Simpson: Mystery at the Beaufort boat show

May 16, 2012 

— What seaman worth his salt hasn’t heard tales of the dreaded Bermuda Triangle? This mysterious and uncharted area where meandering waterspouts and breathless calms rule, where derelict forgotten ships, their ragged sails drooping and tar melting from their deck seams, are doomed to drift forever.

The crew aboard Sylvia announced last week they’d discovered a clever mirroring of the legendary Bermuda Triangle, which they voted to label the “Beaufort Triangle.” This is an undefined area, not noted on modern GPS or navigational charts, but nevertheless where unseen and dangerously evil forces exist.

I would dismiss such incidents as coincidental. However, there’s a pattern of malevolency that invariably repeats itself without warning. Being of a cautious nature, I always completely check for fresh fuel, fuel lines, batteries, oil and bilge pump operations before engaging in any voyage.

This year, as usual, we brought Sylvia to visit Beaufort’s Wooden Boat show. All went well until, approaching the museums docks, once again her engine fell under the evil spell. With a three-four knot current such hexes are embarrassing. This same scenario has taken place for three consecutive years, as she stubbornly refuses to spin her propeller.

What is frustrating is that invariably, no matter the incantations of engine doctors, when the sailboat races end, Sylvia will again purr happily. Sylvia was under the control of an elite crew, Capt. Roger Mays, licensed skipper, commander Bill Kay, retired US Seabee, and Capt. Jerry Powell, professional tuna fisherman. Let this be a warning: Beaufort’s triangle is a place that must be approached with apprehension and caution.

I find the wooden boat show a great place to see excellence in boat building in all its varied forms, mostly sail, for sail represents dreaming of far-away-places and bronzed maidens, rather than the true cold and wet, sleepless days and nights that it is. Pleasure boating is dreaming of star studded nights and cool tropical breezes, idling into back coves and quaint coastal villages and swinging at anchor, listening to laughing sea-birds.

Kay, a son of Swansboro’s waterfront who has turned into the kind of artist who has the capacity and skill required to convert scraps of wood and paint, plastic and metal into scale copies, so detailed they cannot be distinguished from the originals but for size.

Now retired, his goal is salvaging Carolina’s historic working boats as museum quality replicas; “capturing” outstanding examples of Carolina’s waterfront heritage in time.”

Bill knew Sylvia II remained one of the few, still operating examples of Carolina’s outstanding boatbuilding. Over a thousand hours of meticulous labor was required before he displayed an exact copy, detailed to the dating label on the fire extinguisher.

A longtime resident of Swansboro’s waterfront, Kay took up engineering with the U.S. Navy Seabee’s, distinguishing himself by constructing airfields in Vietnam followed by constructing the South Pole’s International Research Station. Completing this assignment ahead of schedule, he was promoted, retiring from Dulles Airport, near Washington DC.

Kay is my idea of a master artist.

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