I shuffled metal shavings with my tennis shoes while around me towered my grandfather (Perry Ledford, or Pa) Johnny, Herb and Charlie. Their voices echoed through the cavernous machine shop Pa, himself, helped his pals start up. A discussion ensued on my grandfather's diverse talents. Then Charlie silenced the group by saying, “You know, Perry, you’re just a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Charlie; see I am a jack of all trades. . . but a master of every, single one of ‘em,” he retorted wryly, causing the group to erupt with laughter.
Pa didn’t exaggerate: he’d supervised a machine shop for Chrysler; was creator and V.P.of a credit union still in existence; and proved artful in carpentry, hydraulics and even writing. With him I witnessed that no matter how minute a detail was, it proved important. Often our mutual projects could be termed: a great, big overkill but, “If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right,” he’d gruffly say.
He was wise enough to know his own proficiency and use it yet he, too was wise enough to think there’s always more to know. As a child asking Pa a question would either result in an answer or, “Give me a couple days,” then an answer. But one morning while rummaging in his filing cabinet I discovered a cigar box full of black and white photos. They must’ve been taken in the 30's or 40's because my mom looked my age: twelve. When I asked him about the pictures he strangely wasn’t forthcoming with answers that time.
My grandfather was never a woodworker by trade but his skill was impeccable due to the close-tolerances required in a machine shop. Through my mother I discovered he’d built a wooden sailboat and dreamed of sailing it to the Carribean. Land-locked in Detroit in 1937 he started his vision with the help of well-known carver and boat designer, Ferdinan Bach. In July of 1945, eight years later, at the age of twelve my mother christened the maiden voyage of CEDAR BOUGH. Sadly she and her parents sailed only the great lakes because Pa sold CEDAR BOUGH three years later. He never said why.
For half a century family members wondered where the boat might be or if she still existed. As a woodworker, I longed to see this mysterious part of my grandfather’s past and inspect her craftsmanship. For a wooden boat with all her curves proves a challenge to the best of those who work wood!
One afternoon, only a few years ago, while browsing the Internet I found myself at the Coast Guard web site. To my surprise, there she was, registered to a man in Florida. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same boat? Right away I wrote him to inquire.
Five days later I received a phone call from a sailor named Jim. “Is she built well?” I asked.
“Well,” answered Jim, “I guess you could say she’s one, big overkill.”
A year after that conversation Jim called back and said he wanted me to have her, for he was getting the boat of his dreams and what a great ending to a story for Cedar Bough to end in the hands of her maker’s grandson.
In my driveway now rests a 28 ft. ketch. Landlocked as she is in the Blue Ridge Mountains I’m sailing her every time I sit within her galley and witness what drams can make.
Vinchell Wood Design
1812 Old Orchard Road
Free Union, VA 22940
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