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Box soon began envisioning a pathway back to the water for himself, his now 37-year-old son, and other likeminded souls: By building Seeker, a working Gulf Coast scow schooner. He imagined a vessel that would do freight work, like hauling firewood from the Vineyard to Nantucket. But once on the water, the boat could also serve a variety of other purposes in the community, such as functioning as a floating art gallery. “So many [boat-building] projects are just for show,” says Box. “Not this one. It will need to come in on or under budget, and it will have to earn its living.”

Seeking Something Long Forgotten

Box formed a mastermind advisory group, which includes friends like the 96-year-old Santos, famed Vineyard boatbuilders Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin, Captain Robert Douglas, and renowned yacht designer Dick Newick, among others. He then teamed up with Vineyard Voyagers, an existing organization that serves as Seeker’s nonprofit arm, helping to secure funding for a project that will in turn create local jobs, both during her construction and during her career as a working schooner.

After refining his design and drawing in the entire community—from school groups to artists to volunteers—Box then made arrangements to build Seeker in Vineyard Haven’s Boch Park, right near Douglas’ Black Dog Tavern and Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, one of the precious last bastions of wooden boats.

Work on Seeker got underway in August 2011. Box, Jake, and company started by building a barn, under whose protective timbers Seeker came to life. The first step was to lay her keel, then attach her frames, planks, and deck. “All materials will be green as sea grass,” says Box of the old-growth timbers that he’s using for this traditional plank-on-frame build: white oak for the keel and frames; white pine for the deck, masts, and spars; and cyprus for the planking. These logs came from private caches, like homeowners who need trees removed, and from discreetly gathered dead trees, not clear-cut. Box hopes to complete Seeker’s interior, finish trim work, and launch by May 2013.

Seeking Something Long Forgotten

Seeker’s place in the community is being established with each smack of a hammer. For Box, an exciting part of this project is the opportunity to mentor young people, from the proverbial square pegs struggling to fit into round holes to the computer geek who builds a website chronicling Seeker’s construction for class, from the history buff who watches a bygone slice of Americana being crafted to the wandering soul who happens upon the job site. The construction of Seeker has helped expose a new audience to a way of life that has fallen through the cracks. And Seeker will keep giving back to its community, long after the hammers fall silent in Boch Park.

 

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About

David Schmidt, a former New Englander, is the U.S. editor of Sail-World.com and is an editor-at-large for SAIL magazine.

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