At Fretwater, it’s first class all the way. Well, since Fretwater Boatworks runs all its expenses through an American Airlines credit card, we eventually get a few free treats.
And a visit to the Admiral’s Club. It sure beats the cacaphony of the terminal
We picked up our ride in Bangor at midnight, slapped our magnets on to be official, and zoomed down the Brooklin for the night.
We picked up our tools and supplies at WoodenBoat School, had a meeting with the boss about next year’s courses, and went to spend the next night with our friends Jane and Bill in southern Maine.
We couldn’t avoid stopping at our favorite fish market in Portland.
Before dinner Jane drove us to the beach to watch the full moon rise. The ocean is magical. So vast, so powerful, so eternal.
In the morning we drove down to Lowell’s Boat Shop in Massachusetts, inches south of the New Hampshire border. Founded in 1793, it’s the oldest boatshop in the county, and the birthplace of our favorite craft, the dory. The building is ancient and enchanted. And as crooked as can be. The history and heritage is palpable. It was such an honor to be asked to teach here.
Our classroom looks west out over the Merrimack River, and the sunset light is otherworldly.
We spent the afternoon getting organized and building a lofting table on which to draw our boat(s) and assemble the parts. Graham, the Director, dialed us in on what materials we could use, including those that wash up on shore. The lofting table has a few pieces of driftwood.
Oh, golden light, you’re slaying us.
We got a little rental a few miles east in the coastal town of Hampton Beach. The street sign adjacent to our place went out of its way to remind me of my destiny.
But we were mere yards from the Atlantic and another nearly-full moonrise.
Cricket is increasingly taking the lead in our teaching. She’ll be teaching this same course at WoodenBoat School in June, should you care to join us. We start with a set of measurements from a book, which act as guidelines for the final measurements. From there we lay them out on our lofting table, connect the dots, ignore the wankers, and adjust the curves to our eye. We’ll be building two McKenzie River Drift Boats (or River Dories as we prefer to call them), and the final curves we build will be those agreed upon by the class. Every boat built from a set of numbers is unique, and these boats will be the class’s version.
With the lines agreed upon, Cricket directs the class on how to extrapolate the requisite parts to manifest our design.
Carlos is grinding the final slope of the scarf joint to make 4×8 plywood into 4×16 foot sheets for the side panels.
With the parts all created, we jump into assembly.
Once the hulls are built, we mark and fit the bottoms.
Time out for sunset on the Merrimack.
On with the bottoms.
Bottoms on and planed smooth. Hull primed and outer chines screwed on.
Here’s the thing. Although the Oregon Drift Boat is a classic form that evolved on the West Coast, it’s shape so resembles a dory that more and more of us call it that. But one has never been built here at the birthplace of the classic eastern Banks Dory. Until now. But here are Cricket and I, Arizona cowboy boatbuilders, blending many traditions, building what we call a “dory” in the birthplace of the craft.
This course was designed as a six day course over two consecutive three-day weekends. Lowell’s usually gets only locals in their classes, so this schedule made sense. But Cricket and I seem to draw folks from afar–Colorado, Utah, Texas, Connecticut–so if we get to do another course here, we may do consecutive days without a break. Your input is welcome on this matter.
Anyhow, on our four days off we kept fairly busy. Monday was recovery–we never left our apartment. But on Tuesday we had a gig near Hartford, Connecticut, so left early in order to tour Mark Twain’s home. What an amazing place. And getting to experience the rooms in which Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi were written–what a trip.
Dave Sianez teaches college level shop at Central Connecticut State University and had invited us down to speak to his class. Here he is with one of his creations. It’s like a bigger version of our Doryak, built with a lot of fiberglass and CNC-cut parts.
Cool boat, but Cricket and I are kinda old school. We’ll stick to wood.
On Thursday we joined Graham teaching boatbuilding to a high school class in Kittery, Maine. There are a couple great prospects for future Fretwater employees here.
Every time I’ve been to Lowell’s and seen those iconic dories bobbing in the river, I’ve wanted to go rowing in one. On Thursday we got our chance, snowstorm be damned. My friend Lora came down from New Hampshire to join the team. Cricket is on sweep oar.
Back to work. Let’s get those gunwales on!
The evening light causes a lot of interruptions.
Midday on our final day we are skidding into home plate. Gunwales on, seats in, floorboards in.
George Kirby, of George Kirby & Son Paint Co. (our favorite paint) sent us hats for our group photo. Two students had to leave early but this is the rest of us. Amanda, in the right-hand yellow jacket, and Anabelle, above and behind her, won the two boats for the cost of materials. Amanda will be keeping hers in Southern Maine; Anabelle is hauling hers out to Moab, where she rows on the Colorado.
It was cold and windy, but the class insisted on a baptismal float.
This is well beyond the recommended capacity, but the boat handled it well.
As we bring things to a close, both dories rest on the loading ramp–the first two western dories to grace the grounds of Lowell’s Boat Shop.
A last sunset.
And a toast.
From there we motored back to Jane and Bill’s for the night, then back to WoodenBoat to re-stash our tools. We made a lightning run out to Naskeag Point, our favorite sunset spot, and hit the jackpot. Let us know if you’d like to join a course someday!