The past weekend marked a very special day. After receiving a phone call from Heiner, Boss of Mueritz Bootsservice, he notified me that finally the building process of my new boat is going to start: “You are heartly welcome and invited, Lars”, he told me: “We are going to move your boat from the outside storage to her building lot in our shipyard.” Of course, this is one occasion I must not miss and, rather than sleeping late on this fine week-end day, I jumped into my car to arrive in time.
What a glorious day! The sun was up, no clouds and although it was shortly before 10 a.m. it was warm and nice. Bustling activity all around on the area of the shipyard, it´s still high season for them even when now for summer sailing season all winter storage-jobs are done and clients are in the water. Now it´s time for the real work, like my boat.
The start of the building process of my Omega 42
The yard is a rather small and cozy place, compared to the shipyards I am used to seeing. No assembly line of course but a big hall with two building lots for ships of a size of, well, not bigger than 42 feet I´d say. After completing the first Omega 42 some two years ago, this yard made quite a name of themselves within the Omega-community and this is the reason why another one of Norlin´s beauties was still in the shed.
A classic Omega 42 which was brought here by her owner all the way from the southernmost tip of Germany, the Lake of Constance. The owner ordered a thorough structural refit of his yacht and purposefully chose Heiner´s company to do it – some 1.000 kilometers away! In this, that´s quite a thing for his yard being chosen instead one of the dozens (very capable) yards at this lake. I guess that is because they´ve managed to gain some reputation within the Omega 42 owner´s community.
As works aren´t finished yet on that boat, it will remain here in the North for some more weeks, but had to pulled out of the big hall to let my boat in. What a glorious sight this yacht is indeed! The tractor pulled the boat out and slowly it paraded in front of my eyes: “This is how my boat will be looking like in a few months!”, I said to myself, still not fully grasping the sheer scope of this project. What a beauty indeed!
Preparing the assembly racks
With the building hall now empty, the guys from the shipyard started to gather large wooden constructions on rollers. Those were the assembly racks, custom made to support the Omega 42 hull during the building process. Those cradles have different functions: First of all, they hold the hull in place, safely and fixed. The hull cannot move in any direction, cannot bend nor wobble. This is needed to have exact reference points for measurements to fit and assembly parts to the boat, starting for example with the bulkheads.
By the way, Heiner tells me that, after acquiring the mould for laminating the hull of the Omega 42 (and deck and some other GRP parts too), he asked for plans and construction advice. As it turned out, everything had been lost apparently. “We had to start from scratch!”, he said: “Building those cradles for example cost a load full of working hours previously not calculated. It is a hell of a job to do this – we are talking millimeters here! If the boat is not levelled in and absolutely accurate way, the boat later will have big inaccuracies.”
A job for the coming months
In one corner of the shipyard, a rather large piece became visible. I noticed the shape right away: The keel of the Omega 42, turned upside down. Heiner showed me the work, proud of what his crew had achieved: “This is the gauge model of your keel, Lars”, he said, pointing to the almost 2.50 meters long part. The foundry will later need that model to make the negative for casting your keel.” 3.5 tons of molten pure lead will be poured into that negative. The shipyard made that model after the first one got destroyed when the keel of WINDFAENGER, the sister ship of my boat, was cast.
A nice piece of boatbuilding craftsmanship, I thought. Together with this model, the foundry will also receive a plan how to set up the inside of the keel. The strong stainless steel keel bolts, which are sticking out at the top of the keel to enter the boat´s hull and being fitted with even stronger nuts and counterplates, aren´t just sticked inside the keel. “It´s more like a armouring, your know, like it is done in reinforced concrete structures.” Fascinating!
The keel also has a little “secret” inside: A chamber of the volume of two adult´s heads. “This chamber is left empty by the casting house”, Heiner explains. In this, after mounting and final scaling of the boat, there will be the chance to add molten lead into this chamber to exactly reach the construction weight of the boat. 7.5 tons of displacement as envisioned by Peter Norlin. This “secret” chamber will make sure we reach it just perfectly. And as I had learned the week before by talking to Seldén mast “guru” Sören Matthiessen, the righting moment is the deciding factor for the rigging.
As the team of the shipyard was bustling around, cleaning the place and preparing the assembly lot for my boat, there essentially wasn´t much to do for me to just sit down, wait, relax and observe. Heiner´s workshop supervisor was a tall, very young, man who apparently was in good control of the gang. A grey haired boat builder with a rather big belly brimming with experience, a Rasta-wearing fully inked and pierced lanky guy and the first-year-apprentice completed the team. … and then it started!
Finally after some 6 years …
The tractor positioned itself with the transporting trailer right in front of the hull of my boat. The guys had brought large rolling cranes with strong hoists and maneuvered those two over my boat. The hull was put into wide lashings, hoisted a centimeter or two and finally, after 6 years on the outside storage, the wooden support stands got removed.
Bringing the trailer underneath the hull very slowly and carefully, the gang calmly and knowing what to do positioned three support racks at the designated strongpoints between trailer and boat. Slowly the hydraulic system started to work and brought up the hull. I could hear the GRP working, like a huge whale stranded being lifted to its rescue.
Having checked the safety and thorough positioning of the hull on the rack, the tractor started moving and pulled the hull out of her resting place. My heart jumped, what a sight! I remembered the first time I saw this raw boat standing there. It was 2018, arriving here following the hint of a good friend of mine: “Go there, a legend is in the making”, he had said – that was five years ago! And five years ago, seeing this hull being out here in the raw weather for so long, I played around for the first time with the idea of getting her for myself. Now the hull is moving. And I am moved too! Standing there and watching the handling of the hull, I suddenly thought that the boat looked … small?!
What. A. Beauty!
Well, it is not small, indeed! As the tractor went by just in front of me to bring itself to a nice position for reversing and pushing the trailer into the assembly hall, I saw the hull in all its glory standing there just in front of my eyes. And she is massive! Elongated, thin like a needle, sleek and pointy: An exciting and beautiful design, indeed, thrillingly beautiful! I get to see a lot of boats in my job. And a lot of these boats are beautiful in their own sense, but this, truly, is a different level.
Peter Norlin has come up with a design that can take on any classic yacht indeed and even those racy icons. It´s a raw hull that certainly needs some attention to get rid of the ravages of time that have worked on the GRP for the past 5 years on the outside storage, but the structural essence and inherent beauty is unmistakable.
Taking care so much, relying on the advise of two fellow guys, the tractor driver slowly and cautiously pushes the trailer around a left turn through the big open shutter of the shipyard. Although the doors are swept wide open and although the boat is comparatively slim (to modern boats of the same size) it´s a matter or centimeters not to hit alongside the narrow entry. I reserve the right to make the first scratches to myself …
A matter of Millimeters
Finally hull #162 was inside the building shed and the guys brought back the green hoists. After the trailer was removed the boat was up hanging in the air. First the rear assembly cradle was positioned right underneath the stern section of the hull. It took the guys nearly half an hour to exactly level the boat laterally before they lowered the hull onto the white painted cradle.
After it rested firmly and everything looked well, the bow cradle was put in place and the spectacle started all over again. With both main cradles positioned as needed, the team started to attach large wooden planks. These had specific markings and each plank a designated place to be fitted. When done in the right way, the two cradles would be connected firmly so that they would not mode anymore – and have the hull safely secured with them.
„It indeed is a matter not of centimeters but of millimeters!”, Heiner explains: “Imagine the aft bulkhead 5 millimeters off to stern and the front bulkhead off to the bow – that is a huge empty part of one centimeter in the saloon and both in the bow and the aft nothing will fit anymore!” That cannot happen – and so, after the boat is rolled over to her final assembly lot, the guys will start to fix it and fine-tune the position.
Watching all this is absolutely fantastic! I mean, I visit shipyards a lot and after some seven years in the business I tend to say that I may have seen it all. But it is still so much fascinating and uplifting, still so interesting and educational. I envy those boatbuilder who can do this the whole time, working with their hands, creating such beauty. And by doing so, acting so calmly, so dedicated and sure.
A very special day
What a day indeed! After watching the crew for some three hours, the exciting bulk of the work today was finished and I decided to not jump around in between the guys anymore. For the finetuning of the boat´s cradles, I let them do their job. I know that an owner running around and frantically excited taking pictures can be annoying and a pain in the ass. So I said Goodbye and wished them a good time until we would meet again. Which, I am sure, won´t be that long …
Now, finally the building process of my new boat has started. It´s like realizing that, after a time of talking with your wife about maybe having children, she is pregnant finally. Now it´s getting seriously real – and it feels awesome!
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