The ultimate man cave, my ideas of slowing down
Good things take time or so I have been told. When I bought a small
fisherman’s house in Beaufort, it just needed a little work. At least I wish that was
the case. There was a soft place in the living room, there was rot there.
As I pulled the wallpaper down, I realized there was trailer- type paneling
and no insulation. Soon we stripped it down to the bones, to a shell of a house.
I do not watch house renovation shows where in six weeks the house is done, but
Margaret said “I want the house to be like a Trumpy from a galley-type kitchen to
the long back and front porch. We created something special transforming a vinyl
covered house into two cottages you might see in Maine. The guest house has a
Trumpy bedroom with all the furniture from Trumpy yachts that are no more such as the writing desk from “Ibis,” “White Swan’s” chest of drawers as well as from “Jacqueline.” The furniture is from three different decades.
Through the years I have collected and have been given pieces off yachts. It was easy to amass a large collection and we once had the space for it. We had a shop in Florida, a house, and boatyards. Wicker tables and chairs to parts off the hull of the “Honey Fitz”, I stored them for later use. I wanted to create something special. The house has been done for quite a while. This year’s project was the “barn” or the ultimate boat shop. I wanted to build it bigger, but it just would not look right. I wanted a place (a man cave) that I could work in and an office that would be bright with big windows looking down on the shop floor.
There are artifacts, photos, and life rings from yachts we have restored. We
would offer to make new ones in exchange for old ones. The boat shop is
designed to withstand 200 mph winds, which I hope to never see. I built a safe
room in the building just in case. This is the last part of the barn story.
The Trumpy, “Jacqueline,” was my boat. We acquired her from a yard in
Key Largo where she lay dying. We brought her up to Riviera Beach where we
started her restoration. New motors, electrical, generator, plumbing, and
rebuilt the hull sides.
After opening the shipyard, we decided to ship her north. New stern and
stem cabin sides were repaired. She was moved out of the shop and shrink wrapped. Three years she slept. One day I decided to restart the project climbing aboard my little Trumpy, and I found the termites had taken over and done so much damage that it was not worth continuing. I had named her after my mom. She had such beautiful handwriting, so I found one old cashed check and gave it to my friend Steve Kneipp with a little adjustment. He hand lettered and gold leafed my mother’s signature on the transom. The little yacht was too far gone so she was stripped and cut up. I said to my crew that I wanted to save the transom.
So, I saved it though I didn’t know what to do with it. A few years have gone by, I hope that this is not sacrilegious but I saved a part of my dream boat with my mother’s name. We have installed it onto the end of our building. We will keep up with the varnish and it makes our boat shop truly complete.
I don’t know who started the legend of the $2 bill but it is said that
if you get paid on your first job with a $2 bill, save it and frame it for it will
bring you good luck. I met Dan Bixler, who owns a 1956 Chris-Craft.
We instantly hit it off and I told him about my new shop. He stepped up and told me he wanted to be the first boat in the shop. Dan’s boat is very original and in great shape. She has been taken care of through the years things like re-chroming and upholstery have been done. Her motor needed a little TLC so my friend Jim Hartman pulled the motor and then she came to us for some bottom tightening, varnishing, and re-seaming. Sometimes it rains then it pours. Rob Toth the owner of “Top Priority,” the 50-foot Constellation Chris Craft called. He had a serious leak at the shaft logs and rudders. He was en route to Michigan.
The boat is like new with a long way left to go. He decided to fix it now. We are busy but a boat in distress gets on the schedule. I go back to my Maine days. Maybe the water is not so cold here but that sinking feeling is not something you want on a boat. I told him we would do it. “Top Priority” is in really good shape. The story the owner told me was that he had looked long and hard at this boat and when he decided to put in an offer it was already under contract.
The new owner had taken her to Jacksonville, Florida. Two years go by and
Rob sees her listed on Yacht World. He did not hesitate to put in an offer and
flying down. That is where the story starts. So, what caused the problem was that
the boat was in cold fresh water then spent two years in warm saltwater and electrolysis. Why, one, saltwater conducts electricity better and two, there are bigger marinas down south with a lot more stray currents.
Now, watering the grass sounds like retirement to me. So why am I consulting on the “Honey Fitz” project in Florida, down to hand selecting the boards, to adding more projects to our schedule rather than slowing down? I can’t say no to clients who have been good to us over the years.
The last boat we did in Florida was a 26-foot Triple Cockpit Chris Craft, stripping her down and retightening her for David Foster of Jupiter, Florida. David kept calling me, “I got this new boat a Maine Lobster Yacht and they just dropped it off on my doorstep. Here is a list, give me a call and let me know how it is going.” Another client on 50-foot motor yacht took his boat to Maine after a major refit a year or so ago and just called. “Can I bring her back to you?” The answer was “Yes.” These are good customers and friends.
This week I fly to Florida to help with the “Honey Fitz,” and laser target and oversee the hauling and blocking of a 1947 Trumpy, The “Aurora II”, for Lou Jezdimir.
I thought about stopping or at least slowing down but that’s not me. I will retire to a pine box one day but until then I have things to do. Stopping now would be a waste of a lifetime of learning. It took so many years to even understand the complexities of yacht restoration. It would be a shame to let it slip out of me.
So, my new definition of retirement is this: To work for a group of people
who appreciate us and their boats. I know that it sounds a little silly, but it is really not.
I have seen so much poor-quality work done. As well as poor choice of priorities. All that antique furniture and priceless knick knacks aren’t going to be worth much if the hull gives out one day because the only thing holding it together is a shiny new paint job. I have always said safety is the most important part of yachting and that’s why we put structural work before cosmetic.
As I sit at my desk with the sun shining through the windows in my new office with as many of the old artifacts as I could keep or have room for, I realize my life is good. And, I am grateful for still being able to do the things that give me joy and have meaning. What else is there in life?