Hal Mclane was one of the unsung heroes of our family’s original boatyard in West Palm Beach. He married my father’s sister, Mary Irene, and came to work at the yard as our purchasing agent after the war. Hal was tasked with procuring everything from metals to paint for the blossoming new industry of custom sportfisherman and even assumed the lumber buying responsibilities from my grandfather, Pop Rybovich, as time went on. In an age long before the internet made the search for answers a click away, Hal researched every facet of the latest in materials technology to give his brothers-in-law the edge on the competition. He was there for the introduction of epoxy resin to the industry in the late ‘50s and researched the spray-applied urethanes from the aircraft industry, such as Alumagrip (Awlgrip) and Imron, with which we first experimented in the early ‘70s. Hal’s contribution to the yard’s reputation, and ultimately to its legacy, is an important part of what made it a sportfishing Mecca for so many years.
In our youth, we spent a lot of time at the Mclane house, especially around the holidays. Uncle Hal had a bar, which had been built by one of our finest craftsmen, Jack Rhodes, and as we came of age, we sat at the bar, sipped V.O., and solved the world’s problems, resting our elbows on select FEQ teak. Above the back bar on the wall was a framed quote by Dwight Morrow that read: “The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the former. There’s far less competition.” I recall that quote frequently while sloshing through the excrement of the glory seekers of the world, which brings us to the indignation of the month: “I built that boat.”
In our service yard, we work on all brands. I cringe every time I hear someone, other than the boatbuilder, claim that “I built that Spencer you just hauled,” or “I’ve built two Bayliss boats now,” or “I see you’ve got that 58 Merritt up in the shed that I built back in ’03.” This seemingly benign annoyance has become so commonplace that I am now compelled to stand up for all the hard-working boatbuilders who give their heart and soul to the trade.
To everyone within channel 16 range: You have the right to claim that you “built the boat” if you participated in one or more of the following:
- The actual design, engineering and lofting of the lines and body plan and entire superstructure, complete with hydrostatics, either by old school drawing board or digital design capabilities.
- Patterning, cutting and assembling the hull and superstructure jigs and all the structural components thereof.
- Swimming in epoxy coated planking and/or fiberglass from start to finish on the hull, foredeck and superstructure until your work clothes are stiff, cracking like peanut brittle, and unwearable.
- Holding a 1750 Milwaukee attached to a 12-inch hard pad against thousands of square feet of surface area, 8 hours a day for weeks, and holding an 8-foot-long block against the same area for months after the grinding is complete.
- Creating a story board of bevels taken from a developing surface along the hull and applying that twisting geometry to a guard, bilge, or chine rail so it fits the hull perfectly.
- Scribing, fitting and fastening an unfathomable number of bulkheads and joinery components to complex hull shapes so they will stay put in a 40-kt earthquake.
- Pulling numerous 250- to 300-pound 8/4, 12/4, and 16/4 rough cut timbers of Philippine, Fir and Teak from the lumber shed and turning them into a perfectly smooth and fair finished product.
- Lifting, placing, fastening and aligning 10,000-pound engines, transmissions and systems into an exquisitely painted machinery space without damage.
- Pulling 15 miles of 14/3 from stem to stern, keel to tower platform, and terminating 20,000 heat shrink connections.
- Pouring 0006 into your 545, 0003 into your catalyzed urethane and praying that your respirator will do its job for the next four hours, night after night. A notarized letter from your dermatologist, pulmonologist, orthopedic surgeon or psychiatrist will suffice as proof.
Here are things that do not qualify you as one who “built that boat”:
- Being a paid consultant to remind the builder of standard industry practices.
- Creating and maintaining a spreadsheet on construction progress.
- Deciding where to place the towel bars and USB ports for maximum ergonomic effect.
- Fluffing the interior with the latest flash-in-the-pan architectural trend. (“It’s what they’re doing in Europe, and everything is better in Europe … the wine, the women and especially the boatbuilders.”)
- Explaining to the builder how they do things at the yard where you have “built” other boats.
- Scheduling the initial sea trial so that more of your industry peers can attend and bear witness to your extensive knowledge of hydrodynamics.
- Reminding the builder that he needs to kick it up a notch “If we’re going to make that tournament.”
- Requesting a subscription to an app that allows you to do a complete oil change on your phone from the strip joint over in the next county.
- Determining that a magnetic compass is passé and the space allowed for it would be better suited for a sub-woofer that will shake the seals out of the hydraulics when playing “your music.”
- Pointing to where you think the hawse pipes should be placed in the stern so that each year, on the solstice, the sun’s rays reflect off the mezzanine and shine through the transom corners to the dredges, effortlessly raising world record billfish.
Obviously, funding the project puts one at the top of the list of one who has “built that boat.” Some of our best ideas came from the greatest people in the world, our customers, without whom none of this would be possible. They are the reason we are here, and they unequivocally appreciate folks working hard for them. We welcome and encourage creative input and practical ideas here and will enthusiastically give credit where credit is due.
Diligent captains and crew, for whom I have the utmost respect, work assiduously here during the course of a new build or re-fit and are a big part of the process. I know many of them who are just as dirty as we are at the end of the day. It’s the people that get paid to watch that get me going. Hypothetically, it’s akin to Mel Allen claiming he pitched that complete game. No, that was Whitey Ford, eleven of them, with no help from Mel. Like politicians at a ceremonial ground breaking with gold plated shovels, claiming that he or she is building that bridge. No, that would be a bunch of hard working people funded by money stolen from their pockets. The suits were just there for the photo op.
I think you get the point: If you want to be a part of something, don’t be a kibitzer. Jump in and help; there is far less competition. If sweat and dust are beneath your position in life, shut up and get out of the way. We’ve got boats to build ... Right, boys? Now who did you say “built that boat”?