Years of woodworking whetted Doug Scherbarth's appetite for a more challenging project. So, nine years ago, the Hampstead resident decided to build his own sailboat.
What started as a pile of lumber became a 43-foot-long monohull sailboat that Scherbarth admits made a "tight squeeze" in his backyard. As he watched the large boat sway idly among others docked at Middle River near Dark Head Creek recently, Scherbarth reflected on how he built Apparition, which he set sail locally for the first time last week.
"The boat started out as nothing, and just appeared," Scherbarth explained.
Worn, smudged hands mark the many years he has spent working on projects such as Apparition. And Scherbarth admits the cream-colored boat took longer than expected to complete.
A contractor for the information security company SafeNet Inc., Scherbarth spent an average of 15 to 20 hours a week working on the boat, mostly in the evenings. Much of Scherbarth's summers and off-seasons were also dedicated to fixing and maintaining the boat.
Scherbarth said he enjoys spending his free time working on "Harry Homemaker"-type projects, such as building home furniture and renovating his family's kitchen. A love for woodworking and building began at about age 14, when Scherbarth built himself a hang glider.
"I really enjoy projects," Scherbarth said. "Some people work hard to make money to buy things. I need to be able to do it myself. I like to figure things out."
While searching for a new project in 1995, Scherbarth began planning Apparition. He chose a design from Australian boat designer Bruce Roberts-Goodson, owner of Bruce Roberts Yacht Design, for the vessel that stands 13 feet high on land. After completing library research, Scherbarth started construction in 1996.
At that time, he says he probably would not have been able to afford to buy a sailboat that size.
"I had built small canoes and kayaks before, but I decided I needed a bigger project," Scherbarth said. "I had no idea how much bigger it would be."
Project 'more about the journey'
Building a sailboat allowed Scherbarth to learn new skills, including welding steel and casting bronze boat parts. He also relied on old skills.
To reach the top of the sailboat's mast, Scherbarth assembled his mountain-climbing harness and made use of his climbing expertise.
Although the project was meant for pleasure, it came with difficulties.
"I spent a huge portion of my life dedicated to this project," Scherbarth said. "The boat took a lot of time and money we could have conceivably used elsewhere. In retrospect, I wouldn't have built a boat this big. But to stop, I would've given it all up. This project has been more about the journey."
Inclement weather and injuries delayed the project's completion. In the summer of 2000, Scherbarth slipped off deck beams and fell into the boat, breaking both of his wrists.
For more than six weeks, he had to wear casts. Doctors inserted a stainless steel plate in one of his wrists to help the healing process.
"It was definitely inspiring to see my dad build something from scratch, especially after he overcame these temporary setbacks," said Scherbarth's daughter, Bethany, 21. "He saw the project through and decided not to give up."
Scherbarth's labor produced a boat fit for a long ride. The cavernous wood interior is complete with a bed, bathroom, couch and mini-kitchen.
"There is lots of living space inside and it is an ocean-cruising-capable boat," Scherbarth said. "A trip to Bermuda is not out of the question."
Scherbarth anticipates long-distance trips with his family, which includes wife Lynne, daughters Bethany, Heidi and Kristin, and son Eric.
The sailboat passed safety standards and has been on the water since June 21. Two trucks and an 85-foot crane were required to move it from Scherbarth's backyard to the water.
Scherbarth's 17-year-old daughter, Heidi, added finishing touches to the boat with hand-sewn, red-brown cushions. Scherbarth said his family has been supportive over the years, assisting him with the project.
His father also made frequent visits from Detroit every year to help out, recently coming to install the boat's 600-pound engine.
Neighbors never complained and were more fascinated by the boat. Sometimes, it was used as an icebreaker, and the Scherbarths were always eager to show off the project to friends, neighbors and even a United Parcel Service deliveryman, Heidi said.
A recent hobby and the next project
Growing up in Detroit, Scherbarth said he did not live near water or learn to sail until recently.
Every Tuesday evening, he helps sail lighter, 15-foot boats with the local Special Olympics athletes in Hawk Cove near Rocky Point Park.
"I didn't learn how to sail until I starting sailing as a skipper with the Special Olympics athletes," Scherbarth said. "You don't get how to do it until you sail at a helm on a small boat. I'm still working on it."
Scherbarth admits he feels let down now that his project is coming to an end, but he said he has no deep attachment to the boat and plans on selling it sometime in the future.
"I am already thinking about my next project," Scherbarth said. "I am a pilot and I may want to build an airplane. ... it is on my list of things to do."