Recently, representatives of Newport's International Yacht Restoration school visited the Whaling City. (photo swiped from John Sladewski at the S-T. See more here.)It was nice to have the sleek hulls of well-tended historic gin-and-tonic barges slipping past the ol' hurricane barrier again. The last time I saw that many mahogany-laden fender carriers crowding up the Acushnet River was when a veritable flotilla of 'em ducked in behind the closing hurricane barrier to wait out Hurricane FizzleOut back last century.
The IYRS had just started up in 1993 when I and my shipwright friend Woody were spending all of our free time wandering around boatyards looking for a hulk we could salvage. Woody's girlfriend Sophronia was a bit high-maintenance -- albeit lovely and keen-witted -- so we needed something we could refit that would give her plenty of, er, legroom. During a rum-soaked boastfest at a Bristol pub, we heard about a Concordia being sanded in an old mill in Newport RI. Perhaps, our limey barkeep said, "those chippies had some scooby on another such beast."
After sneaking around the perimeter of the IYRS, Woody suddenly remembered having met the founder of the school while he was matriculating at The WoodenBoat School, so we burst into the workshop and waved off the guided tour and membership push. Sophronia was pacing off the Coronet to see if her wardrobe and pilates equipment would fit aboard, so Woody marched right up to IYRS founder Ms. Meyer. We all ended up at some gallery opening, chortling about Endeavour over the Alkoomi Riesling.
If, as Lord Nelson said, "Good ships and men rot in port," then ports themselves must lead the way to a newer, healthier water-logged economy. Without wharves, piers, quays, slips, and docks, where would those wonderful weekend burgee-wenches tie off for rendezvouses, regattas, and other bragpageants?
As someone who has leapt upon enough rickety docks with a dockline in one hand and an empty tumbler in the other, I know only too well the importance of proper dock maintenance. I have seen any number of sadly-neglected docks all over the Atlantic. And that's just in marinas.
To relieve the boating community and seaside oil artists (it's the watercolorists who dig the ramshackle), I suggested The International Dock Restoration School as an obvious concomitant to the fine work of the International Yacht Restoration School. Togther, we would make historic ships and their historic berths accomplish their ultimate shared purpose. And we would revitalize the sagging wharf-building industry with a shot of pure cynical workmanship. I promised to return the splendour of the carefully-crafted wharves of yesterday to our waterfronts, boy howdy! Our curriculum:
- Historical pierage: From stones and mortar to big granite rocks covered with barnacles. Where does Styrofoam fit?
- Cleats or bollards: A question of intent.
- Why use pressure-treated when you can continually replace the natural wood? Maintenance contracts the government way!
- The lost art of pile-driving.
- How to deal with wild heaving line throwers, and how to see them coming. Hint: It's not always the guy in the Grateful Dead Ship of Fools tie-die.
- Although some will argue that diving boards are too "modern," we scoff at their impudence. And yes, that marine blue fiberglass Big Rough Ride Rapids slide is an historical artifact! How to fashion a grant application that'll pay to replace that cascade nozzle and pump.
- Our special guest lecturer shows a long-lost dock building technique: