Historic Grand Banks Pictures

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Postby Bob Lowe » Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:32 am

While Ed Monk Jr has built his reputation after apprenticing under his father, Ed Monk Sr, I believe he is more interested in designing super yachts these days. You can see more of his work at http://www.superyachttimes.com/yachts/ We owned a 1941 65' Custom Monk Sr design built in Bellingham by Lund Bros. She was a very comfortable boat at sea though lacked in creature comforts inside.

In any event, the Ocean Alexander boats were built in Taiwan and, at least in my experiences working on them, are not of the same quality as the Grand Banks/Alaskans. None of the boats I am familiar with, built in Taiwan, were of top quality, at least until perhaps sometime in the mid/late 1990s.

We also worked on the Flemmings, even doing substantial warranty work on them for Flemming. They too, were built in Taiwan and until the work was supervised minutely by Flemming and his people in the yard, quality suffered. I understand that with constant supervision, much of the quality problems have been brought under control.

I believe Robert Norris was hired by American Marine to redesign the Alaskan line, as designed by DeFever in the A46, so as to avoid royalty payments to DeFever. The construction is basically the same between the Alaskan 46 and other Alaskans as well as the verious GBs.
Good luck,
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Postby uwhuskies00 » Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:53 pm

Thanks Bob, I probably have to disagree with you on the quality issue between Gb and OA :D . We really researched things when we bought our MK1 and the quality, stoutness, and overall fit and finish is equal to the GBs. I will say the other Taiwanes trawlers did suffer from the lack of of quality management. I heard stories some builders would use the wood from the engine crates in the construction process. Ed Monk did learn from his father and has designed ever OA since the companies beginings in 78. Gbs are top notch and are the standard every boat builder tries to match, including OA. I wish in the early 80s GB would have seen the market for the pilothouse style trawler. It would have been nice to see a glass Alaskan from that time frame. Hope life on land is working out for you Bob, are you getting the boating itch again? Thanks for sending us the electronic charts.
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Arthur DeFever, Howard Abby, and the Alaskans

Postby skong_1999 » Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:51 pm

Marin Faure wrote: A few years ago I read an interview with Howard Abbey who designed and built the original molds for the fiberglass GB36 (and I assume GB32 and GB42 as well). According to the interview he personally supervised the molding of every fiberglass hull from the start of fiberglass production in mid-1973 to the time he left the company in mid-1974. Did you know Abbey or have occasion to learn anything about him? He was one of the pioneers of fiberglass construction in larger boats and was also instrumental in switching Hattaras from wood to fiberglass.

Also, do you have an explanation as to why many pilothouse boats so closely follow the design of the Alaskan?


Hi Marin,

THANKS for the kind words. I have never met Howard Abbey. I believe he is still alive, in his 90s, and lives with his wife Pauline in Florida. I have recently read an interview of him that was conducted in 2007. Wonder if this was the same interview you read a few years back:

http://www.proboat-digital.com/proboat/200612/?pg=102

When I spoke with Whit Newton recently, Whit seemed to remember Howard's wife Pauline more than he remembered Howard. Whit said Pauline was "one tough business woman" :-) Another person Whit remembered vividly was Bob Coon, an "unsung hero" of that era who was one of the first pioneers to turbo-charge a diesel engine. That turbo-charged diesel engine was used in the Laguna series of high performance fiberglass boats built by American in the early 70s. Apparently, Bob Coon also made a lot of contribution to the early fiberglass production at American Marine's Singapore boatyard.

With respect to the Alaskan series of boats, Bob is correct that the Alaskan 46 was designed by Arthur DeFever. It was a beautiful boat. The only drawback (at least for me) was that both the master cabin at mid-ship and the guest cabin at the bow were accessed via the same entrance at the front of the saloon. In order for the guest to get in/out of their cabin without walking through the master cabin, the master cabin on the port side was separated from the master bathroom on the starboard side with a a passage way in the middle.

The Alaskan 49 was designed by Robert S. Dorris. The biggest improvement he did to the AL 46 layout was adding the beautiful curved stairway from the pilothouse to the master and guest cabins below. The entrance from the saloon remained there so one could still access the master cabin directly from the saloon. In theory, one could still access the guest cabin indirectly from the saloon by walking through the master cabin. That, however, probably would be a bit impolite since the owner probably prefer the guests to "go to their room" via the beautiful stairway from the pilothouse :-) By the way, you can still find that beautiful curved stairway design in the latest Aleutian and Fleming series of boats (and may be some other raised pilothouse designs also? :-) The Alaskan 49 was, and still is, a beautiful boat.

The Alaskan 53 and 55 were also designed by Robert S. Dorris (I have no idea who designed the Alaskan 45?). I think he simply stretched the AL 49 design. The Alaskan 53 was my favorite, which featured an island queen bed in the master cabin. In order to accomodate this island queen bed, they had to get rid of the entrance from the saloon so both the master cabin and the guest cabin could only be accessed via the stairway from the pilothouse. Another improvement of the AL 53 over the AL 49 was turning the "on-watch bunk" in the pilothouse into a crew cabin equipped with its own head. This crew cabin was separated from the pilothouse with a beautiful glass partition. When I was a kid, I loved that cabin since it had the best 360 panoramic view on the boat :-)

The Alaskan 55 was a "2nd degree stretch" of the AL 49. With her wide beam, Bob Dorris was able to fit the entire master cabin with its master bathroom on the port side while still had room for a passage way to the forward guest cabin in the middle and a third cabin on the starboard side. This enabled him to get rid of the stairway from the pilothouse. In other words, the AL 55's layout was very similar to the Alaskan 46, except "in steroid" :-)

I wonder whether this is a proper analogy but I will give it a try. The AL 46 was like the Spray, the design that started it all :-) The AL 49 was like the GB 36, the first of her kind with her original beauty. The AL 53 was kind of like the GB 42, a slight stretch of the GB 36 to accomodate all the luxury while maintaining the original design's beautiful lines.

In my view, and in my view only, and my apology to anyone who owns and loves his/her Alaskan 55, I sometimes feel the AL 55 was a boat that had stretched a bit beyond the intention of the original design, the beautiful Alaskan 49. Of course, I kind of feel the same way about the Grand Banks 49 (and my apology to all the GB 49 owners out there also) being a bit too big a stretch of the original Grand Banks 36 design also. But then again, you can't argue with the comfort and luxury that come with the GB 49 and AL 55. Furthermore, when you are in the open ocean and view from a distance, the extra few feet of stretch really does not make that much a difference. They still have the classic good look of the original designs.

Yes, it was a shame that the original American Marine never had a chance to build fiberglass versions of these boats :-( But in a way, one can argue that is the beauty of the "free market," someone will always come along to fill the void if that is what the customers want.



Shing
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Postby uwhuskies00 » Tue Nov 17, 2009 3:14 am

Shing great post, we did love our 53' Alaskan and about the only faults we could find were the lack of entrance into the master stateroom from the galley, outward openning boarding gates midships( we actually only had one on the stb side), limited access to the engine room, and terrible access to the flybridge from the pilothouse. In our 53' we had the captains quarters behind the wheel house with the glass seperation but didn't have a head, but instead had a washer and dryer. We had the John Deere motors and they may be the best engines I have ever seen. We have more HP in our Cummins now but those non-turbo JDs were great motors. Shing I will have to agree with you, I wish they could have made that FG model. Maybe Ocean Alexander and GB should have worked together but thats a whole other can of worms.
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Postby Marin Faure » Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:33 pm

Shing--- Yes, that is the same interview. The "Brit" that stole the manual that Howard Abbey had written for American Marine on how to properly make fiberglass hulls was Tony Fleming.
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The Newtons, Livingstons, and some wisdom from Bill Walsh

Postby skong_1999 » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:14 pm

skong_1999 wrote:American Marine was started in 1956 by Robert Newton and his two sons Whit and older brother John in Hong Kong.


I am in the process of organizing some old pictures and found this picture of John Newton, Whit's older brother, enjoying the sea breeze with a cigarette during the sea trial of an early Grand Banks :-) Remember, this was the early 60s so smoking was a glamorous thing :-)

John is kind of a renaissance man. After American Marine, he started a boatyard in Honduras which did quite well until the Honduras navy took his land away. Then he became an inventor, inventing the constant flow nozzle, which is widely used in farming as well as serving beer out of kegs. Now, that is an invention that makes the world a better place :-) John makes a fortune, GOOD for him :-) and is now semi-retired and lives in Florida with his wife Deidre of more than 50 years. John owns an old restored Laguna, an American Marine boat he helped developed in the early 70s:

http://www.gbbeacon.com/retiredmodels/laguna10.php

As I said before, you can take the boys out of Grand Banks the company, but you can't take Grand Banks out of the boys :-)

I will post more old pictures later once I have them organized. For now, I have an interesting story I'd like to share if you don't mind.

Joanne and I were at a local Grand Banks gathering a year ago. Whit and Marcia Newton were also there with their GB 42 Classic Sea Fox. I don't think anybody at the gathering knew who Whit and Marcia were other than they were a nice couple who owned a Grand Banks.

One speaker that evening was a project manager from the local Grand Banks authorized service center. He started his presentation by proudly introducing himself as someone who has been on more Grand Banks than anybody else in the room.

Whit Newton, being the gracious gentleman who has accomplished many great things since his days with American Marine, was not going to interrupt the speaker. I, on the other hand, just felt the need to raise my hand and set the record straight by politely saying:

"That may be true at any other event but not today. Because today, we are honored to have Whit Newton, the co-founder of American Marine, with us. Mr. Newton here probably was on every early Grand Banks that ever built ..."

Some point later in the evening, someone came up to Whit and asked him: "I am a bit confused here. So did you work for the Livingston family?"

Whit, always gracious, simply smiled and said: "No sir, Bob used to work for me. We hired him as our controller more than 30 years ago" :-)

Over the years, I have been asked many times whether the Newton family or the Livingston family was more responsible for the success of Grand Banks.

Instead of answering the question directly, I like to refer to an interview with the legendary football coach Bill Walsh. The interview was conducted when Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones fired his coach Jimmy Johnson shortly after the Cowboys had won consecutive Super Bowls in January 1994.

What Bill Walsh said was that when a franchise becomes successful, the owner likes to think he deserves all the credit because he pays all the bills. The head coach likes to think he is the reason because he does all the planning and coaching. And the star players like to think they deserve all the credit because after all, they are the ones who have to execute on the field. What they forget is that they all deserve credit and no one deserves more credit than the others. They have forgotten the 2 plus 2 greater than 4 synergy effect.

Without the Newtons in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, there would not be any Grand Banks. And without Mr. Livingston rescuing the company from the brink in the 70s and he and his family's steady hands since then, the Grand Banks brand would not be what it is today.

The Newtons and the Livingstons are two great families. Fate has it that they were brought together at a special place, a special time, with a group of special people (such as my father Joe Kong, Tony Fleming, Bob Philips, YP Wong, ... I can go on and on) and together they created a legacy greater than what they all brought to the table combined. For that, we should all be grateful and I will leave it at that :-)

Shing

P.S. You all have a great weekend :-)
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Postby Bob Lowe » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:20 pm

Thanks for sharing some history, Shing. Keep those stories coming. :)
Good luck,

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Postby JoMeKe » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:25 pm

Shing, you are a most gracious ambassador of the brand! We are lucky to have you as a member of this board and a GB owner. Thanks for all you have contributed, and no doubt will continue to contribute.
Ken Bowles
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Postby Marin Faure » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:41 pm

Shing---

The photo you posted of John prompts a question I have wondered about from time to time. The early wood GB36s had a step-down or lowered aft deck, somewhat similar to what was done on the GB32. I don't know if this was feature of all the eary GB36s or was an option, or if the feature was used on the early GB42s as well. And it was used much later on the GB46 Classics.

But at some point early on the main deck of the GB36 became a single level. And more recently the main deck of the GB46 was changed to a single level.

My question is, why? One of the features we really like on the original GB46 Classics is that step-down aft deck, which makes it much easier to get to and from the deck from the swim step via the transom door. I would imagine the step-down aft deck on the old GB36s offered a similar advantage.

Was the move to a one-level deck simply a cost issue? I would imagine it would be less time-consuming to build a one-level deck than a two-level deck. Or was it to allow more space in the lazarette for water tanks, etc.?

And one other question, sorry..... Why were the Newtons in Hong Kong to begin with and what prompted them to begin building boats there?
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Flybridges on the Alaskans

Postby skong_1999 » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:47 pm

Hi Ken, thanks for the kind words and good luck with JoMeKe's engine.

Hi Marin, your questions bring up some interesting stories. I need some time to write them up and will post them in a few days.

For now, I like to reply to something "uwhuskies00" posted:

> we did love our 53' Alaskan and about the only faults we could find
> were the lack of entrance into the master stateroom from the galley,

I agree it is a bit inconvenient when you have to go up to the pilothouse first, then back down to the master stateroom. I think a lot of people agree with us on that. May be that is the reason why the new Aleutian 53 has an entrance to the master stateroom from the galley. For some reason, I still like the Alaskan 49 layout the most--the master staterom can be entered from the galley as well as the pilothouse.

> and terrible access to the flybridge from the pilothouse.

I think my father had figured out a way to get around this back in the early 1970s, see the attached picture :-)
Step 1: Exist the pilothouse's door on the port side.
Step 2: Climb carefully onto the railing of the portuguese bridge.
Step 3: Now you are just one small step from the upper deck :-)
Warning: Do not attempt this when the boat is moving :-)

Just kidding :-) Seriously, the Alaskans were not designed to have flybridges originally. The boat is designed to brave the fog and rain that are common in the Pacific Northwest. I don't live in the Pacific Northwest so I have to take you guys' words for what the weather likes up there :-) The original thinking was that a flybridge was not needed because one could see well enough in the raised pilothouse.

Unlike one of those "hopeful boats" described by Bob Lowe (I think the official term is "sailboat"?) where you have to suffer the fog and rain and "hope" the sun will come out :-), you can drive the boat in the comfort of the pilothouse with your friends and family nearby, enjoying the 360 panoramic view with a cup of hot coffee :-)

However, when my father tried to sell one of these Alaskans to a millionaire in Hong Kong (how my father got into sales is another story for another time), the millionaire loved the flybridge on the Grand Banks so much that he asked my father if he could have a flybridge on his Alaskan.

Well, my father was the believer of the Golden Rule of Life: "Those who have the gold make the rule" :-) So that was how the first flybridge was installed on an Alaskan, right on top of the flybridge. To some people, that kind of ruined the original look envisioned by Arthur DeFever and Robert S. Dorris. I wondered if those two gentlemen would shake their heads had they seen an Alaskan with a flybridge on top of the beautiful pilothouse they so carefully designed :-(

That was the reason why most Alaskans did not have a flybridge and those that had one, there was no easy access from the pilothouse. It just wasn't designed into the layout. I think for some (may be all?) Alaskan 53, as an afterthought, they did add this little step at the wall behind the "watch table" so one could get to the flybridge via a hatch. Uwhuskies00, was that what your Alaskan 53 had?

Later on, some Alaskan 55s had the flybridge moved from the top of the pilothouse to the upper deck behind the pilothouse. This was what the Alaskan 55 had in the attached picture. This arrangement must be a good idea since it has seen been adopted in both the Flemings as well as the Aleutians designs.

In any case, it still amazes me each time I look at an Alaskan 55, even just at a picture, that this huge boat was built in wood with 1960s and early 1970s technology. Whoever worked on those boats were real craftsmen :-)

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Postby uwhuskies00 » Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:10 am

Hi Shing, we did have the little steps on the back wall of the pilothouse. i actually wrapped these in rubbber as they were a great place to hit your head. The upper hatch when openned left a easy way to fall through but thankfully that never happened! Our old neighbor has a 55 Alaskan and he cut a pass through to the flybidge as the only access for them was the stern ladder. Here is a picture of our Oceans access to the flybridge it makes it easy for Bailey our mutt to get to the flybridge, Thanks for the insight Shing
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The Great Robert Newton

Postby skong_1999 » Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:55 am

Marin Faure wrote:Shing---

The photo you posted of John prompts a question I have wondered about from time to time. The early wood GB36s had a step-down or lowered aft deck, somewhat similar to what was done on the GB32. I don't know if this was feature of all the eary GB36s or was an option,

And one other question, sorry..... Why were the Newtons in Hong Kong to begin with and

what prompted them to begin building boats there?


Hi Marin,

I think I can answer the 2nd and 3rd questions better than the 1st one.

Regarding the step-down aft deck, I always thought the step-down aft deck was an option. I seem to recall a conversation I had with the former owner of my friend's 1968 Grand Banks 36 and he may have told me that his father ordered the boat with a step-down aft deck. He wanted a safer platform when he fished in open water. However, I cannot be certain of that.

> One of the features we really like on the original GB46 Classics is that
> step-down aft deck, which makes it much easier to get to and from the
> deck from the swim step via the transom door.

This is definitely not the case for my friend's 1968 Grand Banks 36. It does not have a transom door so the step-down aft deck actually makes it harder to get to the swim platform. It also makes it a bit "hazardous" to exit the aft cabin via the aft cabin door because it is a big step down into the step-down aft deck.

As for why the Newtons were in Hong Kong, the short answer: Robert Newton was an adventurist, or as Marcia Newton likes to put it adoringly: "Whit's father was a crazy American" :-)

The long answer involves one big name company, another company that no longer exists, a World War, ... and fate :-)

I think Robert Newton was born and raised in Oregon. When he was a young man, he got an overseas job working for Del Monte in the Philippines. On the eve of World War 2, Robert Newton either got relocated or promoted back to Del Monte's Honolulu (Hawaii) operation.

Here is a quick side story ... when Robert Newton was in Honolulu, the island was filled with sailors and marines getting ready to be shipped to the war in the Pacific. Robert Newton saw an opportunity and started a side business selling cheap gin to the young GIs. He named his gin "The Five Islands Gin" but for the sailors and marines, it was remembered fondly as "The Five Ulcers Gin" :-) Whit still has an original bottle of this famous gin in his living room and will proudly show it to you if you ask :-)

That story pretty much covered Robert Newton's "great contribution" to the war effort :-) After World War 2, Robert Newton's friends told him about all these great business opportunities in Manila. So he went back to the Philippines and Robert became the first American to move into the historic Manila Hotel after the war. He applied his American ingenuity to fix the hotel up. In appreciation of his efforts, they raised his rent. After all, it was now a nicer place.

In any case, Robert Newton did become prosperous in the import export business and his family settled down into a nice "mansion" in Manila. If Robert Newton was an ordinary man who liked to settle down, that probably would be the end of the story and the world would never see a Grand Banks.

Robert Newton, however, was no ordinary man (I remember my family still talked about him with the utmost respect as the elder Newton long after he had retired and moved back to the U.S.). While in Manila, he heard that this upstart soft drink company named Bireley's was looking for someone to start a franchise on the Island of Guam. So goodbye to their beautiful house in Manila and hello to this little hut in Guam ... his wife must have really "loved" him for this :-) Robert Newton must have done well in Guam because a few years later, he was offered a better franchise in Hong Kong to sell sugar water to millions of Chinese.

Hong Kong at that time was a British colony. Some Brits, definitely not all, had this arrogant attitude toward the Chinese and therefore were not loved by the locals. The Newtons, on the other hand, were different. First of all, they were not British (which was a good start at that time), Whit and John literally lived among the Chinese in their farm house, Marcia Newton even volunteered at a homeless shelter at the poorest part of the city, and Whit eventually learned enough Chinese that the locals knew they could not say bad things in Chinese in his presence :-) I think the Chinese respected that.

Of course, some of the Brits' (I emphasize NOT all Brits were like that: my father did have some very nice British friends) arrogant attitude was not just toward the local Chinese. For instance, I was told that the Hong Kong Yacht Club, sorry correction, the ROYAL Hong Kong Yacht Club would not even allow women into their club house back then. Deidre (John's wife) and Marcia had their last laugh though. John and Whit Newton, who grew up in Hawaii and Guam, were expert sailors. Deidre and Marcia, sailing frequently with their husbands, had become quite good also. So when they entered the regatta sponsored by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, guess who won :-) I bet those sailors from the "Royal Navy" didn't feel too good when they were beaten by an American boat with "girls" trimming the sails :-) Score one for American women :-)

Sorry, I better stop telling stories and answer Marin's last question:

> and what prompted them to begin building boats there?

In the book "Black Swan," the author pointed out that history is written AFTER the facts and the writers (usually the victors) have a tendency to portray the facts in a way that fits the grandeur of their narrative. If I were a professional history writer employed by American Marine to glorify this part of the company history, I would say:

"Our company founder, Robert Newton, had the vision to see that the world was longing for a well built boat. In response to his vision, he decided he would rather start a company to change the world than spend the rest of his life selling sugar water."

Despite how good that may sound, that just was not the case. Robert Newton started building boats because ... his friend in Hawaii wanted a boat to be built. Robert Newton just happened to have this empty parking lot at his Bireley's bottling plant so he decided to build the boat for his friend. Since Robert Newton did not have that much experience building boats, he had to hire some help. Fortunately for my family, my father, who had just graduated from a naval architecture program at a night school (this school was so good that it later evolved into the Hong Kong Polytechnic University), was hired as his first and only engineer for the project. Truth be told, my father probably did not have that much experience building boats at that time either.

I guess one thing you can say about great men like Robert Newton and my father is that these people are not afraid they might fail at anything. They take chances, they don't wait for things to happen. Want to start a business in the war torn Philippines? That sounds like a great opportunity :-) Want to start a soft drink franchise in Guam? Sure, why not. Want to build a boat? Yeh, we can do that. It cannot be that hard ... and the rest is history :-)

In case you wonder what Whit and Marcia Newton look like today, attached is a picture of them at the site (or near the site) of the 100-year old farm house they used to live. The farm house is long gone.

If and when you run into Whit and Marcia at your next Grand Banks gathering, say hi to them. They are nice people with great tales to tell. Just don't ask Whit if he ever worked for the Livingstons. I am sure Whit wouldn't mind. I guess we Grand Banks owners just don't want Whit to think of us as poor students of history :-)

I am always amazed by how history is shaped by small random events. I guess we just have to be thankful when things turn out nicely in this totally random world. Well on that note, this will be a good place for me to stop and wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving :-)

Shing
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Postby Marin Faure » Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:02 pm

Shing---

Thanks much for the terrific summary of how the Newtons got into boat building. As a "professional" writer (by virtue of having some books published, not because I'm good at it), my reaction is that you should put together a book on the history of American Marine and the boats they built. The knowledge you have of the company, but even more importantly of the people who made it all happen, should be preserved.

I often think it must have been a "better" time to live, back then, when a business opportunity could be pursued without the attendant red tape, obstacles, financial nightmares, and lawyers that seem to stand in the way of so many ideas today. I was hired to re-write a book manuscript about one of the most successful family-owned property development companies in Seattle's history, a company still going strong today, and I've been struck by the number of "Newton" stories that filled this company's past, in which individuals saw an opportunity and made it happen due solely to their individual drive, cleverness, and perseverance.

Thanks so much for taking the time to put together the "story behind the story."
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Postby JJKORN » Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:13 pm

Shing,

Another Thanks for the fascinating history of GB's ... JMHO I agree with Marin ... this history should not be lost or forgotten.

The connection to the history is a great motivator for folks "pushing the rock" uphill in revitalizing or restoring a GB .. especially those of us crazy enough to do it in .. wood !! GGGGGGG

Thanks again

Jeff Korn
"The 405"
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How Wooden Boats were Built?

Postby skong_1999 » Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:19 pm

Hi MitjaT,

I got your question. I will see if I can find some answers for you. And no need to call me "Mr. Kong"--I am not a high school teacher and I don't play one on TV (hope this "joke" is not lost in translation :-) Just call me Shing :-)

And Marin and Jeff,

Thanks for the kind words and I am glad you enjoy the story. I don't have the time to put together a book yet but over the Thanksgiving weekend, I did spend some time organizing some more historic Grand Banks pictures into an album on my facebook page. These pictures, together with the caption I provided for each pictures, should give you an idea of how those beautiful wooden Grand Banks were built in the early days.

The title of the album is: How Wooden Boats were Built?

Attached below are 3 selected pictures from this album. If you want to see the entire picture collection and the stories behind them, please click:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=1 ... 9d8590b724

Hope you enjoy these pictures and the narrative and wishing everybody a great weekend :-)

Shing
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