James Anderson Chamblee

Computer Scientist, Boat Builder

James Anderson Chamblee, 66, a retired computer scientist who founded a company that built concrete sailboats, died Aug. 18 of heart disease at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia. He was a resident of Columbia and Jekyll Island, Ga.

Mr. Chamblee was born in Wilmington, N.C. In 1959, he went to work for IBM in New York, where he was part of a team that helped pioneer the American Airlines reservation system and the automation of the New York Stock Exchange. Going to school at night, he received his undergraduate degree in math from the State University of New York at New Paltz in 1963.

He moved to Savage in 1963 and joined the University of Maryland Computer Science Center, where he worked for a year.

From 1964 to 1972, he was a computer scientist for the Federal Trade Commission and from 1972 to 1983 for the Environmental Protection Agency. He worked for the Army Department from 1983 until his retirement in 1994.

Intrigued by the notion that seaworthiness was all about density, not weight, he started building "ferro-cement" boats in 1972. Concrete hulls in the family's front yard, alongside Route 1 in Savage, became familiar sights to passersby.

A 1972 Mother Earth News article that featured Mr. Chamblee's boatyard, Sampson Marine, noted that a concrete boat offered some advantages over conventionally constructed boats: "It won't rust or rot, sharp rocks don't punch holes in it and the vessel just keeps on getting stronger for the next 30 years or so!"

Mr. Chamblee designed the first concrete skipjack and wrote a book on the subject. He also captained two Atlantic Ocean voyages in his 45-foot concrete ketch in the late 1970s, sailing from Baltimore to Portugal via the Azores on the voyage over and from northern Africa via Puerto Rico on the way back. His children were among the crew.

In recent years, he had worked as a golf course marshal on Jekyll Island, where he spent winters.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Eileen Wandell Chamblee of Columbia; four children, James Chamblee of Frederick, Jeffrey Chamblee of Columbia, Andrea Chamblee of Silver Spring and Cynthia Chamblee of Eldersburg, Md.; two brothers; and three grandchildren.