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Original Issue

A good eye for a boat

Ask the oldtimers at the Shenecossett Yacht Club in Groton, Conn, how Archie Chester built his 33-foot center-board sloop Grandma Sue and they'll tell you, "He eyeballed it." What they mean is that the 86-year-old Chester whittled out a three-foot model of his boat without benefit of mathematics, blueprints or tank tests—and then transferred the model's lines to the full-size craft by sight and feel.

Though this kind of boat building is almost a dead art in an age of computers and technicians, Chester defends it by saying, "I just knew what I wanted."

Two years' work and a good deal of Yankee thrift went into the sloop's construction. The bowsprit is an oak mantelpiece from a home Chester once remodeled, the centerboard winch and the binnacle were made from scrap brass and the boom is part of a broken mast. But even after a cruise to Florida and back, Chester is not entirely satisfied that his boat is complete. In the near future he plans to build a pulpit on her bow and see how she does as a swordfisherman.