The Boat My Father Built

During our recent voyage onboard Arabella the head steward, Patrick “Skip” Bushby recited one of his poems…

The boat my Father built
was shaped with six spruce planks,
bookmatched, and glued up with alternating endgrain,
laying them face to face.

Long as I was tall
he carved the hull wide and deep,
planing the sweeping sides and rails,
sheer and high.
Day by day
In the ringing autobody shop,
amongst the arclight of molten sparks and grinding acridity,
he hammered and ground twisted metal frames and crushed quarter panels;
shaping with vise and lathe, tortured steel
back to sleeker shapes.
By night,
sanding and finishing
the measured and perfumed spruce,
he greyprimed the buffed hull
and tiered topsides,
and let the enamels dry.
The hot lead he poured for ballast
hardened overnight.
When the vessel cured and dried,
he painted the broad hull
three coats of midnight black;
the topsides – a brilliant white.
Above the barreled smokestack,
and below the waterline,
he tipped his brush
in the richest reds he could find
and marked the depths by tens.
Then he set the booms and masts,
crossteed and braced,
and rigged the lines.
The flags and pennants
were fully dressed,
and flown up bright-finished spars.
Only the transom was bare;
no name, nor home port:
no destination and no port of call.
Early one lilac morning,
my Father came home late,
cradling in his bare arms
the broad draped load.
He laid it on the worn breakfast board with care,
unwrapping the winding cloth,
soft as a robe,
and said: “Here, Son; this is yours.”

Patrick "Skip" Bushby
© Patrick Bushby
Father’s Day, June 16, 2013

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