Last December VCB board member Rob Buchanan received an unusual email from a woman named Carolyn Edwards in Muncy, PA, about three hours’ drive from New York.
“My husband, Paul, was in the process of building a 14-foot rowboat (41 inch beam), when his worsening health caused a halt to the project,” Carolyn wrote. “Since Paul’s death in Oct. 2017, I’ve been hoping to find someone who would like to finish the boat, rather than have it hauled to the dump. So far, all leads have been unsuccessful.”
In February, Rob rented a truck and drove out to Muncy to pick up the strongback and frame of the boat, to which some temporary plank patterns had been clamped. Along with the oars, planking stock, assorted tools and some nautical books, Carolyn donated a beautiful model of the boat and Paul’s notebook detailing every step in the boat’s design and construction.
Some background on the Edwards: Paul and Carolyn were both born and raised in Riverhead, Long Island. A staff sergeant in the U.S. Marines, Paul served with the Third Marine Air Wing in Korea in 1952/53, where he serviced the radios and radar on planes. In 1959, he and Carolyn built a home on James Creek in Mattituck, Long Island, where their three daughters were raised.
“Boats were part of his life forever,” Carolyn recalled. “He built the Yankee Belle, a 23 foot Friendship Sloop, in our yard. It was strip-built out of mahogany, launched in 1983. Paul was so pleased at how well it sailed, he wanted a larger one, and bought a used 31 foot fiberglass version in 1986. It was the second “Dictator” hull built by Jarvis Newman in Maine. He named it “Yankee Lady”. Later we bought and restored a classic powerboat and named it “Semper Fi”. We were fortunate to have our boats docked in our back yard, where we launched and hauled them by ourselves, thanks to his ingenuity.”
Paul retired in 1993 after 37 years with the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he led the team that kept track of chemical and radioactive waste, and in 2004 the Edwards moved to Muncy. He began work on the rowboat about ten years ago, intending to use it in a nearby lake. Once we complete it, later this spring, we’ll likely use it in one of our two freshwater rowing programs, either on Van Cortlandt Lake in the Bronx or Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn. At the request of Carolyn and her daughters, the boat will be named “Semper Fi II”.