Although I have been on the road and on the run for most of the year, there was some sweet solitary shop puttering time in the middle. I installed the Emmert’s Turtleback Patternmaker’s Vice I picked up in Maine (and Anabelle brought across country). I’ve always lusted for one on the big originals. Now I have one. It spins in several directions for clamping just about any project in any position. I lined the jaws with leather for woodworking projects.

It took the place of the smaller reproduction patternmaker’s vice I’ve had for years. That one moved to the clamp table, which also got reorganized.

I built a stand for the new anvil–another Maine acquisition.

Straps and the reach-around deep-throat clamps found a more accessible storage arrangement.

Dewalt cordless tool world got a major rebuild, with places for everything and everything in its place. The chargers are now powered up only when the lights are on, which reduces the chance of a battery fire when no one is about.

Epoxy and paint world got fully reorganized–more shelf space and a somewhat more sensible arrangement of materials. We’ll see how long this lasts! I’ll give it a week, max.

Finally, after fifteen years, I built a run-out table for the table saw. Oh my god–why didn’t I do that a decade ago? I also upgraded the switch to where a quick swat or knee-bump will shut it down.

Here’s the biggest prize from my salvage trip to the old dory warehouse: the office door, behind which we were occasionally um… talked to. It likely dates back to the early ’70s when the late Jeff Clayton brought an artistic flair to almost everything.

One of the old chalkboards now houses our to-do and to-buy lists.

Another blackboard still has the pack-out list from the 1980s.

A treasure of unknown provenance–perhaps another Jeff Clayton relic. This will be of great use recreating the boat next spring. Original paint chips and deck design of Martin’s first dory. I framed it in parts of the Hetch Hetchy.

Even more sacred objects–parts of ancient Briggs boats, including a piece of the Emerald Mile, Briggs boat #1.

But there were one or two more practical matters. Last winter an avalanche took out the chimney and the avalanche break. The break is now bolted through the roof in a few dozen places, so the entire roof will have to come off next time. And I built a sweet little cricket to protect the chimney. It has doorways to duplex birdhouses. I hope the birds move in next spring.

The motors have a home now.

Little trailer now has industrial wiring and a fresh paint job.

We did have time to get ready for the winter boatbuilding season. Wild Child’s Horn Creek incident is now ground down and drying upstairs.

But back to puttering. Martin Litton was to be inducted into the River Runner’s Hall of Fame in Green River a few days hence.  So I built a 1/6 scale replica of his first boat. This was the first test of my computer-designed side panels, which worked perfectly. I thought I’d get a jump on things and do the paint job before I built the boat.

Clamping at 1/6 scale can be challenging.

Sometimes gravity is the best clamp.

Or maybe string is the way to go–these curved decks defied any other ideas I came up with, but the five-minute epoxy wouldn’t wait for much pondering.

Ryann helped with the final deck painting and touching up the exterior.

We went with the latter-day paint job, after the boat had been re-named from its original Portola, to Diablo Canyon, a memorial for a California coastal area the got a nuclear power plant jammed into it. That’s another story, but it was a battle lost, and dear to Martin’s heart.

The night before the Hall of Fame event an astounding number of boatmen, cooks, managers and other dory folks gathered at the state park–from the 1960s through 1987, when Martin sold the company. Someone said they counted seventy of us at one point. Quite a testament to the strength of the community we had–and still have.

The wee Diablo Canyon was not destined for a long life. Martin’s son Donald is putting some of Martin aboard for a Viking funeral–a way to help our community finally have some closure with the man who brought this remarkable family together.

The following day we had a procession to the museum, honoring the three inductees. Here’s a triple rig honoring Kim Crumbo.

Followed by Bubbles–one of Dick McCallum’s Grand Canyon Youth boats, captained by Dan Dierker, an original Youthketeeer.

Three old Litton Dories followed. Here is Donald Litton with his son Oliver and daughter Hilary in a 1972 Briggs dory. Aboard are John Blaustein and Tuck Weills.

We spent the following day regrouping, then headed for Westwater for back-to-back overnight trips. Lots and lots of wooden boats, most birthed in our shop.

We ran the gorge and camped below.

The following morning we took out, drove back to the put-in, and started again with a different assortment of boats and boaters. Emily, second from right, is in Water Bear, our prototype Tardigrade–a tiny open dory. Mighty bold.

We camped above the gorge, several miles upstream from the previous night’s camp.

Brin is explaining the big moves of the day.

Emily made it through Funnel Falls in Water Bear before swamping and rolling. We elected to piggyback it for the next couple miles.

At take-out Joey and Emily set up a third run for the following day in a two-person ducky. The rest of us wandered back to our homes.

A couple days later we were back in Bluff to do a 3-day San Juan trip with Cody Little of Tse Kooh Outfitters. I finally got to row Boxcar–a San Juan punt I built a dozen years ago. It’s surprisingly sporty. Cody rowed Slickhorn, a new punt he built last year.

Cody and his delightful family:

The centerpiece of the trip was the annular solar eclipse. Although it did’t darken the sky much, the temperature dropped and the shadows got really freaky.

We climbed Comb Ridge to view it. There are some crazy cobbles up there.

We had most of a week before the next trip so, based on Emily’s adventures in Water Bear we created Tardigrade 2.0–a similar micro-hull but with a much higher sheer and full decking. It is such a joy working with these young women–so much energy and excitement.

String theory: Cricket is trying to figure out how the side-panel works. But to no avail. Once we had the shape lofted I created a side-panel on the computer. It worked!

Here we go. You can’t beat this place for fun!

I got a really good deal on discount drill bits.

There she is. Her name was Moss Piglet (another common name for Tardigrades) but somehow it transmogrified into Mas Piglet. Mas is more, and this is definitely more boat than Water Bear. With a coat of primer she’s ready to row.

Back to the San Juan–this time launching WAY upstream, somewhere below Shiprock. Andy had scouted the put-in road a few years back on his motorcycle. But in the intervening years much of that road had gone down the San Juan. It was entertaining to say the least. We think this put-in drive was at least posterous, if not post-posterous. We camped at the put-in.

Fine rock work at Noland’s Trading Post. Still standing strong from the 1880s.

Mas Piglet turns out to be a fine boat. And a pretty good bedroom as well.

Who’s been walking through our camp?

Cricket and Glade did a lower San Juan a few weeks earlier, then the upper San Juan on the eclipse trip. Now they are finishing their full San Juan suite, only backwards. Although there are no rapids per se on this run, the channel finding is quite challenging.

This ruin is built largely out of cobbles. Amazing they are still standing a thousand years later.

Anabelle is studying the art as well–four cobbles balanced on her boot.

The view from the groover.

Wild horses.

Wow. What a fantastic place.

And then back to the boatshop for a bit more work.

Oh, one more thing:

Randy Dersham was filming interviews with us one afternoon and asked me about the future of Fretwater. Cricket piped up saying she had something that might shine a light on that. Turns out Glade had proposed to her that morning. And Cricket accepted. Here I am, stunned, after the initial sobs of joy.

My old college pal Wayne was there and dragged me up the the computer to get online ordination from the Universal Life Church. Glade took two old silver quarters from my ancient Boy Scout coin collecting merit badge collection and hammered them into rings. With little time to prepare a ceremony we charged ahead. I got to walk my amazing Cricket down the aisle. Then I turned around in a circle and became the pastor. The vows they wrote we absolutely beautiful.

The two most wonderful people I know, after a couple winters working in the shop together, finally figured it out.

So… yeah. The future of Fretwater Boatworks is looking pretty rosy. Turns out I have a daughter now, and a son-in-law, and Fretwater is a family operation. My cup runneth over.