Of all the boat shops I've owned before, and the tale of sailing the two "Arawaks"
I know it has been quite a while since my last letter. A lot has been happening. Some of you already know but for those who don’t, we have sold the boatyards. I don’t want to sound like I’m gloating with this current economy but we did well and we were truly blessed with the timing. We survived through 9/11 and actually expanded from Florida to North Carolina during the 2008 economic collapse but this third one we’re in now is really something else with the entire world shut down.
We hesitated making an announcement of the real estate-only sale because the new owner of the boatyards, he specializes in sports fishing boats, didn’t want any public announcement. He just put his own signs up recently so we figured enough time has passed.
We’ve been approached before by prospective buyers but we accepted this offer not only because it was particularly attractive but because I turned 65 this year. Looking ahead to the days ahead of me, frankly, running 20 acres of boatyards wasn’t how I wanted to spend them.
We were doing bottom jobs, fiberglass work, catamaran refits, and dealing with fights over who unplugged boats, hurricane prep and cleanup, toilets being clogged, etc. We have met some wonderful people but it stopped being that much fun.
I wanted to get back to the fun part, to refocus my life, as a friend advised me. I love bringing wooden boats back to life and building them so I will limit my focus to just that. I have been building a new boat shop and putting the mobile truck back online for larger projects.
We have been so busy working on other projects that the M27 has been on hold for a while. We still have two major projects to complete. I have reduced my crew to the best, people who have been with me for years and don’t need babysitting because they don’t standstill, they know what they’re doing and they do it well. And this crew works well together, no ego, no turf wars.
So let me tell you about my new boat shop. I have owned three boat shops in my career. The first was the R.S. Colson Boat Works in Lubec, Maine built in 1886. It was moved from Canada in 1909 to Lubec and it was a long skinny building, 101 foot long, 27 foot wide and 17 feet high, cedar shaked with square cut nails.
We built a loft apartment over the machine room, 40x27’, and that old wood loft was home. It had hardwood floors and I installed a gorgeous arched window that came out of an old schoolhouse. The big picture windows in the back looked down on the Lubec Narrows. When the fishing boats would come in for the day, flocks of seagulls would give chase. I loved the quaint simplicity of that shop and when I think of “home,” that shop still sticks in my mind. The new shop I am building also has a loft and I cedar shaked the outside as well.
Then there was Moores Marine Lumber & Supplies in Riviera Beach, FL. I loved how everything fit so well and we were able to use every bit of space, from a retail store, lumber yard, work bays, tool room, offices and a storage loft. My office had an arched glass roof and Mexican tile floors. Once you stepped through the doors of the building, it was a whole different world than the gritty waterfront of Riviera Beach.
The third was Moores Marine Yacht Center in Beaufort, N.C. This started with an invite from my cousins Bud and Dottie Moores to Belhaven N.C., for Christmas. Riviera Beach was in the midst of its imminent domain debacle when entire neighborhoods were going to be taken out as part of some grand master redevelopment plan. Our business was going to be under a lagoon. There was a tiny boatyard for sale in Belhaven and I couldn’t see how the property would be able to pay the asking price because of its size and location.
But it planted the idea of building a boatyard in North Carolina. We found out about the Jarrett Bay Marine Industrial Park and bought the last large parcel available for sale. It was 17 acres of lowland. I had no idea how to turn marshy woods into a shipyard but somehow, with the help of a young engineer named Myron Meadows, we did. We opened in April 2007. I am still proud of what we built here. So the third boat shop was named the Myron Meadows building and it’s a 40 feet wide, 20 feet tall, and 70 feet long steel framed building.
After spending a hurricane in a 17—foot camper inside this building, I was amazed at how strong it was. So, in designing my newest boat shop, I took the strength of the Myron building, the look down to the barn doors from the Colson building and efficient use of space from our Florida shop.
Because of the virus and safety concerns, work on the new shop is on hold.
Now, on to the tale of the two Arawaks.
In my 20s, there was hurricane David that hit Dominica, tore up the Virgin Islands and even came all the way up to Lubec. When the waves went under my shop, which was on the water, it pushed up the nails and ripped up my boat shop floor. Boats and machines danced in places and the waves even scaled the shingles off the back and side walls.
While I was on my hands and knees, swinging a hammer to nail my floors back in place, the phone rings. It was my mom. “Do you want to go on a rescue mission?” she said. It was just what I needed to hear. The boat was either in St. Barts or the Virgin Islands. I don’t remember now. The captain panicked after the hurricane and stole the electronics and took off, leaving the boat in peril. The boat was owned by my mother’s friend. Her husband had just passed away. I was game.
After flying down and searching for the boat, we finally found “Arawak” in Tortola, BVI. She had broken loose, the batteries were under water, but surprisingly, she had otherwise survived pretty well. If the hatch had not been left open, there had been a lot of rain and spray, she probably would have fared fine through Hurricane David. But as it was, the boat looked terrible. We hauled her out at Tortola Yacht Services. I needed manpower so I called up friends in Lubec and Steve Reir, Bram Williams and Chris Allen were game. Within a few days, I had a team and we cleaned her out, pulling out a lot of old wires, painted up scratched up hull. The boat was really coming along. I would call my mother and give her updates and the bill kept racking up. So, on one update, she asked if the boat was worth $16,000. I said yes. “I am the new owner so slow down on your spending and send the crew home,” mom said. I talked my friends into staying. They wouldn’t get paid for working but get $50 a week and food. It didn’t take them long to figure out how cheap Cruzan rum was in the islands, $2.50 a pint back then. They stayed but it was hard to keep them sober. We were all young back then.
James and I cruised the new "Arawak" from Maryland to North Carolina and got attacked by an overprotective duck and had breakfast of fried eggs on pizza so yeah, a lot of fun.
The ”Arawak” was a beauty. She was a 47’ ex racing boat designed by Ted Hood and built in Holland by Frans Maas. This boat was magic. Beautiful in form and amazing to sail. My mother named her “Arawak.” Built in 1966, she had elegant line, a wake?? bottom and a center board 4-1/2 feet up and 11’ board down.
We sailed her back to Florida, most of the way on a broad reach. Like the ruby slippers, we just flew home. My friend Steve, who has since passed away, once told me that was the high point of his life, sailing together on the “Arawak.”
I’ve been thinking of Donald Trumpy’s words the last time I saw him, that now is the time to refocus, and do the things I really want. It all started with my youngest son, James, or at least I will blame him for my madness. When you own a boatyard, some people give up on paying and their dreams.
James would climb up on some of the abandoned boats to check them out. There was Tartan 30, the perfect size, but there were just too many parts missing. Then, there was this beautiful Swedish built sailboat. I was surprised at that one. No one had paid the storage bill for months and we finally got ahold of a woman who we think was the mother of the two young men who brought the boat in with a bad engine. She said, “I’m not paying any more for that boat” and hung up. The boat was soon the yard’s. Going inside, the boat was stripped. The motor was gone and so were the electronics. But they left all the food and garbage. I told James to go take a look inside. It was love at first sight.
"Atla" looks like a swan, a crisp bow, tumblehome amidships, very high tech racing rigging. Built in Sweden in 1974, she is a Peter Nowlin 34 MK 1, and the perfect size. James named her “Atla,” after a lesser known Norse goddess of the sea and of fury. His thinking is Atla may appreciate the homage and have more time to be attentive in keeping the boat safe than say the more popular Neptune. He cracks me up. Nowlin designed and built only 50 boats and they are rugged and fast. So, in helping my son get his boat together, it rekindled my love of sailing. My middle son, Andre, also loves sailing so that’s how this story will begin.
I have always been fascinated with free-stayed rigs, Freedoms and Nonsuch. So I started looking around and there were two for sale in New Bern, N.C., just up the road from us. There was a 40’ ketch rig. Margaret and I hopped in the car to take a look. Beautiful boat but could I handle it by myself? Probably not. The next was a 30-footer. Beautiful but too small. Then on a whim, while I was in Florida, we looked at a 36. Nice boat. But a quick glance around showed the maintenance was questionable. The boat had every screw known to man. I didn’t want another project. So we went to look at a Freedom 40 in Wisconsin while we were there. Snow laid on the decks and there was a soft feeling under my feet on the soggy decks. Not a good sign.
I didn’t give up. I got on the web and started really looking at the Nonsuch 33. Not too big or small but the closest one was in Maryland. So I called the number and a lady answered. She said it was her husband’s boat and to call the broker. The broker told me as much as possible. Richard, the husband, had prepared the boat for sail through New England when he fell ill and suddenly passed away. The boat was well maintained so I put in an offer subject to inspection.
James and I went North to survey the boat and was impressed. I looked at the prop and said to James the only thing I would change was getting a Max prop. It’s a prop that makes the boat sail faster, feather out flat under sail. While we were inside inspecting the boat, James pulls out a box and says “like this?” I look down and sure enough, there it was a brand new Max prop. “Sold!” I said. The current name “Gypsy” will go away and in honor of my mother and one of the greatest adventures in my life, I’m going to name her “Arawak.”
It's not like other boats I have seen. Her mainsail is 550 square feet of sail with a huge wing with a wishbone boom that you finesse the shape to get the perfect shape. I have a lot to learn. The boatyard launched the boat and told me after the fact. James and I are on our journey home but not in any kind of hurry. Just adventuring south. She was a little creaky at first but now sailing and motoring just fine.
And during this trip, I thought, yes, refocus on things like this.
I just want to ask everyone to be safe and God bless. I promise to write more often.
Until Next Time,