10 Jun

Days like this: warm, calm, filled with June promise, remind me of Provincetown when, as a young man, I learned my trade at Flyer’s Boatyard.
Often, the first task of the day was clearing the railway of the sand the tide and wind had conspired to cover. We had as much as an eleven foot tide which allowed the railway to travel hundreds of feet along the gentle slope to the low water line and below. It was my job, armed with a long handled shovel to dig out the hundred foot or so of sand, eight to ten inches deep, pitching it clear of the tracks, creating a clear path for the cradle to pass in order to haul one of the sixty or so fishing draggers that made Provincetown Harbor it’s home.
I loved the work. No need for a gym. shoveling sand against the tide. It had to get done. A boat was going to be hauled. Nothing would stop that event but sand. It would be on me if the sand wasn’t moved before the encroaching tide, so it was a kind of race. Occasionally Flyer would stick his head out of shop to check on me, hurling encouragement with comments, my favorite of which was, “You handle a shovel like a cow handles a musket.”
I shoveled sand, scraped and painted eighty foot fishing draggers, and put up with Flyer’s gentle tutelage (many a local tough guy would quit Flyer’s by noon of their first day, and out of shame, wouldn’t return for their morning’s pay,) all for the promise of someday, “working with the wood.”
My chance finally came one bitter, rainy, sleety day in February. Flyer handed me a handsaw, crowbar, and a maul, and pointed to the worm shoe on the bottom of the keel of the Jimmy Boy. “Get that worm shoe off. You got ’till noon.”
Four hours on my back, under the boat in the wet sand, ripping off the oak two-by-ten that’s sacrificed to the ship worms so they don’t get into the keel.
The freezing water running over me, soon wet to the skin, but the work strenuous enough to keep a young man warm. Finally I was getting my hands on the wood. I knew it was another test, but, what the hell, someone had to do it. By noon, the work was done. “After lunch, help Larry Meads put the new shoe on.”
That was it. The first piece of wood I would touch as a professional. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
The young men and women who help me build the Seeker will have their own memories: wooden boats good work, calm seas and the promise of June in the air.

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