Scotty Pugh of Sardis, Tennessee, grew up riding dirt bikes and later indulged his passion for motorcycles as he collected vintage Harley-Davidsons. But a ride gone wrong landed him a hospital trauma ward for a week and he was forced to consider something else to focus his interest upon. “Wooden boats,” he thought, “will keep me entertained.”
After he built his first small wooden boat there was no turning back. GYPSY SOUL, a Caledonia Yawl, is his fourth boat. While he had acquired a lot of the necessary skills building the first three boats, “the road to building the yawl was not without some curves and potholes.” Work was interrupted when he was installing floorboards and “acting like I was 20 again, inflamed a muscle in my hip and mashed a sciatic nerve. That took me down for couple weeks.” While work on the yawl was slow, it was not without its daily rewards. “The more I’m buried in technology at work, the deeper I bury myself in wooden boats at home.” Scotty’s career has been in the highly technical field of robotic welding, so he counts the time he spends with a hand plane as meditation.
Scotty spent five years building GYPSY SOUL, often working with Juilio, his sweetheart at the beginning of the project and his wife by its conclusion. One cold morning in December last year, Juilio called from work: “If I can get the afternoon off can we launch the boat?” The yawl was not quite finished, but close enough that it was ready to sail. Scotty called his parents to announce the plans to launch, and his 83-year-old mother insisted that they wait for her to get to the ramp. She warned him that if she wasn’t “standing on the dock when the boat hit the water there would likely be adjustments to the will.” Scotty agreed to delay the launch long enough to give his parents time to get to the lake. “Pop has some neat old tools,” thought Scotty, “so it wasn’t worth the risk to rush.”
At the ramp, GYPSY SOUL slipped into the water for the first time. Scotty and Juilio hadn’t sailed a lug rig or a mizzen before, but hauled in the main sheet and took off. “We peeled off into a close-hauled beat, sailed across on a beat, and back on a run. Upwind she is a filly! On a reach you could pull a water-skier. What wonderful big-block power those sails gather. Downwind, stable, light on the tiller, a wonderful gurgle of chines underwater.” His mother, who had never seen a boat sail, said, “When the wind took that boat, the way it moved was like magic.”
Since the winter launching, Scotty and Juilio have sailed many of the lakes and rivers of West Tennessee, and while GYPSY SOUL’s home waters are well inland, she’s not landlocked. Scotty and Juilio have entertained the idea of driving 45 minutes from home to launch in Pickwick Lake, make their way to the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, and in a week’s time sail out into the Gulf of Mexico.
After a 25-year career, Scotty is ready for an early retirement so he can devote his time to boats. “I don’t want to build wooden boats for a living, but for the poetry of it.” While there will be other boats, GYPSY SOUL is tied to an important time in his life. “I had my house rented to pretty young gal who turned out to love classic literature and history. I taught her to sail, we built GYPSY together, got married, and the small-boat thing fits us and our lives perfectly. I may be buried in GYPSY.”
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