Tuesday, April 17, 2012


It can be easy to become separated from the fact that the boats we build go on to have lives outside of the boatyard—they are no longer a boat builder’s infinite series of tasks, but instead become a mode of transportation, a piece of art, someone’s dream. So it is special when the people who build the boats get to experience them on the water. It gives us perspective on our jobs, a bigger picture of our work that we might not get otherwise.

In 2008, Rockport Marine was rewarded a contract from the state of South Carolina to build a replica of a 17th century trading ketch for display in a historic settlement in Charleston. Charles Towne Landing has many displays of life of the early settlers, and the boat would be part of their interpretive exhibit at the state park.

The build started at the beginning of January, and we delivered the boat in October. The delivery was done with crew from the boatyard, mostly carpenters, who had had experience sailing traditional wooden boats. I was lucky enough to be one of the delivery crew, and I recently came across my journal from the trip. I came to Rockport Marine through a love of sailing and wooden boats, and this trip reconnected me to that love. Looking back at the journal and my pictures, at the beginning of a new sailing season, helps me to remember why I do this work, beyond the endless lists of maintenance tasks, things to buy, and problems to fix.

The journal starts with hastily written lists of food and the details of our preparations. Five of us volunteered to do the delivery, with Alastair as captain, and Alexander, Tim, Dan, Rick and myself as crew. The boat has no interior, save an engine room and a 4 bunks, so we first roughed in a galley with plywood and mounted a propane stove, and then built a rustic head with a 5 gallon bucket for a toilet.



We had one large cooler for our food. Each person on the delivery was in charge of making two casserole dishes, which we froze and stored in the cooler, to be reheated in the oven as we need them. There was much anxiety about what to make, especially when Rick and Alex realized they did not have functioning ovens. We ended up with several Shepherd’s Pies and Tex-Mex style casseroles.

View from the rigging
We left on a Saturday, to much local fanfare. After a few hours, we settled into the rhythm of being on watch—steering, tending sails and cooking meals when you’re on, and sleeping while you are off. Some people might find staring at the horizon for hours on end boring, but I found it calming and oddly life affirming.

 There is no one else to rely on out there but yourself and your crewmates. Captain Al, especially, was in his element.

Al channels the eighties whilst on his enormous Sat phone
According to my journal, we bonded: “Tim and Alex are on a sort of honeymoon—they’re sailing a traditional boat, they spend all of their off time reading back issues of WoodenBoat magazine, they go to the boat bookstore while we are in Newport and look at books about boats. They talk constantly about boats. They are in heaven.“

Tim and Alexander talking about boats
As we progressed, we experience a lot of uncomfortable motion when sailing or motoring into any winds or seas forward of her beam. I wrote, “ADVENTURE is rolling from rail to rail in a queasy, unsettling motion. This style of boat was originally built for sailing in coastal, protected waters, rather than offshore, and we are feeling the effects of her shallow draft and round shape.” 

Sea spray
Despite the unsettling motion that day, I spared a thought for dinner: “we have chicken enchiladas for tonight, and frankly, it has been what I have thought about most today.” My crewmembers are not so lucky. Conditions worsen and I note, “We are taking 8-12 foot seas on the starboard quarter, which causes a gut-wrenching roll from side to side. Dan, Rick and Alex feel sick, and lose their senses of humor; Alastair remains upbeat and chipper. He putters between the navigation equipment below and the crew on watch. Those not on watch lie on the sole, in full foul weather gear and try to sleep.”

My enthusiasm for casseroles never dimmed.
Alex catching some rest
Although offshore sailing can be uncomfortable, I find that it connects you in a powerful way to your environment. For example, we happened to be sailing when birds were migrating south and they would periodically land on the boat, which caused us no end of delight. They were strangely tame, maybe because they were so exhausted, but they would sit on our hands and heads. We did not have a bird guide, but they were small and brown, so we dubbed them "regular birds."

We also saw minke or finback whales, and a pod of dolphins when we accidentally dipped into the gulf stream off of Cape Hatteras.

I share these thoughts and pictures with you, because one of the reasons I like working at Rockport Marine is that it is a community of boatbuilders, but also a community of sailors. Many of the people working here have their own boats, and most have a deep connection with the water and the seafaring traditions of Maine. Springtime can be hectic, and this spring is particularly so, as we prepare ADVENTURESS, GYRE and BOUNTY for launch, as well as our 46 storage boats. But many of the people who work here came to the trade of boatbuilding through a passion for sailing and boats, as well as woodworking. So while this is a busy time of year, it is also a time to get excited about new sailing adventures this season.

Pirate Ship Parking Only
ADVENTURE's permanent home at Charlestowne Landing in Charleston, South Carolina

Labels: ,


At May 30, 2012 at 11:32 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

wow, this was an very informatics
i really love the blog post.

and i will bookmarked the site..
then will check back some of your post later..

Yacht Decking Installation

At June 1, 2012 at 8:05 AM , Blogger Rockport Marine said...

Thanks for taking the time to visit the site. We are trying to post once a week--so check back with us again!

At June 5, 2012 at 1:36 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

yah, will do visiting your site weekly for your new post :)..

actually currently reading some of your pretty post in the past :)..

keep it up ;)

Yacht Decking Installation

At June 24, 2013 at 2:31 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

wow you are just awesome with your work. i really feel great to see your work. it looks really well.
Yacht Charter Dubai


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home