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The Other Woman


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VanDam-constructionThe boatyard was crazy busy over the summer months, and now it’s time for a much-anticipated break. With Jacob starting sixth grade, and the season winding down my husband, Gary and father-in-law Ivan, have their sights set on getting back to the project they started last April.

Both reluctantly put their project on hold when the 2016 season became one of Brownell’s busiest ever. Although they had hoped to see the rewards of their labor long before now – the daily job of operating the boatyard took every hour of the long summer days.

Gary is a master craftsman and boat builder. Ivan grew up with boats all of his life and knows them inside and out. Unlike myself, who has been known to call roadside assistance when my bicycle gets a flat, they know their way around creating and crafting a fine piece of workmanship. And that’s why they decided to build a wooden boat.


The guys haven’t worked on a father-son project for a while. Other than work which involves the running of the boatyard, this was an opportunity to relax together and do some down home bonding. Fortunately, they enjoy each other’s company and share a mutual respect for one another’s skills.

Building a wooden boat is undeniably an art. Choosing the plans for the specific type of boat you want is where is all begins. Knowing what type of wood, how to cut, bend and manipulate the wood is the next step. Gary wanted a family boat that would be suitable for open seas and lake excursions. Ivan was on board – so to speak, with the idea, and they both decided on plans for a model called a Runabout.

Based on the Runabout designs from master boat builder Steve Van Dam, the technical skills can be toned down or elevated according to the builder’s level of expertise. In Gary and Ivan’s case, they wanted their boat to be a Brownell family statement that not only represented them as craftsmen but was going to be practical and fun.

Using yellow cedar for the walls and red cedar for the floor makes for a sturdy, flexible and reliable frame. Aiming for elegance and a combination of old world style and modern, sleek technology was what prompted their choice of finishing with mahogany. The wood was prepped last Spring and set safely aside while life took over at the boatyard. It took nearly 6 weeks to get the wood seasoned and primed before any cutting could actually take place.

The cuts have been rough sanded and now the guys tell me they are fine tuning the cuts to be absolutely precise in measurement. The goal is to have very little shaping or fairing to do once all the pieces are placed. Looking at the big picture, Gary and Ivan want to marry good engineering with the artistic expression that only a custom made wood boat can offer. I have no doubt they will not put anything on the water that is shoddy in any of its details.

As Fall turns to Winter, Gary is already disappearing for long periods of time. I’m certain he is in the boathouse with Ivan. I plan to drop in with food if more than a few hours go by without a husband sighting, just to nose around and make sure the guys are fed. I’ve heard of men who fool around on their wives and spend time with other women – but in this case, the other woman is a boat, and I think it’s a beautiful thing.