Doug Park, 39, grew up sailing in Marblehead and was officially introduced to the world of wooden boats as a young student aboard the Harvey Gamage with The Ocean Classroom Foundation.
Subsequently, Park spent many summers apprenticing for Thad Danielson at the boat shop at Redd’s Pond on Norman Street. His apprenticeship sparked a passion for wooden boat building and became his career choice when he attended the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, Rhode Island.
In 2011, Park was able to launch his business Redd’s Pond Boatworks at the same Norman Street location where he once apprenticed.
Over the past decade or more, Park has worked hard to preserve wooden boat-building traditions, techniques and classic designs. In 2017, he won the Antique and Classic Boat show in Salem for the construction of a Herreshoff steam launch. He has done a full restoration of a Nathanial Herreshoff S-Class Sloop and the iconic Herreshoff 12 and a half among many other projects.
Doug is married to Eliza Park, and the couple has two children, Eleanor, 7 and Griffin, 4. Laurie Fullerton of the Marblehead Current caught up with the family just after Christmas at the launch of the Doug-Park-designed-and-built Sunnyside Skiff.
The Marblehead Current: What inspired you to design and build your own design — which you have named the Sunnyside Skiff? Is there a moment in time where you were inspired to embark on this project?
Doug Park: I wanted to build a small versatile boat to use as a family and to teach our kids to row, sail and navigate the local waters. Our hope is that they will maintain and operate the boat on their own as they get older.
The name “Sunnyside Skiff ” comes from a combination of our own childhood experiences with independence from the water. Eliza spent summers at her family’s lake house called “Camp Sunnyside ” in the Adirondacks. A 12-foot aluminum row boat was the first craft she was given the freedom to take out on the lake on her own.
I grew up in here in Marblehead where my family maintained a wooden skiff of about the same size, which I could row in Marblehead Harbor if I kept it bailed.
I started to design the “Sunnyside Skiff” as an answer to the questions that came up as we thought about giving our kids a similar experience. Is there a way to attach a sail rig or an outboard, too? What if we could throw it on the car and bring it to the lake when we visit the grandparents? Can we begin to explore together now while they are small?
MC: Are there certain criteria you had when designing the Sunnyside Skiff, like traditional lines, stability, capacity and length?
DP: The primary functions of the design were for it to be light and lean enough to row with ease, wide and stable enough that it would be fun to sail, stout enough to handle a small outboard motor and durable enough to see our family through many years of adventures.
I also wanted it to look good, and for me that led to a traditional lapstrake hull with bright work features and countless other details that perhaps only I will see.
It is my understanding that 12 feet is generally the maximum length allowed for boats to occupy dinghy rings and racks. Working within that specific limitation I tried to make it as comfortable as I could for our family of four.
MC: Did you build the Sunnyside Skiff full-time, or how did that process go along as you also are a full time boatbuilder?
DP: There is a Viking proverb that says “Bound is the Boatless Man,” which is a quote that Eliza and I joked about over the last few years because, until now, we haven’t had a boat of our own. Our friends and family have been very generous with getting us out on the water, and it can be hard to prioritize a personal project, so it has been on the back burner for a while.
Early on, I would carve out time after the kids were in bed to research countless small boat designs, sketch lines and construct the building jigs, but I wasn’t able to really start pulling the boat together until this fall when I had more space between customer projects.
My favorite part was when my 7-year-old started coming to the shop to help me when she got home from school and my 4-year-old got really into riveting the sheer clamp. It was fun to involve them in the process. I’m hoping they take over the seasonal paint and varnish work soon.
MC: What are some of the ways a sailor or boater might use, enjoy and benefit from the size and weight of the Sunnyside Skiff.
DP: Above all, it is a versatile family boat that is meant to be enjoyed under sail, rowed to a favorite fishing spot, or dragged onto a beach for a picnic. The lapstrake planking eliminates the need for seasonal swelling so, even as a wooden boat, it can be ready for spontaneous adventures.
With its relative light weight and small size, it can be loaded on a roof rack to travel to the ocean, lake, or river. It can also be left in the water on an outhaul or dock ring and serve as a good tender for a larger yacht.
MC: How did you come up with the name “Doolittle” for this first Sunnyside Skiff?
DP: I wanted to name this first boat for my wife, Eliza. She suggested we call it Doolittle in reference to Eliza Doolittle, the main character in the musical “My Fair Lady,” which was a favorite of hers growing up.
In the story, Eliza Doolittle is a tough and quick-witted woman who defies expectations. It is also a fun name for a little boat.
MC: Have you had a good reaction/response to the recent launch of the first Sunnyside Skiff? Do you think you will be attending some boat shows with your new design/build?
DP: I finished the last coat of bottom paint just before Christmas Eve, but between the storm surge from the bomb cyclone the day before and the crowds picking up holiday orders from Little Harbor Lobster Co., it meant that a launch at Fisherman’s Beach wasn’t practical.
Eliza and I were excited to take her for a row, so we held an impromptu launch for “Doolittle” right on Redd’s Pond. I posted the story on social media and received a ton of positive support.
The day after Christmas we were finally able to give her a saltwater baptism, and she spent that week on my dad’s outhaul near Fort Sewall so we could take advantage of the mild weather and do some sea trials.
I am planning to complete the sail rig, rudder and centerboard for the spring and outfit her with an auxiliary rudder that holds a small Torquedo engine. This stage of the project is all about getting out and having fun, but it also helps me see if there are any parts of the design I want to fine-tune or adjust.
I do think she’ll be a great little boat to tote off to boat shows around New England, and the building jigs I have created will make replicating the design much more efficient.
I love this little boat. It just looks perfect!