'True Love' gets tender, loving care
WATKINS GLEN--On a day when spring is chasing winter and winter, for the moment, is winning, the sound of sea-gulls competes with the sound of an electric planer in a temporary structure built at the shore of Seneca Lake. Inside what looks almost like a greenhouse, shipwright Ron DeLappa is working with captains Bill Holgate and Lisa Navone on a regular planned overhaul of the schooner True Love. Lisa Navone, with her husband Josh Navone, own the boat.
Every five years, Navone explains, the ship must be "hauled out"--removed from the water--and rigorously inspected by its owners along with the Coast Guard--but she and her husband Josh Navone like to take care of this every four years, a schedule which coincided nicely with that for Mark Simiele's plans for the Seneca Legacy and the Stroller. Very specialized equipment is needed to bring a large boat out of the lake and Simiele, who owns it, kindly shares.
"It's more maintenance than repair," says DeLappa, who also worked on the Malabar X.
"You have to be proactive with your maintenance schedule," says Josh Navone. "We were able to do some heavy lifting as far as some of the larger projects ahead of schedule, and that you can't do while the boat's in the water."
So in the week after Columbus Day, the True Love was lined up with a rail system going into the lake, and gently guided onto a sort of cradle by scuba divers. A wrecker pulled it onto dry land and a skeleton of sturdy wood beams sheathed in heavy plastic was constructed around it. The boat was closely inspected and restoration began.
One necessary repair was "planking"--the removal and replacement of several boards on the hull. Holgate explains some of the lovely aroma in the wood-working area of the shop comes from the boards' previous use--they are tight-grained Douglas fir from retired sherry barrels, sourced from Doug Hazlitt. This is very precise work--in a good day, two planks can be set in by the two men working together. They have to be bent and glued as they become part of the hull, screwed into place with countersunk holes that are later covered with wooden pegs and braced with clamps attached to I-beams. Meanwhile, Lisa Navone has been sanding all the boat's woodwork; even the fiberglass decking is sanded and re-surfaced every year.
"It's because there's so much wear and tear on the boat each year," she explains. "You have to stay after it. And there's a lot of boat to it!" Every inch of the deck will need to be repainted; a few fiberglass deck panels will be replaced.
After the last planks are set, exhaust fans will be added to the building's front and back. The entire hull--much of which sits under the water most of the time--will be sanded, then "faired"--a boating term for the application of a rubberized epoxy prime coat and sealer. Lastly, it will be painted; everything above the water will also be painted or varnished.
To date, "Everything's gone according to plan," she says.
"The Coast Guard is happy with us," Holgate offers. Inspectors make regular visits to monitor their progress. Because they don't oversee the refurbishment of many wooden boats, the inspectors were fascinated with the process and even offered to help.
"They're using this as a teaching tool," Navone says.
To create more room to work, the bowsprit was removed; the masts are also being sanded and re-finished. New sails are being made. The rigging is coiled, labeled and hanging on the building's wall. "Putting it back together is going to be a bit of a puzzle," Navone says, adding that she expects that part of the job will take two days.
The plan is to haul it back into the water at the beginning of May, then erect the masts and rigging and test out the new sails. The first cruise of 2018 is scheduled for May 26.
Josh Navone sees taking care of this grand old lady of a boat --she was built in 1920--as stewardship. "We're adding life to her, preserving a piece of history," he says. "We're just caretakers for her at this juncture in life." And eventually, "We're hoping to pass on to the next owners something they can be proud of and enjoy as much as we have."