Cakewalk in Cradles on Airslides

Cakewalk in Cradle on Airslides


The cradle was made up of sixteen (16) steel I-beam modules, connected by a side longitudinal beam P & S, as well as the boat. There were two Aerogo airslides under each module P & S for a total of thirty-two (32) airslides. Each airslide was a palletized hovercraft,  5′ in diameter and capable of lifting 100 tons up 4″. The total lift capacity was 3200 tons and the ship and cradle’s projected weight was 2,000 tons, so we were safe. The airlsides needed a good smooth surface to be effective , which we had, and it was tricky to cross the bridge to the dry-dock. The dry-dock had an elevated ramp to help with altitude, but also offered a good smooth air tight surface for the airslides.

We had seven (7) compressors supplying compressed air to all of them. One of the orange valve manifolds is just to the right of the two men in the foreground. To the left of them and in the lower right corner of the photo, too, are guiding posts with two forklift solid rubber tires on them. The longitudinal side beam of the cradle could roll against them and keep on track. Once you are up on air you would start going downhill, off track perhaps, so we had rollers to guide us.

We were concerned about gaining speed and speed was our enemy. In fact we still had to pull against friction to get things to move downhill toward the water.  To the right of the cradle you can see the five sheave pulley and cables which are running to the biggest winch I have ever seen. We had an equally big winch at the other end of the cradle for braking.

Crane Geometry for Mast


 Crane Geometry for Mast on Cakewalk

As a Production Planner at Derecktor Shipyard, I would choreograph Travelift chores, Overhead Crane capabilities and Crane functions to confirm a Cakewalk plan would work. Derecktors had a Manitiwoc Crane with a fixed boom and a few fixed extensions. I also documented the geometries of all the forklifts, and a wide variety of other useful tools. I am skilled with AutoCAD and Rhino. This drawing helped us decide to rent a crane to hoist the mast onto the top of Cakewalk, since the Manitiwoc wouldn’t work.

Knowing the Rhino software was valuable, too, since every single piece of metal was modeled in Rhino and CNC cut out. So you had to know your way around to help production understand their jigsaw puzzle.

Crowning Cakewalk


Crowning Cakewalk

Here we are craning the mast onto the top of Cakewalk per the plan.

The twin runway surface in the foreground is a sloping ramp on the dry-dock with a pathway for each of the rows of airslides. It had to slope at the same angle as the ground ashore, remaining in plane with it. It must be high tide with empty bilges for us to be higher than the ground. We appear waist high. When we begin to transfer the yacht onto the dry-dock it will be flush with the ground and it has to remain so, in spite of weight shift and the 7′ tide.

You can see the guide posts with rubber tires on either side to keep the cradle on the ramp. Falling off the ramp would be bad.





Here we are craning the mast onto the top of Cakewalk per the plan.

Hemisphere – Largest Sailing Cat

Gemini - Worlds Largest Sailing Catamaran



During my tenure at Derecktors we completed six (6) other new construction projects, ferries, fire boats, tugboats, including “Hemisphere”, the world’s largest sailing catamaran at 145’ long and 55’ wide.

When we had to move the yacht out of the way of the final placement of Cakewalk’s Main Module, previously discussed, it was time to pick it up with the Travelift. I drew pictures to instruct the men and we sent them to the naval architects for their confirmation of the plan. They were shocked,  no one had told them how we would pick it up, and they hadn’t engineered it for the only machine we had. What were they thinking? Evidently, the hulls were too weak for the inboard loading of the straps forward of the keel. The straps turn horizontal as they cross from port to starboard under the hulls, pinching the shell plate severely.

So I had to develop a different plan.   We had to make a steel cradle that spanned from hull to hull and cradled each hull carefully. Then we connected the cradle to the Travelift, so there was no resultant load squeezing the hulls toward centerline. I found a major component already made out on the back forty and made everything out of that. You can just barely see it coming out from behind the trailer. By the end I was intimate with the assets in the back forty.

Heart of America – MRI’s 1st Boat


Heart of America - MRI's First Boat


Merrifield-Roberts, Inc. (MRI) was formed when John Merrifield and Kim Roberts sold their first yacht, a 12 Metre for Buddy Melges, called “Heart of America”. This would be John’s tenth (10) 12 metre build, five (5) of which I had made with him. We could build it from scratch in just 90 days. Heart would be the first one under our own label.

At Newport Offshore, Ltd. We built the 12 Metres “Clipper”, “Defender”, “Spirit of America” and “Liberty”.  Liberty was Dennis Conner’s 12 Metre that lost the America’s Cup after 135 years. It didn’t have an up-side down keel with wings, unfortunately the Australians did thanks to Ben Lexan.

Congere Framed – Kim and John

Congere Framed - Kim and John

Congere was a Frers 80′ Maxi racing sailboat. It was the last boat we had to physically loft, prior to the advent of computers in the industry. In the build process there is a lot of cutting out and bending materials and as you make ring frames you stockpile them against a wall. Concurrent with that you also make and mount the stembar centerline member. Then comes that fateful day when you stand up all the ring frames on the stembar and overnight you seem to have the boat almost made. There is, of course, a lot more work that still has to be done. 

We punched most of the lightening holes in the frames and we kept them in a bucket. They weighed fifteen (15) pounds when all was done, for something like 150 manhours. Not very cost effective, although it looks good.




Jess Sea 90′ in Framing

Jess Sea 90' in Framing



Jess Sea is a MacLear Harris 90′, MRI’s largest yacht. Frank MacLear and Spyros Garbis designed a strong cruising boat, all the aluminum seemed to be twice as thick as necessary. There is a huge amount of double continuous welding which adds a huge amount of hours. A 12 m is lightly welded, frequently 3” on, 9” off, on only one side of the frame. Thin shell plating appreciates that. It is not better, but it is lighter, and lighter is boat speed. Of course, cruising boats prefer strength over speed.

Everything about Jess Sea was yacht quality. The design was traditional which made me appreciate modern and futuristic to my own surprise. It did have tandem centerboards, one behind the other, which I sailed with for years and like very much. It had no boom, Frank didn’t like them, the mainsail sheet to either of the three backstays. I prefer a boom and a good restrainer, for maximum control.

Jess Sea exiting MRI


Jess Sea exiting MRI



Jess Sea, at 90’ loa, is the largest yacht that MRI was to make. Here she is exiting their front building, finally on its way to the water.

After a decade of sailing up and down the east coast, and into the Gulf,  she sits pretty at the Hinckley boatyard  in Rhode Island. An old friend, back home.

ProSail 40′ Racing Cats

Prosail 40' Racing Cats


ProSail was the first professional yacht racing circuit in the world. MRI was hired to build four (4) identical boats for one design racing. Two other existing 40’ cats joined in for the money.

ProSail’s star was Tom Blackaller.

When the boats were hauled out and dismantled they fit onto a custom trailer making a very nice neat package for easy shipping. The group traveled around the nation and did six (6) week long regattas and ProSail awarded two (2) million dollars in prize money. I went with them as technical advisor, boatbuilder and measurer, hoping to increase sales. Nothing like 25 knots around the course. The circuit lasted two years before there man in charge of their sponsor was promoted and the next guy canceled.

Windstar V, Chance 52′

Windstar V Chance 52'


Windstar V  just got sold after 20 years of original ownership, and renamed Archer, and is on her way to Thailand. She is a Chance 52′ with a winged keel with a nine foot (9′) wing span. The wing is made of nodular iron and bolts to the bottom of the lead keel. The spreaders have substantial sweep back to them, so the hydraulic ram is on the forestay, not the backstay, so it can pull against the shrouds tightening the system.