by John Urban
After a number of spring weekends and late weekday nights, good old Factor X is ready for the water. It’s splash-time. She was built in 1945 and she’ll be heading out of the shed looking as good as new – assuming you are standing afar on a low-lit cloudy day.
Actually, she looks pretty good and as the prep-work concludes, it’s time to step back and reflect. In considering my observations, please recognize that I am exhausted from months of physical labor and am drug-induced by various marine paints and chemical solvents. Nevertheless, here is a wooden boat owner’s stream of thought on the day of launching:
1. Screw top wine bottles shouldn’t be allowed aboard wooden boats – you never know when you might need one of those little corks to plug up a leak.
2. Varnish is designed to protect wood from water, sun, and salt. Don’t worry about drips, sags, scratches, high spots, and embedded brush bristles because they in no way undermine the protective purpose of varnishing.
3. Poor woodworking craftsmanship is revealed by scratches and gouges, but when you do the work yourself it’s more appropriate to see these as… character marks.
4. Polished bronze may be a nice look to some, but a seasoned boater knows that bronze hardware reaches its proper patina only after years of carefully managed neglect.
5. A professional shipwright measures twice and cuts once. The rest of us keep large containers of epoxy, filler, and wood glue handy at all times.
6. Perhaps the best advertising campaign in the history of boating featured Dick Fisher and the unsinkable Boston Whaler. I wonder how many leaky wooden boats Fisher owned before he and Ray Hunt developed the Whaler.
(An early Dick Fisher Ad – the unsinkable Boston Whaler)
7. Imagine being a Boston Whaler salesman back then. For the first time people would have no caulking, no leaks, no sinking, no painting…it was probably easier than selling iPhones.
8. Getting back to the drips, sags, and high spots on the varnish. Jackson Pollack spent lots of time on the East End of Long Island. I wonder what his boat looked like.
(Jackson Pollack – now there’s inspiration for a novel varnishing technique)
9. If a boat slips from the travel lift as it’s being launched and the owner is nowhere in sight, will anyone hear it crash as it falls to the ground?
10. There’s an adage out there that goes something like: If God wanted us to sail fiberglass boats, he would have made fiberglass trees. This is a relevant question. I mean, am I alone in noticing those composite construction trees that are popping up alongside highways? And they must be God’s work because that happens to be one of the few places where I consistently get four bars on my cell phone.Share on Facebook