At the root of professional wooden boat building and repair is tradition. That tradition runs from the designing of the boat, through the construction methods, and into the the care of the vessel for all the years of its life. Over the 1000’s of years of boat building, knowledge and innovation have seeped into that tradition and have mostly improved those processes of designing, building, and maintaining. Innovative people from all areas of wooden boats have seen the way things were done in the past and without altering the final result, come up with better, more efficient ways of achieving them. Louis Sauzedde is one of those innovators.
This interview is a departure from most of my other interviews. Louis is not a lover of boating, an owner of a boat building company, or a descendant of some legendary boat builder or business owner. Louis is a man who loves wooden boats, the way they are constructed, and the vast potential they hold for improvement. He loves solving puzzles, and solving them more efficiently. If you bring your boat to Louis for repair, there is an excellent chance that the portion of the boat that he fixes will be stronger and more smartly constructed than it was when it splashed in the water for the first time.
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated to interview a Master Shipwright. I have interviewed many folks, but only a couple that would know how to spile a plank on a 60-foot schooner. As I drove down beautiful Main Street in Historic Wickford, RI, I ran through my interview questions in my head. I wanted this one to be better than the rest. I really wanted to dive into the essence and soul of wooden boats and explore this man I had read so much about in Wooden Boat Magazine and the Providence Journal.
I pulled up to the small complex and noticed a man standing outside the door. If I was to describe an image of a grizzled, veteran boat builder to a sketch artist, this is the man he would draw. He was small in stature and dressed in moderately worn jeans shorts and a button-down t-shirt. On his head was a black, nameless baseball cap with gray hair curling out and around the back of the hat. His skin is like a worn leather baseball mitt. Not that mitt that you found at the bottom of the toy bin and eventually threw away because all of the laces cracked and broke. Oh no. Like the perfectly broken in, well-oiled mitt that a young kid treasures and uses every day to play catch with his dad. It is a leather that has been worn tough, but seems to have endless years of life left in it. Despite his age at 65 years old, Louis walks, talks, and thinks like a spry 25-year old. Take the entire character I described above and cover him from head to toe in a light coating of sawdust, and this was the Louis Sauzedde I encountered.
Immediately, my intimidation was gone as we began chatting about boats. Louis is a man that adores wooden boats and the work they entail and is very confident in his ability to work on them. In the midst of talking about the traditions of wooden boat building, we switched gears into websites, Google Analytics, Kickstarter campaigns, and Social Media Marketing. I bet I could count on 1 hand the amount of 65-year-old boat builders out there that have even a basic knowledge of computers, let alone the ability to review the Bounce Rate of their website.
Louis runs Tips From A Shipwright. It is a website and youtube channel with a series of blogs and videos containing just that: Tips from a Shipwright, aka Louis Sauzedde. With the assistance of a videographer, Louis is working on documenting his vast knowledge of wooden boat building and repair. The videos are informative and very well done. Folks such as Woodenboat Magazine and Jamestown Distributors have reached out to him to express their interest. Louis admits that he is no web guru, but he knows enough to keep an eye on his statistics and to come up with ideas for videos that will get loads of attention on Youtube and possibly earn him some income. As long as wooden boats are around, the videos will be useful to the owners and the folks that the owners contract to work on them. Like Louis, they are seemingly timeless.
At the end of our interview, Louis and I hung around the shop for a bit longer philosophizing about the intermingling of wooden boats, the internet, and the people of both entities. Louis expressed a fear that his videos may eventually become more about the character “Louis Sauzedde” and less about the skills of Louis Sauzedde the Master Shipwright. He was certainly open to the notion that the 1000’s of views he gets on Youtube will make him some money, but he was more concerned with getting his ideas chronicled to help folks maintain the beautiful wooden boats that have been produced over the years. There are not alot of Herreshoff 12 1/2’s being produced these days and anything that helps to preserve the old boats like that is a great contribution to the heritage of wooden boats and boating in general.
Enjoy the podcast! You can listen below.