Spinning Yarns

I have 3 kids under 8.  I work a full time job and my wife works about 30 hours/week.  I build boats in my basement and run Heritage Boatworks.  When I say life moves too fast and is too busy, I mean it and live it.  Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era and that I was designed for a slower pace.   My wife (A definitive type “A” multi-tasker) pokes fun at my pokiness often.  My soccer coach in high school used to say “I’m going to stick a firecracker in your shorts” and my hockey coach sarcastically referred to me as “Mister Intensity.”  I am a very low-key person, even when weathering a storm.  My father used to tell me that a person should be like a duck; calm and collected on top of the water but paddling like hell underneath.  I think I took his advice very much to heart.  Nothing delights me more than sitting down with a person and having a detailed discussion about something mutually interesting.  It is part of the reason I started Heritage Boatworks.  With the craziness of peoples’ lives, it seems as though the only time we have to slow down and smell the salty air is some imaginary time that exists, after the kids go to college, or after we retire, or after we finish this one last project, or after we win the lottery and quit work.  Well, I want it now and not when I am pushing 70 years old.

4011 Every year I typically go to the Catboat Association meeting in Mystic, CT.  The meeting is filled with folks that are retired and simply enjoying their lives and the pace of retirement.  There are actually parts of the show that are titled “The Gam.”  A gam as defined by thefreedictionary.com is “A social visit or friendly interchange, especially between whalers or seafarers.”  It started in the days of sailing ships where two boats out in the middle of the ocean would bring their ships within speaking distance of each other.  They’d chat extensively about their travels, swap mail bags if necessary, and move on.  Some gams would last a couple hours and some would go on for days. Sailors on ships worked very hard, but there was also a lot of down time where they were left to their own vices.  They would pass the time telling each other stories or “spinning yarns” as they say.  To a point that a sailing ship always had a number of sailors that were masters of the art of storytelling.  J. B. Barrie made reference to the importance of the storyteller in his book Peter Pan.  It was critical to the happiness of the sailor.  That art form is all but lost and most folks don’t hear much of storytelling outside of someone telling an animated story of their weekend by the water cooler at work.  That is until we have retired or shipped off our children so that we have the time to stop, listen, and enjoy a good yarn.

Part of my goal of starting Heritage Boatworks was to relive a little of that storytelling era.  To talk to the folks that build boats at these historic boatyards and to get their stories.  People love to tell their own tales.  When I tell my interview subject that the interview will typically take about 45 minutes, they almost always sigh and think that is excessive.  As we get chatting, it is always me trying to steer them to the end after 30 minutes.  Once you get rolling on your own tale, it is therapeutic and comforting to have someone interested to hear what you say.  At the time of the interview, I am the only person interested, but the beauty of technology is that when the podcast episode is published, there are 100’s and 100’s of people sharing that interest.

When I sit down with these folks at an interview, the world slows and time stops.  As we get rolling, they are not thinking of deadlines and financial struggles of their businesses.  They are thinking of the history of the boat they build, the family member that started the business, the folks that have worked there over the year, the art of boat building, their childhood boat, and so many other wonderful thoughts that they may have not conveyed to anyone else before.  Much like that sailor over 100 years ago, sitting on a New Bedford whaler spinning a yarn to a handful of attentive crew members, these folks are immersed in the story of their own lives and the stories that have been passed along to them.

As Heritage Boatworks progresses, I can only hope that I can do these interviews more often.  As each coming interview approaches, my excitement builds, and when it is done, I am already anxious for the next.  Just when I think that today’s interview was the best possible interview, someone comes along and tops it.  Each story I gather and archive excites me more and I look forward to doing it again.  In my hectic crazy life, Heritage Boatworks provides me small glimpses of solace where I can enjoy myself and feel as though I am providing that effect for my subject and listeners as well.  One of these days I will come up with a mission statement for Heritage Boatworks and maybe it could be something to the effect of “To be the speaking horn between two ships heaving to at sea for a gam.”

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 Thank you for reading!

Jed

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