Modeling John Hay Whitney’s Yacht

When he hasn’t been building architectural models for Centerbrook Architects during the past nine months, Patrick McCauley has been working on a 1:12 scale model of former New York Herald Tribune publisher John Hay “Jock” Whitney’s 1937 yacht, the Aphrodite.

One of Centerbrook’s clients owns the real Aphrodite, and moors it at the Ocean House hotel in Watch Hill, R.I.  Centerbrook meticulously resurrected the 1887 property in 2004, and is making a gift of the scaled-down Aphrodite to its owners.

It’s to be presented next week, and enshrined in a glass case in the hotel lobby.

“It’s a gesture of craftsmanship and care,” Patrick said of his work on the 6-foot, two-inch model.  “Whitney used the original to commute between Long Island and Manhattan – it was like a Gulfstream VI.”

Patrick direct-machined two halves of the hull out of fiberglass, working from three-dimensional CAD files of the Aphrodite’s hull.  He added red cedar for its deck, then built its cabin and other features from mahogany, maple, cedar and oak.  The project totaled about 1,300 hours of his time.

“It’s my first boat,” he said.  “I was trying to push my limits as a model-maker and see how far I could take it as an artistic effort.  I wanted it to be a beautiful object and it got extra care – there’s no question there’s part of my soul in that project.”

His biggest challenges came where the Aphrodite’s mirrored deck meets its knife-edged hull.  “The top side sits right on top of the hull, and just lifts out,” he said.  “So that interface had to be just right.  There was a lot of stress and worrying and tinkering and toying around.

“It was just like any other commissioned piece,” he said at first.  Then on second thought, he added: “But maybe not.”

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