A yacht’s broken rail, damaged LED light string and ripped seat cushion can all be fixed by crew in a maker space. Whether in Auckland or Alaska, crew can find a gathering of do-it-yourselfers from a movement called “make”.
Although much of the community gathers online, the number of physical locations of maker spaces is growing. Stew/Chef Elaine Scantlen, along with her husband and business partner, have opened just such a business in Ft. Lauderdale.
“The sky’s the limit,” said freelance Mate Rusty Jones, who visited the space recently to schedule some classes. “Anything you can think of, you can do. There is no place like it.”
Each of the 200 global maker spaces is distinct, but this one is perfect for the needs of yacht crew.
“I think half of it is getting off the boat and having a no-worries environment to work on things,” he said. “And it’s a way to meet new and local people.”
Makers Square in Ft. Lauderdale opened in October and combines the talents of Scantlen, her husband, John McNurty, and business partner Brian Weiner. It’s 14,000 square feet of warehouse, workshops and workspaces filled to the brim with tools and materials.
It came about through the “maker” movement, credited to Dale Dougherty, who published Make magazine in 2005 to connect do-it-yourselfers with the information they sought. The worldwide community (makerspace.com) grew into fairs, digital libraries, social media and work spaces.
For Jones, though, the Ft. Lauderdale maker space is perfect for is yachting-related needs, and he visits whenever he is in town.
“Anything you can remove from the boat can be worked on at Makers Square,” he said by phone from a yacht in the Bahamas.
Any metal fabrication, woodwork, varnish or custom work can be done there, he said.
A tour through the main building includes a woodshop, a metalworking bay, a ceramic-making area, sewing room, and a computer and 3D-printing room.
Access is controlled, but open. Initially, an interested person would take classes to earn access to the tools, Scantlen said.
“They prove their ability and we assess their skills,” McNurty said. “Plus, the classes are a great way to learn the right way to work. We don’t get clowns here. We’re giving them access to $150,000 worth of tools.”
The classes vary with members’ interest and aside from the standard woodworking, metalworking and sewing classes, Makers Square offers blacksmithing, jewelry and costume making.
Jones is scheduled to teach a sushi class in the future. He has been friends with Scantlen and McNurty for 10 years and recently offered to bring some of his catch from a job on a sportfish to a Maker Square social event.
“I said I could make some fish and John said, ‘why don’t you teach a class?’” Jones said. “As fast as I said it, that’s how the class came about. So I’ll be teaching a sushi class. I know a lot about what kind of fish is good for sushi, how to cut it right and how to roll your own.”
After taking classes, people can purchase memberships or continue to pay per class with a variety of options including four-visit and eight-visit punch cards. Prices start at $50 a month.
“Yachts can get a membership because crew are often do-it-yourself, especially sailors,” Scantlen said.
Even if crew don’t know what they want to do, everything at Makers Square’s art-filled property is designed to spark creativity. Workshop tables are strewn with tools and bins overflow with wires, paints, cloth and papers. Wall are covered with murals and Weiner’s metal sculptures hang in several rooms.
Education and cooperation are encouraged and a walk by the hydroponic/aquaponics benches, the small stage, through the library, by the swimming pool and unofficial bar serve to open minds to innovation and conversation.
Previously chief stew on M/Y Joanna Alexandra, Scantlen now freelances as a stew/chef until she can devote all her time to their business. Her favorite thing is where she gets most inspired: the commercial sewing room. At least five machines line the entrance room of the main building.
“I grew up in Ohio with eight brothers and sisters, that meant I got hand-me-downs.So I started sewing in third grade to make them fit,” she said.
She pointed to each machine and explained how it could be helpful for yacht crew.
“This can easily sew eight layers of leather and it can do canvas, no problem,” she said of the walking-foot machine. “That is the serger machine that gives you that finished edge, and the blind-stitcher you can use for curtains and hems.
“This is our commercial one that can sew canvas, plastic and heavy zippers,” Scantlen said as she sat at the Juki sewing heavy-duty outdoor material. “I’m repairing these cushions for a boat I was on.”
Scantlen sees Makers Square as not just a solution to problems but as a tool to enhance job outputs.
“So many things can be better onboard,” she said. Scantlen has taught interior classes and she is wired to trigger enthusiasm and inspire ideas to customize a yacht and charter guests’ experience.
“It’s fun to be creative and it’s exciting to see what you can come up with,” Scantlen said.
With more than 20 years onboard yachts she offered examples.
“It drives me crazy how most linens come with king-size pillowcases but the pillows are standard and the extra material is tucked under,” she said. “Realistically it takes two minutes to sew it and make it fit perfectly. It seems every boat I’ve been on, the pillowcases are not right.
“As a stew in St. Blas islands I made pillows of the molas, the local fabric,” she said. “I’ve made napkin rings, runners with the yacht’s logo and designed custom napkins. And I make things for themes. It’s a guest’s birthday? What’s their interest?
“It is easier to make than it is to go shop, try to find and buy,” she said. “Specific things are hard to find and time consuming.”
Scantlen is also a milliner (a hat maker), and she makes theme party packages for yachts.
“Crew work on yachts worth millions of dollars, yet they go to Party City,” she said. “They need a way to upgrade, to go upscale.”
Her personalized steamer trunks include costumes, hats, masks, gloves, spats, table decor and linens to order.
Engineers and captains, too, can do just about anything in the wood and metal shops.
“We got this equipment from a company that used to make fly bridges,” McNurty said.
He pointed around the metalworking bay to the welder, mill, lathe, TIG (for aluminum and stainless steel) and MIG (for steel and plate) welders, pipe benders (to 4.5 inches), plasma cutter, drill press, hand tools, sander, grinder, chop saw (for PVC and metal), gas torch, sheet break and sandblaster.
McNurty walked to the next bay and explained the woodworking tools: mitre, chop, table, band, and scroll saws, wood lathe, routers, drills, and every type of hand tool.
“Starboard marine lumber can be cut for custom things like fish cleaning tables for the tender, dashboards and risers for electronics,” Jones said.
McNurty said one of the popular classes is for 3D printing. Maker Square has two 3D printers which translate a computer file of a scanned object, usually a scale model of a project crew want to create, and melts filament into layers that harden into the item.
“You can make any small part, finally fix that thing from the refrigerator door, replace that latch, fix that door lock,” Scantlen said.
“With yachts having parts from around the world, there are things you just can’t get, things they don’t make any more or are hard to order in,” McNurty said. “Now you scan the part and print it.”
“This is like when you used to take your film in to be printed and now you can do it at home,” Scantlen said. “One day yachts will have these onboard.”
The other popular class is for microcontrollers, small boards with inputs and outputs that can be used for automation.
“There are many uses on yachts like LEDs,” McNurty said. “You can customize everything, because you can add music with sound and light activation.”
Other microcontroller applications for yachts include timer, memory, analog to digital converter, serial communication port, gps, bathymetrics, camera, smoke detector and propane, carbon and motion detectors.
Jones said he looks forward to getting back to the maker space when he gets off his boat job in the Bahamas. He has ideas for the shop and he’ll be preparing for his upcoming sushi class. But mostly he said he looks forward to the people and the social events.
“Most everyone is an outta-the-box type of thinker with original ideas,” Jones said.
Jones will be back in town at the end of the month. He’ll be the one with the fish.
Makers Square is located at 1142 NE 6th Ave, Ft. Lauderdale (33304), +1 954-816-9191. For upcoming classes, prices and events, visit www.makerssquare.com.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.