April 05, 2020

Schooner Fair> Scale model of yacht a painstaking but rewarding project for Camden man

CAMDEN — With one look at Robert Eddy’s detailed yacht model of the Herreshoff-designed Mariette, it is easy to understand why the full-scale schooner has been an eye-catcher since its launch 75 years ago.

The impressively crafted work is built to a scale of one-quarter inch to 1 foot. Eddy and associate Paul Tibbetts spent more than 5,000 hours over two years carving, cutting, molding and glueing to duplicate the Mariette’s fine lines and sweeping hull.

Eddy’s model of the Mariette will be on display in the upper level of the Camden Public Library on Saturday and remain there for several weeks.

Designed by renowned yacht builder Nathaniel Herreshoff and launched from the Herreshoff’s Manfucturing shipyard in Bristol, R.I., in 1915, the sleek racer Mariette was an immediate hit. Under the ownership of Boston wool merchant J. Frederick Brown, the silhouette of the Mariette quickly became legend among the racing and cruising set along the North Shore of Massachussetts.

From its auspicious beginning, the Mariette went through a succession of owners after 1927 and deteriorated in appeal. It was completely restored and modernized a few years ago by American investor Thomas J. Perkins. Having been brought to life and splendor once more, the Mariette now plies the Atlantic Ocean between its winter home in Bermuda and summer ports of call on the French Riviera.

“There are not many boats of its era left in existence,” an admiring Eddy said recently. “The Mariette is remarkable.”

Robert H. Eddy and Associates earlier had created a model of one of the yachts Perkins sails on the Pacific Ocean. So when Perkins obtained and refurbished the Mariette, it stood to reason that it would not be long before he called on Eddy to build a model of his legendary Herreshoff yacht.

“I lived aboard the Mariette in France for two weeks, taking measurements, photos and videos,” Eddy recalled. “Documenting a yacht like this really requires a visit because there is so much detail to pick up on. This model is another aspect of the restoration of the yacht.”

Eddy’s wife, Patti, accompanied him during his on-board visit to the Mariette and assisted in documenting the vessel’s details. Eddy also turned to the archives of the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Hart Nautical Museum for additional information and diagrams of the Mariette. When he discovered that some details were missing, Eddy turned to computer modeling to re-create the lost design information.

“What was interesting was that the actual drawings from when the hull would have been built were not available. They actually were missing in action and I had to re-create certain parts,” Eddy said. “By combining information from the archives with my own documentation, I was able to come up with the right design measurements.”

As designed by Herreshoff, the Mariette is 138 feet in length, 108 feet 2 inches on deck, and 80 feet at the water line. The vessel has a maximum beam of 23 feet, a draft of 14 feet 6 inches, and it weighs 165 tons. It carries 10,000 square feet of sail.

Once Eddy obtained the design information and took firsthand measurements, he and Tibbetts began the painstaking work of creating from scratch an exact scale model of the Mariette.

Tibbetts’ specialties are the fine woodwork of the cabin houses, planking and decking, while Eddy carved the basswood hull and fabricated the rigging and fixtures. To eliminate the likelihood of tarnishing, Eddy duplicated the Mariette’s bronze and chrome fixtures with gold and white-gold miniatures.

“This way it will always look like a pristinely kept boat,” he said. “In real life, they have a crew on board to polish the brass. You don’t get that with a model.”

Although the model is built to the Mariette’s original scale, Eddy left off some of the details on the refurbished version of the yacht.

“There are always little things that you have to leave out, such as radar, and there’s some artistic license as to what you choose to omit,” Eddy said. “You better not get carried away because nobody knows that boat better than its owner.”

Although the work of a model builder is detailed and time-consuming, Eddy said it is always exciting. Boredom is never a factor, he said.

“People wonder how I can do this kind of work, but really it’s very rewarding,” Eddy said. “There is no monotony because it is always sort of changing as you go through a project. There are so many things to do, drafting in the beginning, carving and shaping the wood, painting. … There is an awful lot of scheduling and thought process that goes into constructing a model.”

Pausing while he adjusted a line on the model’s deck, Eddy added, “Probably the rigging is the most difficult. If it ever gets to be tedious or monotonous, doing the rigging would approach that. … But after two years of work, it all comes together in the last two months. And that’s a really fun place to be.”

Eddy came to model building early in life. Growing up by the sea in Rockport, he sailed with his parents as a young boy and became infatuated with models. After building every plastic model he could get his hands on, Eddy graduated to more sophisticated wooden models.

“I sold my first model for $50 in 1968,” he recalled. “It sort of tumbleweeded after that. I actually put myself through college building models. After that, it just sort of continued to where it is today.”

Today, Robert H. Eddy & Associates is listed among the country’s leading professional yacht model builders. A noted lecturer, Eddy will deliver a talk on the building of the Mariette at the Jean Picker Room of the Camden Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24. On display will be photographs of the real yacht along with Eddy’s working drawings.

One hour earlier in the same room as the Jan. 24 lecture, Eddy and members of the Maine Marine Modelmakers Association will discuss their fields and specialties with the public and offer a workshop on model restoration.

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