Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Deep Infected Wounds

My new little project seems to have the same problem my shin did earlier this summer: Some little bugs got into the wound and set up shop. I kinda thought that might be the case, but it's a little worse than I kinda thought. I have pulled the end decks off, as the decking was pretty well shot. At first glance, it doesn't look too bad down below. This is the stern. The gunwales, ribs, and chines are fine, walls and floor look good. This can work.

But then we look under the bow. Again, walls, floors and ribs look okay. But check out that green circle where the decks met the splashboard.

Let's look a little closer. A is the outer gunwale. B is the inner one. Both are rotted clear through. Damn it. C was once the deck support between the hatch and the splashboard. The other side is not much better.

Close up of the splashboard support. Heh heh.

Here is what, back in the 1980s, was the front passenger footwell floor. Note the peculiar arrangement of the footwell with the rib running through it, leaving a three-inch space between the rib and the front bulkhead. 

So I had this thought that maybe I could save or splice in that one bad piece of floor. Then I dug around in the side hatch. Up against the bulkhead, the floor had gone to powder. I can't quite see air through there, but prit near.

Sooooooo, I upped today's marine plywood order by one more boat floor. Current guesstimate on replacement: All decks and bulkheads, full floor, front 1/3 of the gunwales, and some of the deck supports. Hey, I've seen worse. I think I've rowed worse.

Lord Calvert meets Betty Boop

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Betty Boop

The Great Thumb was born the Betty Boop around 1967. She was built by Keith Steele in Leaburg, Oregon for actor Ronn Hayes. Steele built her as a classic undecked McKenzie drift boat, 14 feet 9 inches long.

Steve Steele, 2010: "Sometime in the middle 60s my brother and I helped my dad build these."

Hayes was a television regular from the late 50s to the 1980s on shows ranging from Gunsmoke to Bonanza, to Lassie, to Dallas, and starred as Lincoln Vail in all 38 episodes of  The Everglades. He was also an avid environmentalist, helping found Earth Day. The river got hold of him early, however, and in the 1970s he joined with Vladimir Kovalik to found and run Wilderness World, running trips on the Rogue and Grand Canyon. But before Wilderness World, he ran the Betty Boop on trips with Martin Litton. She was a 14-foot McKenzie, wrote Ronn, that turned like an aerobatic Pitts Special. 

Ronn Hayes, 1966

Unfortunately, writes his daughter Heidi, after leaving Oregon with the boat strapped atop his 54 pickup, Dad miscalculated the height of vehicle plus boat. He crushed the bow when he pulled into a gas station. Needless to say, it made completing the hull compartments and getting the boat river ready for its first trip down the Grand Canyon a herculean effort.

“Just about every evening for 3 years Dad would be out in the garage working on the Betty Boop, adds son Peter. “She is named after Dad’s second wife, Betty Endicott, who was a “Bonanza Girl” (she did all the barmaid work for many years, was Parnell Roberts “Stand In” for many years.) When she was upset with dad she’d order him out to the garage so he could ‘screw his boat!’ We must have put a thousand brass screws into that hull, and many of them were twisted in under duress! We crafted every one of the little curved angles by hand. There were no power tools used to make the Betty Boop: Files, chisels, hand saws, brace & bit...that was it.

“I do not know how many runs Dad did with her, but he loved the Betty Boop, and he rowed it all summer long in 1970, working for Martin Litton.

Arthur Franz, Tim Considine, Ronn Hayes, Betty Boop, 1970

Ronn once wrote of a legendary day on a Martin Litton trip at Crystal Rapid in 1970, when the rapid was still rather new and no one really knew how to get through it. It bore little resemblance to the Crystal of today. Rather, it was an accelerating chaos, sweeping left, culminating in a giant hole on the lower left, just above what was then and still remains the Rock Island, albeit rearranged somewhat. Martin Litton flipped the first dory, swam it ashore, walked back up, flipped the second dory, walked back up and flipped the third. Curt Chang ran the fourth dory and flipped as well. So did the raft. Hayes ran last. He writes:

“The current was fierce and once set up I pulled desperately on the sticks to miss the Big One. Arthur and Tim had stuck to their agreement [to run every rapid] and their extra weight made a perfect Catch-22. The dory’s draft was deeper, making it hard to cheat the hole, but extra bow weight made cresting easier. Thank God they were there, because as we shot up the right hand corner of the Maw and stood on end, I began to slide out of the stern with a death grip on the oars. Arthur and Tim lunged around, grabbed my ankles and hauled me back into the cockpit. Slamming the oars back into the locks, I was up and rowing, missing the rock pile by a burble. Pure luck. The Betty Boop had made it right side up and uninjured on the Dog Day at Crystal.

Considine, Franz, Hayes, Boop, 1970

“Dad never flipped the Betty Boop,” writes Peter Hayes, “and he was considered a little crazy for some of the lines he ran routinely, like the left run at House Rock, the right run at Hance, and I think he never ran anything other than the right side of Lava. He was ejected from the ‘V Wave’ when the Betty Boop did a tail stand and he flew out the back with an oar in each hand. He carried the photo of that moment in his wallet until his death. I suppose it was sort of a spiritual moment for him. Dad, the Boop and the Canyon had a love affair that lasted his entire life.

click: Boop Oop A Doop

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sore Thumb

My friend Allen Wilson up in Gold Beach, Oregon stumbled across a historic boat a couple years ago. The Betty Boop was built in the late 1960s by Keith Steele of Leaburg, Oregon for actor Ronn Hayes. Hayes spent a few years decking her out and spent the summer of 1970 rowing Grand Canyon trips with Martin Litton. By '74 Hayes had gone back to acting and sold the boat to Larry Testerman who rebuilt and rechristened her the Great Thumb. Testerman ran her for the next decade, culminating with a wicked wreck at Badger Creek on the flood of 1983. More on that later. Testerman later moved from New Mexico to Salt Lake City and the Thumb sat in a field for a quarter century until Allen spied and acquired her. He took her up to Oregon in 2009 to rebuild her, but eventually came to his senses. So he tricked me into adopting the project.

Allen also coerced me into taking a bunch of lovely Port Orford Cedar home including one 20-foot plank. Somehow the cops ignored this for 1200 miles.

The Sore Thumb soaking in a last helping of Oregon fog.

And saying goodbye to the redwood trees.

And flying up into my boat loft to spend a while commiserating with my other peculiar boats.

Bizarre paint peelings in a side hatch.

Oh, and then there's the front footwell. Something about a quarter century in the Santa Fe sun. And rain. And snow. Ooog.

Boats in funny places

An unfortunate boat in the woods in Ithaca, New York.

Ships of Burning Man

The Christina was really big.

The retired Port Orford lifeboat in Oregon--a 35-foot self-righting center-engine wild thing. The crews would launch off an inclined railway into high rocky stormy seas in the middle of the night. Madness. But no more. Now they just let them drown I guess.

And a few dolled up trawlers in Humboldt County, California--I wonder if these guys fish for Columbian submarine cargo?

Maine Event

In July I flew back east ostensibly for my 40th high school reunion, but really to go see Lora and go play with our lovechild Ruby the banks dory.  

A heron waiting for lunch to swim by.

Ruby is as lovely as ever. Maybe more so.

I took my leathering gear back to upgrade her oars.

The boating snacks go well with the wood and leather.

Ruby gets her annual oiling.

She likes it.

It makes her glow.

On Saturday we rowed into town for the big event: the lobster boat races. 
Huge boats built to troll, bellowing along at top speed.

Flat out goofy.

Not streamlined. But loud.

Fierce competitors.

In case something goes awry, they are ready.

An altered image.

And an unaltered one. Must have been something we ate. The dory is turning into an afghan hound.

Or maybe it was something we drank. Port goes well with dories.

The camera must have sipped some too.

Really, it looked like this. 


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Storms and a crisis

"I pity the poor bastard," screamed Drifter one afternoon a few years back, drenched and shivering in a violent downpour, "who comes down the river and this doesn't happen to them!"

But in August, something happened that wasn't as fun. I gashed my shin, some doctors sewed it up, but a few days later it went bad. So we opened it up and purged.

And I went for a helicopter ride.

And spent a nice few days in the hospital.

But it's all better now. Thanks to all who helped.