Boatbuilding from Scratch: Meet the Acorn to Arabella Team

Boatbuilding from Scratch: Meet the Acorn to Arabella Team

We got to meet with the insanely motivated 2-man crew of “Acorn to Arabella” last week and we think, like us, that you’ll appreciate what they have to share with the boatbuilding world. The young duo started filming their YouTube series “Acorn to Arabella” about a year and a half ago and they have been busy ever since. Meeting them in person confirmed our suspicions that these 2 not-yet-sailors have an ambitious plan that they will see to fruition regardless of any setbacks or challenges that could arise. Their plan is pretty simple, actually, cut down trees, source hardware and parts for boat from decommissioned (trashed) hulls and stay busy cutting, building and filming until their 38-foot Atkins sailboat is ready to hit the water – in approximately 2-10 years from now.

There is a lot of value in the videos being made by Steve and Alix, the dynamic duo who make up the A2A team. Steve is the boatbuilding brain behind the project, while Alix is the more-artsy-than-handy filmmaker. As the pair search for supplies and resources, they have unexpectedly met up with people and parts which will make their build go that much smoother. If you watch through their collection of about 30 build videos filmed so far, you’ll notice they are beyond resourceful.

As they explain their plan, their steps and their progress, they go out of their way to source and reuse materials that are still of use but are bound for the landfill. Be it an old, lifeless fiberglass hull or an ancient, rusty band saw, fans of Louis Sauzedde who have become endeared to his tool tuning and unusual tips will appreciate the organic nature of Steve and Alix’s build. They don’t mind if it takes them 10 years; they are mellow, crafty and they are calculated. Nothing is being done half-assed or in a hurry. They are methodical and determined, just like Lou. They are masters of the tools they have at their disposal and they are not obsessed with the latest and greatest from Festool or Makita – they are going to build themselves the sturdiest, best built boat they can, and then, once they move it from the woods of Western Mass to the water – they will go sailing. That is, after they learn how to sail.

Follow along with Alix and Steve and witness their journey to build an Atkins 38′ Ketch; a well known and revered bluewater sailboat that they intend to sail to any and every place they desire in their search for great places to go climbing. It might be a bit far off from their current state of affairs, but their intention is to document the building of Arabella, and then also the adventures aboard her. Join us as we welcome them to the ranks of boatbuilders we admire – as they learn their way around building a classic bluewater cruiser.

Here is their last 18 months on video to catch you up to their current work – pouring the lead keel. Enjoy!

38 responses to “Boatbuilding from Scratch: Meet the Acorn to Arabella Team

    1. So go do it! Making the leap is the hardest part, the rest is just dogmatic commitment =) We can always put extra hands to use! We are at it pretty much every weekend.

    1. Thanks! You are welcome anytime. We are in Granby Massachusetts, if you are ever in the are feel free to drop us a line and stop by.

  1. I’d like to know the species of trees you are using and how you milled them. Looks lke everything was slab sawn, is that right? Are you using quarter-sawn anywhere? Where? How did you go about trimming down the keel? It looked like a slab sawn center cut, was it?

    1. Check out our YouTube channel, the videos will answer most of your questions.
      White Oak for the backbone, White Pine for the decking and interior, still have to source Cedar for the planking and Spruce for the masts.
      Everything was slab sawn, the pardner beam, decking and rudder are the main places we will us exclusively quarter sawn. The keel was a flitch off the side of the log. Once brought down to final thickness it will be totally clear of sap and pith, 24′ long, 17″ wide and 10″ thick with 1 knot. The past couple videos covered shaping the timber, we used a 10 1/4″ circular saw, 2 hand saws, a chainsaw, axe, adze, chisel, mallet and scrub plane to rough shape it.
      Hope that answers your questions!

  2. Does this lite my stove or what? I have done a few, but just turned 70 so I don’t know how many more I’m good for. Sure have lots of odds and too. any ends. Give a shout with the hard to find. Who knows, it might. E in the barn still.

    1. Will do! Thanks! I am sure you got a few more in ya, we hear 70 is the new 50! =)
      We just bought a 1927 Atkin Dragon that is encrusted in bronze, we are hoping she has most of the hard to find stuff we need. Trying to use bronze as much as we can!

  3. Does this lite my stove or what? I have done a few, but just turned 70 so I don’t know how many more I’m good for. Sure have lots of odds and too. any ends. Give a shout with the hard to find. Who knows, it might. E in the barn still.

  4. Great job guys, I knew you would blow up! the quality of your videos was just to damn good for you to be a secret for very long. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks! Not sure if we have “blown up” yet but things are certainly starting to take off! It’s really cool to see folks getting psyched on our crazy endeavor!

  5. I am so impressed by the two of you. I had a similar dream 20 years ago, not quite as ambitious as yours though. I bought an old wooden hull and after a 3 year renovation, turned it into one of the most successful dinner cruise boats in NY harbor. Not what I had in mind for her but it keeps the dog fed. If I had 20 years back I’d be there with you! I have hours of video on mixed media, someday I’ll compile it. I have been binge watching your vids all weekend, sure beats anything on TV. Can’t wait to see how things progress, good luck. Glad to see there are still some of us out there who like to LIVE life.

    1. Thanks!
      Congrats on your restoration! It’s always great to hear from folks who undertook a big project and completed it. A three year commitment is no small thing.
      There are many who live life, most are un-heard of because they are too busy living it to talk about it. Have you seen Leo restoring Tally-Ho? He is another younger guy swinging for the fences restoring a classic wooden boat.
      New York is not too far away, you should come pay us a visit some time =)

      1. Thanks for the invite, sorry it took a while to get back, winter is maintenance time for us and with the weather being as it is, well you know.

  6. Steve and Alix, I was up in the attic yesterday, and found another sail bag. All my dad’s boats were 30′ to 43′ so it might be something you can use.
    Message me on Face book if you want it.
    Terry Spencer

    1. Terry,
      We tried to find you on FaceBook but there is more than one Terry Spencer. We are interested if you still have them. Shoot us a email if you do.

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    1. The next town over from Amherst. You could easily ride your bicycle from Hampshire College to our boat yard in the hills, Umass is just a hop, skip and a jump. We were recently guest speakers at a business class there believe it or not!
      Shoot us a email and we can sort out a visit for sure.

  8. Where to start?
    Obviously you guys have a lot going for you in terms of skills, i.e. wood/metal fabrication and facility, not to mention Tech (Video) as well as desire etc. While these straits are very nice to have, I can’t wonder why you are starting out in such a deep hole. The depth and scope of your project, in terms of time (Hours) and money is astronomical! I just don’t see the possibility of competition! Of course, they said the same thing about going to the Moon or carving Mt. Rushmore onto solid granite .
    Since you are located in Maine, (Wooden Boat Heaven) I am wondering why you wouldn’t want to “cut your teeth” on a Restoration project first?

    1. That was the nicest comment doubting our ability to finish yet!
      Thank you for being so polite!
      Most folks have just sent a brief message saying “You are lunatics, your skills are mediocre, you have no idea how big of an undertaking this is and you will surly fail”… and that’s about it.

      We agree that it is a huge undertaking that will take many years of work and cost a lot of money to accomplish.
      So do these things:
      Getting married, getting divorced, buying and fixing a fixer-upper house, getting an education, getting advanced degrees on top of said education, committing to a career/earning a pension, raising a child, starting a business, we could keep going.
      We would say in many ways these all cost more money, take more time and carry heavier repercussions if you quit or fail than what we are doing.
      Do you ask similar questions/doubt their ability to succeed of a new parent, home owner, or student? Their journey is fraught with more peril than ours!
      We are not following the “normal” path, that is for sure. But just because it is not the norm does not mean it is any harder or more costly to accomplish.
      But hey, we could be wrong. Stay tuned and find out!

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  12. I ran across your videos while surfing around on You Tube. It was your pour of the lead keel. Now I’m hooked. I love being on the water in my 18’ runabout, which is a far cry from your sailboat, but I am fascinated by the construction of this boat. Your use of many different tools and processes, and all of the side projects that are needed is just fun to watch. Your skill with all of the tasks you do is inspiring. I’m just an average guy who enjoys projects around the home and the best ones are when I get to use more tools or need to buy a new one (“Yes dear, I really do need that. I may not use it again for a long time, but I can’t do this job without it). Is there a webpage that has all of your videos in order? I see some consecutively and then find others that were earlier on.

    1. You can find it all here
      You should easily find the link that will take you to YouTube where you can see all the videos.

      Glad you are enjoying following our journey!!

    1. Arabella is still under construction. We put out a video every Friday detailing the build. Acorn to Arabella on Youtube.

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