It Began by the Sea

In the morning hours of Wednesday, May 27th, I started making my way to Wilhelmshaven, Germany, to start construction of my boat. As usual for a trip, I was packing and preparing for most of the previous night. I had what felt like a ton of gear on me, two backpacks full of boatbuilding tools and materials, sailing gear, and I still had a couple of errands to run before making my way to the railway station. The relief was palpable when I finally got on the train, and with gentle thump-thump thump-thump, it left the station, heading for the sea. With a three hour night behind me, I soon drifted off to sleep.

I was to spend the next couple of days chiefly in the workshop of a friend of mine in Wilhelmshaven. I’d gotten to know Michel on, a website (and formerly a forum) dedicated to proas. There are not too many proa aficionados around, so having someone to talk to, who lives in the same country, was a very good thing. We’d met up the previous year, and I got to sail with him briefly on two occasions. We’d had endless talks about all the little details of designing and building proas in the time since then. Now Michel, a boatbuilder by profession, had invited me to his place and his workshop for a week to start building the ama (the small hull) of my proa there. I was ecstatic about the opportunity to get to learn the basics from him, and about really getting started properly. Nothing would be worse than getting really stuck, right at the beginning. The first steps are always the hardest, so it’s great to have someone around to teach you the basics and help get you over the initial threshold. I hadn’t had any time to work on my ama design in the previous weeks, being in the process of finishing my bachelor’s thesis, but Michel had kindly offered to design the ama for me, and offer which I gladly took up, to start construction as soon as possible.

Around noon, the train arrived in Bremen, where we were to meet up. We still had some shopping to do, so we headed off to ‘Hansa Holz’ and ‘Georgius’ in Bremen, to get high quality wood for stringers and marine plywood respectively, and then drove from there to Wilhelmshaven. We unloaded everything, went regatta sailing for two hours, and called it a day.

Just about to cross the starting line. Frank and Michel gauging time on distance, with the spinnaker ready to go, the moment they are allowed to cross the line. I was manning the backstays. We eventually came in 2nd amongst the monohulls, beating out a number of much larger yachts in Michels Kaasknabbel, a Waarship 750.
Just about to cross the starting line. Michel (right) and crew, gauging time on distance. It’s a handicapped start, downwind. The spinnaker is ready to go, for the moment we are allowed to cross the line. I was manning the backstays, replacing a crew member who was ill that day. We came in 2nd amongst the monohulls, beating out a number of much larger yachts in Michel’s Waarschip 750.

I stayed in Wilhelmshaven until Saturday the 30th and then was there again from the 4th to the 10th of June. That time in Wilhelmshaven was comprised of long days in the workshop (as much as 15 hours on two occasions) and discussions about boat design going well into the night. It certainly wasn’t a picnic, but it was a great time, and we got a tremendous amount done! In the span of a little over a week, we went from a stack of raw materials to an almost complete ama, ready to be transported back to Brunswick for the remaining work. Below is a gallery documenting the build process pretty much step by step. I’m enormously thankful to Michael for giving me the opportunity and all the help that he did!

Next week we’re going to look at some of the design work behind my proa!



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