After his kids were grown and out of the house, Elliot Arons found himself with lots of free time on his hands. As liberating as that might be, he often found himself “wallowing in front of the TV.” His daughter Emily prodded him to do something more productive and suggested he build another boat. When she was much younger she’d seen him build a Platt Monfort Dacron-skinned canoe, a project that he seemed to enjoy. But the building had turned out to be more engaging than the paddling. He used the canoe a few times on the annual summer trips to Friendship, Maine, but after that it gathered dust in the basement of the family home in the Bronx. What he really wanted was a sailboat.
Elliot liked the idea of building another boat, and his search for plans led him to Arch Davis, a New Zealand–born boat builder and designer now living in Belfast, just an hour’s drive up the Maine coast from Friendship. Arch’s Penobscot series of Whitehall-like sail-and-oar skiffs caught Elliot’s eye. He ordered one of Arch’s boatbuilding DVDs to see what the project would entail, and soon after watching it he ordered a Penobscot 17 kit.
Arch strives to assure that beginning boatbuilders get off to a good start, and he certainly succeeded with Elliot, who noted: “Arch arranged it all: the delivery of his precut parts, the marine plywood from Florida, the epoxy kit that lasted for the whole construction, the video instructions, and the manual. The way Arch put the box together with the bulkhead pieces, and keel pieces affixed to the box so that nothing would rattle or shift, made me realize this was a very carefully thought-out and executed system.”
Elliot went straight to work and turned his garage into his boatshop. The project required plenty of time and effort and occasionally kept him up at night worrying that he might have made some mistakes, but “from the start I was in sheer bliss. I lost weight because I ran up and down the stairs so often, getting tools and getting set up.”
The boat’s glued-lap plywood planking is laid over stringers set in notches in the bulkheads that support the seating and for foam flotation. Elliot chose the gunter sloop rig rather than the balanced-lug schooner and ketch rig options included in the plans. To move the project along he enlisted Arch’s help and hired him to build the spars. In 10 months Elliot had his Penobscot ready for the water, and although his home is less than a half mile from the Hudson River, he trailered the boat to Maine to launch it at Friendship. Christened ELLANDELL, the boat is named after Elliot and his wife Ellen.
He sails the waters of Maine’s Muscongus Bay, often solo, sometimes with family. He has been getting the boat ready for the summer sailing season and writes: “I needed a hobby and building the boat kept me busy; now I have the upkeep and I’m happy.”
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