In Which I Try to Buy the Right Kind of Plywood and Admit to Real Guys that I Am Building a Boat

Incriminating evidence of eccentricity.

Incriminating evidence of eccentricity.

I take the Pocket Cruiser’s bill of materials to my local lumberyard—a friendly, old-fashioned kind of place where everybody knows everybody and it’s rude to leave without taking a few extra minutes to tell a few jokes at someone else’s expense.

The guys at the lumber desk know me well; I’m the eccentric homeowner who is always building something unexpected. My last project was a diminutive backyard office. Although it’s smaller than most prefabricated sheds—just six by eight feet–it has some high end detailing, including a tongue and grove pine ceiling, homemade casement windows and a homemade French door. It’s part French cottage, part tropical hideaway and I think it looks quite fetching. My buddies at the lumberyard were consulted at each step in the process, especially as I tried to figure out unconventional ways to make it look classy without spending a small fortune. That’s one advantage of living in a rural, working class community; nobody faults you for being a cheapskate.

On the other hand, few of my neighbors fully understand my lack of interest in traditional “guy” pass-times like televised sports, Harley Davidson’s, and NASCAR. I always feel a bit like an outsider and I try not to parade my eccentricities when I’m surrounded by men who believe that Budweiser is a good beer and that large pickup trucks are a worthwhile investment. Admitting to a group of guys that I am now planning to build a hoity-toity sailboat might permanently place me on another planet.

But as I unfold the plans at the lumber desk, they all gather around. Tom is intrigued. “Well, will you look at that? Hey, Jeff, come over here and take a look. Paul’s going to build a boat.”

Jeff leans over the plans, scowling, but politely interested.

“Looks nice,” he says. “Where you going to build it? In your basement?” Heh, heh.

But the bottom line is that they don’t sell exterior grade plywood—and they’re not sure where I can get it. This is a setback. I didn’t expect them to carry marine grade plywood (they don’t), but I assumed ACX plywood was standard lumberyard fare. Brian gets on the phone and calls around. Some places sell half inch plywood, which I need, but they don’t have thinner three-eighths or quarter inch boards, which I also need. Finally, he finds a distributor in New Jersey who has all three and can probably deliver it with enough advance notice. That’s slightly reassuring, but I go home determined to solve this puzzle before moving forward.

After the third call, I hit the jackpot. A distributor in the nearby city of Reading has everything I need and more. They can drop off my twelve sheets within a week. The price is reasonable and the delivery charge is minimal.

When the truck arrives I help the driver unload the sheets and place them in my garage. He’s a soft spoken but burly guy. “What you building, anyway?” he asks.

I pause half a second before answering. “A boat,” I admit.

“Oh, yeah? he says. “Hope it don’t sink.” Heh, heh.


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