Building boats – by handBob Trygg built his first boat when he was 11 years old. He remembers being a little intimidated when he went to the Gladstone, Mich.
By: Christine Holm, Lake County News Chronicle
Bob Trygg built his first boat when he was 11 years old. He remembers being a little intimidated when he went to the Gladstone, Mich. lumberyard to buy the wood. He said he was going to build bookshelves for his mother.
“But the truth came out,” he said, “when they delivered the lumber. They said to my mom: ‘So, your son’s going to build some bookshelves?’ My mom said, ‘Oh, no; he’s building a boat.’ It was embarrassing to me. I hid away in the basement.”
Trygg’s love for boat-building started there in 1948. Today, he and his wife, Virgene, have built 29 boats – with another on the way. The most labor-intensive one was the 33-foot ketch they built together in the mid-1970s with some help from friends, neighbors, and family. They crafted a vessel made from 7,000 pounds of lead they melted and poured for the boat’s ballast and 30 white oak, hand-sawn, and shaped frames (or ribs). Add to that the white oak rudder and teak deck.
Trygg talked about the intensive hobby last month at the Knife River Recreation Building, where more than 40 people heard about the three-year experience building the Tahiti, which also required erecting a building to house it.
“Most boat builders have a dream boat, and mine at the time was the ketch,” he said. It was designed by John Hanna. The plans were available through Mechanics Illustrated.
“It was called a ketch because it was designed during the Depression,” Trygg said. “The idea was that even during such a hard time, a man could built a boat and sail to Tahiti.”
The Tryggs drew up the sail plan and had to put it all on a life-size red rosin paper plan to determine the materials needed.
The materials list for the 40-foot, 21,000 pound boat is staggering outside of the lead keel and oak (2,000 board feet):
- 2,000 board feet of mahogany.
- 30 sheets of marine-grade plywood.
- 3,000 bronze screws.
- 35 gallons of epoxy.
- And countless hours of drilling holes, sanding, notching, and painting (everything was coated four times).
The boat, named Giashko (a Chippewa word for seagull), was built on Stony Point at Knife River. When it was finished in the summer of 1978, the family set sail from the marina there, destined for Florida. The trip would take the better part of a year and the couple brought their two teenage children along.
“We brought the kids along as an educational experience,” Trygg said. “And it was, for all of us. But we also needed their help to sail. They were great. And they still have fond memories of it today.”
The family began their adventure in August. The trip through the chain of the Great Lakes was often stormy and windy, but brought them interesting adventures, such as navigating through the Erie Canal (the mast had to be removed) and a sleepless night or two that tested the sailors’ mettle. There were excursions in Manhattan and Christmas in St. Augustine, Fla.
“Once we reached Florida, we took our time,” Trygg said. “But, one day, we realized the kids wanted to get back to their lives at home, so we sold the boat to a man from Michigan.”
Bob and Virgene are still building boats. “I have a passion for different designs. We’re working on a trimaran. It’s smaller than the ketch, but it’s plenty of fun,” he said with no hint of trepidation.