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The Great Bear

2006 Update: The second owner of the
Great Bear, Jim Boula (
reports that she is alive and
undergoing refit in Naples, Florida.
2013 Update: Done! ...headed for
the Bahamas (again).

1974-Newport, RI

2012-Naples, FL

Stories from and about the Invocation to the Great Bear:
Bolinas Invaded? Point Reyes Light (Thursday, November 26, 1970)
The Incredible Launch Of The Great Bear, Multihull Sailing (July/August, 1971)
Captain's Log (November, 1973)
From West to East via VHF/FM, Cruising World Magazine (May/June 1975)
A Trip in a Trimaran, The Stuart News, Martin County, Florida (Sunday, May 11, 1975)

I started out in my early twenties figuring that somebody builds sailboats. No magic, no hidden tricks, no special foundry or blast furnace required. Just a set of skills that can be learned and some materials bought at the lumber yard, the fiberglass and resin supplier, and the ship's chandlery.

I couldn't buy a sailboat. No money. But I could scrimp, save, and collect useful things while I built it myself. When I was done, I would be master of my own ship and able to travel anywhere in the world. Seductive yearnings.

So when I quit graduate school, the project satisfied a terrific creative need as well as a deep drive to be independent at age 25. It took three years and the profound cooperation of my patient wife, Dagmar. We did, though, travel a bit during those years: we ran the Baja in our Renault before there was a road; we visited the East Coast and Germany when American Airlines flew long-haul 747s with a piano bar in the stern.

I began as a novice boat builder. You have to start everything somewhere at sometime. I got a lot better as I went along. The plans were by Jim Brown, pace-setting multihull designer and, later, my friend: they were carefully crafted to be easy to follow and were reasonably forgiving of stupid errors. Thirty years after I sold the first Great Bear on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain with about 17,000 sea miles showing on her log, I bought a "derelict vessel" of about the same length at a Maine boatyard auction and rebuilt that Grampian seaworthy, naming her also The Great Bear.

Fishing with Tascha and brother Richard, 1974.


Sailing tandem with Jim Brown and family (aboard Scrimshaw).

Note From Puerta Vallarta

Cruising Off El Salvador

Tape Letter from Jim Brown, 1975: Side 1

Tape Letter from Jim Brown, 1975: Side 2

Tape Letter from Jim Brown, 1976, Side 1

Tape Letter from Jim Brown, 1976, Side 2

For serious conversations from Jim Brown, go to!

For a look at the Great Bear's Construction Manual [PDF - 42MB], download it here.

For a look at the Searunner Catalog [PDF - 18MB], download it here.

For a historical look at Art Piver's Pi-Craft Catalog [PDF - 4MB], download it here.