Renaissance woman

You could call her a jack-of-all-trades, but if you honor her thus, you must add that she’s a master of most of them, too.

I met Julia Doyle-Kingsbury at the 2015 Boatbuilders Show on Cape Cod. She was working the Squeteague Sailmakers exhibit, and I was so delighted by the stunning mainsail art she’d designed, I asked her to make me a new, whimsical sail for my catboat. During visits to the loft, she learned I lived in Rhode Island, and she said her music group – L’Esperance Mandolin Ensemble — rehearses near our home.

Naomi and I try to go to one “cultural” event each month, so we attended the group’s next concert, “Celtic to Classical.” The program ranged from Percy Grainger’s “Molly on the Shore” to Wolfgang Mozart’s “Queen of the Night,” and we were astounded by the energy, depth and passion of the performance.

“In our orchestra, we have mandolins of many styles and ages,” Julia explained: “mandolas, mandocellos, a mando bass, an upright bass, as well as guitars, a bandurria, and even a lovely flute from time to time. A mandolin orchestra can play most of the music a string orchestra can, but lots of music has been written expressly for mandolin orchestras. All of the mandolin family instruments are played with a pick; none are played with a bow.”

Julia was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and, Julia says, “My father, a newspaper editor at “The Herald” in Halifax, started brainwashing me early in life as far as sailing goes. I started lessons when I was 10, and I absolutely adored my Laser, which I mostly used for sailing around and out of Halifax Harbour.” The family boat was a 23-foot Bluenose sloop that it sailed out of the Armdale Yacht Club on Melville Island.

If you’ve got the magic, use it, otherwise you’ll lose it, the saying goes, and Julia, now an American citizen, had the bug. “I kind of ran away to sea when I was 17, on a boat delivery,” She says. “That was my first big sailing experience. After that, I did have a few deliveries back forth from the Caribbean.”

When she and husband Skip were first married, they cruised on an Islander 31, and they sailed an Atlantic until last year. “It was such a lovely boat,” she says. “I now have a 12-foot Byte one-design, which is fun, and we cruise out of Bourne, at the west end of the Cape Cod Canal, on our BHM (Blue Hill Marine) 31-foot lobsterboat.” She and Skip also crew on a J/42 in a Wednesday night series in Cataumet, Mass.

Julia began sailmaking about 1991 in Victoria, British Columbia. “There was a Hood loft downtown,” she says, “and I asked if they wanted an intern, eventually getting on the payroll.” She has worked for Squeteague Sailmakers since 1995, with a four-year hiatus while she worked on a plumbing apprenticeship.

Today, she has a journeyman plumber license. “I started learning to play the mandolin in 2008,” she says. “I had promised myself that after I got my plumbing license.”

Working at a small, established shop is fun, Julia says. “My philosophy about making sails is about maximizing the sailing experience of the individual customer, whether one is a grandfather of young children, a skippered day-charter company or a Bermuda Race contender. I try to evaluate the end result of my designs and improve the next one as much as I can.”

What’s next? “I play the mandolin, but I have an ambition to play the clarinet someday.”

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