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S/Y Vela Build Blog

Vela Lines

Yard #300: The graphical story of Vela’s creation

This blog is a warehouse of information for our most recent build project, S/Y Vela. So browse through the photos as we put all the pieces together over the 2+ year build process from contract signing to launch.

Marsun Team
July 20th, 2020
Launch Countdown – 0 Days

The wait is finally over and Vela has launched! As a result of Thailand’s Coronavirus mitigation strategy, the office team was not able to be there to witness the event yet took solace in the fact that those that have worked the hardest to create her over the past two years were right there by her side to welcome her into her new home, the water. Next step? Clear her out of Thailand and get her underway to Singapore where she will eagerly await our operational team’s arrival, closely followed by the student cadet crew. Her first voyage is set to commence on September 15th, 2020, a 7000nm epic adventure from Singapore to South Africa. Many thanks to the team at the Marsun Shipyard and Langan Design Partners but particularly to Travis, Ben, and Jon, the three intrepid GXG representatives who kept their heads down and made incredible things happen throughout an unprecedented time of our lives where international travel was ostensibly impossible. Without this team, Vela would not be the finished product she is or be on track to get underway with a student crew this fall.

Half Page MAY 2020
May 19th, 2020
Launch Countdown – 45 Days

How the world has changed over the past 90 days with Coronavirus stopping most everything in its wake. No one has been unaffected by the global pandemic, so our thoughts not only go out to you and your family but also to our staff and their families. Like every school and college across the globe, our semesters aboard Ocean Star and Argo were interrupted in March and we were compelled to comply with the Department of State directive and dismiss our students from the vessel and back to the USA to complete our academics virtually.

Travis, Ben, and John (our staff in Thailand) are effectively stuck, with borders closed and limited international flights in operation. The shipyard was deemed an “essential service”, so they have been in operation throughout this period, so while we are a little delayed, we are still in track to launch Vela in advance of a shortened 40-day semester that starts in July.

Vela is really coming together now and she remains a bright light at the end of what’s been a pretty dark tunnel for us all over the last few months.

10 Feb 2020
February 10th, 2020
Launch Countdown – 92 Days

Okay, okay, we know… we’ve been busy building but quite delinquent on writing the blog! Since we last updated you a lot has happened on both sides of the Pacific. At Christmas time we sent another 40ft container over to Thailand, stuffed to gills with everything from dinghies to standing rigging, sheets to science gear, pillows to deck brushes and EVERYTHING in between. This turned out to be a family affair between Mike Meighan (Sea|mester Executive Director), Jo Meighan (Sea|mester CFO) and their two children Joshua and Kai! They even enlisted the help of Mike’s father-in-law, Ian. One more container to go, and that should be the lot!

The shipyard has been busy both above and below decks as we continue to fair and prime the hull, deck, and deckhouses, wire and plumb the interior and continue to seat the primary producers and consumers in the engine room. Vela looked like the inside of the space station for a while with all of the insulation going up on the ceiling and walls but is starting to look a little more traditional now that the teak boards are boing installed atop the miles and miles of wiring.

You know it’s getting very real and very close when boxes and boxes of Vela T-shirts arrived in the office!

Nov 7th Sandblast
November 7th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 189 Days

Two big milestones were passed last week. Vela had her entire hull and deck sandblasted and spray primed with three coats of primer epoxy. Additionally, the process of “fairing” her steel hull has begun. During the course of the next two months, a crew of about 15 people will alternate between applying epoxy filler to the hull/deck and sanding it smooth with 7ft sanding boards, with teams of four to five people on each, to level the hull and remove any imperfections in the surface. After the fairing is complete, Vela will get a final spray coating of primer paint before her finish paint coatings are applied. During the time the fairing is taking place, Marsun’s engineering, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians, and carpenters will begin to fill her hull with all the systems and structures that will bring her to life.

october 23rd, 2019
Launch Countdown – 204 Days

Things continue to move quickly at Marsun! Anything that can’t fit through a companionway or door is now inside the hull and seated, including the main engine, generators, dive compressor, and exhaust system. This allowed the chart house structure to be welded to the deck finally. Interior painting is complete, and the remainder of the deck fittings have been welded in place. The booms are complete, the rudder is under construction, and many of the other deck hardware is ready to go, such as the davits, bench seating, and raft brackets. The next big job is blasting, priming, and fairing of the hull and deck. Blasting and painting are due to start this week, and the total job should span over the next 45 to 60 days.

Sept 4 2019
September 4th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 253 Days

So much has happened aboard Vela since we left to run our global programs for the summer! It’s hard to capture it all within just a few photos, but here goes. Two shipping containers were sent from our Florida office full of machinery and electronics. The mast extrusions and steering gear were sent from Europe and the ground tackle from New Zealand. The yard has been hustling to pull all the pieces together as you can see. While the hot work continues, the lion’s share is complete, and primer has been applied to most spaces down below. The masts and booms are also at a point where they are awaiting primer. A significant shift in focus now to plumbing, electrical, and the installation of machinery. More updates to come!

April 9th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 401 Days

Pictures of Vela are rolling in from the yard as we inch toward the launch date. Currently, we are a little over 12 months from Vela welcoming her crew. The team at Marsun continues to load Vela with ballast and double down on putting pieces and parts in their place. Just look how great she looks under those lights in the Marsun yard!

March 15th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 426 Days

Just a quick update from the yard in Thailand – the bowsprit has been installed and Vela is looking great topside! The cockpit is also really taking shape now and ballast is being installed in the depths of her hull. Work continues at a steady clip and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome the first student crew as we begin to take enrollments for her maiden voyage.

Study Abroad Gap Year Adventure International
January 25th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 475 Days

A note from the Editor:

Recently, our Director and his family visited Vela for the first time since the beginning of her construction and I felt the urge to share a few of their photos. Happy reading!

I don’t enjoy other people’s vacation photos if I’m being completely honest. Perhaps it’s the less-desirable traits in me like that feeling of missing out on an adventure that causes my eyes to glaze when someone starts telling me about the world’s best poutine they found at a diner in Michigan during their road trip last July. Our conversation inevitably diminishes as the other person realizes I’ve moved into the canned-response phase of our exchange:

“Oh wow, that must have been so cool. Wooow. Oh wow- that’s aaaawesome.”

Keep it moving, troubadour. You lost me at that rest stop in Missouri.

Did I say that aloud? I panic.

Can I still feign interest? I wonder.

This feels like a good time to smile and retreat.

Yet there is something different in these photos from our Director’s trip to Thailand. I find myself looking at these photos with unusual interest, the question “what am I really looking at?” rattling around somewhere in my subconscious.

In these photos I see proud small-business owners standing, quite literally, atop a future under construction. I see a family who bears the weight of experience – past, present, and future – for thousands of people – past, present, and future. I see brothers doing brother things. Pushing each other into poses for photos, making funny faces at the camera – reminding me of times in my bank of vacation memories when I used to do brother things like push my siblings into poses for the camera and make funny faces.

The build of this boat is so much more than just another hull gliding across the sea in constant negotiation with changing, colliding gusts of air pressure. This boat represents those things in our lives that are also in constant negotiation: Connection – with ourselves and with each other. Connection to our environment and the changing nature of life at sea and all its fleeting struggles and joys.

Skill, and the ability to navigate the world around us by something other than a blinking blue dot along a highlighted route with step-by-step directions.

Discomfort – the willingness to step outside our Netflix accounts and Instagram feeds and try something different.

I continue scrolling through the photos and try to define what exactly it is that holds my attention.

In these photos, I see a graveyard for comfort zones. In these photos, I see futures that will be defined and lives that will be changed for the better. In these photos, I see thousands of yet-to-come experiences that, collectively, will be greater than the sum of their parts.

I guess vacation photos aren’t all that bad.

Gap Year Study Abroad Adventure
January 10th, 2019
Launch Countdown – 490 Days

These days seem to find us playing a game of, “find Vela’s parts around the boatyard.” As various pieces and parts make their way to the Marsun yard in Thailand, the crew have been working hard to keep Vela on track.

Images below (Left to right)

Base plate for the anchor chain roller, stopper, and tensioner and the end cap of the bowsprit; The stainless top of the gallows; The stainless surrounds for the windlass; Vela’s foredeck as seen from midship.

November 20th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 541 Days

Today marks a very big day for the construction of Vela, as she has been removed from the Marsun building, flipped, and righted for the rest of her build. Flipping a (roughly) 65 ton steel hull is nothing short of incredible, a feat we knew the Marsun crew could handle with the utmost safety to both the work crew and the vessel. Vela is coming along in strides now as we begin putting together the itineraries for her first few semesters with students aboard!

For her first semester underway, Vela will be sailing from Thailand to Australia with space for up to 24 students. With 4,500 nautical miles slated for her first voyage, Vela will have a port of call list to include Bangkok, Koh Samui, Tioman, Singapore, Borneo, the Gili Islands, Bali, Komodo, Raja Ampat, and Darwin!

Vela D
November 8th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 553 Days

The hull plating is complete and welding inspections are underway! Vela is really coming together quickly these days and we can already envision all of the lives that will be changed once she’s operational.

We have finally reached the point in which Vela must be taken off of her frame and rolled outside to be flipped! This is the last time Vela will ever be an indoor-boat (if ever such a thing occurred). Soon to come are photos of Vela being lifted via four hydraulic bottle jacks to be weighed in preparation for her rotation.

Vela 1
October 30th, 2018
Launch Countdown -562 Days

Hull plating continues at a fevered pitch, as the hull turn is due for November 12th! We are preparing for a welding inspection by Bureau Veritas and a representative from International Paints is starting to get involved to ensure proper coverage in those places which will be almost impossible to reach once the hull is welded shut.

The pictures below show that the frames and the stem are primed – also primed and painted are the lazaret, water tanks, and fuel tanks, which are all integral to the hull.

Story Team Image
October 9th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 583 Days

An update from Travis Yates, Managing Director:

Five minutes into the New Year of 2006 I landed in the old Bangkok airport to finish a project and to start an adventure. In the six months that followed a dream was realized, a project was completed, and I became a part of a new family.

The dream was to build a sailing school ship that embodied the combined experience and knowledge of an amazing collection of folks, one that would safely enable her crew to sail the oceans of the world under the Sea|mester flag, providing the platform for transformative educational and growth opportunities that only a sailing vessel can offer.

The project was to complete S/Y Argo, a 112ft steel sail training schooner whose lines and hydrodynamics were conceived in the highly esteemed Newport, Rhode Island offices of Langan Design. When I arrived at Marsun Shipyards the hull of Argo was fully welded and turned upright, three container loads of machinery and equipment had been shipped from the US and a small team of Sea|mester and ActionQuest staff had been organized to move out to Thailand to build out Argo’s masts and complete her final fit out.

The family I became a part of was the Marsun Shipyard family. Over the course of six months I worked hand in hand with individuals at every level of the Marsun team and without exception I found them to be driven to make our vision of Argo a reality – doing it all with a smile and an enthusiasm that was both contagious and inspiring.

This past week I came back to my Marsun family. I got to reconnect with a ton of the same folks that brought Argo to life. From upper management to the highly skilled hands that bent the hull plating, machined and crafted the masts, wired the vessel and painted Argo out. I got to reconnect and share stories of the efforts and people that made it happen.

This time the dream is to bring Argo’s sister ship, S/Y Vela, to life. The project is well underway, with only a month or so to go before the hull is fully welded and pulled out of Building 3 to be flipped upright. In the 12 years since Argo was commissioned at Marsun the shipyard has grown much larger and has continued to be very successful in their main line of the shipbuilding business. What has not changed is the enthusiasm, capability, and spirt of their team.

It was an honor this week to line up once again with the entire Marsun workforce for their 8am morning calisthenics. It was fantastic to dine with them once again in the Canteen and to get to meet and build friendships with the amazingly capable new members of the Marsun team.

The excitement at Marsun for building Vela is only matched by my excitement and that of our team at GXG for getting Vela completed and out on the sea with students aboard!

August 18th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 635 Days

Welds, welds, and more welds. We’ve reached the point where a lot of the photos look the same but trust us – things are moving along quite quickly now. Of particular note on a small scale is the quality of the welds that the Marsun team is bringing to the table. The team is using a semi-automatic welder and making leaps and bounds when it comes to putting all the puzzle pieces together.

Gap Year Study Abroad 9
August 4thth, 2018
Launch Countdown – 649 Days

And just like that, our beautiful Vela is coming to life! Having the framework for the hull pieced together is really starting to help her take shape. The crew in Thailand is making great strides to keep us on track for the build and we couldn’t be happier with the progress thus far. Just as a note, the brown color is actually the paint primer, not rust! Onwards and upwards, Vela.

P.S. Is it just us, or does the framework in this stage make her look like a Viking warship? Anybody? Bueller?

Gap Year Study Abroad5
July 2nd, 2018
Launch Countdown – 682 Days

Today was the Keel Laying Ceremony in the boatyard! Things are really starting to take shape by leaps and bounds on making Vela a reality. The materials for standing the frame are arriving and the steel plates will soon be welded in place to begin forming the hull.

This build is especially important for Marsun Shipyard, as it’s their 300th! It’s been a few years since our first build, S/Y Argo, and we are as equally excited to be their YN. 300!

Gap Year Study Abroad Vela Seamester
May 30th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 715 Days

Sea|mester co-founder, Jim Stoll, is living in Thailand year-round, giving him the ability to be completely hands-on in the construction of Vela. The materials are finally coming together, most notable of which is the shipment of massive steel plates that will be welded to the frame of Vela in order to construct her hull.

Note the massive Thai Navy vessels in the background – The Marsun Shipyard is the primary build yard for the Thai Navy. Safe to say they’ve built a boat or two over the years.

Vela Study Abroad Gap Year
January 20th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 845 Days

We’re starting to get a look at the first renders of Vela! Vela will be built to the same basic plans as Argo. At 112-ft overall, Vela is a two-masted staysail schooner with room for 26 students and seven staff. When we first designed Argo, we did so with safety, dependability, and ‘trainability’ in mind. Vela is no different, so think of her as Argo 2.0! Thanks to her designer, Bill Langan, the original plans were so good we only had to apply subtle changes to Vela. Most involve replacing mild steel with stainless in some of the hard to reach places. These modifications, we hope, will further increase our ability to maintain the vessel in tip-top condition during her rigorous ocean-going schedule.

S/Y Vela Contract
January 5th, 2018
Launch Countdown – 860 Days

We’ve officially signed a contract to begin building our third Sea|mester vessel, S/Y Vela.

Construction will start in June 2018 and the build will take around 18 months. The delivery of our new vessel is set for May 2020! Welcome to the family, Vela!

Making the decision to build Vela is something we've been dreaming about for a very long time. We're thrilled to announce that we signed a contract with Marsun shipyard on December 29th and should take delivery of the vessel in January of 2020. This is a big moment for Sea|mester, and would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our operational and office teams.

Mike Meighan - Executive Director