The Block Island Times

Two unique boats, two unusual stories

One boat is built — and launched — from a Greenwich Village apartment
By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Feb 27, 2013

E. B. White, in his Elements of Style, likens writers to hunters, “waiting to make the occasional wing shot, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by.” This is an apt metaphor. I like it. If a writer is looking too hard for the “bird of thought,” he is doomed to not see said bird. Trying is a defeatist word and should not be used by hunters or scribblers. It leads to a fruitless outcome.

Today at the ferry dock I was staring to the north, not thinking of “birds of thought” or anything else for that matter. It was 9 a.m. and rather dank and gray. Except for the intermittent yelling of a lobsterman at his crew, it was a standard-issue quiet February day at the ferry dock. A gray Lexus pulled into the parking lot to queue up for the 11 o’clock ferry; these amiable folks were very early. The ticket drill was explained. I asked the folks if they’ve been to the island before and they had been, on their sailboat. Sailing dialogue quickly followed. People love talking about their boats.

Charles and Heather sail a Trintella 45. He quickly took pictures out of his wallet as Heather scooted into the car booth to get out of the weather; she knew that a windy conversation was about to ensue between me and Charles regarding our sailboats. Smiling broadly, Charles said, “Before we bought her, our boat crossed the Atlantic twice. Atlantic Sprinter was stolen in Manhasset Bay by a guy who singlehanded her to the Canary Islands, where he was busted by Interpol.” The guy had applied a sloppily painted name to the boat’s transom — she is now named Dawnpiper.

This Trintella Red Stripe, the only one ever built, is not a common looking boat, and it apparently made things easy for a Harbor Watcher and the Interpol agents — the guy wasn’t a vigilant thief, I guess. Charles continued on as Heather smiled, “The owner had collected from his insurance company, but had to pay them back when the boat was found. The owner went to the Canary Islands and sailed the boat back to Manhasset.” This Trintella was originally from Holland.

Charles said he has owned five sailboats; however, he and Heather seem to really like Dawnpiper. Heather told me that she had been sailing since she was four, and that she mostly sailed on a Herreshoff 12.5 out of Quisset, in Falmouth, Mass. Heather is a seasoned offshore sailor and according to Charles, “she loves being on the water and is happiest on a boat.”

Charles, a doctor, also has a captain’s license and his seaman’s papers and has sailed as ship’s doctor on 44 ocean cruises around the world, including to Antarctica and the Arctic. He said he has sailed on every ocean and has done extensive coastal cruising as far as Nova Scotia. Heather and Charles were an interesting and a friendly couple. Keep your eyes open for Dawnpiper this summer in New Harbor.

A Book About A Boat

After the 11 o’clock ferry left for the island, I opened a piece of mail I forgot that I had in my truck. Someone I know had a friend of hers send me a story that he’d written 25 years ago. It’s entitled, Boat, A True Story. The austerity of the cover design and the brevity of the tale give it charm. Here is a précis of this story by Nicholas Peck: A guy decides to build a small sail boat in his apartment downtown in Greenwich Village, at the tip of the island of Manhattan and then sail it away. Yup, that’s what this guy did.

Nick’s prose is precise. Also, it is a very engaging and informational story of a guy with a simple vision. I loved the story and will cherish my signed copy. I especially like the picture of the finished boat being launched out of the second story window of Nick’s Greenwich Village apartment. Furthermore, the launching into the Hudson River and the subsequent rounding of the tip of Manhattan gave me a glimpse of New York I’ll not soon forget. The passage up the East River and through Hell Gate to City Island has some powerful imagery. Nick named his 150 pound craft, Great Eastern, after the original. At the time of her launching in London in 1858, she was the largest iron ship ever built. This story will be given many more readings; it’s that good.

So, while staring vacantly northward, I took two wing shots at the two birds of thought as they flashed by. Perhaps there is something to just being still and waiting patiently for something to come by and get someone scribbling. It sure worked today and who knows, there may be another wing shot taken tomorrow.

Contact Nick Peck at: PO Box 325 Stockbridge, MA 01262. Boat costs $4.00

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