Jeremiah Gallay's earliest boating memories are of canoe outings with his dad on the rivers and lakes of Maryland. The experiences made a lasting impression; he took up sailing while studying art in college, and his interest in boats drifted into his studies. Fallen leaves and branches suggested floating sculpture, and he built functional watercraft in organic forms. Years later, Jeremiah created LEAF-BOAT, modeled after a fallen leaf with its edges curled upward. He drew the leaf, modified and scaled the drawings, and built the design as a cedar-strip-on-oak-frame vessel to be paddled by a crew of two.

Photographs by and courtesy of Jeremiah Gallay

After building his first boat in 1994, Jeremiah found ways to combine his newfound love of boatbuilding with his career as a sculptor. LEAF-BOAT is one of four sculptural, tree-inspired boats.

In the early 2000s, when Jeremiah was in his late 20s, he began designing and building a more conventional craft, a 12′4″ gaff-rigged catboat. He created the drawings with a CAD program, constructed a solid keel and frames, and sheathed the hull in marine plywood—except for the forefoot. Plywood couldn't take its compound curves, so he carved this element from solid blocks of wood. The project was complex and challenging, but after nearly four years of work, the boat was launched and it worked beautifully. Jeremiah named the boat STEADY, reflecting personal values of stability, balance, and perseverance. As an Irish friend used to encourage him, "Steady on, Jer."

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