Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Remembering Lyford Stanley

Lyford Stanley, the 82-year-old designer who’s been with the Maine-based John Williams Boat Company since its founding in 1971, died in late November.

Lyford had a natural gift for designing boats. “He could quickly size up a boat on land and envision this boat in the water, then readily determine the position of the actual waterline,” says Jock Williams, the company founder and longtime friend of the designer. “The things he knew from his experience in the water, he incorporated into the design of his boats.” That experience included being a lobsterman, scalloper, halibut fisherman, purse seiner, harbormaster, tour-boat captain, and water-taxi driver. His father was also a lighthouse keeper on Great Duck Island, Maine, so his passion for the water was fueled at an early age.

It was also fueled by one of his high-school teachers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in boatbuilding. Lyford apprenticed at the Sam Davis Boatyard in Bass Harbor, but he built his first boat, a 22-footer, when he was 25. Since he didn’t have a workshop, he used his and his wife Norma’s bedroom. The trick, of course, was launching it: He removed one of the bedroom’s walls to get Little One out. (Apparently Norma was a patient woman; the photo above shows the couple years later, partners in every way possible.)

It’s interesting to note that it was Norma who convinced Jock Williams to work with Lyford. In the 1960’s Jock ran the fiberglass production program at Hinckley, and Norma was one of his employees. “She kept telling me that I should get together with Lyford about building lobster boats in glass,” Williams says.

And the rest, as they say, is history. By 1973 the two men began building what ended up as the Stanley 36 fiberglass production lobster boat (seen here), a model of which more than 100 have been built. The Stanley 28, Stanley 38, and Stanley 39 also sprang from Lyford’s vision.

At the time of his death, Lyford was working on a Stanley 42.

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