Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated with transport, the vehicles that move us and our things from A to B with purpose, style, or grace and sometimes all three of those things at once. Like many, I eagerly devoured stories of high seas adventures, long treks through barren deserts, or pioneering flights into the unknown. After many year away, my wife and I returned home, to the land locked city of Juneau, Alaska in the fall of 2001, and I found that my interests shifted almost exclusively to boats. Being bound by salt water, boreal forests, mountains, and ice fields this is not surprising. To travel in Southeast Alaska means to boat or fly. What was surprising to me was that this interest developed into a desire, a desire to build a wooden boat. This is a story about how that desire became reality.
But first, let me back up a little bit.
I believe that we, as people, have an innate need to express ourselves creatively through direct interaction with our environment. But the tools needed to do that are less and less frequently passed on to our younger generations. This is especially true in this increasingly computerized age where even common social interaction comes with an interface. Things that were once common place in public schools like art, music, home economics, and shop class are increasingly squeezed out in the battle for higher test scores and shrinking budgets. This is a shame, kids end up missing out on the experience of connecting with the physical world in a real and creative way. Missing out on the process, they are left instead to come to it on their own. Some will be successful at this, but for many it will be a struggle to get there and some never will find that creative mastery of the physical and the self-confidence that comes with it. For me, the dream of interacting with my environment is expressed in the tangible process. In turning a wrench or running a hand plane along a board, achieving that fine fit as two pieces are joined perfectly together, or not so perfectly as is often the case. These actions that hopefully result in another opportunity to further the dream or open the door to an adventure that wasn’t there before.
Throughout high school and for a few years thereafter, it was trucks that held my attention more than any other mode of transportation. The dream of being able to hop in and go, go anywhere, see new things and have new adventures. For me this dream always included lots of sunshine and long stretches of desert highway. Probably not a very surprising dream for a kid from a land locked town in a temperate rain forest, but there it is. To that end, a string of ratty old Ford pickups came through and mostly stayed at my folks’ house. Armed with a mismatch of hand-me-down wrenches, a greasy shop manual, and a stack of Hot Rod magazines for inspiration, transmissions were changed (more than once), engines torn apart, differentials rebuilt, mashed fenders replaced, crunched cabs fixed, and there was sanding, oh so much sanding. Eventually one of those old pickups emerged with a shiny new coat of paint, ready to escape the confinement of the rain forest. The pickup was loaded up with tool box, a rucksack full of clothes, and the dog (a cheerful yellow lab named Shad-o). Off south we went, not quite sure what we were getting into, but buoyed by that youthful certainty that it would all work out.