It Takes Guts To Own A Wooden Boat

Our neighbour here in Down East Maine, where we have been refitting Morgan’s Cloud for the last three winters, is Jeff: lobsterman, talented photographer, Persian carpet dealer and, for the last two years, wooden sailboat owner.

Jeff is in the throes of replacing the horn timber and several other major pieces of the stern of his boat. This process is going on 50 yards from Morgan’s Cloud and involves a strange and scary mix of fine tolerances—he is fitting the new timbers to 1/16 inch—and brutal activities with a chain saw, sledge hammer, and even a truck pulling at the stern post.

After 45 years of what seems like just about continuous boat maintenance I think I know a thing or two about refitting boats, but this project awes me with the level of skill and dedication required—I quite simply would not know where to start.

Oh yes, there is one other cool thing about this: Anytime I get down about some difficult job on our boat that is not going that well, I just wander over and look at the gaping hole in the stern of Jeff’s boat that you could just about crawl through, surrounded by planks splayed like a partly peeled banana, and immediately I feel better about my own ‘trivial’ challenges.

Even better, the project is getting to the point that it is obvious that Jeff is going to pull this off and end up with a much better boat and one that he has confidence in. All in all, I’m amazed and impressed. Oh yes, and one thing I’m sure of; I do not have the guts to own a wooden boat.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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