The day after boatbuilding class I scooted northwest a few hours and met up with Mike Bridges and Jonathan Kranzley from last year’s class. Jonathan brought Made in the Shade, one of the McKenzie boats we built last year. Mike brought Washita, a Briggs-style dory he built several years ago, We launched them at the hellacious put-in below Harris Station Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River. After a series of great honkings and warnings, the daily release came up to a boatable level and off we went. It’s a mighty busy river. Here are Jonathan and Mazie in Made in the Shade.

And Mike rowing himself and me in the Washita.

Happy boatmen. Mike’s friend Billy, a veteran Kennebec guide pointed across the river and said if we walked that way about 1500 miles we’d get to Hudson’s Bay without ever seeing a settlement.

The next day I drove east–as far east as you can get in the USA–West Quoddy Head lighthouse.

And then I kept going, taking the ferry into L’tete, New Brunswick.

L’etete is tiny, but is the home of my good friend, mentor, and boatbuilder Harry Bryan and his wife Martha. They live off the grid in a magnificent homebuilt palace on the waterfront. 

The fuzzy landform in the distance is Maine.

The shop:

Harry is a renown toolmaker. This is one wall of his shop.

His main concession to power tools is the huge, ancient, belt-driven, wooden-wheeled bandsaw, which until recently was run by an old Vauxhall truck motor under the shop.

The power unit for his sawmill is another old truck, with the transmission, gearbox, and dashboard still intact.

His boatshop is at high tide.

After many decades off the grid with no running water, Harry and Martha are thinking that someday they may get old and want plumbing. So they are in the process of building an addition with more modern conveniences. Just in case.

I had the honor of joining the crew for a day and a half.

Harry and his longtime coworker Wyatt.

I wish I had scheduled more time, but I had to head back across Maine.

I stopped in to meet Steve Holt, who runs the venerable Shaw & Tenney oarmarking firm in Orono, Maine–probably the last and best oarmaker still in business.

We are working on an oar made for Grand Canyon. Keep in touch.

Then on to Tamworth, New Hampshire to visit my old pal Lora. She just completed a remarkable rebuild of her ancient family barn–the back half now serving as her home and studio.

I gave her a hand for a day or two building cabinetry for her shop.

Our Flagstaff friend John Tveten showed up and we took family friend PapaJohn’s fabulous little Rushton-style canoe out for a spin on Lake Chocorua.

Then John and I headed back to WoodenBoat School for a week of more advanced sailing instruction. Here’s my headquarters.

The wind was a bit light and the air a bit foggy much of the week, but we still learned a tremendous amount.

John skippering Shimmer–a Herreshoff Biscayne Bay. 


John in Rascal–a gunning dory similar to Stella, the dory we built for him last year here in Flagstaff. We are researching some of the finer points of Rascal‘s rig to incorporate them into Stella, who we hope to have under sail by this fall.

My friend Jane showed up again, this time teaching in the schooner Mary Day. I wish I had my camera handy when Mary Day burst out of the fog under full sail. Amazing.

Jane gave me a full tour of the schooner–perhaps trying to trick me into signing on for next year’s course. It didn’t work, simply because I had already decided I was taking next year’s course prior to the tour.

Sunset from the Mary Day.

And a farewell toast to the McKenzie from this year’s class, awaiting shipping to Colorado.

The morning after class John and I headed west down the coast to Friendship, Maine to rendezvous once again with Lora and our good friend Wendy. We went out to Lora’s family place on Friendship Long Island and put our lovely dory Ruby in the water for a bit of rowing. We built Ruby eight years ago and she is holding up remarkably well in her forested haul-out from year to year. She stays out of the rain, but never leaves the sea-breeze, so she neither rots nor dries out and cracks.

Ruby’s oars and seats are from the original rotted-out Let Simmons dory that we copied the design from.

A picnic on Morse Island.

And a sunset from Ruby. It never fails.

But all good things must give way to more good things. The only part of the adventure that did not go quite according to plan was when I took this last picture. Phoenix Airport was closed due to monsoon storms. We got diverted to Las Vegas. This is sunset over Grand Canyon in case you can’t tell.

By the time we finally got to Phoenix, all flights to Flagstaff were gone. So I had to spend the night in Phoenix, which is similar to Hell. But really, other than that, damn. What a month.