To Dare a Dream: A Salty Memoir

To Dare a Dream: A Salty Memoir

by Capt.Earle Williams


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To Dare a Dream: A Salty Memoir by Capt.Earle Williams

This adventure/autobiography begins with the dream of a fourteen-year-old boy to build a fishing schooner and sail around the world. It starts with the collection of all possible money, then the purchase of a secondhand hard pine from the old textile mills.

Eleven years along in the construction with the total support of his family, he quit his full-time job, took out a promissory note from the bank. Earle used a great deal of improvisations to keep the costs down. Regardless of that, the money was spent in one year.

His chapters go on to mention the interesting characters, the ups and downs, the ever-present all-around strain on the family, which propelled the vessel onto its completion in fourteen years!

You the reader will be captivated with the details of building the schooner, the humorous situations, and all the other underlying themes involved!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466940017
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 06/14/2013
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt



By Earle Williams

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Captain Earle
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4669-4001-7



It was February; fine powdery snow was blowing all around us after a blustery nor'easter yesterday. It was late in the afternoon as the cold and darkness started settling in. Two other carpenters and I were shingling the roofs on the cottage units of the "Golden Ranch Motel" along the meandering stretch of route 28 of West Yarmouth, Cape Cod.

It was quitting time as I jumped down off the seven-foot high roof into the snow. I instantly felt a sharp pain in my right foot. Without realizing it, I had jumped right on to a spike sticking up hidden just beneath the white powder. It had penetrated my heavy work boot directly up through my instep! "Boy, oh boy, did that hurt." I limped over to my pickup and called over to John my partner. "Look what happened to me! I stepped on a spike in the snow, and it went right up through my foot, boot and all!" Aghast, he answered, "Why don't you go right home and soak it in hot water and Epsom salts."

By that time, darkness had settled in as I drove home down route 28 to West Dennis and hobbled into our toasty warm house. While my wife Dottie was busy with supper, I took off my boot and looked at the foot. It hadn't bled much, and the pain had subsided some. I walked barefoot into the kitchen and reached up behind her to take down the bottle of J. W. Dent whiskey.

Back into our little living room, I settled onto the couch as comfortably as possible. With a sigh of relief, I downed a shot of the whiskey that immediately warmed my stomach and comforted me a little. I called out to my wife.

"Guess what happened to me today?" She came out and noticed my right foot with the boot and sock off.

"What?" she asked with a worried look.

"I jumped off a roof into the snow, and a spike went clear through my foot. The whiskey seems to have dulled the pain." She immediately took command.

"You come right out to the kitchen and eat this hot supper I've cooked for you, then make a beeline for 'Doc' Howe's place!"

After dinner, I drove through the snow flakes over the Bass River Bridge, and hung a left at the South Yarmouth stop light. I continued down South Main Street to pull up in the Doc's driveway beside his black World War II jeep which he used to make house calls.

The old homestead stood back in all its colonial grandeur. Years ago, sea captains built these glorious structures. The widow's walks on their roofs gave testimony to the vigils their wives put in eagerly awaiting the return of their husbands. It was surrounded by a large porch with wooden columns, a wide front entry with four steps, and a large well-varnished oak door with frosted glass windows.

I gingerly stamped the snow off my boots, entered the hall, and took the first door on my right into Doc's waiting room with its spacious fireplace, warmed by glowing embers.

I walked over to the mantel to take the chill off. There before my very eyes was a twelve-inch model of a Cape Cod Cat boat. "Wow, what a pleasure to view this wonderful symbol of old Cape Cod."

Dad had often said, "When I retire, I'm going to have myself a Cat boat." My dad's dad, grandpa John Williams, was an oysterman. When he started out, he went to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to obtain a lease of an oyster bed, just off the shores of Wellfleet in Cape Cod Bay. He, like many of the oyster men of those days, took his boat down to the Chesapeake Bay to buy the seedlings or 'spat' to plant in their leased beds.

For this business, there was nothing more efficient than the Cat boats, which were forty foot in length with a single mast well forward in the very bow of the vessel.

Their dimensions were quite contrary to the usual sailing boats. Because they were to be used in the shallows, their extreme width known as "the beam" was exactly one-half of their length. Thus, a forty foot long Cat would have a twenty foot beam. This made them float high in the water with only three feet of depth required to row in and harvest the oysters with rakes. Once in deeper water, they ran up the huge gaff rigged sail, lowered the centerboard, and dropped the long barn door rudder in place to get on home in a hurry with their catch.

Gramps owned one of these forty-foot Cats, which he named By Genius. One of my dad's favorite stories about gramps was, "One bright Sunday morning Pa took out the parson and his wife of our congregational church for a day sail. As usual, I went along as mate to help with the boat handling. The usual brisk afternoon southwester came up as the By Genius laid over and with a "bone in her teeth" took off in all her glory. A few hours into the breakneck sail, the parson spoke up in a somewhat concerned voice. "Captain, why are the floorboards floating around in the bilge water?"—pause—In a very casual manner, Pop replied, "It's customary to allow a little seawater into the vessel to keep her smelling sweet." With all his might, he quickly brought the cat about so that it was driving headlong before the brusque wind toward the bathing beach.

At the last minute, he raised the centerboard and pulled up the rudder as the By Genius shot off the top of a cresting wave, gaining more speed; it surfed through the breakers to slide up high and dry on the sandy beach. "I myself in all my outings with Pop had never seen anything like it!" Dad said with a broad grin.

Of course, the bilge water drove up forward into the cockpit and splashed back to soak all to the skin! Pop, with all his might, casually dropped and secured the huge sail and then helped the parson and his wife step out of the vessel as if it was just another everyday occurrence.

The door to the office opened, and a client walked out and left. 'Doc' came out.

"Hay, Earle, how ya' doin?" I came out of my trance to answer in a shaky voice.

"Not so hot ..." We shook hands as I followed him into his little office.

"Come on in, take a load off, have a seat, make yourself comfy, and tell me all about it." After a pause, to get my wits about me, I started off.

"Well, I was shinglin'a roof on one of the cottages at the Golden Ranch Motel in West Yarmouth. It was only seven-feet high. When I jumped off, my right foot landed on a spike sticking up in a two by four from beneath the snow. It drove up through my foot, boot and all, and punched out of the top of it." He sat down in his swivel chair to look me over.

'Doc' was about five foot four inches in height and five feet in diameter. He was wearing his form-fitting well-rounded out blue suit, as the Britt's might say ... 'portly'. To his left was his roll-top desk and behind him the old balanced beam scale; just like a character out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

"Do yah' want to look at it?" I asked, about to take off my boot. After a moment of silence, 'Doc' proceeded with his slow Yankee drawl that almost drove me nuts; it seemed as if he would never get to the point. I often felt like finishing his sentences for him.

I waited as he finally answered, "Tell yah' what, I've seen punctures before!"

Still deeply concerned, I blurted out, "Well ..., ah OK, Doc ..., what can we do for that?" After another pause, his swivel chair squeaked as he turned his back to me.

Again in his slow drawl, "Stand up, turn around, bend over, and drop your drawers." I heard his swivel chair groan as I immediately felt a sharp pain in my behind. "Waugh! Boy did that hurt!" He dragged his words out slowly, "Pull those drawers up, sit down, and tell me all about that schooner you're ah buildin'?"

"'Doc' ..., Ah, you know how it is?"—Pause—"I'm trying to keep the mortgage paid and food on the table. I've been carpentering six days a week and finally managed to save $250. Pamela got a bad cold and we had to call you out. Then I put aside three hundred dollars, the truck needed a set of tires. Every time I save money, something comes along, and it just disappears. So I haven't gotten very far." One long pause as "Doc" cleared his throat.

"You'll never do it! There's no way you can do it ... with one exception!" he stated loud and clear. "Yah, take five dollars from 'The bread money'"

Perplexed, I asked, "What in heck is the 'bread money'?"

He came on, "That's any loose change you can scrounge from around the house—under the truck seat, perhaps a few dollars left over from buying groceries ..., any monies that aren't nailed down. "Yah, put it in a shoe box under the bed." I nodded in agreement.—Pause ..., "Take five dollars out and buy a gallon can of red lead paint!"

"Yah, Yah," I replied following his logic.

"Next, you take a few more dollars and buy some galvanized bolts!" Another pause, "Then after months of scrounging, yah' take your boat trailer up to that John Duane Salvage yard in Quincy yah' been telling me about to buy some second-hand hard pine." The light bulb lit up in my head....

"'Doc', now I got the point!!."

"Once yah' get the money into the boat, there's no way you can get it out!"

That was the start of building the 'Denyce', named after my oldest daughter, a 65 foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner of my own design from the lines of the famous "Bluenose".

Following "Doc" Howe's advice, as soon as I had saved some "bread money," I drove over to Leon Hall's lumberyard and bought a gallon of red lead paint and a brush. A couple of weeks later with more 'bread money', I bought some galvanized bolts. A few months of saving the 'bread money', I towed my four-wheeled boat trailer behind the old Pontiac "woody" station wagon up to Quincy and paid a visit to John Duane's building and wrecking yard. After a brief talk about my boat, he told me to go out of the main gate, take a left down the road apiece, turn in at the sign Hard Wood Lumber, and ask for Scott.

Scott proved to be a blond-headed Scotsman with a tam on his head and a broad smile on his face. Right from the start, I knew we'd be good friends. He showed me tons of twelve inch by twelve inch long-leaf yellow pine timbers for the keel and deadwood, plus many three by twelve inch pieces for the frames, and last but not least, one long six by twelve inch timber for the stem piece. After spending the whole day culling through the pile, Scott came over and helped me pile the "winners" by the entrance. Scott went back to his little office to return with the bill of sale. I paid him in cash and then, loading it onto the trailer, and lashing everything down securely, headed home with a full load and a song in my heart rolling down the expressway.

Back in West Dennis, I shaped the huge timbers with an old beat up "Mall Skillplane" (an electric plane to smooth down lumber) which my old Tabor buddy, Kip Pierce, had taken in trade at his father's hardware store. It had a chain and sprocket drive, long out dated, but able to function. It took several weeks for me to plane the rough keel timbers into shape. I then fashioned a high tripod out of three solid two by fours, and with block and tackle hoisted the stem up beside the our cottage and bolted the stem to the keel and deadwood, thus forming the backbone of my vessel. Since my project was alongside our little home with the adjoining boat and tackle shop directly on the busy route 28, many of my friends would give a honk as they passed by. Some of my working and fishing buddies would give a hearty support.

"Hay 'Tiki' when ya' goin' tah'finish that ark?" At the time, the mid-1950s, Thor Heyerdahl had just sailed his raft Kon-Tiki across the Pacific from Peru to the Hawaiian Islands to prove the theory that the South American natives had sailed a similar raft to the South Pacific to begin settling the Hawaiian Islands. Thus I acquired the nickname "Tiki". After I had painted everything with the orange-colored red lead paint, they'd slow down their drive and lower their windows to holler out, "Hay 'Tiki', what yah' buildin' a damned Chinese Junk?"

It was comforting to know that they were payin' attention!

Becoming more acquainted with 'Doc', I found out that he had a secret life stashed away that only his closest friends knew about. Somehow, in some way, he had befriended the Lee family who owned the Red River ice house in Harwich. I had a locker there for bait in the summer and a place to store frozen foods for the winter months. The owners had British accents and, believe it or not, were descendents of the original settlers of the Abacos in the Bahamas.

One time when 'Doc' and I were deep in conversation, he mentioned that he owned a small island, Man-o-War Key in the Bahamas. The local boat builders had built him a forty-five-foot schooner. Every February, the natives would get his schooner ready and book passage for him on one of their conk boats out of West Palm.

The islanders with their "Coconut Telegraph" received the news that "Doc" was on his way. As soon as the "Conk Boat" showed just over the horizon, they gathered at his dock with his freshly painted schooner alongside. Amongst a chorus of greetings, 'Doc' made his way down the gang way with his black satchel. Two big islanders went aboard the boat and carried down the remainder of his belongings. The throng surrounded 'Doc' as he made his way to his small abode. They all went into the living room. He put down his well-worn black satchel next to his easy chair and then went into the bathroom to wash his hands and throw cold water over his face.

The "doctoring" began. With his stethoscope around his neck and his black satchel handy, off he went working the line of locals one at a time just as if he had never left. As was the custom, he called them by their first name with the Mister or Miss or Misses before it; the Bahamian form of respect. He worked on the men with their broken arms, pulled shoulders, and sore backs, and the woman with their pregnancies and children's ailments.

After his 'vacation' was up, he'd return to the Cape. Whenever, he bumped into me in my travels, he always smiled and came up with the familiar phrase. "Hay, Earle ..., how's that schooner of yours ah'comin'?"



The helmsman braced himself against the slanting wheel box, grasping the ships' wheel with all his might his eyes squinting into the storm-lashed rain. His sou'wester hat was strapped down tightly, as was his oilskin jacket, trousers, and boots as he faced the ferocious storm. The fisherman was a bronze casting atop its granite base at Promontory Park overlooking Gloucester harbor. Every spring, hundreds of men and women gathered to throw wreaths into the outgoing tide in memory of their lost loved ones.

The bronze inscription read:

"Blessed are they that go down to the sea in ships, for they shall see the workings of the Lord!"

As I had devoured Rudyard Kipling's famous novel "Captains Courageous"—which was an epic story about the treacherous life aboard Gloucester fishing schooners, my parents took me up one Sunday to see this monument. Afterwards, we visited the graves of these brave fishermen. The captains all had their ship's wheel from their last vessel mounted alongside their gravestones with the name of their ship painted in white letters on the black wheel.

Years later, in 1938, I was fourteen years old and attending Junior High. To my complete surprise, there were headlines in the Boston Post. "The Last International Fishing Schooner race was to be held in Gloucester!" Captain Angus Walters, the Canadian contender, had challenged the United States to come up with a rival for the title! He was to bring his famous schooner Bluenose down from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for the event!

The Gloucester, Massachusetts folks picked out the schooner Gertrude L. Thebaud as the American contender with one of their favorite skippers, Ben Pine, who did the honors. I looked the two schooners up in my well-worn book entitled 'American Fishing Schooners'. Both schooners had been built back in the 1920s, but had long ago converted to diesel power. No longer were they used as sailing schooners. The old foremast remained standing with just a storm sail rig. The great mainmast had been cut down to carry a small riding sail for use in heavy weather and the after helmsman's position was now an enclosed pilothouse. The conversion back to the original sailing gaff-rigged schooners was under way!!

Excerpted from TO DARE A DREAM by Earle Williams. Copyright © 2013 Captain Earle. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. The Bread Money....................     1     

2. How It All Began....................     10     

3. Bass River Bridge....................     22     

4. Curtis Curtain....................     30     

5. Flavia....................     41     

6. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer....................     52     

7. Datin' Dorothy....................     64     

8. The Last Hurrah!....................     74     

9. Apple Blossom Time....................     86     

10. Southwick Farm....................     98     

11. Earle's Boat....................     122     

12. Buster....................     129     

13. The Corporate Caper....................     140     

14. Hangin' Plank....................     151     

15. Lightin' off the Ole bitch....................     168     

16. The Fore River Shipyard....................     182     

17. The Sun Ship and Drydock Co....................     190     

18. The Rockland Trust....................     194     

19. Box Cars....................     198     

20. The Funny Car....................     204     

21. Pigeon Hollow Spars....................     216     

22. The Golden Trunnel....................     224     

23. The Cedar Swamp!....................     239     

24. Nova Scotia....................     244     

25. Neptunus Rex....................     255     

26. Nirvana....................     263     

27. The Last Chapter....................     289     

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