by Louis N. Carreras ©
I was almost 19 before I had that adventure with boats that most coastal brats have at an earlier age: having possession of a stable, able, and adventurous small craft to create mayhem in. It was a seventeen-foot Rangley Boat. Designed for use on the lakes of Maine the Rangley could handle a week’s worth of camping supplies, numerous teenagers, or powered by an outboard be your ticket to exploration. I still recall its graceful bow, the green paint on the hull, and the carefully varnished interior. It was ultra stable and had enough beam to enable young lovers to do whatever they pleased. I still have dreams about that boat ( but not about the young lady).
But, this story is not about that boat. It’s about Old Woodsman fly dope. For those of you younger than say fifty the current fly dope with a similar name is probably very effective but does not contain the same active ingredients. Said active ingredients could leave you reeking in the woods so badly that if you collapsed the odor would guide the rescue party to your corpse. Also, no self-respecting fly wanted to settle on you. But, then that was the point. Old Woodsman probably contained ample amounts of pine tar, botanical oils, and who knows what else. For certain “in the day” everyone in the north woods had a bottle and hoped that it would never leak in their car. The smell persisted.
Much more useful products that are probably less carcinogenic have come along, and I don’t think I ever spared a moment to think about the old stuff. But, early one spring I was perusing the annual MaineBoatbuilder’s Show in Portland, and a familiar odor wafted towards me from a back corner of the show. Curious, I walked down the row towards the odor. In front of me appeared a beautifully restored Rangley Boat. The varnish was bright, the lines beautiful, and the memories savory. Standing around it were a group of students from one of the many boatbuilding programs that dot the coast of Maine.
“We don’t know why it smells that way. The smell stayed through all our restoration work. We figure it must have been some sort of preservation technique.”
The reek was pure Old Woodsman. Over the long lifespan of the boat, gallons must have been spilled in it, because no amount of restoration would ever remove all that smell. But, the new owner would have to use very little bug dope.