Another wooden boat lives - By Jer Welch
I have been surprised that in this life raft and marine safety business we are involved in, that being a boater like myself puts me in the minority among my co-workers at RFD Beaufort Inc. I have been around boats and the water all my life, and enjoy a wide variety of boating activities. I have been sailing my own boats since I was 16 when I somewhat broke away from my Father’s motor boating, to purchase my first sailboat. I had dreams then of serious ocean voyaging, and sailing around the world in my own sturdy craft.
Those dreams are still with me, and I hope to someday in the not too distant future make some ocean crossings of my own, and live on my own sailboat. But for now, though, I am content with “messing about with many boats”. I have owned a wide variety of boats over the years, many with English or European connections. I once had a unique little mahogany sailboat called a “Norsk Nutshell”, which was built in Oslo, Norway. I also was the proud owner of an expedition sea kayak called a “Nordkapp”, built in England that I used for some great paddle trips on the Great Lakes. I currently have an English designed little day sailor (in addition to a larger cruising sailboat) called a “Mirror Dinghy”, a popular Jack Holt designed boat, first commissioned in the London Daily Mirror back in the early 1960’s.
In 2005 I acquired a very unique little craft, also from the UK, called a “Circraft”. This 7 foot round “saucer” boat is powered by an outboard engine, and was a precursor to personal water craft known popularly as “Jet-Ski’s”. They were imported into the US from England in the 60’s for a few years, and I picked up a rare one last summer and restored it. Quite a unique craft that you steer by leaning it from one side to the other, much like you do on ski’s. With a big enough outboard engine, the Circraft can pull a water skier behind and attain speeds of over 40 mph. It looks like a flying saucer or a very strange life raft! I got some strange looks from fellow boaters last year! (Check out www.britishwatersports.co.uk for details and video)
Some years ago also I acquired from the UK several plywood kayak kits, with the idea of selling them here in the US. This was before sea kayaking was very popular here, and I was likely about a decade ahead of the popular curve. I still have one kit left that I hope to assemble over the winter months. It is called a Triad K-1, which is a very fast and “tippy” long distance marathon racing kayak, similar to those used in the Olympics. I would use this on local lakes and rivers next season to train for some long distance racing I plan to get back into soon.
Probably the most beautiful boat that I have owned is one I recently restored this year. I “inherited” this unique and lovely 14 foot long mahogany boat from a neighbor of my family, who recently passed away. The gentleman used to fish on Lake Erie for a type of now extinct fish known as “blue pike”, which were a very popular game fish for many years on Lake Erie, before over fishing and pollution sadly drove them to extinction in the 1950’s. To make a long story short, I decided in June of this year to try and get this old boat (likely from the 1930’s, although its age has not been verified as yet) patched up, restored, and back in the water for an Antique and Classic Boat Show I usually enter each year at a local park called Portage Lakes State Park. I had my work cut out for me!
Suffice it to say, there were many difficulties and challenges associated with getting this boat ready (it had been out of the water, upside down on an ancient trailer for 40+ years) in less than 30 days, but with some perseverance and a lot of hard work and long hours, I am happy to say this latest nautical acquisition is water worthy and turned out beautifully. The only main problem was that the mahogany wood planks in the hull had shrunk so markedly over the years, that it took several weeks to swell to the proper size, to keep from leaking horribly, thus causing me to miss the Boat Show. But, no matter, she is now quite water tight and has garnered many positive comments from passersby. It would probably be prudent to keep a small 4 person RFD Crewsaver raft in a valise down in her tiny cabin, if I venture out onto the bigger waters of Lake Erie next season! It will be nice to return this boat to her “home waters” of this nearby “Great Lake”.
Fair winds and following seas for a happy, healthy holiday season to all!
Jerry Welch / RFD Beaufort Inc US Purchasing