|William Garden's Scow Schooner TILLICUM|
Once upon a time, we had two Mentors who, in many ways, were as different as different can be. Or they could have been brothers. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
Dale was handy, but by no means a 'proper' builder, being more likely to reinvent his own wheel. Fiercely intelligent, one could mistake sharp wit for rough edge. Dale walked the low-road, with a wary eye out for Big Brother. But get past the gruff, and you'd immediately strike gold. He was the first to take us under his wing, when we showed up on the waterfront, green as a pair of peas.
Van Hope was getting on in years, but active; a master boatwright, known and respected in wide circles. He gave sage counsel in a quiet voice to any who could spare a little time. We met while stuck on the hard... he'd cycle by most days to 'see how things are going', and always leave us with a handful of practical options. Never a word of advice, bluntly peppered with 'yagottas' and 'yacants'. Just information presented in the most gentle and unassuming manner.
Both men built a Garden Scow Schooner.
Dale bartered work for an old barge and a barrel of spikes. Unbuilding the barge from the top down, he'd transfer the 4x4 timbers to the scow, upside down in the shrinking barge hull. When their respective drafts neared an inch above their water-lines, he flipped and launched the scow, and continued to build skyward. When we met, the hull and house were done and the decks framed. By winter, all was enclosed and he was living aboard OBLIO, cooking beans on the huge, farm-style woodstove.
One day, I rowed by as he was sawing the sheer into the massive gunnels. No pencil line in sight, but his 'plans' - a photocopied page from a book of Garden designs - lay on the deck before him.
"I cut to where it looks right," he said. And by golly, if it didn't look right!
Dale finished up and rigged, the boat all black tar, with tired, motley sails recut for gaff. She was ever so salty and piratical. We spent many a fine evening aboard, basking in the warm cabin, lamp-lit with corners fading to dark, unpainted shadow.
Van built his scow, PATRICIA, by the book. The Old School book, to be sure.. not exactly fancy, but everything just so. I'd be willing to bet no line was a 32nd out of place. The paint was ordinary, hardware store oil base, but cut to a fine line and the colors in subdued harmony. He'd hand forged fittings from black iron. "A coat of Penetrol once a year," he explained, "and they'll never rust." Ship shape and Bristol Fashion.
Sadly, we weren't around while Van was building. Young bloods from the local boat scene pitched in for the experience... I hear they called it 'Scow School'. And Ivy League it was, I'll bet. Professor Hope leading by example and with understated humor.
A chicken coop went on the foredeck, and chickens in the coop. Anke loves that part the best. Always a stalwart crew, chickens, and PATRICIA had deck a'plenty.
Time rolls on. It wasn't long before both boats passed into other hands. Van died, a few years ago, in ripe and revered old age. Dale lives happily in an Undisclosed Location.
When I went to sniff out the scows' web-presence, the only hits were ominous entries in an ominous document:
Sometimes, when 'authorized public entities' remooooove a vessel, it goes up for auction. Like a puppy at the pound, there's some chance that a good owner will fall in love and take them home to a good life.
But I fear the worst.
There was a time, in a quiet harbor, the two scows met and rafted up together... we had a picture. Two salty sisters from different fathers - different as different can be - sitting quietly, side by side in the setting sun.
All part of a Tale.