Dale Brevik, whose work is featured in this month’s Reader Built Boat feature, built a beautiful model of a classic mahogany runabout and was inspired by it to build the real thing. My approach to models has usually been the other way around; they follow the boats that I’ve built. Whether it kindles the flames of ambition or sustains the embers of memories, a model can augment the rewards of building and using a boat.
Building a boat inevitably creates a connection with it. The complexity of the work requires an investment of time, thought, and energy— it requires giving one’s self over to the boat. Then, when the boat is launched and put to use, the direction of giving is largely reversed. The boat sustains us in an environment that we can’t otherwise survive in, takes us places often inaccessible by other means, and may even cradle us while we sleep. Time aboard is time we take for ourselves, extraordinary departures from the immemorable experience of ordinary days.
I don’t have as much time for cruising as I did when I began building boats, but I often sit in the three boats with cabins, especially when it’s raining, while they idle on their trailers in the driveway and back yard. With tarps covering the windows, it’s easy for me to imagine being at anchor somewhere, safe and content. Models can evoke the same feelings and have the advantage of being small enough to keep in the house where I regularly see them while passing through a room. In those brief glimpses, they can bring back not only the memories of the cruises I’ve made in the boats they represent but also the sense of freedom and the feeling that there is room to breathe. I sold the first boat I made for cruising, the dory skiff I rowed and sailed north for a month along the Inside Passage. I also sold the Hooper Bay kayak, the only kayak I’d built that I could sleep in. I may sell other boats I’ve built for myself, but I won’t part with the models.