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Meet the Owners

Agathe Gaulin

Agathe Gaulin is a seasoned sailor with over 20 years of experience on sailboats. Her passion for sailing started with a weekend cruise in Florida, followed by sailing lessons back in Alberta, bareboat chartering in the BVI’s and California, ownership of progressively larger sailboats and a move to Vancouver Island in 2002 to access the vast sailing waters of the world famous Canadian West Coast.

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Professionally, Agathe is an executive director and consultant in organizational development for non-profit agencies.  She has also worked as a community-based program developer and worked at the post-secondary and continuing education levels. She has a Master of Education degree from the University of Alberta (2000) in Adult and Higher Education.   She has a particular interest in women’s ways of learning and is fluent in French as well as English.

Aspiring to combine her professional abilities with her sailing passion, and being committed to empowering individuals, especially women, to acquire the needed skills to feel comfortable in a cruising sailboat, she pursued instructor certification with the International Sail and Power Association, now known as Canadian Recreational Yachting Association, in 2009.

In 2010, she acquired a Hunter 335 and started her company: Morgana Sailing Inc., based in Comox.  She is certified to teach students at Competent Crew, Day Skipper, Coastal Navigation and Coastal Skipper levels.

In 2012, Agathe was a crew member on SV Big Ben entered in the Cruising Division of the Vic-Maui Race from July 5 to July 25.  This race from Victoria to Maui entails sailing approximately 2400 nm and is a test of navigational and sailing skills. Agathe undertook the task of provisioning in preparation for the race, was tasked with navigation and weather routing after 4 days at sea and was recognized as "the best helmsperson on board”.

In 2016 Agathe undertook the return trip (Maui to Victoria) sailing on S/V Miles.  This return sail was definitely a challenge for the crew and once again, Agathe proved her worth as an experienced sailor and was awarded her CRYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certification.

Undaunted by the challenges of the 2012 ocean crossing, she pursues her dream of sailing offshore and joined Blue Water Cruising Association from which she took a multitude of courses such as:  ISAF Offshore Safety and Sea Survival Course, Offshore Weather & Passage Planning, Offshore Medical Preparedness First Aid and Emergencies at Sea, Single Side Band radio operation as well as Diesel engine maintenance.

In 2013 Agathe and co-owner Georgette purchased a Spencer 44, Free Spirit, an offshore veteran, and they are outfitting her for extended ocean cruising.


Georgette Duhaime

Georgette Duhaime is relatively new to sailing having only been sailing since 2010 and being from Saskatchewan, did not have much experience with the sailing world.  She had only sailed approximately 3 full weeks when she joined SV Big Ben’s crew for the Vic Maui race in July 2012.  Quite an undertaking for a beginner!!

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Georgette proved herself a worthy sailor as she did most of the cooking for the 7 crew members.  The Prairie gal was one of the only crew members who could spend any amount of time in the galley cooking.  She managed to keep things under control and kept the crew safe from flying pots & pans. She also did her share of “helming” as well as helping with repairs.  Having survived her first offshore voyage and having a love for the water and travel, Georgette decided that offshore sailing to points south were in her future.  Georgette & Agathe Gaulin purchased SV Free Spirit in 2013 and have been doing upgrades and readying her for more ocean saiing in the very near future.

Georgette’s sailing life began in 2010 when she took her first course from an International Sail and Power Association instructor and gained her Competent Crew certification.  She then registered for a Day Skipper course through the same organization and has not looked back.

Georgette has sailed in Georgia Strait, Vancouver region, Desolation Sound and some of the Gulf Islands to Sidney as well as Newport Beach, USA

Our Boat: Free Spirit

The History

The foundation for Spencer Boats was laid in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where John Brandlmayr grew up, went to University, and developed his interest and skills in the design and building of things such as boats and aircraft. It was here that lasting friendships were formed such as the one with Phil Hantke who, many years late after the war, became a partner in Spencer Boats Ltd..

+ Free Spirit History

The following is an excerpt from tapes and notes left by John and which outline the philosophy which he brought to his designs and to their fruition:

"For me the principal interest of boats has always been design.  As a youngster building model airplanes, I worked out designs that could be built from the materials readily at hand.  I found a particular satisfaction in applying scientific principles and art to the design and construction of a sailplane and enjoyed the considerable amount of general study it required.  Building some iceboats and a sailboat at that time seemed like an extremely simple proposition.  An enterprise that has given me a great deal of satisfaction and invaluable understanding of boatbuilding is Spencer Boats Ltd. which, together with Phil Hantke, a very good friend, was started in 1952 to build eighteen- foot plywood cruisers and runabouts.  My dear wife, Pat, bestowed her maiden name on this business
                                                                                                                          ........... John Brandlmayr

One of the first products built by Spencer Boats was a "Frame Kit" for various sizes of boats, both power and sail. The "Frame Kit" consisted of pre-fabricated components for frames, stem, transom, keelson and a ‘harpin’ which permitted the builder to setup the hull immediately and thus avoid the tiresome task of ‘lofting’ prior to construction. This was prior to mass production of molded boats and at a time when many people built their own boats in order to own one.

John devised a method of construction for producing laminated stems using hydraulic pressure and a tooling method for producing frame components using a standard jointer. Building instructions were provided for each size and eventually prefabricated parts and materials were also available. Several hundred units of this product were sold throughout the world.

Numbers of complete and partially complete boats were produced of these models, especially power boats from 14 ½ feet to 32/34 feet. The plywood planking was applied in full length sheets and covered with a "Cello" finish. In this process, fiberglass materials were applied to the plywood and then a resin was introduced under a tight layer of cellophane. When the cellophane was removed, there remained a glossy, durable and attractive finish on the plywood planking.

In 1958, the first model of fiberglass sailboat produced from a female mold was the 28 footer. Since molded fiberglass was in its infancy, only the hull was built in fiberglass. The deck of the 28 continued to be built in wooden construction.

The next model developed was the Spencer 35, followed by the 42 aft cockpit and 44 center cockpit, the 31, the 53 aft and forward cockpit; and the 1330 aft and forward cockpit. Methods and details of construction were adjusted to meet changes in technology. During all phases, only hand lay-up of the fiberglass materials was used in hulls and decks. Initially solid glass construction was the only option but, with care and consideration, polyvinylchloride with some balsa core was introduced to provide a rigid, solid hull and deck with integral insulation for creature comfort below decks. (Note: The basic construction specifications for Spencer Boats are attached. They may be of a source of help for current owners.) See Construction above.

Details of construction were always paramount in John’s mind in specifying the methods of construction throughout the vessel. His training as an Engineer and his early self-education in design and building model airplanes and a full scale glider, provided him with the ability and skill to engineer the structure as a whole unit.

While Phil Hantke managed the shop and production, John carried on another life under John Brandlmayr Ltd. which was the design office. As a consequence there are many boats, including rowboats, sailboats, powerboats, fishing vessels, commercial vessels, ferries and dredges, which were designed by the office, and which are still in operation. A wide range of materials including fiberglass, aluminum, steel, wood, and plywood and fiberglass was used in the methods of construction. In subsequent years, the design office has evolved to Brandlmayr Marine Ltd. headed by son, Grant Brandlmayr.

John’s involvement in the companies came to a sudden and untimely end with his death in 1974. A few months later Phil Hantke succumbed due to health complications. This left myself, Pat Brandlmayr, who had been involved in the business since day one, and son Grant, together with our first and last employee, Les McBurney, to carry on the business with the help of the skilled employees.

The company had started production of sailboats at a time when the market for sailboats was on the rise. This market carried on for quite a number of years and the company was able to avail itself of the momentum in the market. To fill out the product line, the Spencer 34 was introduced. This was the first model by a designer other than John. Production of the Sun 27 was undertaken for the account of the brokers, Specialty Yachts. This model was initially produced in the States and the brokers found it beneficial to have Canadian production.

Owners of Spencer boats will remember the close liaison with Les, Grant and the fellows in the shop. Each boat was built to order and customized to suit the owner. Most owners were very knowledgeable, experienced sailors particularly with regard to details of outfit and rig, for example, Hal and Margaret Roth with S-35 ‘Whisper’. Many of the sailboats built by Spencer Boats have been used for extensive offshore cruising due to the integrity of the hull/deck and to their good sailing and handling characteristics.

With the sudden downturn in the economy in 1982, the company was forced to change direction. The assets (all the molds) were sold to Shore Boat Builders who built boats in aluminum. Spencer was able to bring fiberglass technology to Shore to combine construction of fiberglass hull and deck with aluminum superstructure. Although the producing of this product remains tenable, molded fiber glassing and aluminum welding require two completely different shops. Eventually Spencer Boats had to be put to bed. However, the boats themselves seem to have taken on a life of their own thanks to the care and attention given them during their design and production and the continued enthusiastic interest of their owners.

Dated - April 2003

Written by,
Patricia Brandlmayr


+ Free Spirit Construction

HULL: The hulls are hand laid-up in a one-piece female mold. The sandwich construction in the hull uses "Airex" PVC core for maximum stiffness and for both acoustic and thermal insulation. The "Airex" is started approximately 6" below the sheer and is carried below the turn of the bilge but not into the keel area. In this way, through-hulls and fittings can be installed easily in the solid glass areas in the bilges.

DECK: The deck, cabin and cockpit are also laid-up in a one-piece female mold. Sandwich for the deck is end-grain Balsa for maximum stiffness and insulation. Use of Balsa in the deck permits ease of installation of deck hardware to suit owner requirements at the time of construction and in the future. The Spencer hull and deck are joined while the hull is still in the mold to maximize fairness. The toerail is incorporated into the deck/hull joint which is achieved by means of successive layers of internal fiberglass bonds. The non-skid deck surface is an integral part of the deck mold.

BULKHEADS: are of plywood and glassed to the hull to contribute to the transverse stiffness and to hull integrity. Longitudinal stiffness is achieved by glassing the various structural interior components to the hull.

BALLAST: The lead ballast in each case is precast in a cast iron mold to give precise control of the weight and shape. The center of gravity is kept effectively as low as possible by bolting the lead ballast along the bottom of the hull. (In the case of the S-35 the lead ballast is pre-molded pigs, placed in the cavity of the hull and glassed in place.) The stainless steel bolts are preset in the lead prior to pouring and extend into the bilge area after mounting so that they are accessible and visible for checking in the future.

TANKS: The standard tanks for fuel and water are pre-molded by hand lay-up to the shape of the hull and glassed in place to give maximum capacity and to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. Stainless steel inspection plates, in which the necessary fittings are attached, are used on the top of each tank. Additional saddle tanks and holding tanks are optional: size and location depend on the model and layout of the boat.

THROUGH-HULLS: Standard through-hull fittings are bronze, faired flush to the outside of the hull with bronze ball valves threaded to each.

CHAIN PLATES: are stainless steel welded "T" straps securely glassed to the hull and deck and to chain plate gussets or bulkheads, carefully spaced and secured to the hull and deck. The backstay plate is secured to the transom; and the stem fitting which has a standard roller for the anchor rode, is through-bolted to the bow.

JOINERWORK AND BELOW DECK FINISH: Finish below decks is in the tradition of wood and teak-faced bulkheads and cabin sides; solid teak handrails interior and exterior; solid teak framed door, companionways, and drawer fronts, all with a rubbed oil finish.

SPARS AND RIGGING: Masts and booms are extruded aluminum alloy sections suited to the rig. Finish is clear. Sloop rig is standard with ketch of cutter optional in most models. Customized rigs to suit the service intended are also optional. The boom is fitted with a slab reefing system and internal clew outhaul. Standing rigging is 1 x 19 stainless steel wire rope with swaged stainless toggles and turnbuckles.

Written by,
Patricia Brandlmayr


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