Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Boat behind "The Dog House"

Joe Rouse's recent post about a guy who built a big Dudley Dix keelboat in his driveway brings back memories of my other encounter with a backyard boat builder putting together a large boat.

When traveling north for regattas from Annapolis there are two routes; the faster, busier, somewhat more expensive Interstate 95 through Baltimore to Delaware; or the slower, more scenic route up the Eastern Shore using the Bay Bridge to Route 50, into Delaware, to Route 13 and then to Route 40. I prefer the Eastern Shore route. One of the highlights on many of these trips thirty or so years ago was stopping at "The Dog House", a hot dog emporium located on the busy retail strip of Route 40 in Delaware, about two miles or so before the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge would put you on the New Jersey Turnpike, a two hour and change drive to New York City and then to points further north. It was a convenient travel stop, either coming or going, and, in that innocent time before I learned about nitrates, the chili dogs were very good.

The Dog House:

Google Street View ©2016 Google

In the years of going back and forth for the International Canoe racing in Rhode Island, Buzzards Bay, and City Island we would park with our trailers off to the side of "The Dog House" because there was no room out front. One year we realized that there looked like an upside-down boat in the suburban back yard of the house directly behind "The Dog House". We scrambled up the tallish, wood privacy fence to take a look and, sure enough, someone was building what looked like a Colin Archer, full-keel cruiser in ferro-cement, somewhere between 30-40 feet (9-12 meters) in length. Every year after that for, maybe, eight years in a row, we would scramble up that fence behind "The Dog House", and peer into the backyard to gauge his progress. One year, just before twilight, we were on our way home, heading south, made the customary stop at "The Dog House" and, after eating, climbed the fence to discover the builder was hard at work. We asked some questions across the fence and then he kindly invited Bill Beaver, Dick White and I into his backyard to have a close-up look. In the fading light we could see the cruiser was right side up by this time and the deck was more or less complete. I can't remember in our conversation if he said how long he had been building her, he definitely looked an older gent; all I remember was his dream of going ocean cruising in this hand-built boat was still burning bright. There was no doubt he was going to keep at it. I did wonder at that time, given the narrowness of his side yards, how he was going to get that cruiser, when finished, out of the back yard.

I retired from International Canoe racing long before Bill Beaver and several years later, in the summer, I got a call from Bill after one of his road-trips.

"It's gone," he said.
"What's gone," I replied.
"The boat... the boat behind The Dog House."

From a previous Earwigoagin post, Dr. John Vardiman building an Alden schooner in his barn.


George A said...

Actually the Dog House isn't on Route 40 but rather it's on Route 13, aka: the "industrial highway", also referred to as the "DuPont Highway". It's a bit confusing how the roads merge and blend and separate. I stopped at the dog house once. I thought the dogs were very ordinary.

Tweezerman said...

George, I thought the same, that 13 goes all the way to the Memorial Bridge, but Google Street View said it was Route 40 so I went with that. 40 and 13 merge several miles up the road, just before the airport, maybe it's OK to refer to that strip as either 40 or 13.

The last time I stopped at The Dog House was with most of my family, back early 2000's I think, and I have to agree, nothing special. The dogs may have been better in an earlier time, at least nostalgia tells me so and management does come and go and the quality sometimes follows.