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Collectibles: Model Citizen

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

On a sunny summer afternoon in Camden, Maine, artist Rob Eddy watches the pleasure boats glide by the town yacht club, where he is having lunch on a lawn near the clubhouse that overlooks the harbor. “Do you see that blue one there?” he asks, pointing to Anjacaa, a powder blue–hulled, 53-foot Palmer Johnson yacht heading away from the docks. “I did that one.” When Eddy, a cheerful, chestnut-haired man who appears younger than his 52 years, “does” a yacht, he creates a reduced-scale model of it. He receives from $60,000 to $200,000 per commission, depending on the amount of labor involved, and accepts no rush orders; he has produced only 27 models, beginning with a Luders 33 that he built when he was 12 for $50 and including a miniature version of the 155-foot Royal Huisman sailboat Hyperion, which he made five years ago for its owner, Netscape cofounder Jim Clark. Eddy spent 300 hours crafting a 2¼-inch replica of a tender for the Atlantide, a 1930s-era motor yacht. Perhaps that tender merited the extra attention, because it represents one of Ettore Bugatti’s few ventures into boatbuilding. However, Eddy also lavished 200 hours on the Atlantide’s other, larger tender. (The entire project, which he finished in 2000, consumed 5,470 hours, or 2¼ years, of Eddy’s time.) “People come to me because they know they’ll get the quality that they’re looking for,” Eddy says. “A boat is very complicated, with a lot of pieces and hardware that are interconnected. If I don’t put something in, it looks odd, especially to the owner of the boat.”

Eddy begins each project by photographing the yacht’s exterior, recording 250 to 400 images. He constantly will reference these photos while constructing the model in his workshop, which is located a few yards from his home in Camden and has affixed to one of its doors a sticker that reads “Life’s too short to own an ugly boat.”

Eddy achieves some visual effects through clever means, such as marking the edges of slim wooden strips with a grease pencil to mimic the dark-colored caulk that appears between planks on a yacht’s teak deck. He also colors the hulls with the same marine paints used on full-size yachts. But his work can include obvious and intentional inaccuracies related to his training as a jeweler, which he pursued after a friend suggested that jewelry-making skills would help him produce superior metal yacht fittings. For example, he installs tiny diamonds in the tops of all his winches, and his current project, a model of a 65-foot sloop named Sarah Jane, will feature a pair of white gold anchors.

When Sarah Jane’s commissioners visited Eddy in June, they viewed the work in progress and, he says, “They wanted to add more detail.” Those details include the bimini, a canopy that shields the skipper from the sun. Eddy usually omits this feature because it obscures other items, but the clients prefer to retain the bimini in the interest of accuracy. Eddy estimates that this request and others will delay the project’s completion by two to three months, but he does not question them. “The model is a statement about a boat’s history, and why it is the way it is,” Eddy says. “[People who are] serious about their boats know them well. It’s impossible for me to build a model that’s inadequate. I don’t want a client coming back to me and saying a winch doesn’t look like the winch on the boat.” Unless, of course, the client is referring to the winch’s diamond.

This scale model of the vintage yacht Atlantide, which includes two tenders, required 5,470 hours of the artist’s time.

Robert H. Eddy & Associates
207.236.6579
www.yachtmodels.com

Photo by Simon Clay/RM Auctions
Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
Photo by Bonhams
Photo by Daniel Simon