In Festival Boats 2022

This little wooden boat’s story is one of devotion, dedication, family, companionship, artistry, tragedy and triumph. Her story begins over a century ago, as Sewall Southard Sr. infused his passion for sailing and everything nautical, a gift from his father, down to his son Clarke. All are the descendants of the famous Southard shipbuilders whose work is still showcased in the Southard Museum in Richmond, M . Born and raised sailing the lakes of Alabama, Clarke’s love of boats moved with him to Colorado in the late 1980’s. In 1993 he met and married Debra, who provided him with the inspiration one Christmas, by gifting him a coffee table book, “William Fife: Master of the Classic Yacht.” Clarke became impassioned to design and build a boat reminiscent of the golden time of wooden boat racing.

As Clark moved deeper into the project, he found himself shifting his emphasis in design toward the creation of a boat of such extraordinary beauty that it would reflect his deeply spiritual heart and artistic talents. Roopa, a Sanskrit word that refers to a physical manifestation that possesses a beatific form, was well on her way to completion when Clarke took ill in 2014. Clarke’s dear friend Dee Crouch, a boatbuilder all his life, had spent every Sunday building Roopa with Clarke for over 10 years. Dee continued to come to Clarke’s home on Sundays when Clarke was unable to continue the work. They would sit having tea and speaking together of boats, designs, their love for the seas, oceans and rivers, and the boats they had built to navigate them. This Sunday ritual continued until Clark passed in 2017.

With the growing medical costs associated with her husband’s failing health , Debra decided to sell Roopa to another friend and woodworker, Paul Sibley, the artist who was finishing Roopa’s teak deck and cockpit work. Paul’s extensive workshop and property held countless artistic creations of wood, metal and stone. One night in 2017, at a wedding on Paul’s property, Amory Host, also the son of the son of a sailor, as well as an amateur woodworker with over 25,000 nautical miles of ocean sailing experience and who grew up working in boatyards, saw Roopa and fell in love. Amory bought her with the aspiration of finishing Roopa at the onset of his upcoming retirement, but kept Roopa on Paul’s property for five years while he closed-out his business concerns and ushered his youngest son off to college in California.

In December of 2021, Amory, with his partner Madhuri, fortuitously brought Roopa to our home in north Boulder, just 3 weeks before the devastating Marshall Fire completely destroyed Paul Sibley’s workshops, art collections, home and property, along with over 1,000 other homes in Boulder County. Realizing that providence had stepped in to saved Roopa from the fire, we began to take our stewardship more seriously. In preparation to trailer her up to the Wooden Boat Festival to find assistance in finishing her, we launched her for the first time to determine her displacement. While backing Roopa down the boat ramp, a stranger called out, “Hey, I know that boat!” It was an old friend of Debby and Clark’s who then introduced us to Debby.

“He was so proud to share the boat with neighbors and friends and the many strangers who noticed it in the garage and stopped to ask him about it. Debby told us when we met. Although Clarke has passed, the news that the boat lives on and is being finished, brought tremendous joy to Debby and their son Michael. “Clarke would have been absolutely thrilled to know his boat was entered in the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, that was always his dream.”

Amory and Madhuri are at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival to make that dream a reality. We are here to show off Roopa and to hopefully find an alliance with a few talented boatbuilders to finish the standing rigging and sails so she can finally be launched and sailed as Clarke intended.