Today, then and in between – January 2018

Several generations of boat builders have seen MARABU come and go. When removing the stem and forestem, the many layers of varnish become visible, which have superimposed themselves like annual rings of a tree in the front area of the bilge.

In 1936, X10, like most GRP sailing yachts today, was a serial production “off the peg”. Despite – according to our ideas – simple tools only a few months passed from keel laying to launching. The working methods of the A&R shipyard, which was very modern at that time, made it possible to achieve high productivity: a large construction department, through which all work steps were precisely planned on the drawing board even before the start of construction, an excellent wood store in which the craftsmen could draw from the full range, as well as many specialized, experienced and skillful boatbuilders with their assistants who ensured efficient production.

In contrast to this, the CAD program has been modified with just a few clicks, the material is not stored but ordered “on time” for processing and machines or robots reduce the number of personnel.

In Radolfzell Axel and MARABU seem to be a little out of time. The serial product has become a one-of-a-kind piece of art, and the boat builder strives to restore it as much as possible by himself. So he shows me an inconspicuous place on Steven. Two wooden parts with the most suitable, arched grain, hand saw, chisel and hammer possible – his colleagues did not need more than that almost 100 years ago to produce a hook strap in a short time. In this connection, which is also extremely robust against twisting and shear forces, the swelling behaviour of the wood after contact with water causes both parts to be squeezed into their correct position at high pressure.
Woods with such “practical” growth defects have become rare in the meantime. In addition, modern adhesives and composite techniques such as mold bonding have replaced this old craft technique.

Axel also brought the new Steven from individual mahogany layers with epoxy resin into the first rough shape on the basis of the originals. Now this is to be adapted – in contrast to a new building (where the fuselage is built above the keel area) – to the still existing fuselage. With a length of over 100 kg and more than 6 metres, however, it does not require a large number of colleagues, cranes or forklifts to position the unwieldy piece. Using pulleys attached to the old deck beams, he can lift his work piece to the fuselage for adjustment or lower it for correction.
Of course, it eases the strenuous and tedious woodworking process with electric planer and circular saw. For the sponge – the groove in which planks and steven are supposed to merge perfectly into each other – he, however, uses his own tool box. Nowhere else to buy and already years ago manufactured by him from a rounded ship planer, the sponge plane is used where there are no more straight surfaces or right angles.

Recently, modern technology has become an integral part of the restoration of time-honored yachts: Plan and hopeless hulls are measured with laser technology in 3D and can thus be reconstructed, individual fittings in the near future can be scanned and “printed” for smaller budgets.

In the case of X10 MARABU, there are still frame cracks and building utensils, so the procedure for Josef Martin was clear:”The way to the beautiful ship leads through a large pile of debris and dust.