While I was on Boat of the Year duty in Annapolis, Maryland, and a few hundred miles from home, one evening this past October, I got the phone call that any boat owner dreads. A strong southerly gale was raking the Massachusetts coast, including the exposed harbor north of Boston where we keep our O’day Daysailer,
Scoot. The harbormaster had just received word that a small blue sailboat—our small blue sailboat!—was upside down in the surf. Ugh. Ironically, just moments earlier my wife had called to report that it was windy and rough, but that our little vessel seemed to be doing OK out on its mooring. It’s still a mystery as to whether the boat was knocked flat by a wave or flipped in a gust. What was clear at the time was that conditions were far too rough for anyone to try to get out to it.
The next morning, my daughter, her husband and a couple of friends were up at dawn to see what could be salvaged. Working from a skiff, they managed to get the Daysailer upright, but its mast had snapped at deck level and at the spreaders. The bottom portion of the spar was missing, as were boat hooks, a whisker pole, a sail bag containing the jib, and another small sack of tools and whatnot. The boom and mainsail were still attached to the boat though, and luckily the rudder had remained wedged in under the deck forward of the centerboard trunk, along with two original O’day paddles. It took some wrangling, but they managed to tow the boat to the town boat ramp, finished bailing it out, got it on a trailer and towed it home.
Funny, but it all seemed like good news when they called to let me know. I mean, with many thousands of Daysailers around, how hard could it be to find a new mast?
The Sunday I got home from Boat of the Year adventures, my wife and I took a walk, and as we strolled past the beach, off which Scoot’s mooring sits, I half-jokingly asked if she had walked it yet in search of debris. And then, stopping on the road to peer over the fence, I saw something white in the washed-up seaweed. Sure enough, we got our jib back—a bit sandy but otherwise fine.
Days later, I returned to the beach and found our Thirsty Mate bilge pump. Another morning, I spotted the bright orange missing tool sack just above the beach’s tide line. The bag was punctured and tattered from rolling in the surf, and the tools were missing, but still, perhaps they’d wash up? Stranger things had already happened. But the big breakthrough in
Scoot’s reincarnation came the day after New Year’s, when my brother spotted an ad for used sailboat parts on Craigslist. I called the number and was somewhat amazed when Steve Goodale answered right away.
Of course he had a keelstepped Daysailer mast, and by luck, I’d called just before he was about to cut it up and turn it into a deck-stepped mast for a customer interested in the Daysailer he also had in stock. He assured me he had other spars to modify, and said I should come take a look.
The following Saturday, I drove north to South Berwick, Maine, and found Steve in his yard, waiting for me in his pickup. As I pulled in and parked, I sat for a moment to take it all in: There were boats and sails and trailers and dinghies and kayaks and twisted metal and, well, stuff, everywhere, all of it sitting alfresco in the semifrozen Maine mud.
And there by his truck was a pair of used Proctor Daysailer racing masts—one full-length with the end fitting I needed, the other cut and ready for a tabernacle, which Steve tried to convince me really was the way to go.
Steve, it turns out, was a talker. He’d been a boatbuilder early on, then a building contractor for a few decades farther up the coast, but for the past eight years, he’d been in South Berwick, picking up old boats and any other nautical stuff he could turn around and sell. He was fixing up a Cape Dory Typhoon for one potential customer, the aforementioned Daysailer for another, a Yngling for a third.
Up in Penobscot Bay there’s an island in Merchant Row that I became intrigued with a couple of summers ago. It’s named Hell’s Half Acre, and there isn’t much there but granite, a sparse stand of trees and a couple of campsites.
I don’t know why I thought of it driving home with the new-to-me mast strapped to the racks on my pickup, but for any owner of a good old cheap boat like Scoot, Steve’s yard, chockful of parts, is just the opposite: Heaven’s Half Acre. And I’m betting I’ll be back.
As I pulled in and parked, I sat for a moment to take it all in: There were boats and sails and trailers and dinghies and kayaks and twisted metal and, well, stuff, everywhere, all of it sitting alfresco in the semifrozen Maine mud.