This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bateau Building III

Day three of the boat building apprenticeship program was last Saturday. It was interesting to see a change in the interest of the three apprentices. Previously, on each of the two days we met, they showed up sometime between 8:00 and 8:30, last Saturday they were ready before 8:00 and Edward called me on my cell phone at 8:01 to find out where I was (I was 100 feet up the road from his house and just about to arrive there). It was good to see that enthusiasm. I really believe the only reason they wait for me is because they know I have to videotape this whole project. Otherwise, they would be off and sawing without me.

But, they waited and we started on the boat where we stopped the previous Saturday. We had to begin by putting in the ribs in the front of the boat. The first picture shows Edward starting to supervise more and build less, which is what the master craftsman is supposed to do in an apprenticeship project. The main object for the work Saturday was to build the “stripping” along the top of the gunnels. This consists of four strips of cypress – one goes along the inside of the ribs (Larry is sanding the first one to make it even with the top of the rib and the gunnel), two go on top of the ribs (when finished this arrangement makes an open-bottomed box and is a great place for wasps to build nests), and one goes along the outside of the boat to act as a rub rail. This piece takes any punishment as the boat bumps or rubs against things and can be replaced easily if necessary. It is not glued. The head block and the stern board have to be notched to receive the two top strips. We also installed the timber that will support the deck. The last two pictures show all of the stripping installed.

It is good to work with these men (and women – Lena Mae makes a mean chicken/oyster gumbo). They are smart, competent and friendly – just as they were 35 years ago when they taught me to fish with them in the Basin. I do believe part of their generosity back then was due to their taking pity on me. Mostly they couldn’t believe any adult human being could know how to do so little that was really useful. I could teach electron microscopy but I couldn’t build a boat. I could analyze frog sounds on spectrographic equipment and travel all over South America to do it, but I couldn’t knit a net. I could catch bream with a fly rod, but I didn’t know how to set a trotline, much less how to catch enough of the right kinds of bait to bait it with. I guess if we’re lucky most of us reach a point where we come to realize how much we don’t know. The Basin people offered me that insight, and I have been grateful ever since.

The river is at 9.0 on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling to 8.5 by Saturday. The Mississippi and Ohio are both still falling so the only water we might get will be from the kind of local rains we have been getting over the past two weeks. Sure glad we are getting it, too.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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