Because my boats have been based on traditional designs all of my projects have required some degree of research. For some it is searching museum collections for appropriate plans, for others I have done field research in places as far-flung as the Orkney Isles of Scotland and rural Japan measuring historic boats and documenting boat building techniques.
In recent years most of my research has focused on traditional boat building in Japan. I have apprenticed since 1996 with five boat builders there, working alongside them and documenting their design secrets and techniques. This work is crucial, as the last generation of boat builders today is now elderly, and almost none have apprentices. Furthermore, the tradition of secrecy in Japanese crafts is very strong, therefore, boat builders leave almost no written records of their designs. Drawings that they do produce often intentionally lack essential information.
One of the most interesting phrases in Japanese crafts is nusumigeikko or "stolen lessons." Most traditional craftsmen can tell stories from their apprenticeships of being forced to "steal" important secrets from their masters. If a teacher was not a family member, very often one's education would be incomplete. The master may have had a need for cheap labor, but he did not need to create a competent competitor.
Without a generation of apprentices the traditions and secrets of Japanese boat building are being lost. I hope to continue to find support for my research and keep documenting the work of these craftsmen. My goal is to interview more boat builders and produce detailed construction drawings of their boats. In this way I hope to preserve this craft; albeit in a way that is a departure from tradition. I have published articles about boat building since the early 1990's. Below is a list of my published work.
The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman's Methods, Kodo Cultural Foundation, Sado Island, Japan, September, 2003. Text in English and Japanese (translated by Chieko Wales.) Illustrated with drawings and photographs with a monograph by Mr. Toshio Sato.
This book is available directly from me for $25US plus shipping.
In Japan it can be found in major bookstores or ordered online at
"A Different Way to Ro," No. 192, September/October, 2006.
"The Toba Sea Folk Museum," No. 156, July, 2000.
"Richard Earle Brockway 1921-1996," No. 136, May/June, 1997.
"The Tub Boats of Sado Island," No. 134, January, 1997.
"Project Profile: Legendary Yachts," No. 129, March/April, 1996.
"The Stone Boatyard," No. 109, December, 1992.
"Ultralight Boatbuilding," The WoodenBoat Review, No. 101, July/August, 1991.
Maritime Life and Traditions
"Ticonderoga of Lake Champlain," No. 32, Autumn 2006.
"The Cormorant Fishing Boat," No. 31, Summer 2006.
"A New Replica For Japan," No. 30, Spring 2006.
"To Build a Bekabune," No. 26, Spring 2005.
The Shelburne Museum
Edited Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain Steamboat, published by the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont, 1998.
"Up the Columbia," No. 81, March 1995.
"Radiance: A Herreshoff for the 90's," No. 94, April, 1996.
KAZI published in Yokohama, Japan (in Japanese).
"Japanese Boats and Boat Builders," No. 778, December, 2001.
"From Master to Apprentice," No. 47, Spring 2005. Download here - 700 Ko PDF file
La Musee, published in Tokyo, Japan (in Japanese).
"The Tub Boat," No. 53, June, 2002.
The Courier, magazine of the National Park Service.
"The Restoration of Lifeboat #36542," Vol. 37, No. 7, August, 1992.
The Quarterdeck, Journal of the Columbia River Maritime
Museum, Astoria, Oregon.
"Reenacting Lt. William Broughton's Survey of the Columbia River," Vol. 19 No. 1, Autumn 1992.
Seven Days Vermont, USA
"Staying Afloat" June, 2008
KAZI published in Yokohama, Japan (in Japanese)
"Wooden Boat Center in Biwako," January, 2007.
"Douglas Brooks, Learning to Build Traditional Japanese Boats," March, 2006.
Yukan Daily newspaper, Nobeoka, Japan.