A Visit to Laurin

By Hugh Macartney - Mermaid's second owner

 
 
In the days of wooden yacht construction it was common for client and designer to meet to discuss the details of hull form, sail plan, rigging, interior lay-out etc. but when glassfibre production boats took over the market the designer became merely a name on a brochure. In many cases the designer's name was not even given. In this regards I was very lucky in that despite owning a production glassfibre boat I had the opportunity to meet the man responsible for my Laurinkoster 32, "Mermaid" – Civ. Ing. Arvid Laurin.

 

Mermaid was imported to Vancouver, Canada in 1965 by a friend who had owned a beautiful Danish Utzon "spidsgatter" exported by Klaus Baess, a broker in Copenhagen. With a growing family the accommodation became too cramped and by chance he discovered Baess was now the agent for a new 32 foot, five berth, Airex cored double-ender whose hull was built in Malmö (SE), but the interior completed in Denmark. On reading the brochure he decided, it was the perfect choice and ordered one immediately. He was unfamiliar with the designer, but assumed he was well known in Sweden. He and his family cruised in Mermaid extensively up and down the west coast of British Columbia and one summer sailed her to Hawaii.

By 1973 he felt he needed a still larger boat and ordered a 36 foot Bowman from England and I was then able to take over ownership of Mermaid which I still sail. She has been kept in mint condition and regularly beats much larger boats. With Mermaid I got the original brochure and a little booklet about the L32 Gruppen which contained a photograph of Arvid Laurin surrounded by an admiring group of owners. I was curious about the history of the design and the designer but had no way of finding out this information living thousands of miles away and knowing no other owners.

Several years later I had a short visit to Sweden and while waiting in Arlanda airport to return to Canada I used up my last Swedish money buying a selection of Swedish yachting magazines thinking attempts to translate the articles with my Swedish lexicon would pass the time. Somewhere over Greenland I began to look through "På Kryss" and there was not only an article about L32's but it gave Laurin's home address which I kept.
 

Years later my wife and I spent a summer touring Scandinavia and while in Sweden one day found ourselves a short distance from his home in Skoldinge.I was hesitant about calling on him unannounced but did not have his telephone number and so eventually we found ourselves at his little red house dating from the 1700's. Knocking at the door his wife answered and in bad Swedish I asked if I could meet her husband for a minute if convenient. She looked very puzzled and could not understand why two strange Canadians were at her door.

Finally I said the magic word, "Laurinkoster" and with a smile invited us to "stig in varsagod".As there were empty jars lined up I guessed she was in the middle of preserving fruit and so came at an awkward time but we were ushered into a tiny sitting room where an older but very handsome man stood. I explained that I owned the only L32 in Canada and only stopped to shake his hand and thank him for designing such a marvellous yacht, photographs of which I produced saying, "tusen tak, en bra båt" !

Evidently he had not spoken English for a long time and found it hard to remember the words but soon it came back and he was evidently pleased at our visit. I had many questions to ask and he gave me all the information I wanted. I told him Mermaid had no bowsprit and yet most L32's I had seen in marinas had and asked if they were an advantage. He smiled and said, "Yes, they make it easier to jump ashore" ! We talked of weather helm and he insisted that if sailed properly with the right amount of sail and correct trimming, the helm was exactly correct. He warned me to keep the forestay very tight as otherwise the jib balloons outwards closing in at the leech making the boat heel more but without driving the boat forward. The position of the mainsheet traveller was also important in sail trim. He was suspicious of stainless steel rigging where crevice corrosion could make swages fail. In fact he felt in many ways galvanised rigging was preferable. His wife kindly made coffee and afterwards he took me to his workshop which stood a short distance from his house. Here he had many tools and the walls were covered with  full and half models of his designs while there seemed to be hundreds of his drawings carefully filed away on shelves. At that time I was aware of a previous design called Cassella which crossed the Atlantic in record time. As I understood him he said it had been proposed to use her as a mold for a glassfibre version but he had argued that it was a ten year old design which had been drawn for wooden construction. Since then he had drawn similar hulls which were even faster and more seaworthy and scorned the idea of reproducing wooden boats in glassfibre since the latter allowed for any desired shape. Much of his discussion of hull lines was too technical for me but he was extremely passionate about boats, design and sailing.

We parted and little was I to know, that I would meet him again several times before he died. I was still interested in contacting other L32 owners, but did not know how to start and taking a chance wrote a letter to the editor of Pa Kryss saying I would welcome letters from other owners to exchange information and even exchange sailing holidays. The editor kindly printed my letter translated into Swedish and soon letters and photographs came into my letter box. Soon I had an active correspondence from both L32 owners and owners of other Laurin designs. One in particular came from Calle Frostell who with his wife Ulla not only were long time friends of Arvid but then owned his personal boat Gullmar VII. After much correspondence Calle organised an L32 squadron cruise around Aland and I was offered a berth on Gullmar VII. This was a marvellous experience and in due course Calle and Ulla came to Canada and did a summer cruise with me as later did his brother and wife from Sydney, Australia where they sailed a wooden Laurin design. On later visits to Sweden I went with Calle to see Arvid and we talked about boats and sailing for hours. I feel very privileged to have become a friend of Mermaid's designer and to have made so many wonderful new sailing friends.