Alix Kreder and Stephen Denette standing in the boat house they have constructed
Have you dreamt of seeing the world? Being able to explore every place you set your mind on? Have you longed to climb, hike, or be in nature each day of that year that met the weather requirements for said outdoor activity? Have you wished to be free from the constructs of every day societal living; work, eat, sleep, repeat? A lot of people want a more adventurous, travel filled life, yet few people go after it. There are a hundred excuses you could use for why, such as family, money, careers, responsibility, lack of experience, etc. Using excuses is fine, but they are just that. Excuses. Going out and living your adventure dream is actually very doable, and these two enthusiastic, soon to be sailors, prove just that. They have an inspirational plan to set sail towards all their adventure goals.
When I first heard of Acorn to Arabella, it was through a post on Central Rock Gym Hadley’s Facebook page. It’s my favorite local climbing gym and a place Stephen Denette works as an incredible route setter. The post was encouraging people to check out a crowdfunding site they were using to gain some support for their goal. I was instantly infatuated with their idea to build a 38 ft sailboat from scratch and travel the world, because hearing of people having the guts to go for their dreams is compelling to me. Also when I was younger, it was a dream of mine to be a commercial fisher and live on the sea…until I learned that I get super sea sick and am absolutely awful at actually catching fish. In any case, I love hearing stories of the sea, crave adventure stories, and found all aspects of this to be worth further investigation. I figured out how to contact them, and was thankful they were very willing to do an interview and share more of their story. If this interview inspires or interests you, feel free to support them and learn more through their site: http://www.acorntoarabella.com
Alix Kreder and Stephen Dennette have been friends for a long time. They met in a climbing class at Unity College in Maine. Through climbing, a strong friendship formed. They come from a community of people going out and living their adventure dreams, and they want to join in with their own dream and unique method. Alix already has quite a bit of experience in traveling, but can’t wait to gather more. Stephen has a plethora of experience in woodworking, but is looking to this large scale project to put his skills to the test. Both would like to live a life embracing the freedom of the outdoors and seeing as much of the world as they can. They want a different way to live, and they work well together with a balance of necessary skills to make it all possible.
Climbing Together: How did this plan come about?
Alix: (laughing) It’s this crazy guy’s idea.
Stephen: Building a wooden boat has always been on the bucket list, I guess. I always thought it would be cool to build a boat someday. I always thought I would get a wood shop put together and sometime in my retirement, cut down some trees, mill the lumber, and build a boat and go sailing. Then it was about six years ago, I was on vacation out at Cape Cod and I went to a used bookstore, and I picked up a boat called 50 Wooden Boats, and that really got the gears going. So I started digging more into boats, picking up different books, and haunting the online forums. Just kind of learning what I could. I’ve always been into wood working, so I’ve been collecting tools and building my wood shop for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had that end goal of building the boat some day, so I’ve acquired tools with that in mind. It was like two years ago, two and a half years ago, I kind of got to the point where I was like I could do this. I have most of the tools, I understand the process of building a boat, and so the vision started to come together at that point. Then I got this kid involved.
Climbing Together: How did he get you (Alix) involved?
Alix: At first I was like this is kind of crazy. Yeah, okay. Sure, we’ll do this some day. I sort of somewhat blew you off in the beginning. The more we kept talking, the more I was like okay he is serious so how can we do this? He ended up finding this site Patreon. That meant we could actually get this thing funded. By me doing videos and putting the whole thing online, we could get the whole thing funded. For me that made it real. I was like alright I’m in.
Also for me, I’m half French, half American. I’ve lived overseas for half my life. I’ve been traveling for half my life. Since I graduated college, I haven’t stayed in one place for more than 3 years. When he came to me with this, it was like this is the perfect way to travel. You’re traveling with your home, you can go where ever you want, you don’t need to be tied down to a job, per se. The way we’re doing it you don’t need to. It’s perfect.
One of many merchandise options your pledge can get you.
Climbing Together: Has raising money through Patreon been successful so far?
Alix: So we haven’t really gotten into the videos. (The videos are what supporters pay for). We’ve done a couple videos, but we haven’t really done a good push. Especially without having too much to show for it right now. We are kind of waiting until we get a good amount and then push things out and do a real good marketing push. But we’re pretty confident and my video skills are getting better.
Stephen: Alix moved down here a little over a month ago; the beginning of August. Up till that point I was shooting footage on a go-pro and doing it by myself, and sending that to him up in Maine. He was trying to work with that and trying to make it down on weekends to help. It’s been a bit of a struggle, but now that he’s here we’ve been able to make a lot of progress and work on the videos. We’re hoping to make a big launch and push around the New Year. We think by that point we’ll have enough of a boat here that you can come and look at it and say “Ah, yes. That object that you’re building looks somewhat like a boat. I can see it.” Once we are at that point we can get the local media involved. We’ll have a bunch of videos backlogged that we can start releasing them and not stop. We’ll be in good shape.
Climbing Together: Do you have plans of where you want to travel to?
Stephen: Not really, no.
Alix: Where ever the wind takes us. We were talking about a circumnavigation anyways, but how we do it and where we go doesn’t really matter to us. It’s more the lifestyle that matters to us. Not where we go.
Climbing Together: What are some aspects of the lifestyle you’re drawn too?
Stephen: One big thing from the research we’ve done and the books we’ve followed on sailing around the world and all that kind of stuff, if you are young and healthy and frugal and don’t have ties to land, don’t have a mortgage your paying for or anything, you can live on 4, 6, 8 thousand dollars a year. When you reduce your financial requirements down to that little amount of money, all the sudden you’re looking at; I’ll sail to the Bahamas or some other tourist destination for the tourist season and I’ll be a bar tender or bus tables or whatever. You work for two, three months and you have enough money to go cruise for the rest of the year. Working two, three months and cruising nine, ten, sounds pretty good.
Alix: One thing a lot of people have confused from what we’ve been saying is we are not looking to just not work for the rest of the year. We’re excited to go do stuff too. That’s part of the lifestyle of being on the boat. Visiting, meeting people, do a job over here, stay for a couple months here. It just seems much more fluid instead of being stuck in one place for a 40 hour work week and having your weekends to do what you want to do and take maybe your two weeks vacation.
Climbing Together: Do you think it will be hard to pick up little jobs along the way?
Alix: No, that’s what I’ve been doing.
Stephen: We’ll have a floating resume. The intent is to bring a decent kit of hand tools, so that we can work on the boat, repair the boat if we need to, and do our own maintenance. There are a lot of wooden boats out there and they all need work. To be able to pull into a boat yard or pull into a marina and put the word out there that we are looking for odd jobs and if anybody questions the quality of our work, they can come over and see our boat.
Stephen in his wood shop
Climbing Together: That’s a good idea.
Alix: I taught English overseas. That’s easy to pick up. Things like that. Along with keeping up with the videos for a travel blog, we can definitely make $8,000 a year.
Stephen: Find a way.
Climbing Together: Do you plan to do your own fishing and stuff?
Alix: Living out at sea, you’ve got to fish.
Stephen: I’ve grown up fishing and hunting and I plan to continue all of that. Spear fishing for dinner looks like a lot of fun.
Alix: Lots of real fresh fish.
Stephen: Rumor has it French Polynesia there’s wild avocados the size of footballs.I want to go find some of those.
Climbing Together: That sounds like a lot of fun to see all the different places and cultures.
Stephen: That’s a huge part of it. Like Alix was saying, most people don’t have a ton of vacation time and flying places is expensive.
Alix: It takes time and when you do, you have what, like two weeks of vacation. You get a couple engagements you need to do and it whittles away a quarter or half your vacation. You’ve got a week left.
Stephen: To be able to sail to somewhere in South America and get a three month visa and say we’re going to live in Costa Rica for three months and then we’re going to head down to Brazil and live there for three months, and keep going and so on and so forth. Being able to not only travel but to immerse into a culture for that long and really explore a place, get to know people, make friends, and do things with the local community.
Climbing Together: Yeah, a lot of people go places on vacation and don’t really get time to be a part of it.
Stephen: We’re really excited to visit a bit more rural and wild corners of the world. Places that you probably wouldn’t go on vacation or couldn’t go because you would need a plane and a then a ferry and then another plane to get to these little places. If you have a sailboat, just sail right up.
Climbing Together: Yeah, I like in taking climbing trips that its often places people don’t typically go to or see as beautiful, but there’s so much you get out of going there. Even though people would be like, really that’s where you went on vacation?
Stephen: Totally. Yeah, and to go to places that aren’t set up for tourist. Where you’re meeting the locals and the actual community and it’s not just some all inclusive resort.
Climbing Together: Have you built any smaller boats leading up to this?
Stephen: Nope, first boat. Don’t even know how to sail.
Climbing Together: Okay, so are you learning as you go?
Stephen: I have a lot of friends who sail. Some of them who have done big blue water crossings and been out to sea for weeks at a whack. So once we get the boat in the water, the plan is to take a few months and do a shake down cruise up and down the eastern sea board. See what time of year it is and if we’ve got to dodge hurricane season or what not. Once Alix and I feel comfortable with the boat and have sailed through a few storms, then we’ll take off from there.
Alix: I wouldn’t mind taking a couple classes before we go to. I have a bunch of friends that just came down from Portland, Maine. So there’s a lot of sailing up there.
Stephen: I’m a little crazy. I want the first boat I sail on to be the one I built.
Alix: If one of us knows what we are doing, we’ll learn together. I’m not worried about.
Stephen: We’re not going to just get in it and take off.
Alix: That’s part of the whole project to is taking our time. There is no rush in sailing off to a certain destination. If we’re just going up and down the eastern sea board learning how to sail and taking our friends out, that’s ideal.
Stephen: I’d probably happily spend a few years doing that.
Climbing Together: How long does a project like this take?
Stephen: From what I’ve read from the pros, they say anywhere from 4 to 8,000 man hours depending on your boat, how fast you work and all that kind of stuff. Our best guest is 3 or 4 years.
Climbing Together: How much work a day do you put into it?
Stephen: Depends on the day.
Alix: Depends on the day and what were doing.
Stephen: Lofting probably 8 hour days over the weekend but it’s so mentally taxing. You’re crawling around on your knees drawing all these lines down to a 16th of an inch or better. After 8 hours of it, you’re kind of cooked. When I was saw milling and doing all that, I took a week off work and probably worked 12 hour days for 7 or 8 days straight. It really depends. Our goal is to try to do like 30-40 hours a week between the two of us on the boat. If we can do that then we can have the boat in the water in 4 years or less.
Climbing Together: Is there anything you are worried about or think will be difficult?
Stephen: I mean, the whole thing is going to be difficult. In terms of woodworking, a wooden boat like this is kind of the holy grail. If you can build a curvy, wooden boat, you can build anything. There is going to be no real end to the challenges. Right now we are trying to wrap our brains around lofting.
Alix: Which is taking the both of us.
Stephen: It’s taking the both of us and some friends and a lot, a lot of head scratching. Once we get through the lofting, it should be more smooth sailing for a little while. Right now we are sitting on a pile of giant keel timbers and we’ll have to start joining those together. That shouldn’t be too too bad. We need to pour the ballast keel at some point. We need to round up 11,500 more lbs of lead. We’ve got 500 so far.
Alix: That’s one of our biggest first hurdles; finding that much lead.
Stephen: Once we have the lead we need to build a smelter and melt the lead and pour it into a mold that we make for the keel. At some point once we get the lead, we’ll have a cauldron with 12,000 lbs of molten lead in it over a gigantic fire. I think that’s going to be a little scary.
Climbing Together: How are you going to make the mold?
Stephen: There’s a few different ways. What I think we’re going to do is make a male plug out of foam. We’ll take some measurements off of the lofting floor after we loft out the keel. We’ll get a big block of foam and shape it down to the proper size. Then make a big wooden box that fits into and then fill it full of concrete and make the mold for the lead to go into. We’ll put that inside a steel reinforced box, so that when all that lead comes in and that pressure pushes out the concrete is supported by something. It should take a week to a week and a half for that to cool because it’s so big, heavy and dense. Then we can cut the metal frame off, take the plywood off, smash the concrete apart, and we’ll have our 9,500 lbs block. We’re going to cast it in here some where. We have to move it as short a distance as possible.
Alix: That needs to get bolted to the wooden keel. Depending when we get to that lead, depends on how much work it’s going to be.
Climbing Together: Can you do this on your own or will you need help?
Stephen: We could do it just the two of us. People have built boats by themselves. We’re really hoping, and so far it’s proven to be more of a community project. I’ve had a lot of friends come over and help put up the building the first time before the building inspector asked us to move it. I had a bunch of friends come over and we stood the walls up. People have come to help with the saw milling and whole bunch of other parts. A lot of people are waiting until we’re actually working on the boat. They think that part is a little bit cooler. I hope to have a lot of people come, help out and lend a hand, teach them what we can along the way. Work will go faster, it will be more enjoyable, and it’s always good to pass on some knowledge. I guarantee anyone who comes and hangs out for the day will learn something.
Climbing Together: Are you making your own sails too?
Stephen: I don’t know. We’ll see what happens when we get to that point.
Alix: We got a ways until we need to figure that out. It would be cool to learn how to make it, so if we are out on our own we can patch anything up or make a new sail if we need to, or if one gets shredded.
Stephen: Sail making is an art. There’s a lot that goes into it.
Climbing Together: I can imagine. What other materials do you need?
Stephen: There’s a full pile of silicon bronze fasteners. The lead keel is held to the wood keel with 7 silicon bronze rods that are an inch and a quarter in diameter. The whole frame of the boat will get bolted together with bronze rods. The planking will go on with copper rivets and the decking will go on with copper rivets or silicon bronze screws. I haven’t decided yet. Those will be the principal fastenings for the boats. It will mostly be the lead keel, bronze fastenings, copper rivets, and wood.
Climbing Together: How will you transport it to the ocean when it’s finished?
Stephen: We’re saying he is going to grab the bow, I’m going to grab the stern and we’re going to walk to the ocean. We’ll have to take the building down, and more than likely we’ll have to get a crane to come in and scoop the boat up and put it on a low board trailer behind a big rig and truck it out to the ocean. It’s under the height limits and a little over the width, so it will be considered a wide load. We’ll have to get the permits and stuff, but it’s very doable.
Climbing Together: What are some things people might not realize would be involved? Like you mentioned permits?
Alix: Getting permits for the boathouse most of all.
Stephen: To us it’s a temporary structure. There’s no footings. As you can see the ridge line for the roof is held up by a steel cable between a mass that we erected out of a pine tree and a maple tree. It’s certainly not going to stand the test of time, but the building inspector didn’t like it being so close to the road where we had it before. We had to move it and spin it and get the permits. Other than that the only other permits we should need are putting it on the road and moving it.
Climbing Together: Do you need to get anything when it comes time to actually sail it?
Stephen: Not unless we’re going to charter it. At that point, we’d need to get a captain’s license and the boat would have to be inspected and stuff, but other than that, no. We’ll get it registered and if we want insurance on it, we’ll have to have someone come in and inspect it and assess it. Other than that no, as long as you have the coast guard approved safety equipment, and your toilet facilities and propane storage tanks are up to regulations. We’re pretty good. It sounds fairly simple.
Climbing Together: Yeah, it does sound simpler than you’d think.
Stephen: They care a lot more about the building than they do the boat. We could literally build an aircraft carrier in the hay field there and there’s no laws preventing us from doing it, but if we wanted to erect a 200 ft tent we’ve got to get a permit for that. Granby (MA) is not use to people building giant boats in the front yard.
Alix: Definitely an oddity
Stephen: A lot of people have been driving by real slow while we’ve been working on it. There’s been a lot of speculation about what’s going on.
Climbing Together: I guess people are probably wonder what it is.
Stephen: We’ve put this plastic up this weekend because the lofting floor was starting to get wet. Now they can’t see in, which is going to be kind of fun. We’re going to start building the boat and then in the spring the walls will come down because I don’t want to work in a greenhouse all summer and at that point if things get wet it’s not as big of a deal. It will be kind of like a revealing in the spring. You’ll drive by and there’s just this and you don’t know what’s going on behind it and all the sudden the wall will come down and BAM! Boat.
Climbing Together: That sounds neat. So you can work on this all year round?
Stephen: Yeah it will be kind of rough in the heat of summer or dead of the winter, but as long as we can handle it we keep working on it.
Alix: We’re working on it all year though.
Stephen: We’ll finish closing it off before the winter comes and then we’ve got to talk to the building inspector and figure out what we need to do to put a wood stove in here. We’ll be able to warm it up a little bit. Then we have the wood shop and that’s got AC and a wood stove in there. It’s not that bad in New England most winters. January and February are going to be our roughest two months. We can go in the wood shop and there’s a lot of stuff we can build and work on in there if it’s really cold and nasty. Same thing in the summer when it’s brutally hot.
Climbing Together: What other type of wood working do you do?
Stephen: I’ve done all sorts of hodge podgey stuff. I grew up on the farm here, so there’s a barn over there we built when I was a kid. I grew up around that kind of stuff. I like to do usually gifts in the workshop. I often make stuff. I’ve made very few things for myself. Cutting boards, stools, I made a cider press, I have a lathe so I’ve turned a lot of bowls and plates and that kind of thing.
Alix: I’ve done a lot less wood working, but we used to work together. We’ve done carpentry work together and roofing together. I’m going to take up more of the back end of the project. The video work and stuff. I studied photography. I’ve never really done video, but I’m learning fast self-taught.
Stephen: As am I with woodworking and boat building.
Alix: That’s kind of the beauty of the project too. We’re teaching ourselves all of this. A lot of people have asked us “how do you know how to build a wooden boat?” I read about it. It’s kind of the same thing with these videos, kind of figuring it out. I want to show people you can do that too.
Climbing Together: What do you think will help keep you motivated since it seems like a longer project than what you’ve worked on in the past?
Stephen: The end result. Being able to get on a boat and go where ever the heck you want. To be able to go live that free and be able to explore and travel. For me, I don’t think I need any more motivation than that.
Climbing Together: That does sound motivating enough.
Stephen: Then accomplishing a life long goal. Building a sailboat that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. To be able to accomplish that and live a lot more of a free existence. To be able to go travel. We both are climbers, so to be able to do first ascents in Norway or climbing in Thailand and Indonesia. Go down to Terra Del Fuego. We could sail to Patagonia and go climbing. Go up to Baffin Island if we want to. The options are endless. There’s an incredible amount of motivation there.
Alix: The lifestyle is big for us. It’s huge. Working minimally but also being able to go and do the things we’ve always been wanting to do.
Stephen: Go see the places I’ve always wanted to see. I’d love to go swim with a whale shark and see the southern cross and the northern lights, and go up and sail around a glacier while Orcas follow around the boat. So many things to go see and do, and really the only way we’re ever going to be able to see and do them is if we build a boat and go sail around. Either that or win the lottery but even then I think we’d build a boat and go sail it. We’d probably just build the boat a lot faster.
Climbing Together: It seems like this would be great for photography too.
Alix: Oh, yeah. I’m thinking of taking all this and doing a documentary at the end. Starting photography as well this is going to be perfect. All these things put together. You’re asking are we going to be able to find odd jobs, oh yeah.
Climbing Together: It sounds like a good combination of all your interest.
Alix: We’ve been saying we make a good team. I’ve got the carpenter on my side here, and I can provide the back end working all the computers which he hates doing.
Stephen: I could never make the videos. I would have hurdled the computer out the window two months ago.
Alix: We compliment each other pretty well for this.
Stephen: We don’t step on each others toes much either. Alix will show me stuff on the videos, but as far as I’m concerned that’s his department. If there’s something I don’t really like I’ll say I’m not fond of this, but at the end of the day it’s his call. If I don’t like it, but he says let’s go for it, great. We’re going for it.
Alix: That’s how it’s going to be with the boat too. I don’t much about carpentry, so if I’m like this doesn’t look right and he says no, it’s fine. Okay we’ll do it.
Climbing Together: That seems good for this adventure to work well together. How did you meet?
Alix: We met when we were both going to the same school, Unity College. We both took a rock climbing class and started climbing together. That’s how we really met. We lived down the hall from each other, but I don’t think we’d really start hanging out with each other if we hadn’t started climbing together. Once we did that we were doing that every weekend.
Stephen: Then after that we just stayed in touch. Alix has traveled all around. I’ve bummed around here and there. I’m sure we’ve gone some good long times without talking.
Alix: That’s the coolest thing about our friendship. We’ll go a long time without talking and then reconnect and it’s like we saw each other yesterday.
Stephen: We kind of intend to do that with the sailboat too. If at some point we need a little space from each other we both backpack and hike and all that kind of stuff. We can go to Italy and be like you can walk across Italy, I’ll sail around and pick you up on the other side. We can take a month and go our separate ways. Which works really well with our vision of going somewhere and staying for a while. Alix can teach English, I can go to the boat yard and we can meet up at the end of the day and go climbing or what not. Living on that lofting floor together for months at a time is going to be cozy.
Picture taken by me in Hingham, MA
Climbing Together: What are some other interests that you plan to explore on this adventure?
Alix: I don’t know where to start. We want to learn how to scuba dive and get the gear on there so we can refill tanks and
Stephen: I want to put a dive compressor on the boat so no matter where we are in the world we can charge our own tanks. We can go do some scuba and we can also use that to make money. If someone’s anchors get fouled or the bottom of their boat needs scrubbing. We will do it for you.
Alix: Climbing, hiking.
Stephen: We want to make some stand up paddle boards. Some nice wooden ones to bring with us so we can paddle those, surf those. Spear fishing. There are a lot of books I’d like to read. I’d really like to learn how to play a musical instrument. I’ve been toying with the idea of when the boat’s done, taking a little bit of time and making myself a violin. Taking it on the boat and teaching myself to play. That’s the kind of stuff that you don’t have the time for. I think going and living on the boat we’ll have the time for that.
Alix: I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar too. Never got to.
Stephen: I’d love to learn some languages.
Alix: That’s going to be awesome for me. I love languages.
Climbing Together: What languages do you want to learn?
Stephen: All I know is English. He knows Spanish and French so that would be a good place to start.
Alix: I’ve tried learning Arabic, more of less understand Portuguese, Italian. Brushing up on all of those. I think anywhere we go, I want to learn some of the language and be able to at least communicate with the locals. I think that will be part of my job is the translator. I enjoy it too.
Climbing Together: That’s good. It shows respect to them. What needs to be done in sailing the boat? Does someone always need to be doing something?
Stephen: It really depends. So when we are living somewhere for a while, we’ll drop a couple anchors or tie it to a mooring and the boat will take care of it’s self. We don’t really need to worry after that. When we are actually sailing, going from point A to point B, someone always has to be on watch.
Other than that, it really just kind of depends on the weather. If you’re in the middle of the ocean and you get into the doldrums where there is no wind, yeah if you don’t have enough diesel or electric depending on what your auxiliary is to motor, you could just sit there and float for a week or two waiting for the wind. On the same side, if we’re in some narrow strait or channel or bay and the weather is bad and there’s a ton of shipping we might need three people on the boat going all the time to keep where we’re going and not hit anyone or get hit by somebody.
The boat is a heavy displacement, so I’ve looked at plans for boats and this one is 30 ft on deck, that are 60 ft on deck and don’t weigh as much as this one. It’s a tank. My friend Jeff who sails describes it as a hippopotamus or sea turtle just plowing through the ocean. Atkin, the designer, the boat’s plan is called Ingrid and he describes Ingrid as able-ness personified, equal to any situation, the kind of boat that will behave herself in rough weather and can be depended upon to sail herself. The design is pattered off the Norwegian lifeboats, which a designer from a long long time ago in Norway made popular these double ended heavy displacement boats, so they are kind of like a canoe where they are pointy at both ends. When other boats were sinking in the storms, these were the boats they sent out. This is kind of inspired by those designs. It’s a wide boat, a heavy boat, it’s double ended. So it’s not going to be fast. We are not going to go enter and win any races. She is going to more or less sail like it’s on rails. It’s got a big long heavy keel. Getting around Boston Harbor might be a bit of a nightmare, but taking off across the pacific is what this boat was made for and where this boat will really shine.
Climbing Together: So was this model picked for dependability?
Stephen: Yeah, that and the ease of construction. The boat was designed in 1934, at the time it was designed for the amateur boat builder to be able to build it at home and be successful, and that’s kind of Atkin’s whole thing. Something about boats for unregimented yachtsmen is the kind of motto. When I was looking for boat designs the name Atkins kept popping up in different places, and once I started looking into the Atkin boat line and what they’re all about and the cult following they have, I decided alright we’ll build an Atkin boat. I started digging through all the Atkin plans.
It’s kind of like deciding what kind of house you want to build or car you want to buy. The options are daunting and everything is a compromise, everything is a trade off, especially with a boat. We started looking through their plans and reading through them. I knew I wanted a boat I could single hand, so you could sail it yourself, and I wanted a boat that was big enough to have two or three people on it pretty much all the time and for it to be relatively comfortable. It’s a boat, it’s going to be cozy no matter what, but not have it be too crowded. There’s five berths on it, five beds. I wouldn’t want to have five people living on it crossing an ocean, but if there were two or three of us and we were in port and two or three people wanted to come stay, that would be fine. Yeah, so between the relative ease of construction. No boat is easy to build, but it doesn’t have any crazy curves or anything that’s too wild about it. Between it being relatively easy to build, designed for a home boater, and designed to handle big waves and storms, I decided to build an Ingrid.
Alix: I just went along with it. I was like alright, sounds good.
Climbing Together: Do you know what the inside is going to be structured like?
Stephen: Yeah, on the plans they talk about their version of the lay out. Blue Water boats, I think it is, out of Washington state in the 70s, I believe, made a whole bunch of fiber glass versions of this boat.So there’s a whole bunch of interior configurations. Generally, standard is you have a cockpit in the stern of the boat and you enter it through the companion way and go down the stairs and then on your right hand side will be a chart table and your radio and all your navigation stuff, and on the left hand will be the galley, so it’s your kitchen, stove, sink, refrigerator, that kind of stuff, and then you go into the main saloon which is the living area. There’s a table that’s set up. On one side there’s a couch with a bed behind it, on the other side there’s just a couch, the two couches double as beds. Then you go through a bulkhead and there’s a little door and there’s your head and your toilet on one side, storage lockers on the other and then in the front of the boat is another cabinet with twin deep berths, so there’s two beds up there. But we can make the twin deep berths one big bed if we wanted. We can shuffle things around a little bit.
Climbing Together: Do you need to get all the stuff to communicate with other boats as well?
Stephen: Yeah, well have to get radar and radar reflectors, and the radio and all that stuff. Absolutely.
Alix: Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of gear we need to get once the boat is actually built.
Stephen: That’s one instance where I’ll definitely take advantage of modern technology.
Climbing Together: It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it makes it even better to know you put all this together.
Stephen: I like the fact that we are going to know every piece of wood, every bolt, every screw, every wire. I couldn’t imagine heading out across an ocean on a boat that somebody else built and not knowing if it was done as well as it could be, or if there’s an issue where exactly I need to look and what I’m going to encounter. So there’s a huge piece of mind to me sailing off on a boat that I know so intimately. We built it, if we break it, we fix it, as long as we don’t outright sink it.
Climbing Together: I think I remember seeing that you were planning to get all the wood from the local area?
Stephen: Yeah, we cut all the trees down, milled all the lumber, and it came from right back here on my family farm.
Alix: the only thing we don’t have is the cedar, right?
Stephen: Yep, for the planking, and the Spruce for the mast. We have all the White Oak for the frame and all the Pine for the decking and interior work. We’re going to put some Sugar Maple in there, some Cherry Burls, Black Walnut, some Butternut. We’ve got a bunch of fun stuff to work with.
Alix: It’s part of the cool thing about building it ourselves. We’ve got the time to do it. So we’ve got all this nice wood around to make the inside with really nice wood. Usually people build a boat and by that point they’re just sick of it.
Climbing Together: How many trees does it take to make this?
Stephen: I honestly didn’t count. I think we cut down 9 or 10 oaks, and like 4 pines. We still have to outsource for the cedar for the planking and spruce for the mast. I would say all said and done, the boat will come out of 20 trees or fewer. They are pretty big trees. Most of the trees we cut were at least 2ft in diameter at the base and somewhere in the ball park of 80 to 100 years old.
Climbing Together: Where can people keep up to date with this project?
Alix: We have a website. http://www.acorntoarabella.com We have a Facebook page which will lead you back to the website as well: https://www.facebook.com/acorntoarabella. We have the videos up on a site called patreon (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3016693). That site was actually created for artist that are doing reoccurring work, so instead of doing something and raising one lump sum of money, people can put up work and you have followers who decide to donate a certain amount, and it’s their choice, for a piece of work that you put up. If people want to follow, the best way to help us is to subscribe to our Patreon page. Every time we put up a video, they will pay the amount they decided to pay. Depending on certain tiers of how much you donate, you get gifts or extra stuff. We’ll be putting those on as they come out and as the other videos start coming out, we’ll be putting them on YouTube and things like that.
Climbing Together: If people are really excited about this, is that the best way to help?
Alix: Yeah, that would be the best thing to do if they want to help us.
Climbing Together: Are there other ways to get involved?
Stephen: We are on the hunt for lead. If anybody knows where we can find some lead, we will match what your local scrap yard will buy it for and we’ll come pick it up. Any and all things made of lead. The more the better. We need a lot.
Climbing Together: Any other things you’d like people to know?
Stephen: We really want people to be involved. If folks are super interested and want to send us an email, swing by, and lend a hand, and see what we’re doing, the more the merrier.
Alix: Don’t be shy. We love talking about it.
Stephen: A big goal of it is to hopefully inspire folks. A lot of people have said this is crazy or so ambitious, and I don’t think we really see it that way. Is it a big project? Yes. Is it a lot of work? Sure, but it’s been done before. It’s been done hundreds if not thousands of times over the course of history. I had so many people I’ve talked to about it say that’s so amazing or I wish I could do something like that, but I never could. If you want to do it, just go for it. Six years ago if you came to me and said I would be building a boat in my front yard with my best friend who quit his job and moved down here to help me do it, I would have laughed at you. I had that end goal and I kept plugging away at it, and when I pitched the idea to my friends and they blew me off and told me I was crazy, it only strengthened my resolve. I kept digging and did more research.
Alix: Sometimes the crazy stuff is the stuff that really can come together. I think people just get scared of that. It’s not as bad as it looks. Part of our wanting to do this is we feel like we don’t really fit into the kind of society we’re in right now. We want to get out that idea that you can do something different. You don’t have to work with what’s here. Think big and believe in yourself.
Stephen: When I was a kid my favorite books were My Side of the Mountain, Huckleberry Finn, Where the Red Ferns Grow. The premise in most of those books is being outside and being free. I think that’s an amazing way to live.
Alix: And it’s possible.
Photo I took in Maine
Thank you both for answering my questions. It really was fascinating learning all about this plan and how practical the idea of bringing it to life is. Yes, it will take work, motivation, and determination, but it’s clear this is something they are passionate about and capable of doing. Good luck with your endeavors and hopefully we can check back in soon to see how progress is going. For all the readers out there, feel free to post any questions and I can see about getting answers in the follow up. Or if you have a similar experience, your own unique dream, or advice, we’d love to hear it.