I was 15 years old. I showed Bill some of my drawings and he was kind in his response. Bill took me to lunch (you can read the French fry story in my book) and sent me hitch hiking  home with a big roll of some old prints he had laying around. To me they were veritable treasures. I would visit Bill from time to time. Bill didn't really coach me on designing boats but offered some encouragement and he answered my questions. He'd usually say, "Buy a copy of Skene's" and let it go at that. But for me to be in Bill's presence was like walking alongside Buddha. I absorbed.


Tom Larsen in the process of building my new fabulous web site urged me to go through my old files. I always do what Tom says. Rummaging around I found a tube marked "Historic 1". I opened the tube up and found a roll of old drawings going back to when I was 17 years old. I have older drawings and I suspect there may be another tube marked "Historic 2" with the older drawings. But as I unrolled these old drawings a couple thoughts crossed my mind. I was blown away by the love, care and craftsmanship these drawings showed. Sure I drew them. But I no longer know that kid so it's not like it's me complimenting me. Is it?. I have distanced myself from that high school kid by 51 years.


So now we can cue up the soundtrack for this blog entry, MY BACK PAGES by Bob Dylan,  for dramatic effect,  BYRDS version, this verse works best for my purpose here:

All together now!

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Bass riff fade,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


I'll give you a tour through some of my very earliest design efforts. Remember, I was a kid without a tutor or teacher. I was learning from reading magazines and books. I was learning by asking questions of anybody I met who knew sailing.  If I had met me back then I would have taken me under my wing and tried my best to help this, tall and skinny, weird kid who wanted to be a yacht designer.


Here's a good one to get started with. ( see upper left hand corner image) Not sure what I was tinking with any of these but this one looks pretty good today. I see a spade rudder on an obviious cruign boat. That was a bit radical 1964. I was 17 years old. Sheer and profile look alright.

I need to do some work re-sizing some of these early images. The blog mechanics don;t like the huge files. Give me a bit of time and I'll figure it out and post more of the drawings from when I was a kid.

Thanks for looking at this stuff.

45 KETCH.jpold (Medium).jpg

This ketch shows the very beginnings of my work that eventually lead to the CT 54 design. Yes there is too much rake to the masts but it does look "rakish" doesn't it? All in all I think the proportions aren't bad and the strong sheer sprig is attractive.

Old 21 SLOOP (Medium).jpg

This little gaff sloop has attracted a bit of attention in the past two days. I have one fellow who wants to buy my original drawing. I told him $2,500 and 'm sticking to that price. This is ART damn it! Look at that sheerline. I sure wasn't afraid to bend that batten back in those days.  I think this little hooker would probably sail quite well. I would add roller furling to that jib. My "widow maker" sprit is a bit daunting.

Old 34 SLOOP SAIL (Medium).jpg

Here I am, back in the tail end days of the CCA rule. It looks like I was trying to channel Bill Tripp with this drawing. It look all right to me today considering I was a kid. Rig looks like it is in the right place.

old 45 SLOOP (Medium).jpg

I think this is probably the oldest of the drawings presented here. Clearly I was doing my best "Phil Rhodes" impression. That's OK. Much of my early work involved trying to imitate the design of a famous designer. In doing so I was trying to get a feel for each designer's drafting and design style. Like a piano student playing Bach's WELL TEMPERED CLAVIER. It appears I was working hard on my lettering. I give me an A- for lettering. I think Mr. Kibby might have given me an A.

Old 36 CUTTER (Medium).jpg

This double ender is pure "Bob's fantasy". I would dream of having a double ender and sailing around the world looking for a Viking Princess to marry. I eventually found on. But she was working at Ray's Boathouse, across the street from my Shilshole office. We married and had two fabulous boys and now we have two grand children. I still don;t have my salty double ender though.
Old 37 PILOT (Medium).jpg
Now I am getting serious. I put some real effort into this drawing. I was clearly very heavily influenced by Bill Garden's SEAL ketch. That's OK, I was young and looking for inspiration. Who better to try to copy than Garden? If you squint you might see the eventual origins of the Valiant 40 in this drawing.
old HEIGHTS (Medium).jpg
Yes, I also was working hard to learn how to draw hull lines. It was a challenge at first but I had the time and the energy so I stuck with it and learned the process required to produce a fair hull form. This is a 12' ferro cement dinghy. The keel sweep is straight from C&C. The rudder is no good at all but the foil is correct. With the table of offsets and the care that went into preparing this drawing it is obvious I was starting to take my modest effort seriously.

Why did I publish these old drawings? Pure self indulgence, I guess. I just enjoy looking at them and I thought they might also entertain sailors who are interested in the evolution of yacht design and how students of the craft develop their skills. I hope you had a chuckle. I did.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Robert Perry published on September 6, 2014 12:35 PM.

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