|Conceiving of Camilla|
3: A beautiful piece of work
By Tim Clark — May 2002
Lee says that every boat nut has a personal relationship to his boat, but he also believes the construction itself is an intimate undertaking. He became acquainted with Barker in the mid-1990s when Customary Boat built a perfect reproduction of famed designer Nathaniel Herreshoff's 1912, 26-foot sloop Alerion (which graced the cover of WoodenBoat Magazine) for Lee's brother. Lee selected Barker as his builder even before he had settled on a design. "I couldn't have gone elsewhere and had this boat built and feel the same way about it. I know Warren; I like him and trust his judgment, and I think he's an artist. The boat he built for my brother is just a beautiful piece of work. There was no risk involved."
After Lee came across Garden's design in a boating magazine, he and Barker flew to the West Coast to meet him. "I think these things are very personal; I wasn't going to get involved with somebody that far away without having met him. And I thought it was really important that Warren meet him too." The trip solidified Lee's decision to build Camilla. Garden took them to see two versions of the design afloat, and on an improvised drafting table in a marina laundry, he began the fine-tuning of a handful of modifications that have included lengthening the boat by 11⁄2 feet, widening the side decks by a few inches, and adding rake and curve to the transom.
Although he admits friends chide him that he loves the process so much that as soon as this boat is launched he will begin another, Lee says he's certain Camilla will be the last he ever owns. While he doesn't pretend she holds every feature he could ever desire, he does give the impression that she is an ideal attained. Lee loves boats whose particular beauty says something about the individuality of his own character, and he loves the tradition some boats represent as much as the pleasure of piloting them. If Camilla is a culmination of all the boats he has ever owned, it is on a conceptual rather than material level.
After some hours at Customary Boat, Lee drove me a few miles away to his brother's farm in Westport where we entered another barn, this one surrounded by beef cattle, stacked with hay, and in one corner, sheltering a pair of sailboats. Lee led me over to them and pulled off the winter tarps. In the dim light squeezing through the barn's siding, he backed away to take in their lines, and his face filled with reverence, appreciation, and pride. Here was the first boat he'd ever owned, the mahogany cat ketch commissioned more than 30 years ago. And next to her, his brother's Alerion, the boat that had led him to Warren Barker and, ultimately, to Camilla.
Customary Boat Phone: (508) 636-2482. Fax: (508) 636-5907.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.