From the Gazette edition of May 15, 1953:
“I’m easing the limber holes in the floors,” Cap’n Roy Smith explained. “This brig doesn’t leak, but she does take rainwater, and there’s something gone wrong with the rain lately. She comes down loaded with germs and microbes, some of ‘em so big that they can’t go through the limber-holes! I’ve got to ease ‘em some, so’s the cussed microbes will run through to pump the intake!”
We were skeptical and we said so. “All right,” says Roy, “you just stand by until I come on deck and I’ll fetch up a few! Egad,” says he. “I’ve caught a couple here the size of snapper lobsters!”
We decided against waiting around to see Roy’s microbes. There are some things we would rather not know too intimately.
We stood on to make the Colby Shipyards an ancient institution dating from 1509 or thereabouts, when the Mayflower or maybe ’twas the Santa Maria, hauled out there to have a started butt repaired.
Like ancient cities, this shipyard is built on the ruins of half a dozen older ones, and after a blow, relics of the dim and musty past are washed out of the sand: tools, tracks, anchors, everything except maybe some long forgotten shipbuilder, and we have never been quite sure about this!
Cap’n Albert Allen who holds all records for the North Atlantic with the electric screwdriver at extreme ranges, was out on the tracks with Cap’n Joe Andrews, the ballast specialist and Bunk, the waterline and boot top artist. The job on hand was the installing of an auxiliary engine in the bilges of a brig.
Now let it be understood that Albert is a sailor-man, who, from choice, would depend on canvas. “They will ruin a perfect cargo space for the sake of shoving one of these dirty, stinking things which can blow up, set you on fire or refuse to run, and thereby ruin every cussed hope a man may have in the hereafter!” says he. Albert was crouched under the carlines, trying to fit a casting into a bed-piece with a cabinet-maker’s chisel. It is a difficult thing to do.
Joe stood by, lending a hand everywhere, and worrying. “Because,” says he, “here’s a six hundred pound chunk of hardware that stands up halfway to the deck. You’ve got to discount half its weight in figuring ballast, because it stands so high, and yet that very height makes more heft necessary. The rules of stability are all shot to the devil every time a man puts a gas engine in a boat!” Joe was so torn up that he forgot to talk like the OPA agents used to.
“Ah, cripes!” says Bunk, stirring up a pot of bottom paint, “ ’tis just another one of those things. Somebody broke their heart locating the water line, and now here comes a blasted engine and nobody is going to care where it is any more, or even if there is one!”
A shipwright’s life is not a happy one, and you may lay to that. Though every job he does may inspire admiration, he has got to break his neck, dislocate his back, twist his keelson and slack up his back stays to do plenty of ’em! And then, but Godfrey, a pilgrim will come along and howl to high heaven about the bill! We would rather be a plumber, ye gods!
We laid a course for Edgartown and came to the wind off Orin Norton’s blacksmith shop. Orin was making a door knocker. A knocker which consisted of a plate on which an anchor was hung. The banging of the anchor against the plate caused the knock of the knocker. But the anchor was causing trouble.
“Why’nel fuss with it?” says we. “It’s only a sort of a hammer.”
“You don’t understand,” says Orin, tapping the thing here and there. “It’s got to be balanced to a hair. You see,” he explained, warming up some, “an anchor, when in use, always tips over and hooks when she takes a strain. Well now, this one will have a mite of strain on her all the time and if she’s hung right, she will knock without being touched!”
“Now who the devil wants a knocker that will keep right on knocking?” says we.
“My client is an unusual person,” says Orin. “He wants it this way. When anyone wants to board him, the knocker will stop knocking and let him know that way!”
We honestly believe that Orin has some of the most peculiar clients living! Certainly we have never cut the wake of any such folks anywhere else!
We stood on for Manuel’s and the old sculpin was up in his forepeak hunting up special lumber to go into Doc Wilson’s brig. We don’t know how many varieties there will be. Cedar, pine, apple wood, oak, cypress, fir, mahogany, all these certainly, but there must be more! “She mustn’t shrink, she mustn’t straighten, she mustn’t hog, and she mustn’t bilge nor leak!” says Manuel.
“Well, Doc didn’t say anything about that,” says Manuel.
The catalogue of comments offered thus far by the gallery includes the following: “Too lean in the quarters, too low forward, too high amidships too full aft, too high in the bow, too narrow in the beam, too beamy, too heavy, she’ll pull hard. Too light, she won’t hold on, timbered too close, planked too heavy, too light in the planking, timbers light, too!”
Compiled by Alison L. Mead