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A very special launching

By John K. Hanson, Jr.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving in Maine was unusually warm, which made it a perfect day for a lake launching. My son Sam, with a little help from friends, was able to test sail the 11' New Zealand Scow Moth sailboat that we had been building together in my shop for the past few years. Often, we didn’t think we would ever get the boat finished, but we persisted.

There were trials and tribulations galore, mismeasurements and mistakes, (thank God for good friends who are good boatbuilders and who helped when we got into jams). But we persisted. And we laughed, a lot.

I had read that this design would be simple, and quick to build. That might be true for some, but not the Hanson boys. Our need to do things at least twice began right at the very beginning. Our shop is not heated and the boat is small, so we figured we could build it the basement. I had a nagging doubt about whether it would fit through the bulkhead door, but we persisted. It didn’t fit. So that spring we took it apart and rebuilt it in the outside shop.

Sam went away to school, and our boatbuilding sessions were squeezed in during short vacation times. As the years flew by, Sam got bigger, and the Moth slowly came together. We planked the hull, built the cockpit, and laid the deck.

By last summer, we resolved to launch the Moth by the end of the year, no matter what. A last-minute glitch delayed our work into the fall. But a warmer than normal November came to our aid, keeping the lake water open. The boat floated beautifully. Even with a minimal amount of wind, it sailed fast. This was a test sail, not the official launch. We still have a number of things to check and recheck. We need to replace the standing rigging and adjust the daggerboard. But it sailed!

Sam and I had our moments, good and bad. A highlight came as we were installing plywood panels for the hull. “Dad, you are doing it all wrong,” said Sam. And he was right. We did it his way.

Come spring the boat will get its final coats of paint, and its name, Habanero Toad, will be proudly applied. I will miss the moments in the shop with Sam, but will be thrilled to see him smiling while sailing fast. 

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