Sharpen the chisels, oil the tools

To make room for his latest project, Mike took down some fencing and limbed up a tree. Privateer last sat in this spot. Photo by Mike Martel

Editor’s note: Friend and frequent contributor Capt. Mike Martel is at it again: He’s tackling another old wooden boat. This after Privateer (a 40’ gaff-rigged auxiliary yawl built in 1930 in Maine, to a John Alden design), the boat he’d spent seven years restoring, suffered a fatal accident while in a boatyard. Look for an article in the pages of Points East regarding Mike’s ill-fated courtship of Privateer soon. In the meantime, the following is a slightly doctored Facebook post of Mike’s regarding his new project . . .

My new boat – or, at least new to me – arrived here in my yard [in Bristol, R.I.] Friday, July 12 on a trailer. She is a 33’ single-screw Crosby motor cruiser, built in 1929 for John D. Hertz, the founder of the Yellow Cab Company. She is reputedly the only motorboat that the Crosby Yachts company (of Osterville, Mass.) ever built; Crosby, as you may know, is known for their classic catboats. She is planked with mahogany and looks a lot like Elco cruisers of her era.

The crazy cycle of romancing rotten old wood begins anew. I swore that I would never, ever do this again – acquire and restore an ancient wooden boat, renew the dream, take on a gargantuan project like this. I am too old, I wisely counseled myself. I don’t have the energy and I don’t ever want to be that dirty, sore, uncomfortable, weary, sweaty, bloody person again. I’m done with it! My joints are stiff and sore and I grow tired easily. I like my overstuffed TV chair. Then Privateer was destroyed in a (preventable) boatyard accident, and here I am again. After the insurance payoff, I said, “I will wait for at least a year before buying a boat again, and this time it will be something small, inexpensive, etc. . . .”

So why am I doing this, more than 30 years after I did it for the first time? This is either: 1) a young man’s task; or 2) a crazy old man’s futile endeavor. Chalk me down for curtain #2. I swear I was sober when I made the decision, perhaps something intoxicating beyond alcohol is to blame (but I don’t do any of that other stuff, either). Oh, well. No point whining once you’ve set the wheels in motion. Sharpen the chisels, oil the tools, clean off the workbench and start arranging blocks and boat stands in the yard. Like W.C Fields said, “Don’t tell me you can’t swear off drinking. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Or swear off a love of old wooden boats. Or unapologetically being a damned fool, yet again. If you can drive in a screw, I reason, you’re not dead yet.