A typical summer Friday at Beaton's: Raven getting her weekly
bottom wash. There would be others after her. These classics
don't use bottom paint. Who'd want to slop that goo onto such
a gorgeous sailing machine? Saturday's the anchor start race
at Ocean Gate. Beside hauling the anchor and hoisting the
football field-sized main (well not really, but..) as fast as the
crews can at the sound of the cannon, a smooth and slimeless
bottom will help these beauties get under way and around Good
Luck Point for the long weather slog southward to the '40' marker
just beyond Cedar Creek. More on this unique race on the next post.
It may seem to us like just a job, but I really think these guys
understand the history and the tradition of the A Cat class that is
being upheld, and they really do take pride in their work.
Upon hearing me wax on about how much I loved the A Cats and
the smoothness of Raven's hull, one of the guys suggested that I
turn around and feast my eyes on 'Silent Maid', the immaculate
reproduction of the original, berthed and maintained at this mecca
of American boatyards. I will never grow tired of this boat and will
always find yet another angle from which to snap a varnishy shot.
Talk about a pampered boat. I think she's out of the water just
about as much as she's in. Deep pockets in this case is an
Russ in the big shed getting 'Speedwell' ready for her new sprit rig
and possible entry in this year's World Ducks. He was in the process
of inflating his flotation bags and had the lifting bridle attached, but
I didn't know what was about to transpire a mere hour from then.
Okay, so I finally sauntered over to the place where Charley Best
was supposed to be. This is Marie Darling's houseboat. On the hard
for years, the bilge in this boat is still below sea-level, and the shiny
floor proves it. Shoulda got a photo. I was too excited being here to
snap every detail. We climbed the stairs and had a seat. From that
upper deck, our view was priceless and I found it hard to pry myself
from the rocking Adirondack chair I had occupied.
Charley has been coming here for the last fifty or so years, and
lately splits his time between here and the Florida Keys. He and
I hit it off immediately. We share many points of view, and it
seemed as if I had known him before we ever met. He told me
his Dad actually helped to dig many of the ditches and canals that
criss-cross the marshes surrounding Beaton's and West
Mantoloking. As a kid, my cousin and I would motor
our wooden rowboat in and out of many of these same ditches,
never even thinking about who or what may have created them.
Raven being towed back to her mooring after a good scrub.
There's nothing like watching an afternoon go by from Marie
Darling's porch. There was a nice fresh East wind blowing
into Beaton's harbor, and there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
Back to the dock for lunch.
The maiden voyage for Russ Manheimer's new sprit rig.
Out through the A Cats toward Swan Point and........
free of the moorings and into clear air.
The view of Beaton's from Marie's porch. Charley's catboat
is in the foreground. Marie's motorboat lies just to starboard.
I sarcastically said, in her presence, that I forgave her for owning
that motorboat. Either she ignored me and decided not to belittle
me, or it went right over her head. I'm fortunate she didn't rip me
a new one. Who the hell am I anyway?
Lee Marie in her slip. A forty year old Marshall catboat
looking much younger than her age. I'm not surprised, now
knowing Charley, at how well she has been cared for.
I mentioned that I was rigging a ring to my mast for a whisker
pole, and before I was able to add that I already had the pole,
Charley opened the doors to his freight container and produced
three poles for my perusal. I always love going into Best Marine.
BTW, I still may need one of them Charley!
Charley and Marie volunteered to refinish this Duck Boat for
the Friends of Belmar Harbor sailing program. Let's face it.
Right then, at that moment on the Jersey Shore, and across
the country, how many other people were so focused on
such a seemingly ho-hum task of sanding the wooden deck of a
widely unknown, rather heavy and slow-moving little sailboat?
Especially with the hopes that the kid sailing that boat would
race well, and most importantly have fun in the process?
When I left that day, this was the scene: Three weeks until the
43rd World Ducks and there was still work to be done. Belmar's
lucky to have two folks that care so much about preserving this
institution. And I hope Russ's experimental rig is allowed to compete.
Hey Charley, don't forget the T-shirts! Both XXL, one long
and one short sleeve. I'll get you back. You're a good man....