Sadness in Seattle
Yesterday, I hopped on a ferry heading to Victoria, Canada. It wasn’t as simple as that but that’s a good place to start. Maybe I should back up a little further: A lot further. I had run into my friend Steve White a few years back in Key Largo. The future of yacht restoration on the East Coast saw that the pickings had gotten slim. Many of these wonderful yachts have been exported to Europe year after year and once they are gone, they almost never come back! I only know of a few that returned. As we talked about the great projects, all the great boats and yachts that are in the North West, where the water is cold and they’re appreciated, I said we need to bring them back to the East.
Steve looked at me and smiled like I was a naive child. He said, “You lead the charge! I think it is a great idea!” Well, it seems I am not alone. My client, who is a very private man, had the same dream. I flew out and am here to make sure the yacht is lifted and blocked right for her journey East. Getting in the ferry COHO in Port Angeles, WA, with the fog laying off in the distance and the clouds, low to the water with dark gray, I was heading out into something. The rain pelted the windows as the wind blew down the decks. I wish I had brought more clothes. A little ways out it started to clear and out of the mist, mountains and islands appeared. The old ferry powered through. The closer we got, the calmer it was.
Coming into the harbor of Victoria, BC, Canada, two beautiful wooden schooners sat tied to the dock, and off in the distance, there she was tied to the outside T-Head, The Olympus! This last month, when I picked up my copy of Woodenboat magazine, there in the middle, was a beautiful article with lots of photos.
That’s not this story. This one is about moving one of the last grande dames safely back home to the East Coast. The Olympus will be the longest New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Co. to grace the East Coast in a very long time. This is history in the making. Meeting with the West Coast Capt. Rick Etsell and his crew, Olympus was in full preparation mode. Each glass and plate was wrapped. Everything on deck was moved, packed, and tied down. I was accompanied by my best friend Bob Meredith, who I had talked into taking a few days off to go on this adventure. Now he is right in the thick of it helping at whatever he can.
Bob loves an adventure and we go way back. I measured all of Olympus’ bulkheads and placed tape on her hand rails. Then I opened every bilge and inspected as much as I could see. Finally, she was ready. Capt. Etsell called the load master. They’re plan was to lift her with two slings. My blood pressure was rising! Luckily he was masterful in explaining why that was such a bad idea. I don’t think they realized how concerned we were and why it was important to not damage Olympus.
The lines were slipped and came aboard as we left the dock the captain told me about the sadness in the Pacific Northwest in losing one of their iconic grande dames of yachts. I understood. But the question is: why, in a city of great wealth that loves and appreciates these great yachts, didn’t someone step up to the plate?
Coming alongside the large transport ship, she felt small. We were not allowed to board that ship so we had to get a ride by boat, and then walk into the port (rules). We stayed on the tow boat and watched the lifting. But by the time we got through security, she had been lowered down into the hold, and the blocking, welding and strapping the hull of the ship had already started. We had met with the load master and went over how I want to strap her down. I climbed aboard, going down the dark stairway. We had closed her storm bronze ports that covered the glass portholes. It was so black; when I turned on the lasers you could see the beam of light. The transom was down less than a half inch. I had talked to the load master and asked for additional support to be added to her transom. Soon the great hatches would be closed and more boats & yachts would be loaded onto her top deck. I can’t wait to see her over here on the other side, on this coast.
The next day, we would head back to Seattle. Bob had a few more days off and we did what old guys like us like to do: Look at old boats! What else is there? God I love that place! Cool days and nights and lots of docks with all kinds of beautiful boats. We went in search of Ted Gearys and found one of his old tug boats, which is now an AirBnB, and a steel Geary named the Foss. Then we went from harbor to harbor looking.
One evening we had just come around a corner when I yelled “Stop! Look!” Bob and I couldn’t believe our eyes. A commuter sitting by the side of the road, covered in moss? Who or what? We even drove all the way back the next day, but no one was home. It will have to be one of those mysteries.
The next day I flew back, this time to Florida, to pick up the River Queen, a paddlewheel boat owned by the the operators of the "Jungle Queen, Ft. Lauderdale’s longest running attraction, cruising the New River since 1935, since the "Old Florida" days of alligator wrestling. This was a boat that had no blocking plan, so we were called in by the boatyard, Lauderdale Marine Center. The guys at LMC knew us from our Florida days working in the Rybovich yard and watched for years in the particular ways we picked up and blocked big beautiful yachts.
Lifting the River Queen was fairly straight forward, landing on all the structure bulkheads, instructing the crew not to hobby horse. Then the diver threw up a red flag. The keel was all eaten out upon lifting. Most of the damage was in the worm shoe. A lot of people think that if the water is brackish, that you can’t get worms. That is absolutely NOT true! Worms can live in brackish water, just not in fresh!
After trying to find someone in Florida who works on wooden boats didn't pan out, the owners persuaded us to send two of our crew down. And Danny Nye and Jordan Harvey signed up to make the trek from North Carolina to Fort Lauderdale. The goal is to get her back in action as quickly as we can. The irony is that the River Queen was built near our Beaufort, N.C., boatyard, on Harker's Island.
In NC, we just hauled out Lady Catherine, a 1947 61’ Trumpy Contract 331 built for Ronald H. and Gertrude Zinn as Gretchen III. This yacht and Aurora II have a lot in common and are so different at the same time. She is out for a quick haul out and a little rub rail replacement and paint work.
Moving on, the NC Maritime Museum’s Wooden Boat Show in Beaufort went off very well. It was a beautiful sunny day. There were lots of boats in attendance, around 100! But the best part was seeing all the people. From the old men to the young families, it was a great show and hope it only gets better.
This weekend is the New Bern show of the ACBS Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Chapter. I am a member and was supposed to be a speaker, plus bring one of my boats. Then I got a call from Capt. David Carter, the new captain on Olympus. The boat is here on Thursday? This Thursday? Yes! This is important so I am dropping everything and jumping on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale, hoping to get back in time for the New Bern Show.
One Last Story:
My friends Ted and Teddy Conklin, and Captain Ted - yes, a bit confusing - just came through Beaufort in the Trumpy M/Y "America." Teddy is in his last year of school and spent last summer working at Moores Marine and lived to tell the tale. Seeing Teddy again, I thought, it is amazing how fast these young people grow up. This year he will be working at a school in administration, not out in the hot sun with us.
I think it is important for young people to work many jobs, even if they don’t stay at one. It teaches them to appreciate the people who do those jobs, even if they decide it's not for them. I always say to the bagger at Publix that bagging there was my first job. I learned a lot from that experience and appreciate the people who do it.
Till next time and the rest of the story,