Thursday, August 27, 2009

doodling atop the doodles

I had to dig out my old set of Pathfinder plans to get some numbers for my Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival registration form. I knew the length over all (l.o.a.) but had forgotten the other details like length waterline, beam and draft with the board up and down. So I pulled out the old plans for some numbers and had to email John Welsford to get the others.
It really touched my heart to look at those plans, I had not seen them for almost four years. But for the 20 months of building Spartina they were part of my every day life. They were wrinkled, written on and stained by blood, sweat and a few tears. Creased, torn and annotated in red pencil, they were the plans not just for the boat but for my life, at that time, too.
It reminded my of my favorite passage about a boat builder and his plans. The paragraph below is from a short story called Dead Reckoning in "Easy in the Islands" by Bob Shacochis.

"She'd ask, "How's it going?" He would look serious and say something like, "No turnbuckles. I can't find the right turnbuckles," or, "I'd like to know just how the hell anybody can afford teak?" Then he'd march off to one of the tables, unroll the big piece of graph paper he always had tucked under his arm, spread his order out on the diagrams and scratches, and study them while he ate, doodling atop the doodles he had made the day before. The plans were so coffee-stained and sticky I don't see how he got the boat built."

There is still a copy of that passage tacked up on the wall in my garage next to where I built the boat, right beside my charts of the Gulf of Mexico, Pamlico Sound, and Ocracoke, above and to the right of the bumper sticker that says "The floggings will continue until moral improves."

The entire process of building a boat, particularly for an unskilled amateur like me (no false modesty there - I'm lucky to drive a nail and can barely cut a straight line), is a pretty amazing affair. There is sort of an immersion I went through, like the guy in the short story who carried his plans everywhere he went, where it became part of my life (or maybe it was my life). And there were times where things were such a mess I could not see how I could get the boat built.

But I did get it built.


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