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The Launching of Treebeard

As 2018 came to a close a new year and new wood boat were getting ready to launch. Spaulding Marine Center hosted the christening of a seven-plus-year building project by J. Parsons, who designed and built the classic in his garage at home in Tiburon. (One of the first steps was building the garage!) The boat is the culmination of vision and hard work accomplished with the help of friend and craftsman Brian Turner. Together they brought to life a unique, beautiful and elegantly built gaff-rigger that Parsons envisioned sailing the Bay.

Launch day drew a steady parade of admirers.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Parsons’ long-time woodworking hobby tended toward the square corners of cabinetry. Following retirement earlier in the decade, the self-taught dinghy sailor became interested in boatbuilding. In 2010, he signed up for classes with Bob Darr at the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding at Spaulding in Sausalito. While learning to build boats — cabinetry with curves — in 2011-12 he drew the lines for a sailboat that Darr suggested was worth building. With lines drawn and this encouragement, Parsons decided to move ahead.

Brian Turner and J Parsons
Brian Turner, on the left, was J. Parsons’ right-hand man throughout most of this building project.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The keel was poured in 2012, but proper building couldn’t really begin until Parsons added the aforementioned garage to his house. With the garage finished and the project underway, he enlisted the help of fellow Arques student Brian Turner. The two of them have made it happen over the past five and a half years.

On the December 15th launch day, Parsons described some of the unique woods and care that went into building this masterpiece: “We sourced most of the woods from Edensaw, though some we got right out of the forest and milled ourselves. The majority of the wood is Douglas fir. The transom is black acacia, the covering board and rub rail are local eucalyptus, and the tiller is pepperwood, which is what Bob Darr calls bay laurel that grows above 1,000 feet. “The pepperwood was acquired from a farmer who had a tree fall. We milled it from there. The dark wood mast step and other pieces are purple heart, a very hard wood from South America — which was also hard on us as it dulled our tools!”

The devil is in the details. These details are rich with diverse, handcrafted woods, from pepperwood to Douglas fir.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The building project didn’t leave much actual time for sailing, so Parsons got his fix by sailing J/24s out of OCSC in Berkeley. At 20 feet, the new boat is very different from a J/24, but just as ready for the Bay. With a nod to The Hobbit, her fine-grained soul was christened Treebeard. She has a full keel yet also a daggerboard to help windward performance. If all goes according to plan, the rig and final pieces will be finished early this month and she’ll get her first sail by the end of the month.

Bow of Treebeard
Careful details are found from bow to stern. She’ll be a standout wherever she sails.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

She’s got a lovely sheer and stout build, and looks finely crafted for many great years of sailing on the Bay.  If you happen to see her sailing by, send us a photo, as we can’t wait to see her with sails hoisted. We’re sure she’ll be as beautiful under sail as she is at the dock.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.


  1. Bob Heintz 5 years ago

    I would love to see the original drawings to get a feel for the full keel and shape of the hull and transom.

  2. arnold oliver 5 years ago

    We – who have already lost our hearts and wallets to wooden boats – salute you.
    Vets For Peace Golden Rule Project

  3. Deb Marsteller 5 years ago

    Beautiful! Nice work.

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