Monday, June 27, 2011

Maritime Merriments in Mystic, from Menhaden to Morgan part. 1

Since my father was a little kid, he's been going to Mystic to see the square riggers, but life happened (four times in the form of four sons) and he didn't get to see the tall ships as often as he liked. We've been trying to make up for lost time and you can see the smile on his face in this picture as we are about to depart early Thursday morning for what was going to be a weekend of fun and adventure!

I love blogging about this sort of thing, but there is one tiny downfall in that I can only upload 5 pictures to each blog, so I chose five pictures from that of which my father took that give a general feel for the show and then in the later parts of the Mystic blog will be just tidbits from here and there along the way. Unfortunately we did not shoot any of the other folks entries in the "I built it Myself" section of the show, the one we were in. I don't know what we were thinking. I suppose that we were too busy to understand that we were part of, in my opinion, the heart of the show. Sure the larger yachts and sailing vessels are magnificent in every way, craftsmanship, ingenuity and beauty with countless hours of blood, sweat and tears were poured into them but there is something different to the hobbyist who is doing it out of fun, or "therapy" as many of my neighbors in this section describe it. It's a minute difference, really, but significant. I sound like a politician. Ha ha ha. Truthfully, I can't put a finger on it. But lets get to the meat of the story....

I had bought the tickets for our room at the Olympic Best Western about a month ago with the idea that we might be finished the canoe and bring it along to the show in some capacity. Well as the days passed and we knew that it wasn't going to be, we abandoned the idea of bringing anything with us. I have these two wooden surfboards that I had made that are in different stages of finishing (as I find the finish on a wood craft to be daunting) and wasn't real sure if I even wanted to bring them. Two massive heat waves followed by mega humid days put the kibosh on any varnishing ideas and to tell the truth I wasn't keen on more varnishing since getting it right was eluding my attempts. I gave up on the idea of bringing them and decided to just hit the show for one day and the other day go to the submarine museum. My Dad was totally down with this plan because he injured his knee while working on the canoe really hard one day and wanted to take it easy. But then it hit both of us at the same time to bring the surfboards and show them off, what the heck! He could just sit there with ice on his knee while I talked to interested visitors. So a scramble ensued to get the boards ready. The Wormhole surfboard is finished with an epoxy that is supposed to be UV protected, but it's not and I wanted to get that done somehow, but time was running out and I had no ideas or time to ship any products to my house let alone the money to buy it with, so I just decided to polish it as best I could. My best was not good enough. I was wet sanding and building a huge milky latte froth up (it looked quite tasty honestly) and couldn't get out the scratches. I had wet sanded for 30 years, but never more than to a 400 grit shine because most of my polyester surfboards were fine with 400, they looked great! But this finish did not. My uncle dropped by the shop like he does at various times and usually catches me at some stage of working and I am glad that he caught me then because he set me straight with how to use wet dry paper with just enough time for me to finish the night before the show. Don't make a latte with the material!!!!! Use a ton of water and rinse it often. This method extended the life of my sand paper by about 20 minutes as well. Thanks Uncle Rich! Where were you 30 years ago? ha ha ha... The Rainstick, my other surfboard is a varnished one. It's more like a varnish experiment in progress. I've been having trouble getting one complete side of the board done due to the varnish pulling too soon. I actually got pretty good at doing sections of the board, but you can still see the brush marks and was at an impasse so I decided not even to attempt another coat until I learned a little more about it. So I learned a little about it this weekend! Thank you Woodenboat Show!!! Well I got the boards ready, washed out my board bag which was encrusted in wax and sand and sat back and had a few home brewed beers as I made a few tie dye shirts to wear to the show. I hadn't tie dyed in 20 years and something was amiss with that endeavor as well, but the shirts were given to me for free, so it was a neat experiment. I plan on delving back into that hobby as I was pretty good at it at one time and I really like doing them! Besides, it's a good way to enjoy a home made porter! Speaking of which, Sailor Jerry is calling my name. BRB... Oh that's tasty!

In the above picture we see an unsuspecting Cork Null with a huge smile on his face. I greet him similarly as well as we pack the car. Indeed I looked at the weather last night and gleaned that there was a 30% chance of precipitation in Mystic and everywhere along the route to Mystic so, I packed a long sleeve turtleneck shirt to deal with any weather eventualities. I laugh as I write this as the prediction for precipitation was only 30% in reality 75% of our trip was in complete and utter deluge keeping the speed of travel on our route to about 20 MPH. We took the Pallisades PKWY for the scenery, we got torrential rain! I have these little air valves on the surfboards that I keep open when travelling, etc... basically all the time they are out of the water, well I had forgotten about them, but when it started with the deluge it finally dawned on me that they were open. YIKES! That could be problematic in a worst case scenario, but no water entered the boards, and probably wouldn't have even if I didn't close the valves. So when were weren't dodging a billion habanero sized raindrops, mudslides, rock slides and hydroplane danger zones, the other 25% of the time we were stuck in gridlock on route 95. My poor Dad had to white knuckle it the whole way while the raindrops lulled me to sleep. We were on the road for about 8 hours! Luckily it gave me time to call the good people at Woodenboat Magazine and find a spot to put my boards! A special thanks goes out to Sandra Turner, Patty Hutchinson and Ray Clark for coordinating with each other and getting me settled! Thanks so much guys, with my dad's hurt knee we were unsure for the last week leading up to the show that we were even going to go. Wednesday night I was about to cancel the hotel room as my Dad's knee looked pretty bad! You guys made it happen for us, thanks for letting us participate in one of the coolest events that we have ever been to!

Well, it all payed off. We got to our hotel, lugged the surfboards inside, got showered up and headed off to the Harp and the Hound which if I were to have a pub, this is how I would do it. We go there every year and the owner John has a smile for us and cold pints of Smithwicks. The menu is perfect for a publican. Shepherds pie or bangers and mash. Simple and elegant! It is a nice quite place to have 3 pints or more on a Thursday night, shoot the shit with Tim Quick from the museum and just chill. A great place. I look forward to it every year. With a good buzz and a light sprinkle in the cool misty air we headed out for a little walk around Mystic. The shops are mostly closed, we didn't care, we head to the waterfront areas and look at the boats, dream about sailing and just living on board for the rest of our lives and then head back to the room a little clearer minded from the walk in the fresh air.

Thursday morning found us a little too early around 7:30. I had no interest in getting up but I can't sleep knowing how amped my Dad is about starting his day and getting to the show so he does his morning thing, I do mine, and we go eat our free hot brekkie at the hotel. I will tell you, a nice hot breakfast sure does wonders!

We get to the show a little late which worked in our favor since most everyone was already unpacked and we had a nice area to unpack our gear at the vendors gate. Having small surfboards I think we were able to get away with a little more than those with the larger craft which was kind of cool, but I didn't want to hold anyone up so I went into high gear to get our spot set up and was a little rough around the edges in dealing with my Dad. He just wants to mellow and have a good time and I was in "gotta get there" mode. But it's like water and a ducks feathers with my dad. It's all good. We got settled in amoungst a great group of people with some really fantastic boats and embarked on a truly memorable time surrounded by good people and good stories! My dad loves telling stories and I like hearing them! Some I have never heard before like the time he sprung one on me on how he built a model nuclear reactor in the sixties at a R&D job that he had with the Franklin Institute! NO. WAY!!!!!

I tell ya, we were so busy for the three days that we didn't really have the time to fully experience the show. We would go for walks at separate times, sometimes together and leave the photo book that I had documenting the construction process with the surfboards, which really was pretty helpful in explaining the process. I'm glad that we chose to make that! I mean the blog is really cool and helpful, but at the show, photos are where its at and it helps to have them in good order!

Friday's show was a blast! It was mellow and all of us had time to bond and tell stories. The weather was overcast and cool which reminded me of how much I miss Oregon because I truly like that weather. The day went off without a hitch and later that night we hit the Voodoo Grill for some of thee best Cajun food I have ever eaten. The place isn't large, but the atmosphere is. The building it is in is a former manufacturing complex I bet built in red brick and it is perfectly preserved. It has a red brick interior which I enjoy, a small bar, which I also enjoy, about 15 or so tables and a a small outside area. Number one on the menu, always consider the chef's specialty even if you can bank on one of your favorites being good. In this case my theory paid off when I got the Shrimp and Mudbug etouffee. My dad got the tried and true pulled pork. He then died and went to heaven. Much merriment ensued. Sailor Jerry was passed around. A one man band deserted by his fellow band members played You Don't Know How it Feels by Tom Petty and a cool buzz followed once again. Again it was followed by the walk around town to ogle all the nice boats moored and at dock. I may have shed a tear a few times here and there in a dark part of a dock somewhere as Sailor Jerry built up in my bladder. You can take the kid out of Philly, but not the Philly out of the kid. Meh, it was raining anyway.

Saturday! Now Saturday was one heck of a busy day at the show! Sunday heard many complaints of my neighbors losing their voice by the end of Saturday. Wow, I don't know what the turnout of the show was, but we sure were busy! OMG we met some really cool people from all over the world! It was just amazing! I never knew how many surfers there were. It seems like most of the sailors were surfers. I'd have to say that meeting Glenn Gordinier from the museum was the highlight of the weekend. That guy is the word cool. It just so happens that we both surfed the same spots in Jersey and some in Oregon and know some of the same cats some that have passed on with much regret. Man I could have went on and on about how cool George from Surfers Supplies in OC, NJ was. That guy would leave surfwax out on his shops doorstep for my brother and I because we needed it well before the store opened. I was coming to him for my polyester resin and advice in 1985. Man, those were the days of surfing for me. It wasn't crowded yet. Ocean City was more so than Atlantic City and my brother Keith and I soon found ourselves there accidentally as we missed our exit on the AC expressway in the middle of a blizzard and never went back to Ocean City. AC was golden! Glenn brought all those memories back. He's got a book called Cold Water Surf Stories or something of the like soon. Be sure to catch that book, it's guaranteed a good read! The events of Saturday night were more subdued. I found myself at Zhang's with my father. Zhang's is next to Voodoo Grill and much more mellower. I fell in love with the Vietnamese waitress, ahhhhhh such beauty, and I fell in love with the Crispy Spicy Tuna Rolls that were on special. OMG! OMG! OK, I have sushi like 4 times a year maybe??....???? But I tell ya, a california roll battered in tempura, topped with tuna paste, salmon eggs and that special hot sauce is something to cherish. Add a nice wad of wasabi to the mix and you will not have a better plate of sushi! It was the perfect combination for me! All my favorites in one bite! That is a must have! I was off my game though. The rum punch did me in and I didn't make my move on the waitress. I tell ya, if there weren't the beauty of Connecticut, the ocean, the ocean air, the majestic boats and ships, the friendly nature of the locals and the fresh air I would still want to marry her and move to Mystic! I never listen to rule number one: never fall in love with a waitress or bartender! After that we went to the Harp and the Hound for a round and I was regretting leaving Zhang's the whole time!

Sunday was mellow again at the show. Nothing notably stressful happened. Chewed the fat with John Allegra again. He's the livery guy who runs the horse and buggy rides. He is a truly genuine guy. His sense of humor is reminiscent of a Philadelphian in some ways so he was easy to get along with. He got a kick out of our father and son duo like so many other people did I think. He was just another one of the people that made our stay at the show fly by too fast. And it did. I wish we had more time!

The real meat of the show for us was the exhibit that we were in. But we did manage to get out and see some of the sights and chat it up with the other exhibitors.
Some of the things that caught my dads eye behind the camera were sights like the massive hull of the whaleship Charles Morgan. You really don't get the magnitude of the hull and of the project from this picture but just take a look a the size of the guy next to the lift and you might get an idea. You really have to see it up close. It's HUGE! The steambox for the planks is like 40 feet long! I tell ya, those bow planks must be a bugger to replace! The curve in them is unimaginable!

Here is an Indonesian fishing vessel built recently by a local tribe there and adorned in all the traditional art. It's pretty cool to see the similarities of design that developed between cultures so far from each other!

Got Tillers? Some of the real education at the museum is in the teaching of sailing to younger students. I'd say that they have a few boats for a few students wouldn't you? It's just a cool picture and my dad saw it. He knows what he's doing that guy.

This pic is what it's all about. Kids are getting out there and getting involved in something that is sometimes completely alien to what they have lived and learned and it really opens their eyes to a future that they never thought possible. Nature has a way of doing that when we are exposed to her. And what better way to be exposed to nature than on a beautifully crafted piece of art that glides across a beautifully crafted body of water?

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