Carl Arne Alberg - Pioneer in Classic Plastic

Many enthusiasts of good old boats can immediately spot an Alberg designed boat. Characterized by a spoon bow, pleasing sheer and moderate overhangs, the Alberg boats convey a traditional and pleasing look.

Carl Alberg succeeded in bringing forth many of the first production fiberglass cruising sailboats from the design board to the dockside. A whole new generation of sailor became aware of Alberg. During the 1930's and 1940's Carl established a solid reputation with his work at Alden and later with his own company, designing many mid to large size wooden yachts for wealthy clients. His work from the late 1950's through his on-going work at the time of his death in 1986 was for a whole new market, the middle income sailor who may have been new to sailing or upgrading from smaller boats, many daysailors or racers. Carl's legacy for these sailors was a well found, safely designed and quick boat that could provide a safe and exciting family sail, without the threat of easy capsize, a boat that would attract admiring looks where ever she went, a boat that any discerning owner would be most proud to own!" Carl Arne Alberg may be no longer with us, but his designs will continue to live on!

Born on April 11, 1901 in Gothenburg, Sweden, Carl Arne Alberg, was the son of Carl Alberg, Gothenburg merchant and Alma Larsson. Growing up close to such ideal sailing waters, Carl and his brother often sailed around the harbour in Gothenburg with their father. Alberg remembers being brought up around small boats. "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."1 Yacht design had been on Alberg's mind even as a youth. In 1913, four years prior to his admission to college, Alberg wrote of the difficulties of choosing the perfect bow design "The problem is the eternal one, to eliminate the faults of the two extremes (fineness and fullness) and combine as much as possible their two good points.2 In September of 1917 Carl entered the Chalmers Institute of Technology, in Gothenburg, where he studied Naval architecture and marine engineering until June of 1919.

In 1925 Carl had emigrated to the United States and moved to Lynn, Massachusetts working as a rigger for General Dynamics in nearby Quincy.

Andrew Vavolotis, founder of the Cape Dory Yacht Co., now president of Robin Hood Yachts, remembers "Carl worked with the master shipwright, Brorr Tamm while he was working in Quincy."

Later Carl worked for the Lawless Boatyard in Neponsett, where he met John Alden who hired him as a designer after seeing some of his drawings.. Carl remembers, "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."3

Alberg was responsible for Alden design 583, a schooner first built in 1934. In 1937 Malabar XI, yawl rigged, a slighty modified 583, was built for Alden's own use rigged as a yawl. Malabar XI turned out to be a fast boat, coming in second in Class B in the 1937 New London to Gibson Island Race. In 1938 Alberg designed White Wings, a gorgeous 50' sloop built by J.J. Taylor and Sons of Toronto for Percy Grant of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. This was the first Canadian boat to win the coveted Lake Ontario Cup.

Built in 1939, Alberg designed John Alden's ketch, Malabar XII. While many of Alden's earlier Malabars were schooner rigged, at this time Alden felt that the "Twelve" was right for a ketch rig since "a ketch of this size can have less sail than a schooner of the same model, and yet be just as fast." Later, in 1941 when asked to recommend a design for long ocean passages, the "Twelve" was Alden's choice. Immediately after WWII, Carleton Mitchell bought Malabar XII, renaming her Carib and cruising her extensively in the West Indies. Malabar XIII, design number 756 also came from the drawing board of Carl Alberg. This boat represented a compromise by Alden between racing efficiency and ease of handling by a small crew. In 1948, under the ownership of Morgan Butler, Malabar XIII won her class in the Newport-Bermuda Race.

Another of Carl's classic designs in wood for Alden was Tioga Too, a 53' yawl comissioned by well known New England sailor, Harry E. Noyes, who specifically asked Carl to design her lines and other plans. Built in 1939, Tioga Too was known for her graceful sheerline, low cabin trunk and her long, well balanced ends. The bow was particularly handsome with it's clipper profile and decorated trailboards.4

When World War II broke out, Carl temporarily left Alden to work for the U.S. Navy in their Charleston, Mass. Naval Shipyard. As the war came to an end Carl Alberg continued designing boats for Alden including a Hinckley 21.5 In 1946 Carl left John Alden Co. and set up a design shop for himself at 131 State Street in Boston, Massachusetts. For three years Alberg designed wooden boats such as the Sea Lion and an Alberg 46' ketch but business slowed down and Carl returned to the Charleston, Mass. Navy Yard for a six month period during the Korean War. There he was offered an opportunity to work for the U.S. Coast Guard where he became chief marine engineer/architect for ten years.6 During this period of his life Alberg focused much of his energy on his work with the Coast Guard. He was also devoted to his family, who included wife, Irma, daughter, Corrine and later his grandson, Kaifser Burril, all avid sailors!

Carl made the transition from traditional wooden sailing yachts to the incipient fiberglass sailboats in 1958. Everett Pearson, co-founder of Pearson Yachts, remembers, "Tom Potter, who had been working at the American Boat Company in East Greenwich, R.I., builders of the 23' Alberg designed Sea Sprite, came to us and asked if we would be interested in building a 28' Alberg designed cruising sailboat. This was in the Spring of 1958 and we introduced this boat as the Triton at the New York Boat Show in January 1959. Tom Potter convinced us that Carl Alberg was a competent designer with a great deal of experience gained from working with John Alden. His designs were conservative cruising boats so the conservative cruising sailor would accept them. The first plans we had of the Triton were for wood construction!"

Tom Potter was around from the early days of the Pearson cousins incipient boat business. "Carl worked for John Alden towards the end of John's life. He did designs, many of them magnificent! We found him designing ammunition boxes for the Coast Guard. The Triton got us going...he built himself a well deserved reputation from the boats he designed for us. We must have made thousands of Ensigns! His success at Pearsons led to his success at Cape Dory. At Pearson's we designed and built the Tritons first. We hoped to sell 6 and we actually sold about 800! That really got us going! I put up the money for the tooling for the Triton...After the Triton came the Ariel and it's daysailing version, the Commander, as well as the Electra and it's daysailing version, the Ensign."

Work with the Pearson's was seminal in Alberg's career since the popularity of his small fiberglass cruiser, the Triton, brought him back into the limelight of yachting. The Pearson story has been told in an earlier article in Good Old Boat. The Pearsons were going to build dinghies and powerboats at first until Potter approached them with the suggestion to have Carl Alberg design them a medium size fiberglass cruising sailboat. The Triton was heralded as the first mass produced fiberglass cruising sailboat. Clint remembers that in March of 1957 he had 12 men working in his garage boat works, then in June of 1957 Everett joined him and they saw production really take off with the advent of the Triton.

"Carl's most significant characteristic was a sense of stubborness in defending his designs and opinions" remembers Everett. "We asked Carl to reduce his royalties as the volume of business grew, as the Grumman people thought that Carl's fees were excessive. He was making three to four times what anyone else in the business was making and other designers would work for far lower fees. That's why we went to Bill Tripp for the Invictor, and Phil Rhodes for the Vanguard. We later hired Bill Shaw to create our own design team and eliminate paying royalties." Clint Pearson remembers Carl, "He was very easy going, kind of quiet, with strong ideas, never corrected any of his ideas...he was a good guy to work with, and eventually retired." Clint believed that Alden designs"provided an ease of handling boats and rigs...they won't get you in trouble, plus his boats provided good speed and stability."

Alberg designed the diminutive 19' Bristol Corinthian as well as the Bristol 27, one of the venerable designs still saught after today! See Good Old Boat March/April 2001. In addition to his work for Pearson Yachts and Bristol Yachts, Alberg also designed two boats for the Canadian Yacht builder, Whitby, of Whitby, Ontario. In 1961 a number of yachtsmen from Toronto, Ontario approached Kurt Hansen of what was then Continental Yacht Sales (later Whitby Boat Works) in hopes that he could find them a 30 foot fiberglass yacht for club racing. Kurt contacted Alberg late in 1961 to see what Alberg thought the possibilities would be to create such a boat. He developed a design that both thought would sell well in the U.S. as well as Canada. He based the design on the heavily built Odyssey boats and as soon as the plans were completed in 1962, construction started on the first ones. A number of folks from the Chesapeake Bay area near Washingtion, D.C. were looking for a 30 foot size boat and about twenty five were ready to buy. They rejected a number of boats, then heard that a Canadian manufacturer of a popular well built twenty four foot marketed in Annapolis, M.D. was building a thirty footer. The group sent members Bud Tomlin and Boyce Beville to Ontario to check it out. Two major groups of buyers, the Great Lakes Toronto based members and the Chesapeake Bay group became the first buyers of the new, superbly designed and built Alberg 30. Now, almost forty years later just about everyone of the original Alberg 30 boats are still enthusiastically raced and cruised.7 Whitby also built the Alberg 37, a boat designed for offshore cruising.8

Alberg's last large and loyal client was Cape Dory Yachts. In 1987, one year after Alberg's death, the Cape Dory catalog featured the following Alberg designs in their lineup: Cape Dory Typhoon Senior, Cape Dory 26, Cape Dory 28, Cape Dory 32, Cape Dory 333, Cape Dory 36, and new for 1987, the Cape Dory Custom 40. In 1986, after a long and fruitful life, Carl Alberg passed away in his adopted home, Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Bill McGrail, of Marblehead, mentioned "Although a member of the Boston Yacht Club with Carl Alberg, I met him only a few times and he was not a man about whom stories were told. He is perhaps best remembered by his work."

1. Hill, Brian, Carl Alberg, His wholesome designs sailed us into the age of fiberglass, Sailing, February, 1984, page 29
2. Carrick, Robert W., John Alden and His Yacht Designs, International Marine, Camden, Maine, 1995, p. 172
3. Dinwiddie, George, website hhtp://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Alberg30/Carl.htm
4. Carrick, Robert W., John Alden and His Yacht Designs, International Marine, Camden, Maine, 1995, p. 247
5. Carrick, Robert W., John Alden and His Yacht Designs, International Marine, Camden, Maine, 1995
6. Hill, Brian, Carl Alberg, His Wholesome Designs Sailed us into the Age of Fiberglass, Sailing, February, 1984
7. The Early Years, Chesapeake Bay Alberg 30 One-Design Association, Inc. 1964-1984, ed. Beckner, Bruce, made available courtesy of George Dinwiddie, Chesapeake Bay Alberg 30 One-Design Association, Inc.
8. The Early Years, Chesapeake Bay Alberg 30 One-Design Association, Inc. 1964-1984, ed. Beckner, Bruce, made available courtesy of George Dinwiddie, Chesapeake Bay Alberg 30 One-Design Association, Inc.

This article originally appeared in Good Old Boat magazine and is reprinted here with permission of Scott Wallace.

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