The building of this boat is the culmination of a 40 year dream. It probably started here on Cape Cod in the early 80’s when I was hanging out with boat building guy friends, Carl Ahlstrom and Stormy Mayo. I had a fascination for working in wood back then and the thought of building my own boat was all at once exciting, daunting and a remote “someday” dream project.
In October of 2017 the “someday” dream became a reality when I ordered a Chesapeake Lightcraft kit to build my own Chester Yawl, a 15 ft, 100 pound, mahogany marine plywood rowing craft.
I had seen a Chesapeake Lightcraft boat the summer before and with jaw dropped, watching this beautiful natural wood rowboat approach the harbor, I felt that buried excitement of my boatbuilding dream well up. The owner explained about the company and showed me the joinery and said, “You too can build a boat!” Really!!!? The seed was growing.
The next fall, through a series of events leading me towards my dream, I picked up the phone, called Chesapeake Lightcraft in Annapolis, MD and ordered my own kit. They steered me towards the Chester Yawl design, as it would be easy to handle on my own. It was on sale, $200 off if ordered by Halloween. I knew in my gut it was now or never and I leapt at the chance. Taking a big breath, I gave the rep my credit card number and said I would call him back with an address for shipping purposes.
Oh yeah, where to BUILD a boat?! Details! I thought of people I knew with big basements or empty garages. (Who on earth has an empty garage? No one!!)
I thought of a couple I know who live by the beach in Orleans. “Hmmmm, David and Martha have a big house!” I mustered up my courage, walked up their front path, knocked on their door and awkwardly said, “Hi, I’m building a boat and I was wondering if you might have a space I could use for the winter?” Crazy right? Yup. But David welcomed me in and Martha’s reply was, “You’re a Cape Codder! You need a boat! Sure, we have a big basement you could use!” David agreed wholeheartedly. I was dumbfounded. Well that was easy! Angels watching over me….again. I think they welcomed the idea of something interesting going on downstairs and sure enough, my relationship with them grew as David would come down to take a peek, take a few photographs, admire, ask questions, and help flip the hull when I needed a hand. Martha’s bedroom was above the shop space so my curfew was 10 pm.
The boat came in three huge boxes. Planks and all the supplies I needed including two-part epoxy, wood flour, fiberglass cloth, and the boat plans. A friend helped me unpack and another guy friend helped by going over the manual with me. I was feeling really anxious and high strung, suddenly feeling very overwhelmed with this idea. Could I pull it off? It was as if I just wanted to build this boat all in one day. My friend turned to me and said, “Janet, relax. This is supposed to be FUN!!!” From that moment on I just took a big breathe and took it one step at a time, one day at a time, and followed directions. Ok, I’ve got this! From then on it was smooth sailing. No more feelings of anxiety or feeling overwhelmed. It was a process of taking each day, each task at hand one by one, figuring out what I needed to do and proceed. There were many, many phone calls to Annapolis. I was soon on first name basis with Terry, one of the tech guys. In fact it wasn’t too long before he had my phone number memorized and would answer with, “Top of the morning to ya Janet! What can I help you with?” I can’t say enough about the tech support. These guys and gals have degrees in patience. I felt silly calling so often but was always assured that that was what they were there for.
I borrowed some tools from friends and my dads garage. I loved the thought of building my boat with my dad’s old tools-part of his energy embedded in this dream of mine. I bought others and bought a ton of clamps at Harbor Freight, which I gave away at the launch day as “party favors”. Who needs 50 plus clamps laying around anyway? Speaking of my dad and his tools, he used to ask me to help him in his wood shop when I was a girl, for which I am so grateful. It was because of those early experiences that I grew up having the confidence to build things. And now, my 40 year dream was coming true, in part because of those early tool using lessons with my dad.
In the end I counted 190 hours plus two months of sanding and finish work to get the boat built. The manual suggests 90-120. I chalk it up to my perfectionist nature and being a complete newcomer to boatbuilding! Thank you to all those who helped with flipping and carrying the boat when needed. My cousin Laura, friends Bethany, Billy, Peter and Doug and especially biggest thanks to Martha and David for the kind and generous support of loaning me their basement for 5 months!
The name Summer Rose…It’s a sentimental name. When I was pregnant with my daughter, Tessa Rose, in Kauai, I was spending lots of time with another pregnant woman, Paulina. Unbelievably, we never discussed baby names while we were pregnant together but as it turned out, unbeknownst to each other, we had both first chosen the name Summer Rose if our baby was to be a girl. As time went on and the babies were finally born, on the same day (!!), the names changed to Summer Rae and Tessa Rose. “Summer Rose” was therefore born between the two girls and they became best friends from birth. Both Paulina and I have kept the name alive as an homage to this third entity.
I hope you enjoyed the story and the photos. Comments are always welcomed. If you ever wanted to build a boat and felt overwhelmed by the idea, the Chesapeake Lightcraft would be an excellent choice! I’m here to answer any questions you may have about the project.
Click on each image to see enlarged and to read the caption.