I am only able to do what I do because of great mentorship throughout my life and career. I came from a family of carpenters with can-do attitudes. My college buddy/boating partner Tim Cooper and I bought a falling-down tenement in Flagstaff in 1976 and taught ourselves most every trade needed to bring it back to life on a budget of pretty much nothing.
Tim later taught me much about dory construction and repair, as he was the lead boat fixer at Grand Canyon Dories where we both rowed and crashed dories in the 1970s and ‘80s.
My girlfriend for many years Carol Fritzinger and I began building a house here in Flagstaff in 1983, teaching ourselves and each other the requisite skills as we went along. The Pole House, as it came to be known locally, was eventually finished with tremendous help from the entire boating community. It takes a mighty enticing adventure to get me to leave home.
My great friend Dan Dierker has aided and abetted my construction and boatbuilding follies for more than forty years. Without his assistance much of what “I” have done would never have been possible.
Andy has been a dear friend for a quarter century, He learned dory building from the late Derald Stewart of Cañonita Dories, then went solo with High Desert Dories. Andy and I work together when possible, send each other our worst clients, and enjoy a lot of boating together.
Greg is The Guy at Woodenboat School. He teaches Fundamentals of Boatbuilding and severely altered my life with that course in 2012. A subsequent course in lofting only served to twist me further. A great friend and superlative teacher.
Roger wrote The Book on Oregon’s traditions river boats: Drift Boats and River Dories, inspiring a renaissance of wooden boatbuilding in the west. Roger and I worked together to recreate Buzz Holmstrom’s 1937 riverboat Julius in 2001.
Jerry designed the iconic Grand Canyon Dory in 1971. I finally had the joy of working with him when we created the Julius in 2001. A later Rogue River trip with Jerry filled me with lore that is still oozing out. What a guy.
Harry is a legend in boatbuilding and toolmaking. I took a toolmaking course from him in 2013, and have worked and played with him at his shop and home in New Brunswick several times since. Harry led a seminar here in my shop during one of his travels. He invents things all the time, and instills the ethic of creating your own tools, and keeping those you have in fine, sharp working order.
Jay is a mad Viking and teaches courses in Viking boatbuilding at WoodenBoat School and other places. He also builds big Viking boats if you need one. Pat and I took his two-week Aspoya Faering course in 2019. I’m not sure how those techniques translate into how we work at Fretwater, but I’m sure the twists and tweaks will continue to manifest for years.
Sam inadvertently taught me lapstrake construction in about twenty minutes back in 2001. In 2013 I took his bronze casting course that send me down yet another rabbit hole. Sam is the executive director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. Oregon—a stunning place if you’ve never been there.
Clint taught me oarmaking at WoodenBoat School in 2013. I learned so much that I ended up being the teacher after he moved on to other subjects. In real life he runs Chase Small Craft, selling wonderful kit boats you can build at home.
Douglas teaches Japanese boatbuilding and has studied under many ancient masters in Japan—most of them the last of their line. We built a Japanese Shinano River Boat in 2019 at Northwest Maritime Center. As with Viking boatbuilding, I’m not sure how the techniques and philosophy he taught me will show up at Fretwater, but I know they will.
Greg was a champion surfer in the ‘70s, a renown rider and designer for Hobie Alter, and finally went on to reinvent epoxy for the surfing trade. Surfers, like dory builders, are cheapskates who beat the hell out of their equipment in extremely adverse conditions. His product, Resin Research 2040, is unparalleled for what we do at Fretwater. In addition, Greg has helped teach Fretwater courses in SUP building and oarmaking, and totally subverted me into doing fine delicate work with a 7” grinder with a 36-grit disk.
What can I say? I worked for Martin for ten years and ran trips with him and considered him a good friend for the rest of his life. He gave me my dory. He served, and continues to serve, as a great inspiration. He’s my hero.
Milford is the last builder of the Shelburne Dory in Shelburne Nova Scotia. I got to spend a week with him building one of those boats and did a story about it for WoodenBoat Magazine. Milford does things the old way, and I loved learning how that worked.
Sam was the greatest boatbuilding illustrator of all time, illustrating both John Gardner’s The Dory Book, and Roger Fletcher’s Drift Boats and River Dories.
I only got to spend parts of two days with Sam—one in his dory in Camden, Maine, during which he explained to us how to build the lapstrake dory we were building a few miles away—and one afternoon at Woodenboat School as we finished a McKenzie boatbuilding class. Sam was delighted to finally see an actual McKenzie boat after having drawn many renditions of them for Roger’s book. Both visits were inspirational and great honors.
Dynamite was a legendary boatbuilder and boatbuilding writer in Maine. I only got to spend one afternoon with him as he told us how to build a dory (totally different than what Sam Manning has instructed), and told us tales of fishing and boatbuilding. It’s hard to say he was a mentor, but so much soaked in during that short time.