Lessons Learned from a Boy and His Boat

There are times in a man’s life when he just needs to stop and focus on the things that truly matter most. This past August was one such time for me. My son Henry and I built a boat.

Yes… a real, wood, floating, boat. It was an amazing experience.

Below is the story of Henry’s boat.

Seven year old boys have big dreams and Henry was no different.

On October 3, 2011, his 7th birthday, Henry LePage received exactly what he asked for.

Well, not exactly what he asked for.

Henry wanted a boat. Not a ride in his Pata’s boat. Not a boat he needed to share with his brother and sister. He wanted his very own boat. A real, wood boat.

On the morning of his birthday, Henry ran from his bedroom with hopes high. Would his dream come true? Would a boat be waiting for him somewhere in the house? He searched every room high and low and no boat. With disappointment setting in, he saw a small wrapped gift placed by his seat at the breakfast table. With a puzzled look on his face, he thought to himself, “That’s too small to be a boat”. It wasn’t.

It was a book from Mom and Dad… a book about building boats (Ultrasimple Boat Building: 17 Plywood Boats Anyone Can Build, by Gavin Atkin) and a promise from his dad that they together would build his dream craft… and it would be complete before their annual trip to the 1000 Islands next summer. (Dad had big dreams too!)

Autumn turned to winter. Then spring arrived and before they knew it, summer was upon them. Months went by and no boat. There just wasn’t time to start such an involved project. Mom and Dad were busy with work. The garage was full and the proper materials were not simple to acquire. There was one excuse after another, but time was running out.

With no time remaining for another excuse, a week before their August trip, Henry and his dad headed to Condon Lumber and purchased a load of marine-grade mahogany plywood. They brought it home and finally started the project. Dad helped… and Henry built his boat; an authentic Poorboy Skiff.

Dad didn’t quite know with what he was getting involved. The book was filled with “ultrasimple” boats, like the mouse boat, but Henry fell in love with the Poorboy Skiff. So the Poorboy Skiff it was.

Each day Dad came home a few hours early to be Henry’s assistant. Henry wanted to build the boat himself, so Dad would help when Henry needed some extra muscle or to make sure the power tools were being used safely. They worked into the night and made good progress.

Within days, the hull was complete enough to load onto the roof of the Suburban and travel to Mata and Pata’s river house at Arcadia Park in Fishers Landing, New York.

At the river, the true importance of the project became apparent. Henry finished up the details and, with help from his Pata, he painted his skiff a beautiful medium blue. One boat. Three generations. It was then we realized that this boat would become an heirloom; a part of our history passed from generation to generation of LePages to come.

On Saturday, September 1st, a day before heading home, Henry christened his Poorboy Skiff with a bottle of river water and launched Miss Arcadia II (the name was inspired by the historic Gold Cup racer Miss Canada III, which Henry rooted for at the Antique Boat Musuem Race Boat Regatta). The whole Arcadia Park neighborhood attended the event and celebrated with cheers and horn blowing.

It was a great day.

As the boat skimmed smoothly across the water’s surface, Henry finally experienced the joy and freedom of rowing his very own boat (and Dad discovered the importance of stopping to focus on what truly matters most).

A Boy and His Boat

Are there important things in your life that you should be getting done? There will never be “enough time”. Stop what you are doing and make time for the things that truly matter most.


5 Responses to “Lessons Learned from a Boy and His Boat”

  1. 1 blp September 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Very touching!

  2. 2 Zach September 29, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    What a great story Mark. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s amazing even how small projects can leave a lasting memory with a child.

  3. 3 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP September 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Thanks Zack. We had a great time. Now my other son and daughter want to build their own projects… and the boat set the standard. I think I’m going to be busy in the workshop this year.

  4. 4 Gafar October 1, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    This is lovely post. Everything in life start with an idea. Only great mind achieve great thing,is all about determination and hardwork.

  1. 1 Things That Matter Most: Lessons Learned from a Boy and His Boat « Living Well in Westchester Trackback on September 24, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Comments are currently closed.

The Entrepreneur Architect Podcast

Listen Now

Direct to your Inbox

Join Our Linkedin Group


%d bloggers like this: