Since day one of working with Jim on the mast I wondered, “how are we going to get the mast across the bridge to Jamestown?” I voiced this question a few times but never got a serious answer, “we’ll float it across,” or “we’ll throw it in your car” were traditional replies. If Jim wasn’t worried, I wasn’t worried. That is until the mast was finished and we actually had to bring it to Jamestown.
As fate (and luck) would have it, a client of Jim’s had just launched his boat and had a boat trailer we could borrow. Bright and early, Jim and I armed with a set of ropes fashioned a cradle for the mast on the trailer. The situation seemed a bit hoaky, but again, if Jim was sure it would work then so was I…sort of. We finished fastening the 35-foot mast with the high polish shine to the trailer. Jim and I stared at the mast behind his work truck.
“Well, what’s the worst that could happen?” he asked.
And with a visual of the mast shattering into millions of splinters on the highway fresh in my mind, we were off. Following close behind Jim, because his trailer taillights didn’t work, I held my breath hoping for the love of God that the mast would stay on that trailer.
With each bump in the road a shock wave was sent through the Spruce causing s shape waves to travel through it. My heart pounded in my throat as we traveled over the Pell Bridge and through the tollbooth on the other side. “Now there is something a booth operator doesn’t see everyday,” I thought to myself. Minutes, which felt like years later, the mast was safe and sound at Clark Boat Yard and resting on saw horses next to the boat.
Jim and I both took a few minutes to stand over the mast with pride while people from the boat yard came over to admire the mast. A quick handshake and a “see you around” and Jim was off.
Finally finished, I couldn’t help but think back nostalgically about the time spent in the shop. Were the days there long, cold and sometimes frustrating as all hell, definitely! That being said, I learned how to use a ton of tools, acquired invaluable skills and knowledge of traditional masts. I built something beautiful from scratch and formed an unlikely friendship with a truly great marine carpenter and person in Jim Titus.
Inviting some kid from New York who knew nothing about sailing or sailboats into his shop to teach and help him build a wooden mast while charging him only pennies compared to his normal price was an incredible gesture. Jim would leave me not just with a new mast but a love for woodworking and traditional boat building that I know, I will carry with me for a lifetime. Jim, thank you for everything. (And be warned, I’m already thinking up projects and schemes that will get me back into the wood shop next winter. What’s a mast without a matching boom, right?)