My two-horse boat

Here at Friendship Back River,''boat people'' are the summer mahogany folks who come to Maine ''from away,'' in full possession of our non-public access, to scare the cats, disturb the dogs, raise a dust, and perform the yachtsman's routine of readying for those glad weekends ahead when it will be too foggy to sail. The boatyard by our shore (hauling, storage, repairs, brokerage) isn't too bad a neighbor, but as I watch the boat people who support it I can see that keeping a boat is more of a job than I make of it. I keep a boat, but I don't let it consume me, and I have ample time for my philanthropies and my good deeds in a naughty world. Lalage does not intrude as other boats seem to do. I haul her myself and save a bundle.

I built Lalage one winter and named her classically for the ladylove of Flaccus in Liber I, XXII. She is fourteen feet long, and is powered by two ash oars, with auxiliary equipment of a two-horse hors-bord. She is a skiff. The Latin I carved on her sternsheet is meant to perplex these boat people who say port when they mean left, abaft-the-aft when they mean astern. My seamanship is of the Bellman kind, with the rudder afoul the bowsprit, and I don't really know a garboard from a binnacle. But I knew about Lalage, and my sternsheet reads, DULCE RIDENTEM LALAGEN AMABO.

Even though I can look off and see the Atlantic Ocean, Lalage has never been in salt water. One week a year she is taken from my boathouse (which doubles as a woodshed and catch-all) and rides in the pick-up truck to Caucomagomac Lake to engage in the togue fisheries and to ferry Bill and me on our picnics. Bill and I pursue our wilderness pleasures with low-key dignity, and buying the two-horse outboard for Lalage was not an easy purchase. This is the jet age, and nobody should dawdle. I went to three dealers in marine matters and got essentially the same response: ''A two-horse motor! Aw, come on - you don't want anything like that. Here, look at this beauty!''

They seemed to think Bill and I should push Lalage up the lake with one of these wave-making 50-horse jobs that wash out loons' nests. With the first dealer I tried to explain that we wanted a two-horse for Lalage because she goes too fast when I row, but he continued to pat the the 50-horse giant and insist that he knew more about what I wanted than I did. With the next two 50-horse pushers I didn't try to make my point, but just walked out. Then I came to a fine old gentleman who handles used things like trundle beds and stereoscopes, and he understood. He had just the motor for Lalage, and for me and Bill. One day we started back to camp from a picnic, heading into a light breeze, and after churning Lalage for a half hour we were a mile behind where we started. It's hard to explain the satisfaction in a thing like that to our local boat people. It made me think of Dr. Hahn, and I told Bill about him.

Dr. Hahn owned the Friendship sloop Depression, which at the time was the oldest original Friendship afloat. He brought her to the annual homecoming regattas here at Friendship, and competed in every race for years. Year after year, every race, the Depression came in last. I saw the doctor on the street one evening and asked him how he made out in that day's race, and he said, ''Fine! I got two pails of mackerel.'' The doctor's attitude toward speed always appealed to me as I watched the rest of the sloops straining every effort to win trophies, with the Depression coming along behind with lines out.

On my lathe, I made birch rollers so I can slide Lalage around by myself. Then I have a pulley hoist that lifts her in and out of the truck. Such devices go back to Archimedes and beyond, and allow me to do all my boat work single-handed and with ease, saving a lot of money and a good deal of time. In ten minutes I have Lalage loaded, and with another ten minutes at the lake she's afloat. A little classic lady who causes no more work than that merits respect, and Bill and I appreciate what we have. We sit up and ride, and Lalage moves along in Asclepiadean serenity, making us, we feel, unusual among today's larruping boat people. ''Molle atque facetum,'' Bill says.

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