interest in boating was well planted in my veins when I was 5
years old and went for an exciting sail with my 85-year-old grandfather.
It was the first sail of the season and probably his last. The
boat had been laid up for some time and he worked on it all summer,
patching sails and tightening the hull. This accounted for the
late season start that produced a blustery fall day with solid
crisp air. I was too young to remember much of the details but
it was exciting and I loved it.
next seafaring adventure was to build a kayak probably about 10
feet long. I have no idea of where the design came from other
than my head. It was a hard chine shallow "V" bottom,
wood stick frame, covered with canvas and sealed with enamel.
I can’t remember anything bad about the way it handled so
it must have been O.K.. The gaps in this story are to be filled
in with many hours of model airplane building. The highlight of
this era was the construction of a small gas engine for a model
airplane...of course, I couldn't afford a Brown Jr., the standard
in those days. That won't sound too impressive until I tell you
that it was my own design and built from the ground up ... includes
making wooden patterns for aluminum castings made from melted
down tea kettles salvaged from the town dump. I have to tell you
that it was mighty exciting to pour the 1300 degree molten aluminum
into the sand mold and see it instantly chill in the sprue gate.
"Oh no! It didn’t fill the cavity". "Oh well,
lets break open the sand and look". There to our surprise
was a perfectly formed crankcase casting. Machined parts were
done at home on my father’s metal lathe. To be honest the
engine would hardly run, but it still looked classy and it did
help to land my first job as an apprentice in a small machine
to WW2, we soon had about 300 employees and I became the assistant
plant superintendent. As a kid, it was some title and I received
a nickel an hour more than the top machinist that I was responsible
great discovery was that one could take flying lessons if you
left Long Island and went upstate to Lime Ridge airport at Poughquag,
NY. The deal was that private flying was restricted on L.I. due
to coastal submarine activity. Every weekend a small group would
pool some gas ration stamps and take off. We all hung out at the
airport all day and if you were lucky you would get an hour of
instruction. I managed to solo a J3 Cub and get about 30 hours
in the logbook. One day a bright guy back at the defense plant
remarked " why are you wasting your time flying those cubs,
why don’t you join the Naval Air Cadets? That was a really
great idea, and I did. After an academic refresher and some time
at Chapel Hill preflight school I landed at Glenview Naval Air
station where 75 hours were accumulated in a Stearman. That training
opened the door to my Private pilot ticket.
in the naval aviation cadets I saw a fleet of Luders 16’s
in Chicago...well that was my kind of dream boat and it took a
while. There was not much money, a wife, and a family kept me
busy. I guess it is called "old fashion", Betty has
stuck with me through some crazy adventures; including rebuilding
our home for about 20 years of spare time. Can you imagine painting
the bottom of a beached 45’ Ketch, on Mother's day...or
digging a cellar out from under a crawl space with a drag scoop,
used for pulling with a horse; only the horse was a model A Ford
driven by Betty.
next 20 years was spent punching the clock and messing around
with boats. The first was a 23-ft. fin keel PENN YAN Seawanhaka
Sea Bird. Along about that time three of us built three high tech
plywood Hagerty Sea Shell Prams, all glued up with epoxy. They
stood up well, a recent survey showed the glued joints still in
evening, while I was working alone testing a gyro at the Kenyon
shop, I witnessed a small disaster that happened to an interesting
gaff rigged cutter that was a recent addition to the waterfront.
It was tied up to a boatyard float and when the tide went out
the boat flopped over only to fill when the tide arose. I speak
of all of this only to set the stage for a lot of great things
that happened in my life.
of this excitement was too much for me to miss so I punched out
on the clock and joined the volunteers working to float the "ALLURA".
My efforts were reworded by a friendship that took me on many
sailing trips including Bermuda, The bad side was to discover
that whenever I slept on a boat offshore I would wake up with
serious mal de mere. So every meal, to and from the onion patch,
went over the side. Was the trip worth it? You bet it was; hell
I did it twice...even did a guest crew stint on an 80 Ft. tug
boat delivery from Long Island to Aruba.
gainful employment those days was with Fairchild Missile Div.
working in the plastic branch where I was involved especially
in sandwich core laminates working with resins and epoxy. This
led to a product named JIFFY WALL, a low cost honeycomb construction
panel that I named and helped invent.
highlight of this job was to make a friendship of Mack Boetger
(an indirect father of a huge fleet of Blue Jays built on Great
South Bay) We rented his tooling to built 20 at the Ketewomoke
Yacht Club in Huntington. Mack also supplied the hot dipped galvanized
hull for an odd Houseboat that I was responsible for the design.
I mustn’t forget the thrill of sailing his DN 60 Iceboat.
boat ownership included an Old Town Canoe, Penguin, Thistle and
Hylander. After a bit of buying, trading etc., I did get my dreamboat,
a Luders 16. It was all that I expected and we used it a lot for
one great summer, but then the trading bug took over and it was
sold to raise money to try my luck at importing a 23’ SPARTAN
class sloop from England. My enthusiasm was centered on racing
the "Burnam Belle" in the newly established Midget Ocean
Racing Class. I was involved to the extent that I was named Commodore
of the US fleet for one season. A highlight of this activity was
the connection of some of the members to hold our meetings in
the N.Y. Yacht Club model room.
this time I gave some thought to selling the house to live a life
on a big boat. I was talked out of the 67’ schooner ‘Wendameen"
and ended up with a great old 45’ wooden ketch named "Gitana",
Guess where "GIT"-ROT was developed and who put it on
the market? In about 4 Years we had 88 wholesale distributors
selling the stuff so we decided to sell out to a larger company
and move to Maine.
FERRO CEMENT BUG bit me; however now I was an INVENTOR so I had
to improve the process. Well actually my innovations were valid
and some good hulls were done. My 1st attempt was WIRE PLANK.
Lines were "borrowed" from a 13-ft. peapod and some
hand made 16 GA. WIRE PLANK was plastered up with 1/8" Portland
cement. The boat was a lightweight at 250# and it seemed quite
on to FER-A-LITE...this is a polyester resin mixture that had
lightweight filler and chopped glass additives. It mixes up to
a consistency about like peanut butter. It is easy to plaster
up a wire mesh armature with no voids. The best part is that this
is lighter than water and has a certain amount of resiliency to
allow some flexibility without cracking and a much higher tensile
strength than Portland cement.
sold "Gitana" when we migrated to Maine, I felt the
need to build another 45 footer. I decided upon a 45’ L.
Francis Herreshoff Mobjack design ketch and converted a traditional
wooden hull to a test bed for Wire-Plank and Fer-A-Lite materials.
It proved a lot of things and made a rugged lightweight fair hull.
I didn’t mention time, well in all fairness I was diverted
by other little interests. The project took too long and my life
changed. The boat was sold as a bare hull, with deck and cabin.
The rudder was fitted and an engine was sitting on beds. With
10,000# of led ballast installed it floated 13" above her
lines; thus passing stability test with flying colors.
this time frame I started attending the annual "TRADITIONAL
SMALL CRAFT WORKSHOP" at MYSTIC SEAPORT. George Kelly a devoted
small craft enthusiast encouraged me to try his beautiful tiny
lapstrake Rushton "WEE LASSIE". I was instantly hooked
by the stability, tracking and ease of effort to paddle his 18#
work of art. I tried my skills and built my own wooden LASSIE
and found that the process was too tedious for my nature so I
tried another to test that theory of STR-R-ETCH MESH (oh another
innovation) for a lightweight boat. The "DUBBLE DIPPER"
was hatched. This proved to be a worthwhile design, along the
lines of the "WEE LASSIE". So molds were made and perhaps
a couple hundred glass PUDDLE DIPPERS were produced.
now? The chief engineer and naval architect at the fiberglass
shop, which molded up a bunch of those hulls was going to Oskosh
for his airplane hobby. Platt said, "sure I would like to
go along for the curiosity; after all I do have a pilots license".
Now there is a place to go to... The Experimental Airplane Association
week-long fly in and convention. The superlatives are too numerous
to mention here; workshops, forums, exhibits, daily air shows
and campgrounds that accommodate over 40,000 people will give
you some idea of what it is like to look at over 15,000 airplanes.
For me it was a place for inspiration, two of my major achievements
were the product of ideas that indirectly hatched from going to
I joined a local chapter of the EAA organization and had a ride
with Bob Weymouth, famous for his Flying Farmer act in a J-3 Cub.
Next step was to take some time and get current in a J-3. Flying
it on skis was about as good as it got.
first achievement was STYRO-FLYERS. It was a kids book of plans
on how to make gliders out of McDonalds hamburger boxes A lot
of people who saw the idea thought it was a winner and that included
Random House, who published the book. Unfortunately McDonald didn't
go for it and this guy didn’t get rich. Not to down play
my efforts, the book royalties did more than pay for a Cessna
other good idea was GEODESIC AIROLITE BOATS. That was a spin off
of a system to build a wood frame ultralite airplane braced with
Kevlar. It was all by dumb luck...while working on the airplane
design I experimentally built an 8# canoe to test out the Kevlar
invitation was from Dupont. If you were entered in an airplane
design contest that they sponsored, you could bring your toys
and display in their tent at Oshkosh. I brought the airplane fuselage
and a last minute after thought... the 8# canoe. At the airshow,
people asked about kits and plans, so in August 1982 I did the
plans for the SnowShoe 12.
all of this was going on, I frequented a number of major flyins
and my enthusiasm for aviation was riding high. I ended up trading
1/2 of my C150 for half of a kit to build a pop riveted aluminum
tube KOLB— ULTRA STAR ultralite. That project was fun and
educational. The down side of it was that I was not crazy about
flying the thing. I guess one could say that I was not good at
flying the machine either. I did ding it twice in one hour’s
interesting spin off was the design of the ULTRA-HUT building.
It was an inexpensive, portable equivalent of a 2 car garage/
car port/ hanger/ shelter/ greenhouse/ workshop.
and Kits for the Geodesic boats continued to grow to a fleet of
26 designs. A major help was contributed by the amount of free
press that occurred...the photogenic picture of the translucent
geodesic pattern hull was like a magnet to the editors—
stories and feature articles appeared about these unique ultralight
boats in approximately 100 places. Just some more dumb luck.
while back I made a stab at playing philosopher and put my thoughts
into a booklet about creating a new race of small people "EVOLUTION-THE
NEXT STEP?". It had the why and how to do it. Well you know
what? The advances in Science and technology have followed as
predicted and perhaps it is time to have another look at the concept.
to reality: A change in our lives occurred one day out of the
blue, when a benefactor presented us with a web site. This is
something that I would never have done on my own; however the
results are very positive. A counter on the site shows that so
far over 68,000 people have looked at what we are doing. Not to
brag, but I must say, my creations really look great on the web—the
site is top notch. <www.gaboats.com> formerly <www.geodesicairoliteboats.com>
The bottom line is, that the door opened to the world, so to speak.
Business has picked up considerably and people are building our
boats all around the world.