Random thoughts on random designs,,,,,just because

15 Apr

CT 54 sailing.jpgI have been thinking about a post like this for a while. Regular readers will know that I don’t always have something to say. I know that the blog is supposed to be about boats but my family is a huge part of my life and the short of it is I like sharing that joy. But today I will pick a selection of boats pics from my large library and post them here. I will add some comments to each photo and maybe give you some insights into thoughts I have about the boat that you would not normally see published. We’ll see how it goes.

This first photo shows the C54 ketch built in Taiwan at Ta Chiao Shipyards. I was 28 years old when I did this design. Imagine that. I wanted very badly to make my name as a yacht designer. I was contacted by a Long Beach high school shop teacher, John Edwards. He had seen a design of mine published and he liked it. He wanted me to design a big ketch that could be built in Taiwan. Taiwan? I didn’t even know where Taiwan was at the time. But I was broke, uncertain with my present job and I wanted a way out to work on my own so I jumped at the chance. I charged Edwards $750 for the design and a $350 per boat royalty. Boy I was really going for the gold! I had not a clue what I was doing in terms of design fees. But I started in on producing the design for a 47’er.
Edwards made a trip to Taiwan with my drawings and came back and said the price was even better than he had anticipated so we could make the boat bigger, 54′. I said fine not even thinking to add some money to the design fee for the big change. Keep in mind I was 28. I really did not know much about yacht design despite having been immersed in it since I was 15 years old. I had studied and studied but there are so many little things to know that you have to become deeply professionally involved in to reach the place where you can truly learn yacht design. But with the limited experience I had I managed to produce a handsome ketch.
When I look at this old drawing today I see love. I see a rough kid in love with his work and trying very hard to produce a high quality design product. Of course it isn’t “high quality” I didn’t know enough at the time to reach that level. But I sure as hell tried. I enlisted the help of veteran designer Ted Brewer to help me with the structural elements of the design. I think Ted charged me $150 for his time. Generous. Ted in one letter referred to me as a “yacht designer”. Up until that time I had written “boat designer” in my title blocks. I did not think I qualified yet to call myself a “yacht designer”. But Ted called me a yacht designer and he should know so just maybe I am a yacht designer. I began to write “yacht designer” after my name.
In no time at all the boat was being built. Then something strange happened. C.T. Chen, the eldest of the Chen brothers who owned the yard, contacted me and said there was a legal dispute with Edwards, the first of many problems Edwards had in Taiwan. He went on to found the Hans Christian line.. C.T. asked me how much I had been paid for the design. I explained that I had received $350 and another $350 was due when the first boat was finished. C.T. asked me who owned the design at this stage. I said I still owned it until the final; $350 had been paid. C.T.asked, if he paid it would he own the design. Being very, very naive legally I said yes. A week later I received a check from C.T. for $750. The design was now his. He used my letter in court to gain control of the project for Ta Chaio.With my huge check I went straight out into the Boston winter and bought a warm coat. I was living in Boston at that time working for Dick Carter.
A few months passed and then I received a series of photos of my design, the CT 54, sitting outside the shed. It was beautiful. It looked just like my drawings. I was amazed and very happy. One of the very first 54’s was shipped to San Francisco. The owner flew me down to sail the boat for two days. I was in heaven and pleased with my creation. This began a long term relationship with my friends at Ta Chaio, CT, CS, ST and Wayne Chen. They would all become very important people in my life in Taiwan as my business there exploded. The Ta Chaio yard became my second home in Taiwan. I was even invited to CT’s mother’s 80th birthday party. I was the only non Taiwanese person there. I was honored.
A few months back, Robert Chen. son of one of the Chen brothers came and stayed with me here at my beach shack. That was also an honor.
My work in Taiwan with Ta Chaio was the start of a long involvement with Taiwan. I consider my days in Taiwan working out in the boat yard, on the floor with a bunch of non English speaking workers around me some of the happiest moments of my life. I love Taiwan. I made a strong effort to learn Mandarin but honestly it is still a struggle. Woa ce ce can”, “I do my best”.
CT 54 hard on the wind.jpg
Ta Chiao built 100 CT 54’s. That’s darn good for a kid’s first fiberglass design. They are great boats. I chartered on in the BVI’s for 2 weeks. When my boys first saw the CT 54 one of them said, “It’s just like a pirate ship Dad”. Perfect! I enjoyed it very much. The CT 54 was replaced by the CT 56. I think it was a much better design but it did not sell as well as the 54. There probably are a number of reasons for this.
CT 56 4.JPG
Ct 56 5.JPG
The CT 56 was followed by the CT 65. I worked hand in hand with Wayne Chen on this design. Then built about 30 of them as I recall. Many went to Europe where they are called the Scorpio 72. It is a magnificent vessel and as usual I am very proud of my design work on this project. I spent many happy hours crawling around on this deck plug while the yard was building it. It is an amazing deck design. The famous Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy owns a CT 65.
Well, this blog entry kind of developed a mind of it’s own. I didn’t intend to just blog about the CT boats. But, there you have it. This was an important part of my life. Yacht building in Taiwan was just getting going. Some designers thought I was nuts for working with the Taiwanese. I was starving. I had no choice. But in time I learned to treasure my time and my involvement with Taiwan. Working with several yards in Taiwan I produced some very beautiful and well built yachts that have gone on to become icons of the cruising market. I will cover more of them in upcoming posts. I traveled to Taiwan frequently for many years. I have been called an “egg”. That means “white on the outside and yellow on the inside.” I take it as a compliment. I was standing in the hotel lobby one morning waiting to be picked up when I heard the PA system chatter away. I ignored it. I hard it chatter some more, then some more and I finally realized that I was being paged to the telephone in Mandarin! “Pang Roa Bor (my Mandarin name) da dinghwa”. I glowed with pride.
I hope this entry has been as much fun for you to read as it has been for me to write.

This article was syndicated from YACHT DESIGN


  1. Dale

    You might just be the person that can help me! Where on a CT 56 will I find the serial number? Have an opportunity to buy a boat that was seized and need to know.

    Thank you

  2. Sam and Marilyn Davidson

    Hi Bob- You probably don’t remember me. We spoke several times when I was in Taiwan while my last CT was being built at ta Chao. I owned two CT 54’s one built in 1984 and the last one in 1986. I think this was hull #96 or #98- not sure. After living aboard the first 54, I changed the interior to suit new “design tastes” with several similarities to the CT65. Both were named Wind Eagle. In 1987 we commissioned in Long Beach and for several years sailed all of Mexico. Central America, Panama, Columbia and the Bahamas. She was the ultimate in beauty and live aboard comfort. She sailed easily and we even raced her a couple of times. Our emotional attachment to the CT54 Ketch continues to this day. Every now and then I look to see if one is for sale. That is how I ran across your blog. Being 85 now, it is an old dream I keep reliving from time to time. Thanks for designing such a safe and beautiful sailing yacht .
    Sam and Marilyn Davidson

  3. Daniel Voon

    What a great story! At least you have had a wonderful relationship with the Chen clan over there. I admire the classic line of the CT54 ketch. Do you know if they are still building this model? Great design.

  4. Peter Crawford

    This was my dream, and wife and three sons were to buy a CT54 and sail the world. Sadly boys education was a higher priority and the dream faded. Now 71 and partly disabled it can only be a dream not realised but I still love the 54/56 and the 65 and follow them on the net around the world.
    Any articles and photos would be much appreciated. These are the best cruising yachts ever built.

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