I’m writing this from 30,000 feet on an airplane, heading back to Florida. It’s been a whirlwind month.
Let me back up a little.
Earlier, we had completed the Honey Fitz, all the planking, framing, fairing, priming, painting, and new stainless rails screwed in place. Then came the decision to replace the old shaft logs built in 1930. We would have to take a few steps backwards, but in the end, it was a good decision. We are just a few weeks from splashing her. We are all excited and can’t wait.
Recently, I got to spend a few weeks at our North Carolina boatyard because Nate, my brother in law and partner, needed to address an old Army injury. He needed a knee replaced. At 45 years old, he seems a little young, but he really needed it. So with Stephanie, my wife, and Chet Gallanari, our lead carpenter, in charge, I headed up to the boatyard in North Carolina to lend a hand while Nate recovered.
What I didn’t realize was how much was going on up there. S.S. Sophie, the 80 foot Trumpy, Contract 328, built in 1947, was about to be hauled out. Already in the yard were 60’ Chesapeake, Contract 379, built in 1957, and Discovery, formerly Stately Lady, 72’ built in 1972, Contract 446, and 46’ Jacqueline, Contract 399, built in 1961, and 84’ Sea Hammock, formerly Eskimo, Contract 400, also built in 1961. En route was 62’ Washingtonian, built 1939, Contract 240.
If you add the 75’ America, Contract 420, built in 1965 getting work in Florida, that’s seven Trumpy yachts, the most we’ve had at any one time. I wish I could have gotten a photo but some are in sheds, covered up, at the dock or on their way. Nate didn’t stay away from the boatyard very long. He was back at the yard after just a few days. He’s hard headed. I couldn’t say anything since I’m the same way. While up there, Nate and I decided it’s time to start building on to the boatyard again. We are adding an acre or more of finished yard. We need more room for long-term storage and long-term projects. We have even more room to grow, but I guess we’ll do it an acre at a time, little by little.
It was good to be back to North Carolina. I called Churchill Hornstein, one of our lumber procurers. We have an order for No. 1 grade eastern Atlantic cedar. So I call up my South River neighbor, L.J. Hardy to see if he wanted to take a road trip to look at some of the lumber that was ready to be cut up at the mill. It was an all-day drive, 3 ½ hours each way, so it was good to have a good friend as company on the trip. Once we got there, it was beautiful country, kind of like the foothills of Kentucky. Before we reached the mill way out on this country road, there were police flashing lights just ahead as we came up a hill.
There in front of us was where one of those tornados had ripped through the state just a few days before.
There was a house that had been picked up off its foundation, twisted around and set back down. Then there was a semi-tractor trailer truck thrown into a field like a toy, trees twisted out of the ground and remnants of houses and trailer strewn on tree tops. And, in startling contrast, there stood a house that was left intact and untouched, with children’s toys lying in the yard just where they left them in mid play. It was an eerie scene, driving past the wreckage.
As we reached the mill, Mark, the owner met us. The mill sits right next to a man-made lake that during the 1800s had a water-powered sawmill and a grain mill. Mark showed me around, under the big oak tree canopy to the water fall and his beautiful black horses. This is his paradise in the woods. In a light rain, we inspected the wood that he was ready to cut for me. Then we took a look at these recovered logs, most of them old growth cypress, some 26 to 40 inches wide. They were recovered from reservoirs, lakes and rivers. It’s beautiful stuff and I am hoping to get some slabs for our south shop, to be used for tables and countertops. Maybe I could even make another wooden bath tub. It was well worth the trip.
While in Beaufort, I took the opportunity to check out the research library at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. I don’t know what I expected but I was impressed that they had bound editions of every major publication from the turn of the century, excluding floor to ceiling shelves of nautical books. I did some research from the 1930s to the 1950s and plan to use this library a lot more often, like the next time I’m up there. It was great to know we have this kind of resource in our own backyard.
Next on my itinerary was Keels and Wheels in Lakeview, Texas, just outside of Houston. Hopping on a plane in New Bern, I went straight through, arriving on Friday evening, just in time for cocktails. I walked the pre-show to check out the amazing line up of cars. There was even one made out of wood. It’s a 1922 Hispani Suiza Labourdette convertible, see the photo on the back of this letter.
Making my way down to the water, I ran into an old friend, Dr. Jacob Deegan, owner of Aurora, Contract 444 built in 1971. She was the last Aurora built, sitting center stage. I haven’t seen Aurora since Ocean Reef eight years ago. Jacob gave me a tour on Saturday, after we sat on the back deck. Jacob and Judy showered me with their wonderful hospitality. Then David and Ruth Gillespie from the Jacksonville, Fl. area stopped by. I felt right at home. They had brought their 1920s launch to be auctioned at the show. She sold for a reasonable amount and they seemed to be in a festive mood.
Jacob, who didn’t want to have his yacht judged, won best in show. He reluctantly accepted but by the smile on his face you could tell he was happy about it. So after swapping stories and some wooden boat gossip, if there is such a thing, Jacob shared his plans for his next great adventure.
His Aurora may sit in a covered slip but he uses her, putting thousands of miles each year. Next year, he plans to attend Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend. This will be the first leg of his plans to do the great loop going up the East Coast into the Great Lakes, up through the Canadian islands then back down through the Tom Digby and returning home before Christmas. This sounds like a wonderful adventure. Who knows, maybe some more Auroras will show up for a send off at Ocean Reef. I know ours will be there. Maybe Shiloh or Glory or Litchfield Lady or some of the other Auroras. We will have to see. Jacob told me that Barry Oliver and I are the only Trumpy people that he has seen at Keels and Wheels. So for all of you who haven’t made it, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. All the people I met were fun, friendly and just a true pleasure. The cars were amazing and so were the boats. I do plan to go again. Absolutely. It is a first class show and so are the people of Texas. Everyone I met made me feel right at home.
During the show, my cell phone would ring, and show a mix of numbers and letters. I didn’t know what to make of it. So I answered it and on the other side of the line was my son, Andre, calling from Afghanistan. Once he got there, Andre has been in training on driving one of these new military bomb-proof vehicles.
On May 2nd, he headed off to parts unknown and wouldn’t be able to call too often. So each time he telephoned, I would walk off from whatever conversation I was in and talk as long as we could. Andre might be a rough and tough U.S. Marine now, but I could still sense the boy wanting guidance and strength from his dad. I just hope I gave him what he needed.
I have another relative in Afghanistan, my cousin Marilyn Moores, who is a bird colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. When she’s not serving in some war-torn country, she is a juvenile court judge in Indianapolis. That can be just as grim. Tootsie, her name in the family, doesn’t just give lip service about serving her community and country. I am very proud of both of them. I hope the two of them get a chance to meet up over there. I’m sure they both could use seeing family.
So what’s next? Since I’ve returned to Florida, Nate has launched S.S. Sophie in North Carolina. In Florida, we’re working on the Honey Fitz and America. In North Carolina, Nate has his hands full with Chesapeake, Discovery and Washingtonian on her way.
I plan on rolling up my sleeves and getting involved in some shipyard construction, myself. I will be helping my son James, who turns 13 this month, fix up his Laser sailboat. He wanted a boat he could single hand.
He’s my son, alright. After that, who knows? I’ll be looking for the next adventure.
Until next time,