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from Soundings April 2001

M & M Boatworks Is Busy Making Sawdust

By Jack Sherwood Senior Writer

Once a wooden-boat-building, oyster shucking center on Chesapeake Bay, the village of Galesville has long since shucked the bivalve industry - but not wooden boatbuilding, which survives at a former oyster-shucking house on Tenthouse Creek.

At Mast & Mallet Boatworks, mild-mannered boatbuilder Joe Reid, 46, runs the hand-crafted operation in a low-kev fashion. A transplanted, full-bearded Kentuckian who looks as if he would be more at home making sawdust in Maine than in Maryland, his business has grown so that he now shuttles between two M&M locations.

Although his method of cold-molded composite construction is modem, his heart remains with wood.

"We build low-maintenance boats that last, proving that sometimes you need to look at the past to see clearly into the future," he says.

     

"Sometimes you need to look at the past to see clearly into the future."

—Owner Joe Reid

     

His original creekfront business setting is right out of the past in a barn-like, dirt-floor structure off the beaten track at the end of a rutted dirt road off West River.

Annapolis naval architect Mike Kaufman and Reid got together in 1995 to put down traditional lines for modern motoryachts inspired by the proven designs of Downeast lobsterboats and Chesapeake deadrise workboats. They called their first powerboat the Rabbit 30 - a name that has since been changed to the more appropriate "Thomas Point," a series of handsome motoryachts of 26, 30, 34, 38 and 43 feet.

So far, they have built one 26, two 30s, five 34s, two 38s and one 43. Prices range from $80,000 to $425,000.

Before the soft-spoken Reid put down his mallet to focus more on the marketing and executive end of the business, a call to his salty boatworks shop in Galesville often elicited this recorded message: "Sorry, everyone's busy making sawdust. Leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we can." That message inspired the owner of the TP43 to paint the name "Sawdust" on his varnished transom.

Since then, Reid has expanded his little boatbuilding business to a rented space at the Holiday Point Marina in Edgewater on Selby Bay, near the mouth of the South River and with a view of his namesake landmark, the distinctive offshore Thomas Point Lighthouse. He now has a real office and an employee who answers the phone, although a boatyard dog is still underfoot - in this case, Tahoe, his golden retriever.

A recent visit found five men (foreman Wayne Daum, Matt Delaney, Carl Waters, Tim Boots and Dick Gunther) finishing a 34-footer in Edgewater.

In Galesville, two other employees (Joe Corbin and Andrew Brindle) had framed up a double-planked, 38-foot hull of clear Western red cedar and were laying down a second, saturating coat of epoxy resin over the interior.

"Our strong, lightweight cedar is clear, without knots, highly rot-resistant and glues well with epoxy. Once scaled, the wood is sealed forever," says Reid, who guarantees his boats will not leak.

Reid and Kaufman's handsome hulls are an inch thick, double-planked with two layers of half-inch cedar laid fore and aft and glued with West System epoxy. Planks are also glued between layers to 3/4-inch and 3-inch frames on 18-inch centers.

All exteriors are saturated with epoxy and sheathed with two layers of 10 ounce fiberglass cloth for extra strength and resistance to abrasion. Interior surfaces are also epoxy-saturated with two coats and then barrier-coated with a white epoxy primer for a clean, finished appearance.

"Our boats are custom and the owner's input is welcome in laying out the interior to his preference, which we finish in proper yacht fashion using combinations of wood," says Reid. "For example, the head location can be altered, the galley can be either up or down below, berths can be built to size and headroom can be adjusted."

His personal favorite in the line is the Thomas Point 38, which has a substantial deadrise (athwartships V-shape to the bottom) forward that decreases from 30 degrees at 25 percent of the waterline abaft the stem to 9 degrees at the transom. The Thomas Pointers are designed for the Bay and coastal cruising not for punching into ocean waves like a Maine lobsterboat.

"Our boats have a deep forefoot but the bottom gradually changes to a flatter section amidships, which enables them to get up on a plane quickly, making for an efficient, easily driven hull that cuts smoothly through the water and leaves a clean wake," he adds. "The encapsulated wood is highly resistant to moisture and rot, and provides that solid, well-insulated, unmistakable feel of riding on wood."

He believes the 38 is his best all-around performer. It burns 4 to 5 gallons an hour cruising at 18 knots with a Cummins 330 diesel. Twin engines are an option which will lower the draft by a foot but improve low-speed maneuverability.

     

Three coats of Awlspar varnish seal the brightwork, followed by nine coats of clear Awl-Brite Plus varnish for a high-gloss finish.
     

Kaufman says the 34, at 10,500 pounds, will (to 21 knots with a 220-hp diesel. All of the boats have a substantial keel for tracking with a stainless steel skeg that supports a stainless steel rudder and prop.

High-density marine plywood sheeting a half-inch thick for the decks and cabin sides arc also saturated with resin and protected by two layers of cloth. Interior bull surfaces are finished with two coats of U.S. Paint's "HullGard W.B.," a water-barrier coating that provides a clean, white matte finish for extra protection against oil and water penetration. Above the bilge, inside surfaces are coated with off-white AwIgrip 2, using a flattening agent for a matte finish.

Three coats of Awlspar varnish seal the brightwork, followed by nine coats of clear Awl-Brite Plus varnish for a high-gloss finish.

Exterior topsides are faired with Awl-Fair L.W. and High-Build, followed by two coats of 545 epoxy primer and finished with AwIgrip. The bottom is treated with two coats of 545, two coats of Hull-Gard E.R., two coats of Hull-Gard W.B. and, finally, three coats of Awlstar Gold Label anti-fouling paint.

On the 38, more than half the hull's usable length is cockpit space, but this can be altered according to the owner's wishes by extending the length of an optional pilothouse. Reid welcomes visitors to his workshops and enjoys working with owners.

"I've always admired small boats, especially those Smith Island crab scrapers," says Reid. One of his first boats built in the Galesville shop, in 1988, was what he calls a Chesapeake 22, made of Alaskan Yellow Cedar with a double-planked bottom and a traditional upright steering stick. That recreational boat operates today out of Lake Ogleton in Annapolis.

For his own pleasure ("If I get the time to enjoy it," he says), Reid has purchased a Pacifica 25, a 1974 glass sailboat with long overhangs. He also owns a Rhodes-designed Eastern Interclub sloop, a 35-footer built in 1948 and stored on the hard outside his Galesville shop.

The uncovered, hornet-filled sloop, which appears to be fast succumbing to a terminal condition, is a bit of a continuing embarrassment to this talented builder and restorer of wooden boats. But he swears that one day he will have her sailing again.

As it turns out, this is one event I eagerly look forward to writing about because I learned how to sail on this very boat in the mid-1960s.


   

Mast & Mallet Boatworks
PO Box 759
Edgewater, Maryland 21037-0759
410-798-9510
410-798-9511 (fax)
info@mastandmallet.com