Apr 23, 2016: ‘We are building a 38 foot wooden sailboat from scratch in our backyard. It's going to be one heck of an adventure and we would love to have you along.’
This was the caption on Acorn to Arabella’s very first YouTube video over seven years ago. Since then, they have created an immensely supportive community that helped them achieve their goal. And in June of this year, Arabella launched with its community there to cheer them on.
In a world that often embraces technological advances and automation, we here at TotalBoat believe in the pursuit of making things with your own hands, and the beauty that lies in that artistry. So when we discovered Acorn to Arabella several years ago, we were inspired by and delighted in their journey. So much so, that we have featured them on our blog 64 times (well, now 65)!
Acorn to Arabella stands as a resolute testament to the enduring spirit of traditional craftsmanship and unwavering passion. Their story is a remarkable journey of dedicated souls who embarked on an audacious quest to construct a wooden sailboat from scratch. This captivating project not only captures the essence of time-honored boat building techniques, but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for all who are drawn to the magnetic allure of the sea. Rooted in a commitment to authenticity, Acorn to Arabella's remarkable undertaking has been such a pleasure for us here at TotalBoat to be a part of.
In reaching out to Steve for this article, we discovered he was happily sailing Arabella (who could blame him?), so we chatted with Anne Bryant, a sailor who joined the A2A team in recent years, to share a little more of the story behind Acorn to Arabella.
Could you please introduce yourself and provide a brief overview of your background as a maker/boater?
Hi! I'm Anne Bryant, many people know me as Annie B. I'm a cruiser and sailor who has been working with Acorn to Arabella, producing the channel and doing some of Arabella's finish work. Steve Denette built Arabella (along with a crew over the years), and because he's off the coast of Maine as he's making his way up to Portland, I'm happy to tell you our channel's story. Steve is a woodworker and outdoor educator who loves climbing and mountain biking, and he's just built a 38' sailboat mostly out of wood he harvested from his family's farm. He's the 5th generation to have lived on Pinetum Farm in Granby, Massachusetts, and his plan is to become proficient in sailing and seamanship, then take the boat to far-flung places as a basecamp and comfortable home.
What initially inspired you to start working on boats?
Watching YouTube sailing channels and reading various books about both sailing and building boats inspired Steve to build his own boat. Though he hadn't built one previously, he had experience that made him more than an absolute beginner. He had done woodworking and lots of other things, such as playing around with diesel engines and other mechanical things, around the farm that he learned from his grandfather and great-grandfather, and put that to use. He has a degree in outdoor education.
Can you share a specific project or build that you're particularly proud of?
For me, one of the most memorable projects Steve and I worked on was Arabella's refrigerator. We built a plug for it, then came to TotalBoat to build out the main box. This ended up being, essentially, a fiberglass tub which we wrapped with high R-value polyisocyanurate insulation sheets. We filled voids with TotalBoat Flotation Foam, 'glassed the whole thing, then painted everything with a few coats of TotalBoat Total Protect. Perhaps the nuttiest part of it was making tightly-fitting lids with a creative employment of TotalFair. The final touches of cherry and cherry burl on its top and front make it right at home in Arabella's beautiful interior. The result, with the Sea Frost refrigeration system installed in it, is pretty lovely, and right now, it's keeping ice cream frozen for Steve as he's cruising!
Do you have a favorite tool or technique that you frequently use in your projects? Why do you enjoy working with it?
Steve uses a lot of hand tools, which he prefers generally over their powered versions—he'd rather break out the adze, "Yankee" screwdriver, or hand plane to sneak up on a cut or a final placement of something, especially since we're mostly dealing with precious or irreplaceable materials. Oh sure, he's taken out the chainsaw a lot too, but if you look carefully in everything we do, slow is fast enough. Better to do it once with so much material that was hand harvested or hard-won through reclamation.
Have you ever collaborated with other boaters? If so, can you share a memorable collaboration experience and the outcome?
One of the best parts of working with Steve, who had never sailed before launching Arabella, is that he's done this whole endeavor as a collaboration and checks his ego at the door. He knows what he has experience with, which is a lot indeed, but he is in a state of constant collaboration. When he looks for knowledge, he goes to people first, then books, then the internet, generally in that order. I have stood beside him for what has cumulatively been many hours, staring at some corner or the way something works, lending my take on how I'd use a certain space or aspect of the interior, deck arrangements, or rigging, and how I'd generally go about making something so that it's easy to maintain in the future. Now that he's on the water, it's taking the collaborative efforts of a group of his friends to teach him seamanship. Sailing is easy, and his humble curiosity and keen observation are possibly his best assets.
Perhaps the most concrete and recent collaboration was with Doyle Sails and Robbie Doyle, a sail designer and America's Cup sailor who reached out to us to innovate modern cruising sails for this gaff-rigged boat.
The truth of the matter is that none of us are alone here on the water or in our shops. If there was one tradition above all that we could find as a thread in the story of every boat ever built, it is constant innovation and sharing. It's why we love it here.
Thank you Anne for taking the time to answer our questions and share a little more about yourself, Steve, and A2A! Make sure you’re following Acorn to Arabella on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, to see where their journey takes them next.