… on traditions in wood and spirit
June 26, 2022
The other day was Launch Day for our new old wooden boat.
It was amazing… all the excitement and funny and poignant and thoughtful and gratitudinal feels I could have ever hoped for.
And some I didn’t expect.
The day before the launch, I walked into The Apprenticeshop (the non-profit wooden boatbuilding school responsible for creating our boat) and, unexpectedly, tears jumped into my throat and began to leak out of my eyes.
I expected to do what I always do, which is to come in, make my way around the huge Dublin Bay (a boat under restoration), and find my ‘little’ lobsterboat where she’s always been. The team of apprentices would be buzzing about, here and there… some beneath, some on deck… doing boat building things.
Instead, I walked in, and the Dublin Bay was… gone.
In her place, in front of the huge bay door, was my boat.
She was right in front of me and, for the first time, positioned in a way that allowed me to take in her entire length.
She was absolutely beautiful… gorgeous in line and shape and finish.
She was also… done.
Woven into the boat in front of me were all the human connections, the learning, the vulnerabilities… victories, setbacks, becomings… so much of the real and meaningful… all played out before and beneath the backdrop and overlay of a worldwide pandemic. This wasn’t an ordinary project, because these aren’t ordinary times.
And yet, somehow and seemingly all of a sudden, I was standing in front of this boat. And she was ready to launch.
The feeling of being overjoyed and a little bit sad at the same time is a special one. I figure that, when finishing a chapter in our personal story hurts a little bit, it means it must have been pretty dang good. Dusted in magic, perhaps. All the makings for great memories.
But it wasn’t over yet.
There was still a ceremony to be had, speeches to give, and a name to bestow upon this new old boat.
You are not supposed to tell anyone the name of your new boat until you name her during the launching ceremony. This is because mere mortals cannot know her name before Poseidon himself knows it. Sea Gods get very pissy about such things. I Googled this. This is real. Hence, I was very careful sharing the name, and did so only for specific reasons (like when the painter needed to know it so he could put it on the transom (I did swear him to secrecy)).
I’d known what the name of this boat would be since her frames were bent into place. As she took shape, so did my respect for her history and legacy. The fun, breezy name I’d been carrying around as my ‘if I ever get a boat’ boat name went out the window. I wanted to honor the tradition of how folks have named their working boats for thousands of years. The ‘new name’ felt like the right one.
And the day to share it had finally arrived.
Launch Day was gorgeous, with calm seas and a bluebird sky…
Fresh greenery and flowers were attached to the bow, good juju for the boat returning safely to land.
Friends and family, the crew and their friends and families, and neighbors and wooden boat lovers, and… (so many people!) began to gather on the pier…
Soon, the boat was rolled into position…
And a few of us lined up in front of her, to share our personal stories of what it was like to be a part of bringing this boat to life.
For the naming and christening, I took the bottle of champagne, intending to explain that I would be offering a bit to Poseidon before spraying it on the bow of the boat. Then something unexpected happened.
I hadn’t shaken it at all, I hadn’t begun to remove the cork. I started to explain about Poseidon, when the cork exploded from the bottle on its own, with a huge ‘POP’!
I was shocked, and the crowd laughed and wHooped, and I – figuring Poseidon had gotten impatient – hurried down the ramp to pour him his share of the bubbly.
We were all still laughing when I walked back up, shaking the bottle and spraying Champagne on the boat’s bow.
Then I took the microphone again, and gave a little prelude to the name.
A few weeks ago, via some sort of serendipitous universal wizardry, I got to meet three brothers – who ranged in age from mid-seventies to early eighties. Their family has owned – and fished the waters off of – their land on Metinic Island, Maine for nearly 300 years. Turns out that their grandfather commissioned the ‘same’ boat, ninety years ago, in 1932. And it was that boat – the Luella B. – that our boat’s plans are based on.
The. Exact. Boat.
Speakers before me had pointed out all three brothers – Frank, Woodbury, and Ralph Post – in their seats of honor on the pier, and explained this crazy cool connection. We were all so happy they could make it to the ceremony.
I reminded the crowd of that connection, explaining that their grandfather had named that original boat after his daughter.
“And so,” I got all formal, “Today, the 24th of June, 2022, I am proud to name this boat after my daughter, and her grandmother. I hereby christen thee, ‘June'”.
Everyone clapped and cheered all over again.
I was told by those standing next to Mac, whose full name is “June Mackenzie Dingle” (Granny was ‘June Muriel Dingle’), that she dissolved into tears somewhere up there on that pier. Later, when she found me, she punched my shoulder and said, “Some notice would have been nice!”
As formidable as my first born is, I am more afraid of Poseidon sucking my boat into the deep via a flash sea whirlpool than I am of her left hook.
That name was on a need to know basis.
Thanks for…. Oh wait!
Our boat is named for Mac and Granny, and Granny clearly couldn’t be at the ceremony… or was she?
I know, for a fact, that Granny was never one to miss out on champagne.
Thinking it over, I now believe it was she who popped that champagne cork early, urging us all to get on with the celebrating.
Which we did.
And it was very, very cool.
Thanks everyone who made our launch day very special, and our boat possible.
And, oh yes, thanks in advance to Poseidon: We may need a little extra help at times, and expect quite a few eye rolls from you, but eventually… I’m pretty certain… we will be seaworthy.
Thanks for readin’ ❤️
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