During 2006 Andy Smith of Junction Boatyard in the Philippines, franchised builder of James Wharram Designs, wrote that he was building a 37’6” dory yacht designed by Jay Benford of America (designer of the ‘Badger’ design of Annie and Pete Hill).
I, James, am very interested in dory/sharpie yachts, having studied their use and possibilities since the 1960s (in works like Howard Chapelle). I am also long been interested in Junk Rigs, having used them on my boats in 1953, 1969 and 1996 and I am a member of the Junk Rig Association.
To our surprise earlier this year we received an email message to look up a new web page by Mark Myatt and Tracy Greenwood condemning Andy Smith Boatworks. This turned out to be an 8 page, 3780 words, damning critique of Andy Smith’s boat building abilities, lack of design comprehension, bad yard management, financial irresponsibility and lack of sympathy for the boat owner’s physical handicaps. To quote from their first page "each having a leg amputated".
Also at the bottom of the first page, they describe Bohol in the Philippines (location of the Andy Smith Boatyard) as “a difficult starting point for any voyage, with limited routes out, a short sailing season and a high frequency of revolving tropical storms”.
This struck us as odd. Factually, Bohol in the South Philippines rarely has major tropical storms and is considered a beautiful area suitable for all year sailing in local waters and is the centre of a network of historic ocean sailing routes.
Bohol is the beginning of an easy sailing island trail that leads to Borneo and Indonesia, then on longer voyages to Australia, the Indian Ocean on to South Africa or the Red Sea. Go the other direction you are on the ancient migration trail of the Polynesians through the Solomons, via Fiji to Hawaii and eventually North America. Or you can head North to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea or East to Micronesia.
Within half an hour of receiving the email, while still studying this report, and wondering ‘had Andy Smith gone totally mad?’ the phone rang and Mark Myatt, author of the report was on the phone, answered by Hanneke Boon. On Hanneke pointing out that we do not, and should not comment on other people’s designs, i.e. Jay Benford’s, Mark Myatt threatened he would sue James Wharram Designs because we advertised Andy Smith as a Wharram Design boatbuilder! Some reasoning.
Sensing a stiffening of Hanneke’s attitude he next threatened to sabotage the fund raising for her Tikopia Canoe Project, as the boats were to be built by Andy Smith.
So not only was he trying to deprive 25 plus Filipino boatbuilders of their livelihood, by putting Andy Smith out of business, he was also threatening to deprive two Pacific Island communities, totalling over 1000 people, of a chance to continue their sailing traditions.
In his Report, three major technical problems enraged Mark Myatt, 1) was the lack of a fixing at the foot of the mast, 2) the yard strength at the top of the Junk Sail, 3) the stability of the finished craft.
- A blue water sailor, or well-studied would-be blue water sailor would have known that wooden masts, stepped through the deck or thwart, almost universally rest in a wooden block with a mortise to receive the tenon of the mast, with no further fastening (as is shown on the Benford drawings). This system has been used since Viking times, on through the Luggers of Britain and France from the Middle Ages to the present. If Mark Myatt was really concerned with the masts floating free in a 360 degree capsize, as he claimed, a simple lashing at the foot of the mast through wooden cleats would have solved the problem.
- Through the oversight of a very embarrassed sail maker the main Junk sail was delivered without eyelets along the head of the sail. Eagerly the sail was hoisted by a halyard attached to the yard fitting (with 3 through bolts as designed). Of course the weight of the heavy Junksail hanging on the yard ends, snapped it. To a blue-water Junk sailor in a bamboo country like the Philippines the solution would be simple. Instead of timber, use for a yard two or 3 light bamboos lashed together, exactly as the Chinese have done for hundreds of years.
- The stability of the craft did create problems. Dory/sharpie yachts have been around for a hundred years, perhaps more; traditionally they use internal ballast for stability with centreboards for windward performance. Jay Benford’s dory yachts, to give more interior accommodation, have concrete keels, nothing wrong with that. Molly’s concrete cast keel, for still unknown reasons, came out 500kg too light (Mark wrongly claims 1000kg) – this is around 20% of the designed keel weight. This was not a disaster; in true Dory/Sharpie tradition internal ballast could have been added with the benefit of reduced rolling.
Undoubtedly during the building of Molly there was a breakdown of communications at the yard. The key man in any medium size boatyard is the yard foreman, in this case the sharp eyed, no nonsense (my observation), very skilled Ronie. After a few days at the yard and getting Ronie’s respect, I asked him about Molly and its owners. Normally a very calm and respectful man, he quietly said: “I nearly punched him when he [Mark] made racially offensive remarks about the Filipinos”.
The girls in the office were also offended at Mark and Tracey regularly, without a by-your-leave, taking over their office and computers for their own purposes, leaving them politely waiting to get back to their work. With the yard workforce obviously in a state of dislike, I am surprised that Molly ended up in such a good state (see photos).
Even more sad in this story; Mark and Tracey, when they realised on their first sail that Molly with its particular rather heavy Junk sails (there are lighter junk sail designs); its tropical sweating hot, modest interior space (after having lived in air-conditioned accommodation); the Dory/Sharpie yacht’s quick heel before it steadies; their fear of Philippine Island sailing and the sheer fed-upness and anticlimax that often occurs on the launch of a boat when teething problems become evident, led them to make a precipitous decision to abandon/sell their boat.
It is sad that they have to blame others and are prepared to hurt so many innocent people in self-justification.
- James Wharram
Some further factual notes by Hanneke Boon
We were given access to all contracts, lists of extras and accounts pertaining to the Molly and had a discussion with the lady who managed the business accounts for Molly. From these it is absolutely clear that the financial allegations made by Mark and Tracey are totally exaggerated. The original signed contract clearly describes a fairly basic boat to be built for a cost of US$112,650. After the boatbuilding had commenced the customers requested many additions and changes, for which they were quoted and to which they agreed with signed statements. By the time the clients arrived in the Philippines in Oct. 2006, 4 months prior to the launch, a large part of the additional cost (totalling $57,000) had been paid for and the outstanding payment was around $16,000, not the $63,000 they quote as being demanded from them. What is also not mentioned is that they got quite a lot of additional items and improved specs. free of charge, including paying only about 1/3 of the true cost of their specially built ply/epoxy dinghy.
The guard rail problems, price and height:
The original contract states the use of “Vetus stanchions, to meet customer requirements”. It had NOT been made clear to the builder that a solid stainless steel railing was required until much later, so was not included in the original quote. The tubular stainless steel guardrail that was subsequently made at high cost to the yard, has been commented on for its quality and excellent workmanship by several well-qualified visitors. We inspected the guardrail ourselves and tested its height and found it was hip height and level with the handrails on the cabin roof and therefore gave very good two handed support, suitable for a handicapped person (see photo).
There are exaggerations and distortions of the truth evident throughout Mark and Tracey’s account, including a claim that the boat was over a year overdue, when in fact it was launched just 3-4 months after the agreed approximate completion date. The yard agreed to deal with the genuine teething problems, evident after the launch, at no extra cost, but were not prepared to make the numerous alterations the owners were demanding (without extra payment), when they realised their initial choices had been wrong.