”Caesura” off the porch and on the trailer
“The Reveal” is the pivot point in a story when some crucial bit of information is suddenly uncovered. That detail changes the context of everything that happened before, and alters the path the story will take thereafter. I experienced a bit of a Reveal at MASCF this year. Though Caesura wasn’t finished, I’m very glad we brought it along – for many reasons, including some I hadn’t anticipated.
For one thing, there were several people coming from great distances who had expected to see our boats there this year, people who’ve been a great help to me throughout the process. I didn’t want to completely disappoint them – not even putting in the effort to load the boat on a trailer would be really lame. Truly, it was for those people that I took the trouble to bring one, finished or not. But other interactions resulted from the extra effort that made it especially worthwhile.
When you make something with your hands, there’s a complex tangle of thoughts that go through your head when other people see it for the first time. You know all too well the little sacrifices and shortcomings that went into bringing it into the world, and those little imperfections sing like a gospel choir in your head as you say things like “Thank you,” “Yes, I’m very pleased,” and “That part turned out well.”
When we parked Caesura on the trailer in the display area Friday night, blue painter’s tape and all, it was a bit like arriving at a Black Tie affair with tails but no tie, and wearing tennis shoes; but hey, we made it. Terri had put together a little booklet with photos taken during construction, and we left it on the boat, then pretty much ran off and played all weekend without going back.
But the display area for boats lies directly between the campsite and the docks. There’s no way to get from one place to the other without walking through it. This is actually a very nice arrangement, and every other year I always enjoy strolling past the beautiful boats that cover the lawn. It was a bit odd this year, though, since every time we passed we could see the boat we brought and, more often than not, there would be people standing around looking at it or the booklet. A few times I stopped to watch. I saw a man almost crawl inside the boat to see under the decks. I saw another scrutinizing the unfinished stem and hollow entry in the bow, watched another put his index finger directly on a varnish drip I failed to sand smooth (I know exactly where it is), saw others with puzzled brows touch the rough uncut walnut transom. Still, the overall conclusions seemed to be positive, which was nice. That part will be more fun next year, I’m sure.
Sunday morning, rain was in the forecast, so we packed up early, then pulled into the display area to pick up the boat. A couple of people walked up while I was hooking up the trailer, people who had been waiting for me to arrive, apparently. One man recognized all the woods used in the boat, and wanted to chat about a boat he had built the same way. Others were curious about one specific detail or another.
Finally, though, was a gentleman who had a story to tell, and we talked for quite some time. He had built his own Melonseed several years ago when he retired. He and his wife planned to sail it together. But just as the boat was nearing completion, his wife was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder. She quickly lost motor skills and mental function, and it was clear they would not be able to use the boat as planned. He could not sail alone, and didn’t want to, as he needed to be home with her. So he donated the boat to the museum to sell in an annual fundraising auction.
Time passed, and things were not looking good, when something rather miraculous happened. She fell one day and broke her wrist. At the hospital, because she was in such pain and so disoriented, they put her under anesthesia to set the bone. When she came to, she was completely lucid and had regained all of her former dexterity. Inexplicably, she was cured, and remains so today. Now he is preparing to build another Melonseed and resume their original life together. He seemed rather buoyed by the prospect, as much as one can be in the shadow of such a thing. He believes the second time he can do it even better, and was intrigued by the approach I had taken to some of the problems. He would be in touch, he said. And I hope he will.
Another message was waiting for us when we got home, someone who couldn’t wait around at the boat until we came to retrieve it. A retired doctor on the Eastern Shore now builds beautiful intricate models of traditional small American craft. He uses all the historical resources and documentation he can find to reproduce not only the boat, but the furnishings and surroundings where it would typically be found. He had made a Melonseed several years ago, and was looking for some of the source materials I had gathered doing my own research. We exchanged several emails and bits of information. He sent some photos of his work, and it was agreed that the next time we are in the area I can stop by to see them in person, and he left me with the image of him working away in his shop all winter by a wood stove.
It’s the little things like that, coming out of a project like this, so unexpected, that will make all this work worthwhile for years to come.
(Thanks for the T-shirts, Roger!)
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