I remember exactly where the conversation occurred. My friend Scott and I where crossing the Highway 3 bridge over the pretty Piankatank River on our way to Reedville. I hadn't worked with him in a while and we were catching up on our lives when I mentioned I was building a boat. Scott stopped, twisted his body towards me in the front seat of my old Jeep Cherokee and said "You're building a boat? How do you build a boat? How does anybody build a boat?" I told him you don't really build a boat, you build parts of a boat - one piece at a time - and then someday you have a boat. "You're building a boat" he said again, shaking his head and looking out over the river.
I cannot recall how many years Scott and I worked together, and there are too many places we visited to even try and remember them all. Swamps, beaches, marshes, caves, rivers and forests. Clam farms, barrier islands, old fishing boats, farm fields. If you have seen photographs in this blog of scientists out working in the field - or more precisely in the water/marsh/swamp - then odds are Scott was nearby.
Scott sailed with me just once on that boat he could hardly believe I was building. It was just over a year ago, when the schooners were in town and friends Scott and Curt joined me for the sail. It was a wonderful afternoon, sunny with a nice breeze. It was the same day Curt made sketches of Spartina, for a while staying on shore while Scott and I sailed together. Curt took this wonderful photograph of us motoring out to raise sail.
This spring I asked Scott if he wanted to join me for a sail this year. "I want to" he said, "but I don't know if my health with let me." At that time he had been fighting cancer for at least a few years. He did not make it out with me this year.
Scott passed away early this morning. I will miss him, his humor and the way he could say a word with an inflection that gave it an entirely new meaning. Nothing was more fun than showing up at the office, meeting Scott and heading out on a road trip. I will cherish the times we spent together and admire him for how he fought the disease with grace and dignity. And I will remember telling him about how a boat can be built one piece at a time, realizing now that all the while he was showing me how to live a life - one day at a time.