As you may have heard (or remembered (or maybe I thought I told you, but forgot)), we are in the process of building a wooden boat.
‘We‘ is a bit misleading, as this is all happening at the amazing Apprenticeshop in Rockland Maine. So, by ‘we’, I mean that ‘we’ – as in JoHn and I – have commissioned an open lobsterboat. The master boat builders, and journeymen, and apprentices at The Apprenticeshop are bringing
it her to life.
John has just read this out loud (which is how I do editing). He has offered that I can say “I” vs. “We” when it comes to the boat because, and these are his words, he has done squat.
I have commissioned a lobsterboat.
John is helping to pay for it.
The design is that of a vessel used in lobstering between 1930 and 1950, in and around Metinic Island*. She is a working boat with lines I find subtly beautiful. More than twenty years ago, a well-known lobsterman, boatbuilder, and modeler (with the nickname of ‘Dynamite’) had the plans for this boat drawn up. They were – and this is actually written on them – “reconstructed from some contemporary photographs and recollections of some old guys”. Every time I read those words, I smile. To me, born and raised in this neck o’ the woods, you can’t get any more New England – or Maine – than that.
After visiting the shop yesterday, I put up an Instagram post with the photo above. I wrote that, by describing the experience of building a wooden boat as ‘awash in romance’, I was not gilding the lily. And that, if anything, it doesn’t come close to the emotion that wraps the creativity, work, and experience of such an undertaking.
I stand by that claim, with all kinds of attitude (the dreamy, gauzy kind). If it’s possible, waking up this morning and considering yesterday’s visit, the experience feels even more chimerically enchanting (nod to Thesaurus.com).
This might be because we are nearing the end of our boatbuilding journey, not quite there yet, but close.
Yesterday’s visit was to look at mock-ups, created in plywood, of the seats and storage and console and thingie over the engine (official marine terms, all).
My friend Pam, so much more experienced at the whole boating thing than I am (I do not set a high bar, thus her already stratospheric level of impressiveness reads pretty much cosmic, especially next to my graduation certificate from Boat-School 101)… Anyway, my friend Pam came with me for this visit. She listened and helped me envision the hows and wheres and whys related to the decisions before me. Then, afterward at lunch, she answered and/or gave input on more of my questions and musings, the ones that took a little more time to percolate into being.
The thing is, each time I visit the boat (and the people creating it), I am struck nearly dumb by everything that has happened since the last time I was there (as well as the entire process that has, and is, transpiring). Stuff like, “Oh wow” and “Amazing” and “I can’t believe it” just… tumble out of my mouth every time I show up. And while each exclamation is an absolutely honest expression of how I’m feeling, based on what my senses are taking in, the words are just so…
These people, men and women of many ages and stages of life (and varied experiences and geographical home bases), have come to this oh-so-impressive wooden boat school on the coast of Maine. A handful of them were assigned to the team working on our boat. I have gotten to meet them, know them a little bit, and see them grow through the process… knowledge… confidence… technical skills… people skills… craftsmanship. This boat will be imbued with all of these elements: The people, their work and stories, and more.
One day soon, before the upcoming boating season along the midcoast of Maine, there will be a ceremony. A bottle of champagne will be broken over the bow of a new wooden boat.
Inevitably, at some point during that day, my final “thank you” will be offered to some very cool humans… who created a piece of floating art.
I hope they can feel even part of what I mean when I say it, and that they each carry that meaning with them into their nexts.
This ‘commissioning a boat’ thing is something I never dreamed we would ever do (or ever be able to do). And it has turned into an amazing multi-year journey, one begun in late 2019, prior to the many happenings (and happenstances) born of a certain worldwide pandemic. Who we were, what we have experienced, who we have become over these two years… all of these things are, of course, incredibly personal to each of us. And yet we all have this boat connecting us, and our stories.
Feels kind of wHeird.
Feels a very special kind of wHeird.
Thanks for readin’.
*We think ‘Metinic’ was misspelled ‘Matinic’ on the boat plans. Lobstermen operated off of Metinic island, which is about seven miles off the coast, for generations. It is technically part of the Matinicus Island Plantation, with Matinicus Island being farther out in Penobscot Bay (about 22 miles out!).
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