New Wave

By Hannah Wallace September 30, 2004

Trinity Graphic owner Robert Smithson has figured out how to bring his longtime beloved hobby to work. He's converting his classic wooden sailboat, the Serpent, into his office desk.

Built by the De Vries Lentsch company in Alsmaar, Holland in 1941 for a German SS officer who died in the war before he could take delivery of it, the Serpent is a 20-foot open boat made entirely of varnished teak. It's the only National Pampusklasse sailboat in America, Smithson says, and he has won three classic boat shows with it.

Smithson, who grew up in England, sailed as a youth in Holland. There, a friend introduced him to the Serpent. He sailed on it for four years, then bought it in 1977 when he was just 17 years old. "I paid 11,000 Dutch guilders for it, about $4,000," he remembers. After Smithson moved to Sarasota to open Trinity Graphic in 1988 (a company his father founded in England in 1967), he sailed the Serpent in Florida for 10 years, mostly around Sarasota Bay.

"It's such a beautiful majestic ship," he says. "I was contemplating giving it to a sailing museum in Rhode Island, then I thought I would really like a desk and bar. I'm going to cut the boat nearly in half." It's his first major woodworking project. "The smaller front part will become my office desk. I'm turning the remainder into a bar that I'll put into a new house I'm building; it should make a real conversation piece."

Smithson employs 23 people at his company, which makes printing plates for all types of packaging for companies such as Ocean Spray, Fitz and Floyd, and Colgate. He also recently opened a full-service design studio called Trinity Graphic Design Group.

He says his sailboat conversion is a labor of love. "I don't want to ever part with the Serpent," he says, "because it has such good memories of growing up and friendship, and an awful lot of beer, of course."

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