Jody's absence created a void in my life now and I filled it with
the building of Dream. Progress had been slow up to now, because I
had been splitting my time between Jody and Dream. Now that she was
gone, I tore into Dream, bound and determined to have her done and
in the water by the time Jody returned. We had some sailing to do; I
had promised her that.
It was still way too cold in the garage, so I moved all of Dream's
keel members and marine plywood to the basement of Walter's house,
where, through the rest of January, I assembled her keel and skeg. I
had to build a frame to keep everything in center when I sheeted it
in plywood. With this jigsaw puzzle completed, we moved into
February, and I returned to the garage. I slowly fitted the keel to
the backbone, careful not to shave down too much wood. In the end,
her keel mated perfectly to the keelson and it was time for the
February brought warmer temperatures; the mercury finally moved up
to the freezing mark or slightly above. We had a couple of two-foot
snows in January, but that was now pushed aside, waiting for the
spring thaw. During those cold nights in the garage, I would stare
at the map tacked over the window. My route went through the tropics
and I prayed to God to let this be my last winter up north. It was
still too cold to steam-bend the ribs. I had tried one night and all
the steam did was condense against the walls of the box. The box
never got anywhere near hot enough to allow the oak ribs to bend
over Dream's mold. I switched over to a boil-out tank, made from an
old piece of aluminum down spout. It wasn't as good as the steam
box, but it worked.
I had capped one end and built a frame that supported the tank at a
30-degree angle. This tube was filled with water. At the bottom was
a two-burner propane camping stove I borrowed from Mr. Lommel.
Igniting both burners would eventually bring the water to boiling
temperature. I could only do this on weekends because initially it
took hours to bring that amount of water to boil. I could only do
three ribs at a time and as they came out and were bent around the
mold, the next set would go in, and I'd have another hour wait.
It took a lot of propane canisters but we were getting there. Dream
had, port and starboard, 26 ribs and so this process dragged on.
Halfway through completion of this phase, Dream took on the
appearance of a birdcage. I thought that looked pretty neat. I was
taking pictures every step of the way, and though day to day it
didn't look like much had changed, when the roll of film was
developed, there was quite a noticeable change as Dream came
together. I had never had any visitors after Jody left. Except for
Steven, no one else saw Dream come together.
My nights and weekends were the same. After work, I walked to the
garage and worked through the night, often not ending until
midnight. Weekends, I virtually lived there, only leaving to get
something to eat or go back to Walter's house to sleep. No one saw
much of me. I was long gone before they got up in the morning and
came home long after all had gone to bed. The next door neighbor
would see the garage light on through many cold, late nights.
Mr. Paye also had a sailboat; we had met in the fall when I first
started Dream. He later told me he couldn't believe the hours I
spent that cold winter working on Dream. I hated the cold, but I was
under Dream's magic spell and it went unnoticed. I was hell bent on
having Dream in the water before Jody's return.
The only breaks in this routine were when I received a letter from
Jody. She would describe her latest adventures and give me a rundown
on her daily life in Spain. Those nights, I borrowed Steven's truck
and went up to Wall’s to give Jimmy an update on our little jester
in Europe. Jimmy always looked forward to my visits and we spent
long hours reminiscing. I also gave Jimmy updates on Dream's
progress and showed him photos as we made our way through each stage
of construction. All the ribs were in place by the end of February
and, after securing them to the keelson, the keel and skeg were
Dream grew in form each day. I took down the cedar boards and
started cutting the planking. Each plank was cut and shaped, and had
to be hand-fitted into position. The sheer strakes were placed
first. This is the edge where the deck fits to both sides of the
hull and is done at the same time, port and starboard. What one side
got, the other side got next. This kept the boat true on the mold so
no twist would develop in the hull. Each night at least one strake
was fitted and Dream's hull began to take shape.
There was a strong aroma of cedar, and it was a welcome relief after
a day of smelling grease and machine oil at Bay Auto.
Although Dream was a wooden boat, I deviated from the traditional
method of caulking her seams. Instead Dream's planks were glued edge
to edge. Traditional wooden boat construction is fine with the seams
caulked with cotton. When the wood got wet, it would swell, causing
the seams to close together against the cotton. Shortly after the
boat was launched, the seams would close tight and form a waterproof
seal. This system is fine and had been in use for more than a
thousand years. Its drawback was that there was a lot of periodic
With the coming of new materials (i.e., fiberglass and epoxy
resins), new methods were introduced. What I was doing is called
hard jointing. Unlike the traditional methods, Dream's hull was
rigid and had no room for movement. To keep the wood from absorbing
water and subsequently swelling, a coat of fiberglass mat and then
cloth was placed over her hull, deck, and keel, completely sealing
her from the water. She was actually was two boats in one, one wood,
the other fiberglass. This is an expensive way to build a boat, but
its strength was superior to any other method. Dream had to take me
a great distance and it was my life that was on the line. Needless
to say, nothing short of the best in this area would do. The
fiberglass coating also allowed for a virtually maintenance free
boat. Except for cosmetic hull and deck painting, and annual copper
anti-fouling paint for the bottom, nothing else needed to be done.
Throughout the month of March I worked on the boat. Each day there
would be a little more of Dream. I hit the "turn of the bilge
planking" and this was slow going again. The planking shapes were
critical, as we no longer were doing the hull sides. This is where
the hull sides turn and become the bottom. After that the planking
eases into the keel. Each of these planks took hours to fit and most
nights I could only get one on.
One Friday night, April 7, 1978, I had gotten off work and, after
stopping off for coffee and a sandwich at the deli, headed for the
garage. I was anxious to get there. I sat on the worktable and ate.
Sipping my coffee, I stared at Dream. I had six more planks to go,
three to a side. I vowed to myself that I would finish the hull this
weekend. With that, I got to work, cutting and fitting her last
strakes. By two a.m., I was making simple mistakes because I was so
tired. I gave up and walked back to Walter's. I never remembered my
head hitting the pillow before I collapsed into a deep sleep. When
my eyes opened in the morning, it was still dark out. Slowly I got
back into my work clothes and returned to the garage.
Julie is a morning sleeper, especially after a grueling week working
in the city. Steven is a morning person and usually got up to watch
the dawn arrive as he sipped his coffee. He was surprised when the
lights came on in the garage at the bottom of the hill. He knew I
was close to finishing the hull, so with a thermos of coffee and two
cups, came down the garage.
I was grateful for the coffee. As he poured, he said, "Almost done,
"It's today Steven. I'm not leaving until the last one goes in." He
told me he and Julie were going into the city for the weekend to
visit friends and would return tomorrow. I told him the hull would
be finished and to come in and see her. He promised they would, and
looked forward to it. It had been a long hard winter, but spring was
at our doorstep and as the plants and flowers were coming alive, so
was Dream. Leaving the thermos of coffee behind, Steven went back to
the house and I went back to work.
All through the day and into the night I worked. I took no breaks; I
didn't need to. By midnight, I was fitting the last plank on the
portside. After I cut and fit this last one into the keel, I sat
back on the worktable, lit a cigarette and just looked at my
handiwork. I was dog-tired, but all that remained was the starboard
For the next three hours I continued. The last plank was especially
slow to fit because each edge fit up against something. It had to be
perfect. Finally, at 3:30 a.m., Sunday morning, April 9, 1978, I
screwed in the last bronze fastener. Dream had over 2,400 bronze
screws; each was put in by hand. I was near collapse, but Dream's
hull was done. I sat on the table looking at her. She was beautiful,
despite the streaks of glue, sawdust and dirt that marred her
appearance. Sanding would strip that away quick enough. Dream had
been conceived in my mind and then carefully laid out on paper. All
winter, piece by piece, I had built her; now here she was.
In all fairness to everyone, when Dream was first openly discussed,
she was only on paper and only in my mind could she be pictured.
They all thought of rowboats or other such crafts. That was in large
part the flak that Jody and I received, but now Dream was real.
Dream now sat proudly for anyone to see. I had read all the books
and there had never been anything like her, not even Sea Egg. And
she was mine!
I had brought a sleeping bag with me just in case this marathon
session went into the wee hours. Pushing pieces of wood and tools
aside, I spread it out on the worktable and crawled in it. Dirty,
covered with glue and sawdust, I lay there, euphoric. My last
thought before I fell asleep was, “Boy, do I have something to show