IN FOCUS: Five years of persistence and labor pay off

Sloop William Harrow

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Bill Davis of Girard, OH spent five years building a wooden sailboat in his garage. He named the boat in honor of his grandfather.

By William Lewis

Bill Davis, a sailor and amateur boat builder, spent five years constructing a 19-foot wooden sailboat in his garage.

Besides honing his woodworking skills, the Girard man says he learned the art of patience and found out he has a lot of friends. A passion for sailing and feeling at home on a boat under sail were among the reasons Davis said he chose to build the watercraft.

Plans for the boat, which Davis describes as traditional with a gaff rig and bowsprit, were purchased over the Internet. Davis says he built the boat “one step at a time from the bottom up.”

The boat’s keel is made from poplar. Woods including oak, pine and spruce also were used in the project. More than 2,000 stainless-steel screws and three gallons of glue went into the boat. Since his garage was unheated and the glue would not set during cold weather, work was halted during winter, Davis said.

The construction process wasn’t all fair weather and smooth sailing, however.

Davis said he encountered problems he couldn’t figure out but would often dream about them and think the problems through while he was driving or walking and eventually find a solution.

During the five years Davis worked on his boat, help and encouragement from friends kept him going, he said. When the boat was launched Sept. 12 at Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County, Davis was impressed with how many people showed up. A group of more than 40 friends, family and well-wishers were on hand to see if the boat would float.

Davis’ wife, Kathy, christened the craft with champagne before it slipped into the water. After the boat was launched, Davis’ son Mike quipped, “At least it’s floating right side up.”

Davis then proceeded onto Mosquito and raised the boat’s sails.

“When there was wind in the sails, and the boat started moving, I was just amazed. Wow! This really does sail. You can steer it and go out on the waves. It was an exciting moment,” Davis said.

Sailors pick the names of their boats carefully and seriously, and Davis is no exception. He chose to name his home-built craft William Harrow in honor of his grandfather, whom Davis credits as “being a pretty good role model for a young boy.”

Harrow was born in 1899 and lived on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River. Davis recalls his grandfather’s telling stories about owning a small rowing boat used to transport goods across the Ohio River and using the boat during a 1936 flood to salvage all manner of goods floating down the river.

Davis added, “I think he would be pretty pleased to have a boat like this named after him.”

Sailing the William Harrow on Mosquito is Davis’ short-term goal. After becoming familiar with the boat, he plans to sail it on Lake Erie.

Ultimately, Davis says his dream is to take the boat to Maine and sail among the islands on Penobscot Bay.

Davis said he’s not sure if he would build another boat, but he’s sure if he did, he’s learned enough to do it in less than five years.

He gives this advice to boat builders and dreamers: “If you have a dream, whether it’s to build a boat or something else, get started. Work toward it; dream about it. Enjoy the time you spend doing it and enjoy the friendships that come along with it. Cherish the people who can give you advice and support you.”

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