Preview: Building Before Sailing

May 6, 2012

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By Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, author of Encyclopedia of the Exquisite.

I‘m going about it backwards, I know. Normally, you would fall in love with sailing and then, after much consideration and fanfare, you might embark on a big project to build your own boat. My story doesn’t follow that way. Over the past several summers since we moved to Maine, I’ve fallen in love with riding in a boat, but I’ve only performed the maneuvers of sailing our 34’ yawl, JESTER, under strict instruction, and somewhat nervously. I’ve never sailed alone, and, frankly, I’m petrified by the idea of finding myself solo at JESTER’S helm.

Seriously, that’s like a nightmare for me. What I am so excited about, however, is building a smallish boat to make mistakes in while toodling up and down the Eggemoggin Reach this summer, teaching myself to sail, picking up pointers from our knowledgeable friends, and, perhaps, knocking into the occasional rock. I can only imagine what the evenings and weekends spent carefully shaping the planks, tracing out the transom and gluing up the stem will bring to my hours out on the water.

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins trimming the gunwhales on the second yawlboat hull. Photo: Nico Jenkins

Before embarking on the project this winter, I couldn’t even talk boats, really. I memrized the answers to the questions people ask most frequently about JESTER when we’re docked somewhere. (I always hope they don’t press for more.) But, as we work, I’m gaining a wonderfully sea-worthy vocabulary—from skeg to spar. The linguistics are fascinating. Take gunwales, for example. It took me a while to figure out that inwales and outwales together equal gunwales, in the same way that lettuce and tomatoes together equal salad.

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