From Where I Sit
I can look out my office window and see parts of Narragansett Bay, with little Dyer Island in the foreground and larger Prudence Island in the background, effectively blocking a view across the bay to Quonset, home of the navy Seabees and the corrugated sheet metal shed of the same name made famous during World War II.
Closer in, on land, I look out over the Ted Hood Marine Complex, or at least it used to be called that. Hood sold the yard a few years ago but outwardly little has changed other than the paving of an employee parking lot. All the buildings are blue sheet metal with low-pitch roofs. Hood’s are huge, big enough inside to build its range of Little Harbor sailboats and Whisperjet express cruisers. While I haven’t seen the “old man” recently, Ted Jr. is around; his children and mine attend the same school so we see each other at school functions. You’ll not know a nicer man.
The outlying buildings are smaller and house a variety of complementary businesses. Across the way from us is Jim O’Connor’s Life Raft and Safety Equipment. He’s the major life raft repacker around here. He helped us test rafts back in 1991, and has cared for my personal raft for many years. Also chairman of the Life Raft Service Station Committee for the US Marine Safety Association, he has great integrity. Jim coaches in the local youth hockey league in which both our sons participate.
Opposite Jim is Chris Scott’s woodworking shop. Chris is a nut about tools, which isn’t surprising. But what is unusual is the number of giant antique band saws he has inside. It doesn’t seem he gets to use them all that often, but being a tool lover myself, I imagine just knowing they’re there makes him feel good. One or more wooden boats are usually staged outside or in. The floor is so clean you could eat off it. On warm summer days, when Chris leaves the doors open, he sometimes turns up his stereo and some beloved opera fills the yard. Imagine cutting a heavy oak keelson with a huge, slow-turning saw blade to the music of Puccini!
In the same building as Jim is Don Watson, whose business, Ocean Instrumentation, engraves, among other things, electrical panels. He lives aboard an Alajuela 38 at the next marina up the shore. His assortment of vehicles is varied: Lincoln Continental, rusty Econoline van, and Peterbilt tractor trailer. Don airs his dog Cutter in the nearby field; when I used to bring my dog Tango to the office they’d sometimes play together, racing each other for a tossed tennis ball. Don always has something pleasant to say.
Behind Don is Andy Cortvriend’s Ocean Link business, which specializes in boat systems. In 1997 he helped us test 12-volt watermakers. He’s bearded and a bear of a man. On weekends I run into him all over the state at events ranging from the 4H fair to the annual hot air balloon festival, revealing glimpses of other interesting dimensions.
Up the road, at the East Passage Yachting Center, I have more friends: Tom Rich, a partner in the yard; and his wife Corinne who runs the Newport Harken Yacht Equipment Office; Scott Murray, yard manager; John Deveau who owns the Ship’s Store, and his talented staff—Bill, Andrew, Leigh, Maria…
Good people all. How lucky I am to know them!
Each one reminds me of something that was said to me more than 30 years ago when I was first “getting into” sailing, and has been repeated many times since, sometimes by newcomers, other times by knowing veterans: Sailors, and those people in the sailing business, are a pretty good bunch.
They’re a major reason I’ve stayed as long as I have.