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by Cecil Tiller - Corapeake, North Carolina - USA

I suspect all boat builders have a "How I got started story" and here is mine.

We were living in Hampton, Va., in a new housing development. Ours was the 3rd or 4th house built. Dad was stationed at Langley AFB. This was back in the early 60`s during my "preteen years".

I was given an old wooden row boat by a boy at school whose dad/family no longer wanted it or used it.

Below is a map to give you an idea of what took place.

On a Saturday morning, after coaxing two of my friends to help me, (their dad was in the Air Force too) we set off on our journey. We left the house and followed Fairfield Blvd to the end, out and across the marsh crossing the Harris River (we called it a creek) at low tide, avoiding the deep muddy banks to Harris Creek Road. We walked to the end of the road (several miles) to the marina where my prize awaited me.

After inquiring about the boat I was directed to the treasure that awaited me. There she sat full of water, peeling paint and years of neglect, but she was MINE! Built in the old traditional way, real boards from stem to stern, no plywood and cross planked bottom - a thing of BEAUTY!

After bailing her out with an old tin can, and procuring a couple of oars, we set off! Life jackets? Hey we all could swim! Bailing as we went, time really does fly when you are having fun. The journey back down south was a real adventure, new territory, new sights, new sounds and a little longer than we had ever thought about!

It was dark when we finally made or way into the narrow creek where we had started. "Hey, what are those lights out there in the marsh?" "Looks like flashlights - what are they looking for?" It was then that reality set in. They were looking for us, but we weren't lost! A little late getting home maybe, but we knew where we were! The policeman was kind but stern.

After tying my treasure up, we were escorted out of the marsh and back to civilization and worse, our parents - "quick", think up a good excuse!

"The tide came in and we could't get back across the creek so we decided to go get the FREE boat! " It seemed very important to make sure everybody concerned understood this was a FREE boat! Mom had tears of joy, her long lost son, the high seas adventurer was Home! Dad on the other hand was not, as they say today, "a happy camper". Certain I was facing imminent death, I prepared myself for the worst! I didn't know how bad it could be!

No spanking, whipping could have done as much damage as what I was about to receive! GROUNDED FOR TWO WEEKS! I had not he heard of cruel and unusual punishment? What about my boat? Some pirate may take it. The find of a life time sitting there in the marsh lonely, forlorn, forsaken! Oh the agony, how could this be happening to me?

Well after what seemed like an eternity the weeks passed. First thing in the morning off to the marsh I went to check on my treasure! There she sat just as I had left her, tied up to some small marsh tree.

You've heard the saying: "one man's trash is another man's treasure". Well my treasure had a few flaws in her, she took on water and that's Greek for "she leaked like a sieve". She needed caulking and painting in the worst kind of way. Well dad wasn't so upset after all! He helped me get her to the house, but I don't remember how we did that. We turned upside down on some blocks. I sanded her to bare wood, face mask? It's only red lead paint! Transom rotten, no worry I'll just cut off the bad part. Now my treasure was two feet shorter than when I got her, but all good wood. "I think you had better fiberglass her", was his only suggestion and he bought the material to do it! There she sat a new exterior of water proof fiberglass ready to be painted. As I think back I think buying the glass material was cheaper than a funeral, the boards had REALLY shrunk up out of the water. You could see daylight thru the hull in several places! Surprise, an old, did I say old, I meant to say OLD outboard motor arrived in the trunk of dads car. "Bought it at the base thrift store". It doesn't get any better than this!

They failed to tell him the block had a crack in it , hey it runs just hold the choke out a little! No need for registration back then anything under 10 HP didn't have to be registered!

Boat back in the water, motor clamped on, pulling the starter rope till IT finally roared to life or half life anyway. Did I tell you it was a mile or more to the boat, thru the woods and out across the marsh. "watch it, soft ground there". My "help" showed back up, can't remember how long they were grounded or if they had been, but several weeks, maybe months, had passed. They were ready for another boat ride. That's Greek for another HIGH SEAS ADVENTURE! Off we went. The wind was blowing in our faces. WOW! What happened? We sheared the pin in the propeller! Spare, what spare? Didn't even know it had one in it! Oh well, it is a row boat! Second time out was a cruise of a lifetime! Just set the throttle, hold the choke and keep her in deep water!

Well after a successful outing we decided we would "broaden our horizons". We loaded up enough food and water for two weeks, an old Army surplus pup tent and the three of us set off. If you'll notice on the map what is now a refuge/park was our destination - probably 4 miles or more somewhat protected water, but looking back not a wise course of action. Did I tell you we had the dog with us? He went everywhere with me. "Floppy", the best friend a boy could have. Did I tell you several hours of pleasure boating while holding the choke partially open gets "old" after awhile?

Land ho! Set the tent up, a real challenge in sand! Cook a meal, make that meals! We ate all our food up in less than a day. "No worries, we'll just catch some fish or crabs for food". Ever catch the smell of burnt crabs ? Yuck! No fish, out of water, guess we'll head back home. I did tell you after the first hour or so of "pleasure" boating, holding the choke partially open gets old! Don't remember what ever happened to my treasure, but wish I had her back.

This start in my life of boats lead to more boats. Here's a list:

Built a 8' fishing pram for my dad. He used it a couple of times but neglect did it in.
Snark Sailboat (Kool). Spent the day on the lake and got sunburned/ sun poisoning. Couldn't work for three days and my feet and legs were so swollen so bad I couldn't walk.
Runabout plywood - built by my uncle in the 60s. Plans from APA and hull was glassed. Black because the gelcoat was free. We spent many an hour water skiing behind her - great boat great ride and very sea worthy.
A 22' Columbia Sail boat - fixed keel, really enjoyed this one, rebuilt it twice, sailed many miles in it. I towed the free dinghy when we went off on our week long cruises in the 22'. It was given to me, replaced the transom and used it for many , many years, very stable and a lot of rocker in the hull so it towed excellently.
Built the plywood punt for my son. It draws attention whereever he goes. I think he could have sold it many times.


Wooden outboard. Plywood hull made back in the 50s. Another free boat a good friend gave to me. His brother drowned when they were youngsters out using it. It sat for many, many years the family didn't want it. I replaced the stem, transom, and some frames and used it for many years . A fun boat and it ways always admired at the dock.



30' Hunter. It was going to be my "retirement" home, but too much money going into it so sold it at a loss.

Another one of my interests - ships in bottles.


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