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Notes from NA Spirit Factory craftsman!

Hey folks - got this email and had to share - AWESOME!

>>>>>>>>>>
Dave, my name is Mark;

I live in Austin and spotted your 'Good Old Boat' blog while looking for photos of the Spirit Yachts we used to build.

I got a kick out of your blog and was pleased to see the old Spirit 23 get a new life. I used to work at the Glastron/Spirit factory, and may well have been there when your boat was built.

I worked my way through engineering school at the University of Texas, and was a manufacturing engineering tech at Glastron. We built the 21, 23, and 28 foot boats until the late 1970s energy crisis took a toll on the recreational boating industry. I got laid-off in the spring of 1979 as the company started downsizing. They eventually moved production to a much smaller factory in an old German town called New Braunfels (just north of San Antonio), and I think they phased out the sailboats a year or two later.

I chuckled at your comment about burning through the rear brakes when hauling her back to your house. One of our biggest problems with sales people was that they would convince people their cars were powerful enough to tow boats... but the real issue wasn't about getting going - it was about stopping with the momentum of a big, heavy boat pushing from behind.

You should be pleased to know that a ton of engineering work went into the structural design and construction of your boat. Some of my work involved the manufacturing process design and data acquisition for quality control. We had 20-30 engineers on staff, and a lot of energy went into making our sailboats durable enough for offshore stresses. Hopefully yours has been able to withstand the tests of time.

Glastron was already making some of the best engineered motor boats in the mid-1970s, and had vast experience in working with fiberglass. Most of our competitors in that era were small shops that were able to get a fiberglass mold and then cranked out low volumes with learn-as-you-go design. At Glastron we had teams that did nothing but destructive testing in the lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico, and that helped inform our entry into the world of sailboats.

I recall that our Spirit Yachts carried the stigma of being associated with ski and fishing boats, and that the Catalinas and Pearsons used that to their advantage by denigrating Spirit's heritage. Even with Glastron's international dealer network I think most of our sailboat sales were concentrated in the southwest. Still, I think we had a pretty Robert Finch design and made a respectable product.

I was in my early-to-mid 20's at the time and regret that I didn't file away some old brochures to look back on. Even with the power of Google and the internet it is hard to find much info or collateral without doing a lot of digging (which is what I was doing when I found your blog).

Anyhow, it seems you love your boat and hopefully my email can help fill in some of the blanks.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>

:)
 

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Hello, my name is Jeff and I am currently doing freelance boatwork right here on Lake Travis :) Anyhow, a guy contacted me about doing a bottom job on his NA23 and also said that he did not have a centerboard but would consider getting me to install one. I have been searching for a board to no avail. I was wondering if anyone knows of any lieing around anywhere, or could get me the specifications of one, or perhaps even know where the moulds are... GoodOldBoater, do you still have that guys email address from your original post?

Any help would be greatly appreciated; wow, a boat production company right here in austin...that would make me quit freelancing and go to work I think.

Thanks in advance,

Jeff Wigzell
 

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Awesome email! I hope you can continue the correspondence. I am specifically interested in the offshore details and what sort of offshore sailing is being referenced. Is that with a different keel?


a guy contacted me about doing a bottom job on his NA23 and also said that he did not have a centerboard but would consider getting me to install one. I have been searching for a board to no avail. I was wondering if anyone knows of any lieing around anywhere, or could get me the specifications of one, or perhaps even know where the moulds are
I would love to have that as well! The first time I hauled my boat out I found the board was snapped off at the bottom of the keel! I fabricated a new one out of plywood and glassed it. No weight though, just for the lateral motion. I measured the inside of the keel slot to get rough dimensions. Unfortunately I am not sure where those figures went. They may be on this site. This would be great as its own thread.
 

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Re: Notes from NA Spirit Factory craftsman!

They eventually moved production to a much smaller factory in an old German town called New Braunfels (just north of San Antonio), and I think they phased out the sailboats a year or two later.

You should be pleased to know that a ton of engineering work went into the structural design and construction of your boat. Some of my work involved the manufacturing process design and data acquisition for quality control. We had 20-30 engineers on staff, and a lot of energy went into making our sailboats durable enough for offshore stresses. Hopefully yours has been able to withstand the tests of time.

Glastron was already making some of the best engineered motor boats in the mid-1970s, and had vast experience in working with fiberglass. Most of our competitors in that era were small shops that were able to get a fiberglass mold and then cranked out low volumes with learn-as-you-go design. At Glastron we had teams that did nothing but destructive testing in the lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico, and that helped inform our entry into the world of sailboats.

I was in my early-to-mid 20's at the time and regret that I didn't file away some old brochures to look back on. Even with the power of Google and the internet it is hard to find much info or collateral without doing a lot of digging (which is what I was doing when I found your blog).
I too worked for Glastron. Unfortunately for me it was after Glastron ceased production on the Spirit. My first position was as a line engineer, and before we shut-down both the New Braunfels and the newer plant that we had out in North Carolina, I had moved up to Engineering Manager at the NC plant.

Everything that Mark said about the engineering and, what we called the 'Galveston Test' (the destructive testing of new designs in the Gulf of Mexico), is absolutely the same as I experienced during my time at Glastron. However, FWIW, Glastrons produced after 1992 are likely to be of a different quality. At that point (due to the recession in the early 90s), Irwin Jacobs (owner of Genmar, which owned Glastron), consolidated all production up in Minnesota at the Larsen and Lund plants. Although I don't know how they produced the boats up there, I suspect that it wasn't up to the old Glastron standards.

Even during the late 80s, we were moving away from all hand-layup and started to use chopper guns where mat was previously used. In a production setting it is more difficult to get consistency of the resin-to-glass ratio with chopper guns.
 

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Everything that Mark said about the engineering and, what we called the 'Galveston Test' (the destructive testing of new designs in the Gulf of Mexico), is absolutely the same as I experienced during my time at Glastron.
Thanks for hopping in here!

I am intrigued about these 'destructive' tests. What did you guy do during them?
 

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Thanks for hopping in here!

I am intrigued about these 'destructive' tests. What did you guy do during them?
It was pretty simple. The first production copy of a boat was progressively abused during the week. The first couple of days would be in the ship channel and the bay. If the boat survived that, and most were reasonably fine up to that point, then the test driver would take the boat out into the Gulf of Mexico. The waves are particularly rough as one passes through the jetties on the way to the Gulf. Eventually the test driver would get up to full throttle and try to pound the heck out of the boat.

Once finished, NPD would go back over the boat looking for any damage. Those areas would be reinforced with additional layup.

Developing a new hull was interesting too. We wouldn't stop until the hull would handle a full throttle, lock-to-lock turn without skipping out. In those days, Glastrons were darned good tough boats.
 
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