A small matter of style

Artist Halle Starkweather graces the transom of David Buckman’s 26-foot Swedish-built Folkboat with her name, Leight. Photo courtesy David Buckman

October 2021

By David Buckman

One of the most compelling elements of boat ownership, and life in general, is the protracted process of crafting a sense of style that complements our designs and pays respect to beauty, functionality and proportion. Though such ambitions may rarely cross our minds as specific tasks in the daily scheme of things, we invest significant energy in the process of enhancing the subtle nuances of grace, personality and practicality of our watercraft.

This passion for composition is reflected in the metaphorical cut of one’s sails, our skill at the helm, the purposeful way of a sloop clawing to weather, order of her systems, and the business of expressing who we are and what we value.

Style counts in practical ways. We maintain the Leight to a high standard, by our own hands – mostly – because it enhances economy, functionality, satisfaction and appearances that make us feel good and are well worth the considerable energy they demand.

Some such projects are minor details in the scheme of things but add weight to our pleasure and satisfaction. While mate, Leigh, and I began getting the Leight ready for her 36th year of cruising, we noticed that the name and calling port on the transom, rendered in press-on plastic characters, were looking tired and in need of replacing.

Replacing them with computer-generated lettering was tempting because of the variety of typefaces, ease of application and affordable cost. That said, we wanted something with a certain panache that would flatter the spare lines of the 26-foot, Swedish-built, international Folkboat. Our initial attempt to find a hand-painting lettering artist in mid-coast Maine yielded little more than “that old guy who used to do it had retired years ago.”

Pressing our search among local boatyards, at length, we came up with the name of Halle Starkweather from nearby Pemaquid. A flurry of emails confirmed that she indeed painted boat names and a meeting of minds was soon arranged. A seasoned hand and graphic artist, Starkweather also melds photographs, computers and brushstrokes into striking graphic images.

Having recently expanded her considerable energy into painting boat names with a distinct sense of creativity, we immediately found Halle and her work interesting. Young, talented, and a good listener, she understood that less was more in good design and was full of ideas.

As enticing as the project was, there was also the matter of cost to be considered, for the economy is still a benchmark of our coasting ambitions. Halle quoted $375 for the project, which, when considered over the life of the lettering, came out to but a few dollars a year. Besides, there was the matter of style, which we thought well worth investing in the sloop’s character.

Knowing the necessity of patience in dealing with marine contractors, we were pleased that a week after agreeing to go ahead with the project, Halle showed up, and with a slow and steady hand, began the process of translating a unique idea into a pleasing reality, with care, precision and sweeping strokes that look good, even close up. A small matter of style, we rarely row past the stern these days without admiring the subtle flair it adds to the sloop.

Halle can be reached via email at starkweatherhalle@gmail.com.

David Buckman sails the Swedish-built Folkboat, Leight, out of Round Pond, Maine. For many years, David was a regular Points East columnist. Archives of his work can be found on pointseast.com.