Boats in a Marina

Wooden boats and friendship

Tracey Columns

Years ago, my husband expanded his love of woodworking to include building wooden boats. No matter that he didn’t know the first thing about sailing. A boat was a challenge and, more importantly, it was one more thing he could create out of wood and since I had grown up sailing in San Diego, I thought he had a great idea.

He started small, with a sweet little 14’ sailboat. (I sewed the sails and quickly decided that making sails wasn’t my calling.) But in spite of our respective inexperience, that beauty scooted across the water just fine. Next came an 18’ sailboat that all of our kids learned to sail and some time later, he turned his attention to a handsome rowing wherry.

But it wasn’t long before he was onto the next boat. After much thought and careful consideration, he embarked on building a 23’ 9” pilot house cruiser. (Think east coast lobster boat.) By far the most complex and intricate boat he had ever tackled, after two years of his dedicated labor, we launched Descant on Humboldt Bay.

For the last seven years, this beautiful wooden boat has been our floating home away from home. As happy empty-nesters, every summer we head north to play among the San Juan Islands or explore the Gulf Islands of Canada, We’ve made our way all the way up to Canada’s Desolation Sound and have explored the stunningly beautiful Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls.

But this year, we ended our vacation a little differently, as participants in Washington’s “Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival”. A revered gathering for wooden boat lovers throughout the country, we were honored to have Descant selected for inclusion. (It’s high praise for a wooden boat builder to be a part of this 38 year tradition.) We were thrilled at the prospect of spending three entire days among so many like-minded people. (An estimated 35,000 people attended this year’s Festival.)

We also had an ulterior motive — Descant was up for sale. Thanks to his retirement, my husband is already half way through the next boat! (We want to be cruising for as many years as we can and a boat with a few more conveniences is in order; it’s how we can continue to pursue our interests while we age. Regrettably, in spite of our treasured memories, we couldn’t justify keeping Descant. Oh, and let’s not forget the financial issues!) The Festival was the perfect place to find someone who would appreciate the craftsmanship, design, and care a wooden boat requires.

However, because of all of these unique requirements, and the reality of the country’s economic recovery, we also understood that selling Descant was a long shot.   Imagine our surprise when, the morning of the first day, before the gates to the Festival had even officially opened, I received a text on my phone. “Hi, I’d like some more information on your boat. Please call me, Joe.”

Bam! By noon the next day, following a spectacular ‘sea trial’, Descant had new owners, Joe and Judy, a retired couple who fell in love with our little wooden boat. (I knew it was a done deal when Joe took the helm. The look on his face said it all.) Descant is now off to Texas and LBJ Lake.

But perhaps the best part of this story is that in this great big universe of ours, we happened to meet two of the nicest people imaginable. They were good-natured and honest, problem-solvers right down to the very last detail. (Selling a boat, over a weekend, when both parties live thousands of miles away from each other and no one is in his/her hometown, … well, it took a fair amount of head scratching.) Naturally, the four of us had to navigate some difficult details but we would always return to a comfortable place.

In all likelihood, someday we may hook up our next boat and head on out to Texas. (LBJ Lake – who knew?) I can see it now – a mini-flotilla of Descant I and Descant II, crewed by four smiling Boomers, happy that something like a sweet wooden boat could bring all of them such contentment … and friendship.

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