Launched in 2013, Atmosphere is the result of the original vision of Gene Merrill and Vicki Sterling, who wanted to combine modern expertise with traditional wisdom and beauty in a cruising vessel. Built in the C Shed of Victoria Quay, Fremantle she is a L. Francis Herreshoff’s 1947, design number 87, Nereia. A boat described by Herreshoff himself as “a real little ship, one that can carry a figurehead gracefully”. As described by Gene the Nereia design has “a well deserved reputation for seaworthiness, sea-kindliness, speed and beauty”.
Design & Construction; Atmosphere is a 12 tonne displacement vessel with 6 tones of external lead ballast in her keel. She is a ketch rig, with a gaff main and a Marconi mizzen, giving her a total 780 square foot of sail area. She has a roller reefed jib, an inner hanked stay sail and a multi-purpose spinnaker (MPS) in traditional Freo Dockers colours in recognition of where she was built.
Whilst, on first inspection Atmosphere looks very traditional, closer examination reveals modern influences borrowed from fibreglass and composite boats. The cabin top is glassed, with the glass rolled over the top edge without the usual moulding, to give a clean, smooth and simple join. The deck is also glassed, with the corners at the gunwales and cabin top-sides covered, and the glass rolled up the sides to provide strength.
With a strip planked hull in Western Red Cedar, the interior and exterior hull is glassed with West system epoxy, ensuring the interior of Atmosphere remains dry. The deck and cabin tops are marine ply whilst the deck and cabin beams are constructed using Oregon, a light and strong wood. Cabin sides are solid Indonesian Nyotah. Both main and mizzen mast also use Oregon wood, and were constructed using the traditional birds-mouth joinery method. Interestingly, Atmosphere has been fitted out using West Australian She-Oak, a durable and stable timber with a distinctive grain.
With a classic clipper bow, Atmosphere has two different ornamental scrolls each individual cast in bronze from the designs of the original owners, Gene and Vicki. The deck and mast hardware have been individually cast using bronze and the stainless steel standing rigging uses traditional dead-eye tensioning.
This vessel has comfortably spent many years cruising the Australian coastline, initially sailing from Fremantle WA to Bundaberg QLD via the Kimberlies in 2005. She was then based in Bundaberg for a number of years where Gene and Vicki regularly traveled the QLD coast line. She was purchased by Donald, Megan & Shay in 2013 and since has travelled as far north as Townsville leaving there in 2015, to make her way down to Hobart for the 2017 Boat Festival. She can still be found regularly exploring the Tasmanian coastline.