There must be a better way

As I stood in the predawn hours taking trash to the curb, my head spun with the stress of the various meetings I had scheduled for the day and the number of outstanding issues which required my involvement to resolve.  I muttered under my breath, “There must be a better way.”

I needed a better way to spend my day, a better way to earn money and a better way for me to build on my past experience and finish my career doing something I loved and had meaning to me.

After 13 years as a Technology Engagement Manager and 15 years prior to that working in legal departments for financial service firms, it was time for me to make that move.  I picked up the dust covered IYRS brochure on my desk and looked through it again.  I knew I had to make a change; I knew I had to apply to IYRS.

Growing up on the South Shore of Massachusetts and spending my summers sailing catboats and working in a marina and on whale watch and tourist fishing boats, I knew IYRS’s program would be something that would challenge me but also build upon the things I enjoyed in my younger years. The Boatbuilding and Restoration program at IYRS would be for me. 

I was worried, however, that at age 53 whether or not this “old dog” could really “learn new tricks?”   I was worried I was walking away from a lucrative career and was jeopardizing my family’s welfare.  I was worried I would not have the skills to be a boatbuilder, after all my only experience building was as a “weekend warrior” on my own 120-year-old house.

It turns out that those worries were unfounded. I have learned many new things.   I have learned how to set up a boat for measuring its lines, how to loft those lines full size on a lofting floor, and most recently how to convert that data into a scale drawing of those lines which can then be used in the building process or just to record the historic lines of an old boat.  I have learned the proper way to care for hand tools, learned how to make various wood joints: dovetails, mortise and tenons and lap joints.   I have also learned how to use woodshop tools safely and effectively from radial arm saws, joiners, to surface planers and table saws.  Finally, I have learned how to work as a team and to share the workload with my teammates in the construction of a 12 ½ foot wooden catboat.  Most recently we have cut a keel timber, made the components for the centerboard trunk, and carved the rabbet into the stem of the boat which will take the new planking.

Although we are just beginning to build the fabric of a new boat over the old, I realize many more challenges lie ahead as we continue to learn and build under the impressive knowledge of our instructors Joel, Hans, and Dave.  Each of them are experts in their craft and have pointers and personal “best practices” for doing the various tasks at hand.  I enjoy their perspectives and stories of boatbuilding in the real world and each gives me tools which I know will make me a more successful boatbuilder in the future.  I can’t wait for what lies ahead!