If you have gone to the “Is There Really a Jack?” page on my web site and seen the picture above, you should know that there’s more to the story.
As you can see from the picture, this boat had very low sides, or in the boating world, “freeboard.” The reason for this is the fact that this boat was originally an old square-backed wooden ribbed kayak covered with canvas.
I believe it was early fall on Cape Cod, the water was still warm and you could still swim in the ponds. A couple of friends and I were snorkeling and swimming in Higgins Pond in Wellfleet, near the sluice way; diving down and chasing fish and turtles was a fun thing to do. On one of those deep dives I spotted something unusual sticking out of the mud on the bottom of the pond. I dove down to take another look and realized it was a sunken boat. As I surfaced, I yelled to my buddies, “Hey I think I found a shipwreck!” As we circled above this sunken vessel, we each took turns diving down to see what kind of boat it was. It was covered with slime so it was obvious it had been there for a while. We decided to raise it to the surface, which was not an easy task. Since it was so deep we could only stay down there for a short period of time. We coordinated our dives, so that together we could pull it closer to the shore. After about an hour or so we were able to get it to the shore and dump all the water out. Upon further inspection, we discovered that it was an old square-backed, canvas-covered kayak. Realizing the person who lost this boat had probably given up on it a long time ago, we as the salvagers claimed her (funny how boats are referred to as her or she).
This posed another problem: now that we had her on the shore, what exactly were we going to do with her? Most of the canvas was weak so she wouldn’t float for very long, but aside from that the ribs seemed to be in relatively good shape. We decided to take it to my house with a plan to see if we could repair and restore her. Another few hours later we had her in my back yard on some blocks drying out in the sun.
My father was a carpenter and was good with his hands so when he got home that evening I showed him what we had found. I must admit, he did think I was a little nuts and restoring this old boat would be quite a chore. During dinner that night my father agreed to help me restore her and we set up a workspace in the basement. We removed all the old canvas and made the decision to convert her into a rowboat. We removed the deck area and decided to use marine plywood instead of canvas. It was a long project, something I had a hard time realizing at the age of nine. During that fall and winter, after we had dinner, my dad and I would go down stairs and work on her; it was a real learning experience. That next summer we launched this newly-restored boat at Gull Pond in Wellfleet and my younger brother Mike was there to celebrate; this picture you see was taken on that day.
I can’t begin to tell you the adventures I had with this boat…