Fast forward three and a half decades. My three kids are in high school and junior high school and booked solid with activities. Our beautiful 28-foot Pearson Renegade sloop, Lobo, has left the dock only twice in the last year. So I decide to sell her. When I tell the family of my decision, they just shrug. The kids grew up on Lobo and her predecessor Freyja, a 22-foot sloop designed by John Alden. Sailing to them never held the magic it did, and still does, for me. I put a “For Sale” sign on Lobo and before almost anyone in the family noticed, she was gone. I missed her terribly, and still do. She was my dream machine. My escape pod. She was the kind of boat I'd wanted for most of my life, but at this time of my life there just wasn't room for her. To let her waste away at the dock, like so many other boats, was too cruel a fate for such a fine lady. The thing that kept me going was the dream of replacing her with a boat like her – but maybe a few feet longer – when time and family commitments would allow.
One Sunday at church a friend asked me how my sailboat was doing. “I sold it,” I told him. He looked stricken. “You're going to get another one, aren't you?” he asked. I decided not to go into a lot of detail, but I did tell him we didn't use it enough to justify owning a boat that size. “But if I could find a small boat that sailed well and rowed well and that I could keep in my garage, I think I would buy something like that.” I didn't think to much more about it until two weeks later when my friend came up to me after church and said, “I've got the boat for you.” “Oh yeah?” I said. “Yup. A Swampscott dory. And I'll help you build it.”
I knew enough about Swampscott dories to know that he had hit the nail right on the head. That would meet all my criteria and more. I also knew I couldn't wait for years until I could afford the time and money for my dream boat to get back on the water. A boat like a Swampscott dory would be perfect to get me through. But build it?! I was pretty handy with tools, but building a boat? That's a big project. My friend assured me that with his help I could do it. I believed him because he had built a number of wooden drift boats and worked at a commercial boat shop until his body wouldn't let him any more. We decided after steelhead fishing was over for the year we would go to work.
Some weeks later I saw him in the hospital parking lot on a Thursday. “When are we going to start building that boat?” I asked. “Well, I'm going fishing Friday. On Saturday you come to my place and we'll load up my saw and take it to your place and get started.” That was the last time I ever saw him. He died on that Friday of a heart attack doing what he loved, fishing.