Obituary: Peter Martin 1952 - 2011

12 December 2011

Rigger Peter Martin died of a brain haemorrhage on 13 November 2011, at the age of 59.

In 1969 Peter began a rigging apprenticeship at Camper and Nicholsons in Southampton.  I first met him nine years later when he became foreman rigger at C&N's Gosport yard, which at that time was busy with a 250-strong workforce building production GRP boats.  Many of the rigging team that Peter, aged just 26, inherited were much older, very experienced and with a tendency towards stubbornness, but he coped with admirably.  In 1981 he met Sandy who worked as a secretary in his production office, and later became his wife.

In 1985 Peter moved to Spencer Rigging and managed its Southampton loft until 2005, when he set up Martins Rigging at Easlands Boatyard on the Hamble River.

While Peter's rigging skills were comprehensive, he had a particular reputation for his traditional work.  Over the years he 'developed methods and materials to combine yesterday's tradition with today's technology,' as he put it, particularly to satisfy owners who wanted their classics to be more competitive, for instance.  'They may be old boats but we have ways of making them lighter,' he said to Nigel Sharp (Classic Boat magazine).

The list of yachts that Peter re-rigged reads like a 'Who's Who' of the iconic classics restored in the last 25 years, including Bell Aventure, Ticonderoga, Kelpie, Kentra, Thalia, Merrymaid, Moonbeam of Fife, Madrigal, Pegga Bawn, at least six 8-Metre yachts including Ierne, the 12-M Seven Seas and many surviving 15- and 19-Ms.  He also provided an ongoing service for the Jubilee Sailing Trust ships Lord Nelson and Tenacious.  Among many smaller projects, Peter provided the rigging for the Cork Harbour One-Design Jap, Maybird, the Itchen Ferry Nellie - said to have been one of his favourites - and two 16ft (4.6m) double-ended Shetland boats he managed to find time for.

Peter's work often took him overseas.  He recently rigged the replica of the schooner Germania Nova and completed a two-year project re-rigging the 300ft (91.5m) motor yacht Nahlin in Hamburg, 'working in -16 degrees C, up to our knees in snow'.

Peter was a perfectionist.  One example of this was at the Westward Cup in 2010.  Just before the regatta's start, the schooner Eleonara carried away her topmasts.  Peter was called in to make temporary repairs so she could at least compete, and arranged for new topmasts to be made by Bob Snow at Maritime Enterprises.  As soon as the regatta finished, his team started fitting and re-rigging the new spars, each of which weighed a tonne and had to be 'sent up' without a crane.  Eleonara was sailing again in less than two days.

Peter owned a Dragon he 'found in a hedge' in 1995, but her launch after a 10-year restoration came at the same time as the new business, and that had to take priority.  During what little spare time he did have, he took a great interest in current affairs of which he had a wide knowledge, watched rugby union, loved his two rescue cats and enjoyed gardening, but above all he simply liked spending time with Sandy.  His eclectic taste in music was reflected at his well-attended funeral, which started with Fleetwood Mac's 'Albatross' and ended with Eric Idle's 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'.

Peter's staff have described him as a modest and thoughtful boss who liked a 'chinwag' and has been quoted as saying 'Life is a bit like a relay race.  We all go round the track and the baton gets handed on to the next person.  Every once in a while there's a resurgence of the past, as there is with traditional boats today.  I was fortunate enough to learn my skills with real old boys and can adapt modern techniques to improve on what's happening today.'

Martin's Rigging will continue for the foreseeable future.

This obituary was taken from Classic Boat magazine, Jan 2012.

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