Earlier this week, I returned from another bout of being an amateur housewright at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. As always, it was a pleasant and vigorous week marked by a near total news blackout. I listen only to an AM oldies station from Albany. It’s a nice chance to listen to a little Sinatra and read a good book. Since some other soul beat me to our local library’s copy of Farley Mowat’s “The Boat Who Wouldn't Float,” I settled for a Project Gutenberg EBook copy of “A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe” by John Macgregor. This is a fascinating account of an English gentleman’s 1865 journey across Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland is a fifteen foot lapstrake sailing canoe.
John Macgregor is an interesting individual. He grew up as an Army Brat, British Army that is. For a time, he served in the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers. He won first prize in the regimental shooting competition at Wimbledon at least twice. He was a barrister at law, trained at Trinity College. He could write in classical Greek and Latin. He spoke French, but not German or Schwabisch. His accounts of interacting with those he met along the way are most amusing. He exuded an abundance, perhaps overabundance, of pride, confidence and pluck of what I would expect of an English gentleman explorer of the period to exude. He was a real life Peachy and Danny. “Not gods, Englishmen. The next best thing.”
Since I so enjoy reading our local newspaper, I have the circulation department hold my papers until I return from a trip. Then I can catch up on local happenings as well as the adventures of Beetle Bailey. Earlier this week, I sat on my deck with a mug of tea on a glorious morning and began reviewing my stack of papers. It was a joy to find an article by Rob Hedelt on the upcoming family boatbuilding week at the Deltaville Maritime Museum. I observed one of these events at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Ten or so families were working under a tent building Bevins skiffs out of precut lumber and plywood. Alexandria Seaport members provided assistance and guidance. At the end of the week, the families were rowing their skiffs on the Potomac.
This Deltaville event is run the same way. The biggest difference is that the families build Wright skiffs out of fir and cypress lumber, no plywood. These skiffs are things of beauty, almost museum pieces. Even though my sons are in their thirties, I wouldn’t mind getting the clan together to build one of these sweethearts.