This boat began not with the laying of the keel, but with the laying of a foundation. "To build a racing sailboat in Canada, you need a building," stated Mr. A. Hatfield, founding member of Bear Island Boatworks. " Once Derek had settled on a designer and the size of the boat, the size of the building that would be needed was easy." In October of 1997 the building was begun. It is a one and a half story, hip-roofed mammoth. Well insulated and well lit, it has been planned for the heavy New Brunswick winter. Located close to the St. John river, the company is named after Bear Island, which was flooded into extinction when the Mactaquac Dam was built some years ago.
At this stage this is very much a family project. Derek’s sister Tammy and her husband Eugene McLellan own Mybec Construction which has completed the huge boathouse. Mr. Art Hatfield, Derek’s father will provide the boat building expertise while under his father’s tutelage Derek’s brother Hal , other family members and friends will give hour after hour of their time.
Mr. Hatfield has built many boats during his career, but never anything quite like this. On his return from a meeting with the boat designer R. W. Dresser of the Boston, Mass area, Mr. Hatfield described the boat as a "mix between a race car and a big dinghy".
The design work has been finished. According to the computer, it will be one of the fastest 40 footers in existence. The lofting of the hull was begun on December 8, A professional lofter from Boston was brought in to do the job. This is a 5 day job for a person with this training. The next step will be the hull frames. It is hoped that the framing will be finished just before the new year (1998) What an exciting way to start ’98 - a hull taking shape.
Late December 1997:
The news from Bear Island continues to be exciting. Before the New Year arrived the framing was complete. Derek reported that "to see the hull taking shape on the boat house floor was like watching reality come into focus." Derek spent a good part of the Christmas vacation period in New Brunswick working on HIS boat.
Hulls have been planked in lengths of bead and cove lumber for centuries. The semi-circular cove allows the slight rotation needed to produce a curved hull. This hull has used the same technique using epoxy to join together planks of Core Cell, a closed cell foam. It comes in 8-foot lengths 2 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. It was butt joined to make 40-foot lengths and then, starting at the shear, each plank was fitted to the frame working up to the top of the hull. Using an air compressor a brad nailer affixed the planks onto the male frames.
This bow shot clearly shows the solid wood stem. It has been formed of marine grade oak on the band saw with the final shaping including many hours of hand sanding by Art Hatfield, Derek's father. The solid wood stem is to give the boat extra strength in the crucial area. There is no keelson - race boats prefer a smooth sleek bottom, barely immersed in the ocean. It may be of interest to note that the first water tight bulkhead would be located approximately at the second frame from the boats stem as seen in this photograph.
The male frames are almost completed covered with the Cell Core planks. The last set of planks had both cove and bead cut off and were hand fitted and butt joined into the remaining space. An exacting task.
The Toronto boat show was a great success, but of course kept Derek away from hands on work on his boat’s hull in New Brunswick. The work continues daily as Art Hatfield builds the frames for the Hull. Derek will be working with his father and others from February 5 until the 9th. Brian Mills in New Brunswick is busy organizing a visit by the Power & Sail Squadron to the Boat Works, both to see the progress and to participate in a meeting on Boating Safety, a topic of interest to all boaters.
In the photo taken at the Boat Show are: (L to R) Derek Hatfield, Steve Pettingill, first North American to break the European hold on the BOC by placing 2nd in Class I in the 1994-95 BOC; Brian Hancock, originally from South Africa, now resident in the USA; skipper of Great Circle; 3 times a Whitbread racer; currently part of Team Adventure USA, Cam Lewis's entry to The Race; Neal Petersen from South Africa, the first black sailor to circumnavigate the globe; entered the Around Alone twice 94-95 (withdrew due to damage in the Southern Ocean) and in the 98-99 race completed the entire course.
There have been many visitors to the Boat Works this month and a great deal of frenzied activity. In typical maritime fashion this week, the boathouse has not only been the scene of a family gathering but also a seminar room for a safe boating talk as well as a television studio. The CBC have carefully recorded the laying of the Core Cell foam planks building the epoxy-sealed hull. The opening lines of the televised report were: " A sailor is building a boat; building a boat for a race; not a race that you would find on the head pond and the boat is not like anything you are likely to see there. Derek and his Dad, as well as both his brother and brother-in-law are carefully and quietly preparing to challenge every ocean on earth." At the end of February the Hull had been completely shaped.