He's the b'ye that builds the boats
Ray Weber not only makes models, he sails the grown-up versions

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/97) - When Ray Weber came to Yellowknife in 1959 there were three sail boats in town -- two Lightnings and one trimaran.

He and his brother-in-law bought one of the Lightnings, got a book on how to sail and away they went.

"Since then I took a sailing course in 1970 so I know what words to yell," he said from his cluttered workshop.

He's come a long way since then because he not only sails them, he's the b'ye who builds them. The NWT Air pilot's newest hobby started when a sailing friend wanted her own boat.

Evelyn Nind sailed in Holland when she was a child and wanted a small, one-person craft.

Weber decided to start small. He never professed to be a boatbuilder but when he found plans in a boat store in Edmonton for a model, he thought he'd give it a try.

The book had 182 steps to build the model, but that included making oars.

"I spent two or three hours just looking at it. It was written in boat-building terms. I didn't know what it meant, but I learned. Although I'll admit to spending a lot of time looking at the plans wondering what the hell to do."

The little boats are models of sailing dinghies that were built to be rowed if the wind died down.

The only metal on the models is found on brass pins and hinges. Other fasteners are glue and tiny wooden pegs, sometimes toothpicks in disguise. Tiny pulleys are a particular challenge.

Sails are made from weatherproof building paper, but they look realistic.

The models are tough to make, Weber said. "You need your feet, your hands, scotch tape and clamps just to get the glue to hold," the pilot said.

The models are designed on a scale of 4:1. And even at that, two still fills up most of his workshop.

"Starting with cedar planks and epoxy glue, I've really had fun," he said.

Since then he's made one sailing dinghy for Nind, a model for her, a model for display at Thomas's Seafood Grotto in Edmonton and one for a friend who promised it to her mother for a Christmas present.

So far he's made one dinghy for Nind and has plans for two more this winter. To top off his works of art, daughter Robin gave him a stamp for Christmas: Handcrafted by Ray Weber, it says. And they are.