What it takes to be One Hundred and Sixteen

Written by David Frid

When Tecumseh turned one hundred, her registration showed the name of David England Frid.  That was me, and it still does. We had a party at the boat club for her then and many came, and we took some out sailing. Some of them are still around, some of them are gone, but Tecumseh is still afloat now at one hundred and sixteen.

Why do some boats, wooden boats of all things, seem to survive and stick around for so long? It would seem counter-intuitive, something made of wood floating in water, surviving for longer than many life times. But the answer lies in the fact that even though they are built to serve a purpose (in Tecumseh´s case to fish lobster in Maine) they are a demonstration of a man’s ability, when challenged, to produce functional beauty.

…”for he had died in her cabin”

The sweep and curves of the hulls, the bowing of rig and sails, were created as much by the seas and the winds demands, as by the sailing men and their hands.

And so they survive. Tecumseh still sails, outliving her caretakers, one at time, me the latest in a long list. Some I know of and many I don’t.

A few years back, someone contacted us and told us of his great uncle who had owned Tecumseh for years, who had lived in Baltimore, and sailed her south to Miami in the winters. One of the early migratory snow birds it would seem. How long had it been his name on the registration, license, bill of sale, we don´t know but sometime in the seventies Tecumseh, tied to a wharf in the Miami river became his coffin, at least for a little while, for he had died in her cabin.

A museum’s name then appeared in her record of title for a while – well, not a real museum, but some shyster´s idea of a tax dodge. But to be sure, to survive a long time, one has to do a bit of dodging too. Just having owners who are slaves to your maintenance and care is not enough, you have to have Neptune and some of the other God types on your side.

I took over the care of T from Dan Traylor in Fort Lauderdale and he told me of his first seeing her with a very unusual injury – her mast just a shattered stump broken off a few feet above the deck.

Her museum existence was cut short, so to speak, by an airborne cigarette boat. Now, it is well known that Miami has a sordid side, where some people don’t like other people, and guns can be the answer, and so at high speed in the Miami river with his girlfriend hanging onto him, the driver of this speed boat was shot dead at the wheel. The boat continued at full throttle launching off a moored boat and dock, flying over Tecumseh tied to the other side, clearing her decks and taking out her mast before finally crashing into the next vessel, killing its sleeping occupants.

It’s not good enough just to be loved to live as long as Tecumseh has…you need the Gods on your side.

~ David Frid