New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve 2007 at Westminster Abbey.

Ten years ago, I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a festive group hosted by Graeme Napier at Westminster Abbey in London. We had a sumptuous meal which we had all pitched in to help cook. Afterward, we processed around the abbey community performing some of the rituals from the Scottish Hogmanay celebration. Before midnight, Graeme led us up twisting stairs to the roof of the abbey’s northwest tower from which we watched the fireworks and spectacle of the crowds below. The night ended with a group rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” in the nave.

This year, with the temperature hovering in the single digits outside, I’m staying in and reflecting on the past year. Of course, the biggest event was our wedding which brought together and joined our families and closest friends. I finished a few woodworking projects and published a book. We traveled to San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans, and all over the Midwest visiting family. All told, 2017 was a good year for me personally.

As the clock strikes midnight, I’m hopefully optimistic that in the coming year our country will return to a path of civility, decorum, compassion, and neighborliness.

Choosing a Boat Design

Plans and model of Bevin’s Skiff.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved ships, boats, and water. One of my favorite books growing up was David Macaulay’s Ship which so vividly depicts boatbuilding and archaeology, another early passion. In the pre-Internet days of my youth, I received in the mailĀ Preston’s Of Ships & Sea, a well-known nautical catalog. I don’t remember how it first came to my attention but I loved paging through it, admiring the gleaming brass lanterns and detailed ship models. Around age sixteen, I learned how to sail on Lake Okoboji in Iowa and I’ve wanted to own a sailboat ever since.

I briefly owned a 15-foot Spindrift Rascal sailboat when I lived in Maryland and my desire evolved into wanting to build my own wooden boat. One summer, I built a tiny, take-apart paddle boat that fit into the back seat of my car but it was unstable and didn’t sail. I bought plans for the Glen-L Sabotina but never had space to build it. Over the past few years, I’ve seriously considered building an Oughtred Guillemot or a Bateau V12. Choosing a sailboat that’s relatively easy to build, inexpensive, compact but big enough to carry two or three people, and that looks great is not an easy task: there are thousands of viable designs.

My decision paralysis came to end recently when plans solidified for a family vacation near Glen Lake in Michigan next summer. I want to have a home-built sailboat ready to take out on the lake and I have less than a year to build it. EnterĀ Bevin’s Skiff.

Joe Youcha designed Bevin’s Skiff in the late 1990s as an easy-to-build boat that could be used to teach kids about boatbuilding. This boat meets all of my requirements and I like that the design was named after Youcha’s dog, Bevin. I’ve been reading as much as I can find about the skiff and haven’t found anything negative yet. Looking over the drawings, I feel confident that I can build the boat in the allotted time and end up with a beautiful sailing and rowing skiff that we can take out on Glen Lake.


Homegrown pumpkins.

During the second week of July, I planted a handful of New England pie pumpkin seeds. Realizing this was almost too late in the year, my hopes were not high for these plants. The five vines did well at first but powdery mildew eventually set in and I couldn’t keep up with fighting it. These two pumpkins were the only ones to make it to harvest.