September / October 2021

Learning from Noah

A gift of life-lessons in the time of Covid-19

The schooner SARAH ABBOT’s interior nears completion after seven months of father-and-son labor. Noah Peffer, the author’s son, made the galley table from white oak boards he found buried in his father’s shop. The cabin sole is African sipo.

The Covid-19 winter of 2020–21 was nearly upon us. For the first time since we had sheathed the hull of our 47' David Stevens–designed schooner SARAH ABBOT with cedar veneers 17 years earlier, my son Noah and I found ourselves with extended time together because of the pandemic. He’s 43, a licensed captain, seasoned carpenter, and a nautical-science professor. He had been on sabbatical cruising the Sea of Cortez with his wife, Alex, and a German Shepherd in their expedition boat when Covid-19 began to spread around the globe.

With Mexico closing its ports, Noah and Alex hauled their sloop in La Paz, rented a car, and sprinted for their apartment in Los Angeles to ride out the virus. But after a spring and summer of lockdown, and with Covid-19 cases spinning upward in Southern California, they yielded, a bit reluctantly, to an invitation from my wife and me to “come home” to our village of Marion on the south coast of Massachusetts.

I say “reluctantly” because as much as Noah and I love each other, he knows that spending extended time with his old man will lead to more than a little head-butting. He’s a cautious, professionally trained mariner, carpenter, and teacher with accolades that include a class victory in the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii and membership in the Cruising Club of America. I, on the other hand, gained my mariner’s chops dredging oysters aboard a Chesapeake Bay skipjack. Much of my time afloat roots in the bravura and quick-and-dirty maintenance that comes with a hardscrabble life in workboats. Father and son, oil and water.

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