My Mast Hoop

There is always something new to learn.

Yesterday I attended half of a workshop on making mast hoops at the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society in Hudson, New York.  We built a steam box, cut the jigs, sliced and planed the strips for the hoops, placed them in the box and broke for lunch.

Is this called a J spike?

Is this called a J spike?

I stayed to help sweep up the sawdust and listen to the director of the group speak with the press, and then left.  As we crossed paths at the door Casson Kennedy, the workshop leader and chief builder on the Eleanor restoration project said:  “Oh, the best is yet to come,” and I’m sure he was right.  It would have been a hoot to actually curl one of the strips round the jib, clamp it, and take it home to dry. The hoop would settle into its proper place among my other prized possessions, maybe next to my J spike.   Perhaps I should keep my J spike a secret. Two men in Natick, MA were arrested for gathering railroad debris.

But I had tons of things to do yesterday, one of which was to write about my mast hoop experience while I was still excited about it and before it melted into the blur of all the other stories I compose in my head on the spot but never make it to paper.

The original mast hoops

There was a group of volunteers helping to make the hoops, most of them regulars who work on restoring the Eleanor — woodworkers, carpenters, sailors, and some of them, like me, the curious.  There was one school age boy getting great hands-on experience with power tools and the power of collaboration.

I mentioned the workshop to Don, one of my neighbors who is always building something – bookshelves, shoji screens, stone walks, steps and walls, other interesting projects that Adrienne conceptualizes.  He was at the table saw when I arrived.  We spoke during a down time and he told me has fantasized about building a small motored boat that would fit under the railroad trestle that separates a tidal cove from the Hudson behind his house.  This may have been the little push he needed to do just that.  And Louise may have a new member and volunteer to help rebuild the Eleanor.   I hope so.

Louise Bliss is the head of this group.  She is a competent and energetic dynamo.  She has the necessary ingredients to get people enthused to donate time or money.  She makes everyone vital to the project.  Some of us do not suffer fools.  Louise knows no fools.  She discovers talents in the people around her and encourages them to make use of them.  Everyone benefits.  Everyone is happy.

Louise’s new initiative is to try to organize a wine and cheese of all the organizations that rent space at Grossinger Management Building 1, where the restoration work is taking place.  It’s a large drab warehouse – a former furniture factory.  There is a lot going on inside though.  The boat that takes passengers from Hudson to the Athens Lighthouse spends the winter next to Eleanor.  Nearby is the shop of a reclaimed wood furniture maker.  Louise thinks other tenants include a welder and a gym. Whenever I’ve been to the cavernous space, it is dark and and does not invite exploring.

The night before the workshop I eavesdropped on a business meeting of 12526.com, which functions as Germantown’s unofficial chamber of commerce.  It was nice to learn what’s going on in my town and what is available locally.  It would also be nice to know who shares Eleanor’s home and hear their stories.

When I lived in New Hampshire I used to run out to the barn to use the table saw to cut up scrap wood for kindling in order to get the stove going before the sun went down.  Occasionally I would cut a piece for some emergency repair.  I missed my saw terribly when I moved to my small house in the Hudson Valley and had to leave most of the barn treasures behind.  The saw and the tractor made me feel very independent.  Now, with my addition going up there are saws and power tools of all kinds lying around but I have been hesitant to use them.  I Eleanorhave no real need first of all, but also there are too many projects in progress that I could mess up, and there are too many people around to watch me do things in my own clumsy way.

Before the workshop I fretted about about my lack of carpentry skills. In spite of my lack of confidence  people at the workshop encouraged me to lend a hand.  I am so thankful.  Because of them, in the future when the Eleanor sails past, I will be able to claim some ownership.  Louise said she would try to make an extra hoop for me, but this morning’s article in the Register-Star doesn’t give me faith that she could do that.   I’ll have to get the full story.

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