I pried myself out of Lunenburg and began driving back roads to the southwest. In Riverport I found out why I had not been able to find any cool old boat artifacts in any of the junk shops. Larry Glenwright had been there ahead of me. Everyone needs and obsession, and Larry’s is all things nautical. He has the old Ritcey Bros. fish warehouse full of the coolest mountains of nautical artifacts. Not for sale, to my dismay, but we spent a wonderful morning talking and touring his collection. For the time being, he rents stuff to the movie business and gets to keep all his stuff afterward. Someday he say, he will start selling off all the culls–but not yet. I will be watching. The best news is that all this cool stuff is not going to the landfill.

I went to the Dory Shop Museum in Shelburne to see what they had going. Milford Buchanan, Master Dory Builder holds court on the second floor, slowly cranking out dories in the Shelburne style, as did his father before him.

Here is a wild card: a new design by local legend Paul Gartside, called a Picnic Dory. I love the lines of this thing.

Downstairs in the museum are a couple boats built by Sidney Mahaney, another local legend who built dories for seventy years. That’s really hard to do.

It took be a while to win over Milford, but he finally gave up and invited me to help him set up the dory he was building.  

In Shelburne, they nail the string caulking line in place before laying on the garboards. If your bevels are perfect, Milford explained, the boat will not leak. I got to nail out most of this boat’s string line. I really like the theory.

The next step was to install the floor, with ribs, stem and transom attached, to the cradle. This particular cradle has been right there on that floor for generations and has birthed, Milford reckons, over sixty thousand dories. The mind reels.

Prying the dory bottom into its perfect rocker for the 60,001st time.

And plumbing it.

If you look at the closed door on the second floor you see a stick protruding from the side of it. Milford’s grandfather nailed that there, perfectly plumb, to sight in the bow post plumb. It still works. Milford straddled the boat, sighted along the edge of the bow post to the stick on the door, and had me nail it when it was perfectly plumb.

Fretwater Boatworks has got to start providing me with a suitable work apron.

Once again I had to pry myself out and continue my pilgrimage. I camped that night at a secluded site in a campground near Yarmouth. Secluded except for the mosquitoes.

In the morning I boarded a VLB. Very Large Boat. The Nova Star–a brand new ferry/luxury cruiser that plies the Gulf of Maine between Yarmouth and Portland.

For the next eleven hours I wandered the decks and played my ukulele. I don’t think I am cut out for luxury cruises, but it sure was fun for the day.

Coming into Casco Bay, watching a magnificent sunset and rain show over Portland.

And on into Amesbury, Massachussetts the next morning to the Lowell Boat Shop on the Merrimack River. This is the shop where Simeon Lowell began building boats back in the 1700s and Hiram Lowell perfected the Banks Dory.

The family finally dwindled away, but the shop was reborn as a nonprofit and is still hard at it.

Here is a classic Lowell Surf Dory. Beautiful thing. I need one.

And the Banks Dory–looks pretty much like all Banks Dories look from Cape Cod to Lunenburg. Mustard with green gunwales. It takes a fine eye to see the subtleties between the styles.

This knee post in the shop has the annual output of the boatshop hammered into it.

The year 1911 had 2099 dories cranked out of the shop. I gotta pick up my pace a bit.

And on down the road to Gloucester. Here is the fishermen’s monument to well over five thousand men who went to sea and never came back. That’s a lot of fishermen.

And here is the local dory shop.

Geno Mondello runs it, still making dories and various other craft when someone needs a boat.

He uses the same meticulous system that I do for keeping things organized.

Marty and Barbara Luster, old friends of my brother’s, hosted me in Gloucester and Marty took these next two shots. (Check out his blog posts on Good Morning Gloucester.) This is Geno showing me his gurdy–a winch for hauling big nets back into your dory. He was excited to have found one, as it was the last piece of vintage gear he needed to fully and properly outfit a fishing dory.

Down on the wharf the Ardelle docked–a beautiful wooden sailboat recently built by Essex boatbuilder Harold Burnham. Wow. Harold let me board her.

He built this boat in a year. Holy mackerel.


Downtown is the old tavern originally run by Howard Blackburn after he froze himself to his oars out on the Grand Banks and rowed to Newfoundland. If you haven’t read his biography, Lone Voyager, then get it, read it, and stop whining.

On my last day I made a quick stop in Essex to see what I had to visit next time. The Shipbuilding Musem and Harold Burnham’s shop, for example.

So little time, so many boats. But I had to go home and be a boatman again. Poor me. Here are the welcoming clouds, building up in their monsoon glory over the desert.