A wise man once told me: “All progress is incremental—until it isn’t.” I had to think about that observation for a few days. This was not one of those mumblings about “one step forward, two steps back.” No, there was more to the message. To place the philosophy in context, think of great battles or scientific discoveries. Everything inches forward, and then suddenly an amazing transition or breakthrough takes place. Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo or Einstein and the theory of relativity would be good examples.
Week 8 of boat school (despite the fact it only lasted 2 days because of Thanksgiving) very much proceeded down that philosophical path. If you recall from the last posting, we are all engaged in the art of lofting a full-sized version of a Herreshoff classic. This seemingly endless process came to fruition for my group on Monday morning. We stood back and admired our handiwork…for about 30 seconds.
That’s when the Jedi masters pitched another challenge to the would-be wooden boatbuilders.
Imagine spending close to a week-and-a-half on your hands and knees very carefully measuring points, pounding finishing nails, stretching batons and then drawing lines; only to be told the canvas would need to be repainted. And sooner would be better than later. With heavy heart, I went in search of more white paint, a roller, and pan.
Some people argue this kind of rapid erasure of the past can be cathartic. In other words, painting over the just-completed lofting would release us of the tensions built up over days of drafting this craft. I’m not buying that psycho-babble. It was a little painful to make all our sweat and toil disappear beneath a new coat of exterior house paint.
Then we were informed the next challenge is to loft one of the six small skiffs our class of 2016 will be constructing in the coming weeks. A chance to draw a whole new set of lines! (I remind you we are only at Week 8). While the Herreshoff is a pretty boat, it is not a task befitting the many amateurs like myself. Oh, I am certain we would make a worthy attempt, but there are many more lessons to come.
Instead, we are now in the process of lofting a sailing/rowing dingy close to 12 feet long and four feet wide. Needless to say, the table of offsets and other lofting guides are not as detailed as those provided for the previous work. And surprise surprise, we have become much more adept at this whole process. Yes, the wise man was right
“All progress is incremental—until it isn’t.”
We’ve learned a great deal about lofting over the last couple of weeks. Gee, maybe that is why they call this place the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Learning is taking place before our eyes.
With the new layer of paint in place, and only a little on my hands and knees, we set about the process of laying out a grid sufficient for the task at hand. The trick here is that the boat is to be modified. Instead of stations every 24 inches, there are now stations every 28 inches. Furthermore, the bow design became an instructor’s option. We are back to that lesson Jeff Hammond tried to drive home.
Each wooden boat is slightly different—a reflection of designer, drafter, lofter, builder and materials.
By the time we departed for our turkey dinner destinations on Tuesday afternoon, there was something starting to resemble a new boat on the floor. The basic lines are in place and the interior stations are starting to take form. We did learn about lofting. But, my damn knees are now really sore. It will feel good to sit down and stuff myself with all the traditional fixings. Now, if I could only just quit dreaming about the Herreshoff laying beneath all that new paint.
Eric Anderson is a retired Air Force officer who can be found puttering
in his shop when not scribbling on the keyboard. A new resident of
Port Townsend, he is an avid sailor, struggling carpenter, and would-be writer.