MY FIRST BOAT
By Ken Poor
One weekend morning in the late spring of 1956, my father’s friend Phil Carolan was at my family home on Wainwright Street, in Ipswich. Mr. Carolan, as I knew him, was a big friendly man that always took a minute to acknowledge people, even us kids.
For whatever reason Mr. Carolan asked me if I liked boats. I said yes sir, I did. He then asked if I was a good swimmer. Again, my reply was yes sir. Mr. Carolan then said to me he had a boat moored in Eagle Hill Bay and if I could get out to it, I could have the boat. He went on to describe the boat as an old light-colored gray/green, about 14-foot, wooden rowboat and he also advised me that it would be best to try to get out to the boat at low tide.
The bay he was talking about is on the east side of Eagle Hill. The boat was anchored about 100-feet off the edge of the big clam flat adjacent to Jeffery’s Neck Road. That is 100-feet off the edge of the flats at dead low tide. At high tide, when the bay is full it would be about 2 to 3 hundred yards or more off shore.
My best friend Jimmy MacDonald lived on Manning Street at the bottom of Warren Street and I went to his house to tell him about the boat. We decided to check the tides and as fate would have it the tide would be low early in the afternoon. We walked to Eagle Hill and quickly located the boat. As I remember it, there were only three or four boats anchored in the area.
Jimmy was a much stronger swimmer than I was, so it was decided I would wait on shore and he would swim out to the boat and bring it back to shore. We walked out to the edge of the water and Jimmy swam out to the boat, climbed into the boat and rowed it back to shore.
For both Jimmy and I the boat was as impressive as it ever gets in life. We were not from the rich side of Ipswich and never dreamed we would have a boat. The boat itself was in very good physical condition or in the correct nautical terminology – very sound.
The boat had three seats, two good oars and oarlocks, anchor rope and an anchor. The crowning jewel was the 5HP Johnson Seahorse engine mounted on the back of the boat. Additionally, there was a small metal tool box with a few spare parts and a couple of hand tools, a 2 1/2-gallon gas can, a can of oil and additionally several red onion bags.
Not only was Jimmy a better swimmer than I was, he was also the brains of our relationship. The instructions for operating the engine were on a label on the front of the engine. It didn’t take him long to get the engine started, maybe a little longer to keep it running, but once we located the little fuel shut-off valve and turned it on the engine sprang to life.
The previous summer I had worked on a lobster boat, and in the fall was a crew member torching for herring, so I had a fairly decent knowledge of the rivers in and around Ipswich. In my mind making the run from Eagle Hill Bay to the Ipswich town wharf was just a natural thing to do. It would put my boat in my neighborhood.
Of course, at that point in time I had no idea how much that little wooden rowboat would influence the rest of my life. And that is where my life story begins.