Old age and treachery keeping Eric afloat

Eric Jespersen, owner of Jespersen Wooden Boat Builders, gets ready to ship latest restoration project

Eric Jespersen and the 50-foot wooden yacht his boat building company restored for a client in Australia.

Eric Jespersen and his boat building crew out at Canoe Cove Marina are putting the finishing touches on a restoration project that has taken two years to complete.

Working for a client out of Australia, Jespersen Wooden Boat Builders has completely restored a 1960s-era Monk yacht. Jespersen says when they received the boat at the beginning of the job, it had sat for years, was waterlogged and much of the wood on board was cracked. The first challenge, he said, was to dry it out — which took up a lot of time.

“It was a major project to get it sound and up to snuff,” said Jespersen, who has been a boat builder since 1969.

He started with his father, Bent, who ran the family business at the time. Eric grew up around boats, not only building and repairing them, but racing them as well.

It’s a sport that has taken him around the world — and most recently, around Vancouver Island in the Van Isle 360 race on board his six-meter vessel Emma.

Back in the mid-1980s, Eric took part in two America’s Cup yacht races. He would later partner with Ross MacDonald in the 1992 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in Star class sailboat racing. He still races of course, alongside his own teenage son and now-retired father. He said he’s off to Europe in a few weeks for some more competition on the high seas.

In other words, Eric comes from a strong line of mariners and uses his experience and skill (or as he put in regards to racing, “old age and treachery”) when it comes to restoring and building wooden boats at his North Saanich boathouse.

He has built a reputation for quality and it shows in the restored yacht at Canoe Cove Marina. Shining wood highlights the project — which is a long way from how the boat looked when it first arrived.

“It should be boat show quality now,” Eric said.

The final installations are almost done and the interior fabrics are expected soon. The yacht will then be shipped to Sydney, Australia — a task for which Eric said he had to make special preparations.

“To ship it for a long time in hot temperatures, we had to make sure it was dried out and we used structural resin for the cracks and separations — we made it look like it was original.”

The client has been happy with the work, Eric said, having visited  the shop three times over the last two years.

The restoration was one of Eric’s larger projects.

A typical job — such as building a wooden boat from scratch — takes about two years, he said.

The time isn’t a huge factor when customers commission him to build it, he continued, but it does have to be balanced by the fact most of his clients are retired and are fulfilling a dream to own their own yacht.

Make no mistake, building a boat from the hull-up is a luxury and Eric noted that the industry has faced tough times in recent years.

His traditional market, the United States, saw a decline in orders as the Canadian dollar reached par with the Greenback — then even more so when the economy struggled after 2008.

“It’s a difficult business just to jump into,” Eric said.

He noted, however, his experience and skill — not to mention a good reputation in the industry — has kept his business running. He rebuilds and repairs boats as well, staying afloat in-between the big jobs.

Yet, for all of its challenges Eric said the business isn’t stressful, as most of his clients are in it for the pleasure of owning their own yacht.

Just Posted

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Choir offers a capella take on Beatles hits

Soundings will perform concerts in Oak Bay and Sidney May 24 and 25

VIDEO: Scorpion found in B.C. woman’s kitchen finds new home in Victoria

The Victoria Bug Zoo welcomed the scorpion on Saturday

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read