To Spaulding boats were life: he loved the design of them, loved to build them and loved to sail them. He made himself into an expert on how the forces of wind and currents and the sea affect boats and their performance, and made himself a master of design. His aim was to build sailing vessels that would conform to class rules (for nothing is so circumscribed by exact measurements as classes of racing yachts) but also would be fast and beautiful.Carl Nolte — San Francisco Chronicle
Part 1 — Myron Spaulding
Myron Spaulding is a legend. The type of character found at the center of fables told in salty watering holes. A master craftsman and practiced musician, Myron was not one to dabble and hobby, rather he was more concerned with precision and métier. And although we never had the pleasure of meeting with or learning from him, it’s easy to see how much we share in his ethos and endeavor.
A California native, Myron moved to the Bay in 1915 at the age of 10. He received dual degrees from Polytechnic High School in San Francisco in 1923—school was a bit different back then—with one in naval architecture and boatbuilding and the other in music. He built boats for the war effort and played violin with the San Francisco Symphony. He sailed in the Transpacific Yacht Race on six separate occasions from Honolulu to San Francisco, and even won once. Myron designed and built beautiful boats—stunning—and with this gift he left his mark on the people who knew him. A renaissance man in every sense, Myron lived to the age of 95.
A generation prior to Kerouac and his entourage, Myron embodies a San Francisco lesser known. A time when callus and craftsmanship were the currency of tenure—a foundation for makers and doers in the decades to follow and a primer for the entrepreneurship that has become California’s signature. While the prevalent industry in his day was the manipulation of mass, compared to the flow of electrons presently, the legacy of his work and ethos is unfailing. Luckily, Myron’s spirit and passions have been immortalized at a boatyard sharing his celebrity.
Part 2 — Spaulding Boatworks
Spaulding Boatworks (now Spaulding Marine Center) opened its doors in 1951. Located on the northern shores of Sausalito, the Center is now a non-profit "dedicated to preserving, sharing, and celebrating the area’s rich history of boat building." The layers of patina, paint, and passion inside the yard are enough to take your breath away.
The dock crane shifts as the gears moan with movement, and the operator follows cues from the team on the dock. A calm and concerted system seamlessly plucks a boat from the inlet and rests it gently on dry land–they’ve done this before. The boat out of water is ready for a refresh–clean the hull, paint the bottom, finish the teak. While the boat sees its attention, and the yard dogs pant as they rest in the afternoon sun, inside under the wooden rafters a master craftsman is teaching a group of school children the methods of woodworking next to an awesome library of sailing history and artifact. This is the magic of Spaulding Marine Center.
It’s an active boatyard, educational institution, and cultural archive. The center is tasked with restoring storied boats, hosting community events, and preserving the craft of boat building. It’s simple: this stuff is important and needs a community to maintain these traditions. If you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop by and check it out—they have a self-guided tour. And if you meet Bill, be sure to tell him the folks from Taylor Stitch say “Hi.”
Part 3 — Freda
Built in 1885, Freda is the oldest active sailboat on the west coast, and the embodiment of the work found at Spaulding. The boat was brought back from near death through a decade of expert fabrication and engineering. The gaff-rigged sloop demands attention among the other boats on the bay.
Unique in it’s length-to-width ratio compared to modern racing boat designs, the boat is not defined as fast. But with a prominent wooden mast, archetypal tiller, and classic rigging, Freda is beautiful. It’s nice to know that with Spaulding (Marine Center) at the helm, this boat is destined to make waves for at least another century.