The day finally came, and boy was it worth the wait. Nine long months of work and the Beetle Cats are officially in the water!
Last week it all came together. Once we got through with our final weekend and came in to start the week, the reality of a complete boat being put in the water was on the horizon. By Monday, we had nearly completed every piece of carpentry on the boat and just needed to paint and varnish in order to finish up. What a strange feeling. Every day for nine months prior, I would come into the shop with my team and attack the boat 7.5 hours a day until we reached that 5 o’clock bell. We worked diligently and always had tasks to complete. All three of us worked through our two daily breaks almost every day all year. And it paid off. We were able to work at a relaxing pace for the last week and we got to put coat after coat of varnish on our spars, rub rails, coamings, trunk caps etc. We were able to sit back and really enjoy our last week.
The group of guys that I was gifted to work with blew me away. We, quite literally, put our blood and sweat into this boat. Before advancing on with this post, I have to give them the credit they deserve. We set the pace all year long, pushed each other, and had an amazing time throughout the process. I know the other boat groups, and everyone else at IYRS, had an amazing journey to launch day and learned just as much along the way, but there aren’t two other guys that I would have rather been paired with. We matched each other’s drive and energy and I can only hope I’m as lucky to be in a group just as motivated in my future endeavors. Thank you Porter and Quinn.
On Friday, the boat was complete. We had our final coats of varnish and paint on, all the hardware and rigging were installed, we threw the sails up in the shop, and finally installed the “IYRS” logo inside the cockpit. Launch day is a celebration that follows graduation, but the true launching of the boats was the day before. We loaded the boat onto the trailer and hopped in the boat. Our instructor drove the boat around the building and before we knew it we were floating! I can’t tell you how many times over the course of the next 24 hours I thought, “Wow, we really built this.” It’s so easy to look at the boat, and I know everyone does this, and think, that’s a lot of pieces to put together. They’re not wrong but they don’t really understand what all went into the build. We started with raw lumber. We didn’t have pieces. Our boat started as a big pile of wood, a lot of it with the bark still on it. Looking at the final product, it can be hard to grasp, even for me still. I suppose that’s the beauty of it, it doesn’t look hard to do- it just looks beautiful.
Come Saturday morning, after far too many celebratory drinks and far too little sleep, we watched the graduation and began christening the boats one by one. Everyone popped champagne (I was the only one willing to spray it everywhere as if I just won the America’s Cup) and headed out into the harbor. We sailed for a while as a group and then went back in to meet up with friends and family. I couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend. I felt so lucky to have things feel like normal again. Had the launch been just a week earlier, Newport wouldn’t have been the same. I hadn’t been to the bars in months, our COVID protocols were so strict at school. Everyone had to be really careful and looked out for each other, that was the only way we were going to get to launch day without the school shutting down. If we had had any more setbacks, we would have never finished the boat in time. That made closing the bars down with other IYRS students and friends new and old, that much sweeter.
This week has been bitter sweet. I have been waking up at 7:30 every day and working my butt off to finish the boat and now it’s over, and the boat is gone. Fortunately, in just a few days my externship back on Long Island begins and I’ll be that much closer to my career and being able to do this forever. Because I know it won’t pay enough to ever let me retire! Jokes aside, I had a feeling that I would love building boats the day I walked into restoration hall, completely overdressed in a suit I might add, when I visited before enrolling. I now know that that hunch was dead on, I love what I do and can’t wait to see what the future holds.