By David Jackson
OARS Honorary Member
My daughter Elizabeth says the boats we built at Freya Boatworks were like her other siblings, they took my time and were definitely rivals for my attention. We even named the Bess after her - a boat with a small transom and needing a diminutive name. The Bess and the Rescue are sisters by the way. Both are Bill Garden designed Queen’s Gigs, an 18’ x 3’ rowboat that starts the powerboat section of his first book.
The Bess came first in 1984. A photo of her ended up on the cover of the Delta Airlines in-flight magazine. This was news to me when George W. Hart called and said he wanted one just like it. The photo by Marty Loken taken on Lake Union with Elizabeth, age two, in the stern-sheets was a lead-in to an article on the Apprenticeshop of Bath Maine and the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, Washington. George Hart did some sleuthing before he had me on the phone.
The boat was built in 1991 to Hart’s specification- size twelve shoes, 6’ 3”, 210 pounds. He kindly agreed come to Anacortes for sea trials. He was sitting in the Rescue when he said he took up skiing when he was forty, tennis at fifty and now at sixty it was time to row. He was a natural and seemed to take to it. Within in minutes he was comfortable and pulling a pretty good stroke. George flew back to Atlanta. We crated the boat and shipped it to Georgia.
As with children, sometimes years go by without a word. In this case twelve years had passed when William Barton III called out of the blue wanting to know how much the Rescue was worth. She was sitting in a barn in NE Georgia not getting any use. I told him $10,000 and wondered at the time if I should call the Harts and see what was going on. Well things slip by and two years later Mrs. Lynn Hart called me. She was cleaning up the farm and was trying to find a home for the Rescue - perhaps a museum or a non-profit group. With no hesitation, I said “we have a non-profit”. She answered right back - “come and get it.”
This is where it got complicated. The original shipping crate was long gone. I could meet my older son William in Georgia to build a new one but the railroads laughed at us and the truckers weren’t too helpful either. Regular boat haulers wanted four thousand dollars. Oh yes - she has a trailer and we thought about driving out and back again with the boat. But, they don’t rent pickup trucks with hitches to Yankees in Georgia and five thousand miles sitting behind the wheel was daunting. Two more years went by as we planned, dreamed and dawdled. Mrs. Hart finally finessed me with an email. I was copied on an email asking a yard in Florida to quote painting the boat so she could offer it for sale on eBay.
The email arrived on a Saturday late in August 2007. Sunday morning I was on the phone to Mrs. Hart promising to be there in September. We eventually settled on a U-haul truck. Kristi and I flew to Atlanta, were meet by my niece, picked up a 28’ truck and figured out how to drive it on the two-hour trip north to Clarksville, Georgia. The Harts were wonderful hosts. They put us up, feed us, showed us their 125-acre farm including the ten-acre pond the Rescue occupied one summer, and sent us on our way with our precious cargo through the Great Smoky Mountains to Tennessee and eventually across America to Anacortes. It was a wonderful trip - fields, forests, mountains, rivers and usually an interesting bed and breakfast at night.
Once home the work started in earnest - seventeen of the thirty-three frames were cracked across the grain. I was in boatbuilder’s heaven - a project long anticipated. The Rescue kept me off the streets and out of the bars for nine months as we took her apart, steamed in new frames and put her back together again. Framing is not a job for one person. Frames were boiled in water for an hour then slipped onto place, held and fastened one at a time in less than five minutes. My apprentice and helper on the job was my youngest - Peter Jackson. Thanks to Kris Kefgen who helped bring the Rescue to Anacortes then lent her garage as a place to work. And thanks to OARS and individual sponsors who made the trip and restoration possible.