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Egg Rock: Cap'n Jack 's Swampscott Boyhood

This issue of Egg Rock was written by Jack Miller. In it the former owner of Cap'n Jack's Waterfront Inn writes about his introduction to boats and boat building. Jack Miller was Cap'n Jack and grew up in Swampscott. He wrote this piece from the early 193

 

In 1932 when I was ten years old my little sister Lois was born. I realized that this event would affect my life. When my little brother was born I was so busy out under the pine tree that I barely took notice, but this little fellow was now four years old, and he was also part of life out under the trees. It was a learning experience. Babies not only are born, but they stay around and grow into little people and participate in life and become family. A little sister would be different but in my ten year old mind I didn’t know how that would work out. I didn’t know anything about girls. The girls I had seen in school were nothing more than soft boys.

We had shown no interest in boats and the sea, and here we were within one half mile of the shore. Swampscott had a small commercial fishing fleet as well as lots of pleasure boats. Every once in awhile one or two of my friends and I would be taken down to the beach by one or two of our mothers. We swam in the cold water and built sand castles, but what most interested me were the boats that were pulled up on the sand. The fishermen used dorys to haul their fish ashore, and though there were different kinds of dory, the standard Swampscott dory was very popular. The pleasure boaters used Yankee dorys and raced them out in the bay. They were very nice sailboats and were kept on moorings in the harbor. Lots of little prams were used to get out to the sailboats, and when not in use, they too were hauled up on the beach. The lobster men and fishermen had engine driven boats of varying sizes to go out in Massachusetts Bay and along the rocky shores in search of the bounty from the sea.

Most of these boats were built locally, and after grandfather had brought me a bicycle one spring day as a birthday gift, I found that I could go further afield. There were two little boat shops that interested me, and now and then I would stop and after leaning my bicycle up against the building, just stand in the large doorway and watch the goings on. It was most interesting, and it smelled so good. The fragrance of pine, mahogany, cedar, and oak all blended together. The men wore Farmer Brown type bib overalls, and some of them wore felt beanies cut out of an old felt hat. Wood shavings covered the floor, and clamps held frames and planking as the graceful hulls took shape. The work benches ran along the sides of the shop and were covered with tools, bottles, cans, sandpaper, and boat hardware. Most of the work was done by hand with hand tools rather than power tools.

About this time my uncle had a hull built by Chaisson’s boat shop on Elmwood Road in Swampscott. It was 36 feet long and I would stop to see it grow finally filling up most of the shop. The hull was then trucked up to Lynn, Massachusetts, where the superstructure was put on, and the boat was completed.

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