You’re going to like Jack Becker. He doesn’t match the stereotypical sailor profile. He’ll leave you wondering why he’s made the choices he has. And when he succeeds against the odds, you’ll cheer this intelligent, honest, and personable man who is in the process of becoming a sailor the hard way. You’ll get to know — and like — Jack by reading his new book, The Lilibet Logs: Restoring a Classic Wooden Boat.
Apparently no one ever told Jack the meaning of the word “impossible” and so, with an incredibly supportive wife, he took on the restoration of a large 70-year-old wooden sailboat. He did it in two years (working right through one Minnesota winter) with what can only be described as lightning speed. Then he wrote a book about it. And he didn’t even know how to sail. What was he thinking?
Lucky for him and for his readers, who are soon rooting for him, Jack understood wooden boats. He’d restored and cruised aboard two beautiful powerboats. The first was a 1938 40-foot Matthews. That sounds ambitious until you hear what followed: an 85-foot commuter yacht built by Luders Marine in 1926. He and his young family lived aboard and chartered this boat for four-hour cruises on Lake Union in Seattle. So he surely knew what he was getting into, didn’t he?
Years went by. It was time for another boat, and this time Jack fell in love with a 42-foot racing sailboat drawn by Norman Dallimore and built in England in 1937. She was more than just a little run down and had been abandoned in the Chesapeake Bay area when Jack discovered her for sale on the Internet, trucked her home to Minnesota, then learned that wooden boats are unwelcome in many marinas and that a deep draft of seven feet will present problems in most of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. But he solved these problems and many more. Jack Becker thinks outside the box.
There is an artist in the soul of this man. He admits it. I suspect it was the artist who caused him to take a hard left turn from powerboat to sailboat, from urban dweller to boatyard bum, and from stable, predictable Jack to, well, something else entirely in the eyes of his friends and family. His concept of the left turn is hilarious. Left turns are those moments in life when an individual makes a totally unpredictable, illogical choice . . . and changes his life in a small way, or possibly profoundly. So it was that Jack Becker took on the restoration of Lilibet. You’ll enjoy his telling of her restoration. But he ends too soon. I have got to know: did the eventual sailing make it all worthwhile?
The Lilibet Logs: Restoring a Classic Wooden Boat by Jack Becker (Sheridan House, 2006; 192 pages)