He’s the real thing. He’s the classic new England Yankee: He’s independent, he’s determined, and he works around all the challenges that come up in boatbuilding. I’m as interested in the culture of what he’s doing as I am in the craft of what he’s doing.’’

Barry O’Brien, as quoted in The Boston Globe, August 2011

Our Master Shipwright and Captain and Builder of the Ardelle Harold Burnham just recieeved a 2012 National Heritage Fellowship. 

‘Given the relatively small population of Essex Massachusetts (averaging about 1500) and the number of vessels built hear (estimated at 4000) over nearly 400 years it is hard to imagine a place on earth were shipbuilding is deeper embroidered into the fabric of a community. For this, I credit the great deal of support I have received over the years as well as many of the skills that were handed down to me.  I have also been blessed and inspired by my family who kept the yard and allow me to live and build boats hear much like a family farmer who keeps up the family farm.

Harold Burnham and friends aboard the Ardelle

Through the seasons when I am not sailing my own vessels I cut logs on my mill, dry the timber, design the vessels from a half model in the traditional way, Loft them, make the molds and patterns, build the hulls, spars, rig and sails, install the mechanical and electrical systems and fit the vessels out ready for use. And through the process I have developed a talented group of friends who share in my passion and can help me. I know of no other place where so much is done in the boatbuilding process rite from the raw materials. It is truly organic. We even fasten our boats with wood.

Harold Burnham and friend Bill Cronin during 2011 Schooner Festival races

Although we have not produced large numbers of vessels, our vessels have proved to be quite successful for the purpose intended. Some have even paid for themselves many times over. This is something I credit to both my skill as a mariner for knowing what the vessels would need and to the vessels owners who often times participated in the vessels construction and did what they had to do after the boats were sailing.

Harold Burnham aboard his Friendship sloop “Chrissy”

Wooden boats may not be for everyone and not everyone can build them. However there is nothing like a wooden boat, and there are occasions when wood just makes sense.  During those occasions it should be known that we can still build wooden vessels in an economical and efficient manner and that our boats will last for generations.

- Harold Burnham