Simple Gifts

Unboxing the Log


(to start of project)

For the first post of 2011, I thought I would say a long overdue thanks to a few people. This will be a start, anyway.

Back in August, when I was in the middle of the mad push to get ready for MASCF, a big box arrived from Lafayette, Indiana. Inside were a several t-shirts and a note from Roger Rodibaugh.

Roger is a long time Melonseed sailor, and the ad hoc Master of Ceremonies for the Melonhead Group on Yahoo. We’ve kept in touch over the years, ever since I first became interested in these boats. Not long ago, he wrote an article for Small Craft Advisor about how perfectly the Melonseed suits his sailing needs, and a picture of him sailing Nancy Lee appears on the cover. Other articles on the Melonseed appear in the same issue, and I have kept it on the work bench for two years now – something to browse through for a little inspiration when I need a break.

Roger also organizes a Midwest Melonseed Rendevous every year, which looks like a blast. People from as far away as Canada and Florida converge for a few days of sailing (and hilarious pun-slinging, apparently) on one of the beautiful lakes in the area. Each participant goes home with a commemorative t-shirt designed by Roger. He has saved extra shirts over the years, and sent some for me and my crew as Honorary Midwest Melonheads.

Three out of four of us got into uniform for a photo in St. Michaels this year:
(Thanks Roger!)





A few weeks after MASCF, another large box arrived, this time from Kevin Brennan in Phoenix, Maryland. Inside were several large hanks of nice 5/16” line, which I can’t get here locally. Kevin has built a number of boats, most recently his John Welsford Navigator Slip Jig, and frequently sails with that active group of builders in the Delaware TSCA. I keep trying to get a ride on his boat, but somehow, so far, have only managed to catch pictures of him across the water. Maybe in 2011, Kevin?

These will definitely come in handy. Thanks!



Just before Christmas, tumbled in with all the cards and packages, was an envelope from Bradenton, Florida. Inside the envelope, loose, not even wrapped, was a thin slice of wood. This from Dave Lucas – a piece of West Indies Mahogany, also known as Cuban Mahogany. It’s amazing stuff, light and incredibly strong. In fact, one end was cut to a knife edge, and it passed through the mail trucks and bins and machinery all the way from Florida with nary a chip in it.





The wood has become extremely rare. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, it was known as the Wood of Kings, and I can see why. The best was sent back to England to be made into Chippendale and Hepplewhite furniture, which command small fortunes now. Recently, a single slabbed log from a tree downed in a hurricane sold for $4500, and was used In the Executive Office Building across from the White House for a mantel piece and to restore the parquet floor.

Unlike Honduran Mahogany, it’s very hard and close grained, like dogwood without the weight, requiring multiple grits of sandpaper and scraping to get smooth, but the raw wood will buff to a high natural gloss. Out of curiosity, I polished up the sliver and put on a single coat of Le Tonkinois just to see what would happen:






While on a business trip a year or two ago, I visited Dave at his shop and he graciously invited me to stay at his house for a few days. I had a great time sailing and seeing the other boats and builders in the group. We’ve traded stories and ribbing ever since. He never misses a chance to remind me my boats are too small and I take too long to build them.

So, when another big heavy box arrived a few days ago, also from Bradenton, I was definitely surprised. The family now gets rather excited about these unexpected packages, and Terri was curious to see what this one contained. I opened the box, peeled back the wrapper and stood back:

Terri looked into the box for a moment, confused, and said “Dave Lucas sent you a log?”




“You have very strange friends.”

“I know, isn’t it great?”

What Dave sent was another big hunk of that West Indies Mahogany. I guess there are some things only other boat builders can get excited about.





I’ll have to think long and hard how best to use this unusual piece of wood. This could take a while.

Thanks Dave!

I’ve had help on lots of other stuff, too, from other friends and especially from family. Terri and the girls, parents, in-laws, near and far, have all contributed to the boat fund, helping to buy sails and shiny, expensive bronze bits.

Just wanted to say thanks, again, to everybody.


melonseed skiff, mellonseed skiff, melon seed, mellon seed   


2 Replies to “Simple Gifts”

  1. A lumber broker from Gig Harbor visited the DoryMan boatyard last summer contemplating the purchase of a Rhodes 33 named Caper.
    He left a business card made of your mahogany. Very classy.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 – 04:27 PM

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