Carl A. Alberg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1900.
"The harbor was always filled with ships and boats of all kinds and when we weren't sailing there, the family usually vacationed on an island off the coast where my father, brother and I used to race each other in small sailboats."
He took two years of sailboat design courses at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. In 1925, he moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, USA and worked as a rigger for General Dynamics in Quincy. He moved on to become a spar-maker at the George Lawley and Son, Corp. boatyard in Neponset. There, he met John Alden who hired him as a designer.
"I enjoyed working with Alden very much. He was a wonderful guy, pleasant, calm, never getting excited, and I learned quite a bit from working with him. His designs were conservative. He concentrated on seaworthiness, comfort and boats that would sail on their bottoms, and that's pretty much what I've tried to do with my boats."
During World War Two, he interrupted his tenure at Alden to work for the Navy at the Charleston Naval Shipyard. After his return, he designed the U.S. One-Design. In 1946, he left Alden for good, starting his own firm. Another short period at the Charleston Shipyard during the Korean War led to a 10-year position with the Coast Guard as chief marine engineer/architect.
Toward the end of that period he met the Pearson cousins, Clint and Everett, who were kids just hanging around the boats. He asked them about building one of his designs in fiberglass, and, in 1959, both the Triton (28 feet, 675 built) and Pearson Yachts were born.
In 1961, a small group of Toronto sailors approached Kurt Hansen, then of Continental Yacht Sales, with an idea of a 30-foot fiberglass boat for class racing. Mr. Hansen contacted Carl Alberg late in that year. Kurt opened Whitby Boat Works and started building Alberg 30s, as well as several other boats including the Alberg 37.
After several other designs, including the Ensign (22 feet, 1600 built) were launched, he retired from the Coast Guard in 1963. About this time, Andrew Vavolotis asked him to design a 28-footer for Cape Dory. He'd already picked up the mold for the Typhoon from a bankrupt boatbuilder. This began a long association and a period when Carl Alberg designed at least one boat a year. In all, Carl designed 10 boats for Cape Dory, ranging from 19 to 45 feet. Vavolitis says,
"I always asked Carl to design me the beamiest and shallowest boat possible. Then he'd go away and what he came back with was what we used. Of course, it was never as beamy or as shallow as we liked. He never compromised his design principles."
Carl's own assessment agrees:
"Contrasted to the modern IOR boats where you have six gorillas sitting on the weather rail with their feet hanging outside trying to keep the boat upright, my boats are strictly family-cruising boats. In all my designs I go for comfortable accomodations and a boat you can sail upright without scaring the life out of your family or friends. I gave them a good long keel, plenty of displacement and beam, and a fair amount of sail area so they can move."
In 1979, while those modern boats were capsizing and sinking, an Alberg 35 on it's way to England comfortably lay a-hull.
"It was really blowing and though they shortened sails and did everything else they could in order to keep going, they eventually took everything off, went below, battened down the hatches and just ate, drank and played cards. When it had blown over they hoisted sail and continued to England, where they were told they had just sailed through the same gale that had taken 16 lives in the Fastnet race. They had ridden out the storm by just sitting in the cabin while everyone else was capsizing."
"There are still some designers around who whare my ideas about glass boat design. Everyone else is trying to conform to the new rules. My boats are more designed to follow the waves and stay relatively dry and stable."
Carl passed away on August 31, 1986 at his home in Marblehead Massachusetts. His 56 designs resulted in over 10,000 boats.
The Early Years, Bruce Beckner, 1984. (The Chesapeake Bay Alberg 30 One-Design Association, Inc.)
"Carl Alberg - His wholesome designs sailed us into the age of fiberglass", Sailing, Brian Hill, February 1984 issue, page 29. (Port Publications, Inc., 125 E. Main St., Port Washington, WI 53074; 414-284-3494; FAX:414-284-7764)
Editorial, Cruising World, Dan Spurr, November 1986.
Alberg 22 History, http://www.cyberus.ca/~campione/alberg22/history.html
I'm interested in adding more on the life and designs of Carl Alberg. You can add your own anecdotes, facts, sources of information (books, people, or other), or email me with any information. I'll publish anecdotes here.