One hot summer’s day I putted around the harbor in my fiberglass skiff. It was an absolutely perfect day, with a high cloud ceiling, low pressure, and low humidity. There was a perfect amount of wind, and everyone, it seemed, was on the water. Fishermen were catching ‘em up, sailors were coming about, kayakers were paddling in the shallows, and pleasure boaters were taking a cruise. There was a long line of boaters waiting to launch and haul, and so I waited for my turn by idling in the busy harbor.
While I waited I saw a gorgeous boat moored on a ball. I could not take my eyes off the boat featured in the picture above. She was made from wood, with meticulously scraped and painted hulls, well-oiled teak, and just a beauty to behold.
Over the years I have had a number of chances to buy a wide variety of wooden craft. I passed on a stable wooden canoe in favor of a lighter-weight fiberglass model. I passed on a wooden skiff and opted for one made from fiberglass. The fiberglass model was lighter in weight which meant I could save money by powering her with a smaller outboard. She’s virtually maintenance free, only requiring some soap and freshwater to rinse her down. And I passed on a wooden sailboat as I got a Hobie Cat, cheap. Why was it that I owned not a single wooden boat but my eye was drawn to one?
Not long ago, all boats were made from wood. The fact that they needed some TLC went with the turf, and there weren’t any other options. The lines were clean and traditional, their fittings were made from quality bronze, brass or stainless, and even the average trim work was representative of our maritime tradition.
What is it about a wooden boat that captures our attention? I chose fiberglass boats with good reason, and will probably always have a series of synthetic craft parked in my yard. But my next boat will be an old, wooden boat, one that I take my time on restoring and returning to a little slice of history. And I can only hope that she turns out as well as the boat in the picture.
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com