Former politician Nick Loenen shares boat-building secrets

Nick Loenen is most widely known for his politics, but the former MLA is also a sailer and author. -
Nick Loenen is most widely known for his politics, but the former MLA is also a sailer and author.
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A former Richmond politician and advocate for electoral reform has written what might seem an unlikely book.

Nick Loenen is the author of Wooden Boat Building: How To Build a Dragon Class Sailboat—a 200-page volume comprising boat-building advice and hints gathered over a lifetime of woodworking.

"Woodworking of any kind is very satisfying in that you make something with your own hands," said Loenen. "Wooden boat construction has been pushed aside by fibreglass. It is important to retain lost skills."

Loenen is a former Richmond MLA and city councillor who has championed electoral reform in British Columbia and Canada. That was the subject of his first and only other book, published in 1997: Citizenship and Democracy: A Case for Proportional Representation.

But his love for building and sailing wooden boats goes back further. In 1969, Loenen built his first 12-foot sailboat and began to develop a lifelong hobby.

"I was inspired by and learned from brothers Arie and Len DeKleer who for 40 years operated a boat-building shop in Steveston," he said.

Loenen's Dragon class sailboat, Lady Jayne, is made entirely out of wood and took six years to build, using oak, African mahogany, purpleheart, Western maple, yellow cedar and a 250-year-old Sitka spruce from Vancouver Island. Each summer he sails the boat in a race at Pender Harbour.

Norway's Johan Anker designed the first Dragon in 1929, and the style is still among the most popular sailboats in the world.

Wooden Boat Building is $19.95, available from Friesen Press or from the author. As for his first book, it's still in print, and the author remains hopeful.

Said Loenen: "I am confident someday Canada will have proportional representation."

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