August 4 – 10, 2017Vol. 19, No. 9

A Winter Apprentice Review

by Martha Barkley

I missed hearing this author present recently at Belgrade Public Library, so I called him on the phone to express my appreciation of his wordsmith expressions in A Winter Apprentice. His wife Barbara answered the phone, so we had a little chat as well. "Barbara, whose smile after fifty years of these and other adventures is still my most enduring reward," he writes in the preface.

John Holt tells in each chapter a boat story that will catch your imagination even if you are not a carpenter. One of our favorite places to visit on the coast is Ocean Point. We were just there last week, but I had not read that far in his book. Now, when we return, I will follow his simple directions to Van Horn and then Wall to Linekin Bay Woodworkers. It is wonderful to know that the family still is running the place.

I asked John Willey on the phone about the boatworks of Joel White, E.B. White's son. He replied that, yes, Joel's son is still running the business since his father died. Small world of creative boat carpenters . . .

The "Wear Your Own Gloves" chapter explains the machine accident that happened to John's fingers. The writing is very personal, probably because he refers to letters written at the time between people involved. The appendix quotes extensively from one such letter with photo copies of all four pages, envelope and all!

I am a visual learner, so the many photos of interior and exterior yacht carpentry assists the fine detailed job descriptions. The handwritten list of directions for six jobs is helpful to understand how each day in carpentry involves different tasks.

I had already enjoyed Robert Pirsig on C-SPAN BookTV, so it meant a lot to read quotes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. "By far the greatest part of his [the mechanic's] work is careful observation and precise thinking," p. 117.

The "Doctor's Maine Story" chapter has a laugh out loud joke on p. 38 that I simply can not retell: you have to see it for yourself to believe it!

Being an apprentice and constantly learning is repeated in many stories. I simply loved that idea of always learning while on the job. Isn't that what makes life interesting, even after retirement?

"Just remember, a traditional Maine winter can be long, exasperating, sad, beautiful and funny in the same day." What did I just read? Finally, as a summer person, I see a little bit of WINTER through this finely written book by Belgrade author John Holt Willey.

Even though it is at Belgrade Public Library, I will buy several copies for my carpenter friends. The cover alone has all the tools of the trade surrounding a photo of Simba with John Luke, probably on the lovely yacht's bow.