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Giving this old boat an overhaul

by Autumn Phillips

The boat was a 56-foot Alden racing schooner built in 1924. It was bits and pieces of its original self. The mast was original, the mahogany rails, the wooden wheel with teak inlays and the brass compass.

But board by board, plank by plank, the thing had been replaced as it was passed from owner to owner, and sailed from one coast to another over more than 80 years.

For three months, that boat was my life.

I scrubbed. I varnished. I sanded. I sailed.

I cut my hands, my feet. I bruised just about every part of my body. And on one more memorable night, I punched myself in the face while sitting on the bowsprit folding the jib.

But, despite all the pain, by the end of that summer I understood why men always called their boats “she.” The more time you spend on that boat, the more storms and fog banks you make it through, the more it becomes a relationship, a love affair.

On days when we weren’t sailing, I would sit on the deck and sew the sails or kneel on the dock mixing tar, and it happened more than once that an old man would wander by.

He would stop and stare and ask if he could come aboard.

The way he looked at that boat, you could tell they knew each other and eventually he would begin to tell the story.

He would tell me of the early days when the boat raced in San Francisco. When its sails were rigged differently and he would frown at the stanchions that someone had drilled into the railing to install.

After a while, he would leave and I would have an even deeper respect for that boat and I would picture myself walking the pier someday as an old woman and seeing a bleached and calloused girl sitting on the deck of the boat I once knew.

In many ways, this newspaper is like that boat.

I was sitting at my desk one morning, buried in Post-it notes and ideas for the future of the paper, when Hanes Dawson walked into my office.

He sat down and started telling me about the years he spent in my chair.

He described the way ink made it to the page ” before Mac computers and QuarkXPress.

And for a minute we were on the deck of that old ship – talking about the history of something that was larger than us, that would exist long after we were gone. We were only the hands to hold the clay for a chapter.

On the top of Monday’s edition of the Sky-Hi Daily News, I wrote the words Vol. 1, No. 1.

In some ways, it’s true. This is a new paper with a new direction. But in some ways, there’s nothing true about it.

If you look through the pages, you’ll see that the hull has been replaced, there’s a new coat of paint and some modern instruments brought on board, but it’s still the same old vessel.

Before we put the old papers to rest, I was glad to publish their histories – from the long, pioneer history of the Middle Park Times to the funky, mountain-town Manifest of the 1970s.

We published those stories as a nod to the continuum we are operating within.

I’m proud of what the changes we were able to make and the direction we are going ” rail buried.

Many of you have called or e-mailed me this week to let me know what you think of the new daily paper ” for good or bad.

And even though the pile-of-Post-It phase of planning this newspaper is over, I still hope the dialogue that we’ve had these past months will continue in the coming years.

Call, e-mail or stop by any time at (970) 887-3334 ext. 19600 or aphillips@grandcountynews.com.


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