Rowing Delmarva in a Herreshoff and other shipping news

Andy Teeling and his Herreshoff rowing skiff on the banks of the Broadkill River. BY DENNIS FORNEY
May 30, 2014

Wednesday proved a good day for shipping news. I had just written a nomination paragraph for Capt. Speed Lackhove for an honor he deserves. He told me that when he started out as a charter captain in the early 1950s, his navigation equipment amounted to a three-dollar wristwatch and a five-dollar compass.

“First day at the inlet. The captains at Indian River told me to forget the fog. ‘Just head out at 110 degrees for an hour and 10 minutes and then start fishing.’ That’s what I did. They were nice, weren’t lying. Caught loads of sea bass," said Speed.

“Turned around eventually and headed back west. Finally the beach popped up and I hollered to a guy walking along the sand. He told me the inlet was to the south. Still foggy as all get-out. I was somewhere near the old Coast Guard station. Felt pretty good about that.”

Then the phone on my desk started ringing. Pat Teeling in Annapolis. Old sailing buddy from Annapolis.

“My brother’s rowing his boat around the Eastern Shore. He’s stopped in Lewes and needs some tools. A chisel and a handsaw. Maybe some other things. Can you help him out?”

“Sure I can, Pat. I’ll give him a call.”

By the time I reached Andy Teeling, he had made his way, coincidentally, up the canal to Capt. Speed’s Riverside Park on the Broadkill. “I was  in town and saw a Hooper’s Island draketail with a guy on board,” Andy said. “Told him what I was up to. It was Dean, and he offered his tools and a boat to spend the night on at the river park. So that’s where I am now.”

Dean Johnson. Part of the waterfront fraternity. Brought Andy a sharp chisel and plenty of local hospitality.

“Perfect,” said Andy. “I have to modify the boat from two seats down to one. The weather’s looking terrible for poking my nose out the inlet for the next couple of days so I might as well get this done.”

When he reached for the chisel Dean handed him, I noticed a blister the size of a 50-cent piece in Andy’s left palm. Jimmy Phillips offered a pair of gloves. Andy declined graciously. “This is what happens,” he said. “They form, they break, then they harden up and I’m ready to go.”

Jimmy protested, but Andy would have nothing of it. Father Mark stood by quietly and maybe said a little prayer.

Started in Chincoteague

Andy left five days ago from Chincoteague, resuming an adventure he started 35 or so years ago. “I was in my early 20s and decided it would be a good idea to row around the Delmarva Peninsula. I built a boat, sister to this one, and made it from Annapolis down to Cape Charles and then up to Chincoteague - but then I had to move on to the rest of my life.”

A cabinetmaker by trade, Andy built a rowboat designed by famed boat designer L. Francis Herreshoff. “It was a 17-foot rowboat that would be easy for kids to handle. He was convinced outboard motors would spell the end of civilization. Kids wouldn’t be as active and healthy. He wanted to give them an alternative that would take them places fast and easily.”

Andy went to work, built the boat with minor modifications and decided it would be fun to explore Europe with oars. Then a woman came into his life. His future wife. He decided it would be fun to explore Europe with two pairs of oars. “I told her about my plan and asked her if she wanted to go. She said ‘Sure.’ Then I told her I wouldn’t go on a trip like that with a woman unless we were married. ‘How about that?’ She said ‘sure’ to that too. So I had to stretch the boat to 20 feet to handle two rowers.”

They made a friend in Norfolk who was a shipping agent. “He called one day and said if we got the boat to Norfolk right away he had a captain willing to take the boat to Oslo. Didn’t charge us anything, so we headed off to Europe. Great trip. Then we came back, settled down on 13 acres near Exmore, Va. - down the shore - raised a family.” Half a lifetime later, he decided it was time to get back to finishing his circumnavigation.

Andy’s plans include two weeks now to get to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal - the halfway point for this edition of his trip - and then two more weeks in the fall to finish his journey back to Annapolis. He came up from Chincoteague through the various Inland Bays, Assawoman Canal and then Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

When I left him Wednesday afternoon, it was cloudy, cool and blowing along the Broadkill. I offered a shower and a hot meal. “Sure,” he said. “Sounds great.” (I think his wife rubbed off on him.)

Becky was on high alert. She headed to Lloyd’s for a WonderRoast chicken, asparagus, baked beans and cole slaw, strawberries and ice cream. A small price to pay for tales of high adventures on the sea.

And while I was talking to Andy, Capt. Bill Byam - harbor operations manager for University of Delaware - called with some more local shipping news. But that’s going to have to wait until next week.

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