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Memories . . .  
Being contributions from former members and leaders of SSS Davy Jones
(Please share yours with your shipmates and others who are inspired by the adventures and success of the Davy Jones!)

Those Were the Days!

At age 12, I became a Boy Scout and, in a sense, I have remained one ever since. Bob and Gene McAllister were inspirational in our Troop 5 led by Scoutmaster Carney Wyrick.  Bob became my mentor and a person whom I wanted to emulate. My father was not an outdoorsman. He was studious, played baseball and worked hard.  He loved his sons, but other than putting us to work at his hobby, the “tenant run” farm near Summerfield, we were on our own and crafted our own youth. Dad wanted us to learn early the value of an education as a means of getting off the farm as he had. [My older brother] Ed was a Scout but he really was a ladies man and he retired at First Class Scout to pursue the girls and cars. Boy Scouting evolved into one of the most remarkably successful ideas for nurturing young boys into manhood ever conceived.

Scouting became my life and I loved learning the valuable lessons of the experience: woodsmanship, nature, firemaking and safety, pathfinding, self reliance and survival skills, all of which were “wonder full” to me in the progression through the ranks, which expanded through the merit badge educational programs to culminate in—Eagle Scout! I spent most every weekend hiking and camping at Camp Graystone with my Panther patrol of which I became its leader.  Troop 5 had its own log cabin lodge as did long departed Troop 20 and Troop 4 under the scoutmaster-ship of the legendary Lacey McAllister. Julius Heyworth was another gifted leader and Carney Wyrick was our Scoutmaster.  We competed vigorously at Camporees and the Panther patrol never got less than an “A” rating patch; of course Troop 5 was the best!   Clarence Cone was a loyal commissioner; Frank Dix was the local Scout Executive [Greensboro Area Council, later General Greene Council, still later Old North State Council], and Charlotte Porter Barney, the administrative do-it-all secretary, was every Boy Scout’s friend and helper as she “ran” the Scouting operation from the [council office in the] community center, formerly the First Presbyterian Church. Later, George Hamer became executive and Bob Wolfe his assistant.

I was tapped for the Order of the Arrow as a complete surprise and Ed Mabry and I will never forget the 24-hour day of absolute silence and little sustenance beginning with sleeping alone in the woods, arising early for a few green peas eaten in silence, watched in awe by all the other campers, digging the snake pit, and planting cypress seedlings in the shallows of the lake while collecting dreaded leaches on our legs, and culminating in the secret rituals of indoctrination by “Meteo” the Indian Brave portrayed convincingly by Joe Leak.  Much later as an assistant waterfront director and counselor at Camp Graystone, Joe and I became fast friends and I gained another mentor as Bob McAllister departed for college and later the Navy. One of the strengths of the Scouting movement is this leading by example and preceptor-ship of the neophyte to an admired more senior, leader/friend. But I have digressed ...     

Senior High [School] coincided with my adventures in Sea Scouting at age 15.  I took to liking girls with absolutely no cross gender social skills, but liking sailing and Sea Scouting more— where I had much more aplomb. I joined Sea Scout Ship #3, the Davy Jones, which the year before had been named National Flagship under the leadership of Skipper Charles T. Hagen, Jr.  Life Magazine came to the base at High Rock Lake and a great photo-spread was to follow but the week its publication was scheduled, WW II began and the great story of the Davy Jones never graced the pages of Life. Many of these professionally shot photos became the property of our ship and were preserved in a beautifully crafted copper “sea chest,” which later disappeared.

I think that my first meeting was the transition night as Skipper Harold Ross took over for Charles Hagen who shortly thereafter entered the Navy. I traded Boy Scout weekends at [Camp] Graystone for Sea Scout weekends at High Rock Lake. Commodore Charles Gast, a bachelor unencumbered with marriage, was the glue to our experience; the adult leader present and, of course, our means of transport. Only later as an adult scout leader did I realize and understand what these married men invested in us and why they didn’t come along on all of our activities and camping trips or weekends at High Rock Lake.

Commodore Gast was a good cook who loved to eat and introduced us to new potatoes and cottage cheese. I remember his skills with the asbestos mantled kerosene lamp, the good food, hand pumping the water storage tank, learning galley skills, the warmth of friendships, the competition of seamanship, and the arts of sailing, skulling, and rowing a straight course, with only occasional peeks over the shoulder, how to make caulking compound of beeswax and white lead, how to roll oakum and punch it into plank seams on boat hulls.  I learned how to refinish mahogany trim and Moth boat masts, how to long stroke enamel paints for flawless cover.  Charles Gast’s other life was with Odell Hardware and he was an expert on paint application. I guess that I was his “teachers pet;” he certainly was a good friend, instructor, and the glue which molded and melded the Sea Scouting experience for all of us who loved the High Rock experiences.

Sailing was the reward earned by the ongoing upkeep of the vessels using skills that we learned along the way and passed along to others who followed. That one sentence, I think, sums up the essence of Sea Scouting— the following, learning, leading, teaching continuum progression. When later I learned of the ratio of hours of maintenance to actual flight hours for helicopters, I was reminded of boats, sail boats, and skiffs ... and High Rock.

From my entry at age 14, the time of Skipper Harold Ross, there was a changing of the guard and there was a lore associated with those whom I either never knew or knew only briefly: Ralph Deaton, Floyd New, Armistead Estes, Jean and Bob McAllister, who gave way to Joe Leak, and Purnell and Solomon Kennedy.  A partial listing of our crewmen includes: Raymond Pearman, Ed Alexander, Bob Ferris, Hiester and Carl Cease, Numa and Kenneth Knight, Charlie Weil, Oscar Sapp, Arnold Marks, Ben Perry, Bob Lewis, Bob Alexander, Bobby Roberts, Jimmy LeGwinn, Shorty (Ira A.) Smith and younger brother Skeeter, and Dick Cartland,    

Our boats were of many types, the larger ones gifts from the US Navy, which were too old and needing of repairs to be kept in service.  We modified them and rigged them for sailing as they were originally pulling boats.  At first there was only one, the Buccaneer.  The first time I saw her, she was not a very pretty sight awash to the gunnels.  We rowed out to her anchorage with a hand-held bilge pump, steadied her and pumped furiously until we got some freeboard, and could settle into the long routine of pumping until she floated free. The Buc was originally a square sterned pulling boat with thwarts and sweeps, but had been modified extensively with a bowsprit, a low squared off cabin forward with two bunk seats. She was two masted, gaff rigged with one jib, and had a cockpit aft for the steersman. There was a long but shallow steel plate keel bolted to her keelson, which served to prevent sideslip, and she pointed reasonably well.  Her best point of sail was a broad reach but the most exciting maneuver was to run directly before the wind, wing and wing, foresail to one side, mainsail to the other, tearing along but careful of a boom jibing in a rogue gust or mishandled tiller while in a wallow.

Later we added the Commodore, a decommissioned wooden whaleboat that was similarly keeled and rigged but which never pointed well and side slipped badly compared to the Buccaneer. She was lap-straked and fun to sail except in competition with the Buc.  Much later we acquired two metal double-ended whaleboats which were sailing disasters.

The Kennedy brothers brought the Gone With the Wind back into service rigged out with the beautiful mahogany three-sided mast of a sailing kayak built by Skipper Ross’ son, Hal Jr.  I did the same with a sailing dinghy, the Sprite, outfitted with leeboards and renamed the P-3 by Poindexter, Pearman and Pascal, shipwrights.  Earnest and Bob (Poochie) Ferris bought an old Inland Lakes Bilgeboard Scow named only the Scow.  She was a wide, flat hulled, gaff rigged, open cockpit, cat boat with two dagger boards angled into the anticipated heel and by far the fastest boat on the lake.  Our Moth boat fleet consisted of the elegant but heavy Estelle, the twins, the Dot and the Dash, both faster until the Ranger (built and owned by Charlie Weil) came visiting.

Overhauling the small boats was one thing but major hull work on our larger boats was difficult for us in our steeply shelving cove to the right of our almost useless twin piers which remained mostly out of the water due to Duke Power’s water utilization needs. The banks were red clay shale, the water red too; we loved it.

We decided to build a boom system to hoist the larger boats, the Buccaneer and the Commodore.  We dropped a towering pine on the level, but high ground between our Cabin and the Merrimac’s, made a clearing, debarked our boom with draw-knives, cured it off the ground on leveling blocks, and later a large working party began its assembly.

We banded a huge standing Loblolly near its base and attached the boom which was supported by a wire cable strung to a “block” high up and led down to the base of our supporting tree, to a large hand powered winch/pall system.  Our first trial was to hoist the Commodore onto the high ground.  We swung the long boom out over the water, which was sufficiently deep near the shore at that point and attached the massive hook to the center of a canvas fire hose cradle to begin its ascent.

The winch had twin handles operated by two workers while a third minded the pall which was not spring loaded to assure its quick seating into the next cog.  As we took up slack and the full weight of our boat came to bear, the effort at the winch handles became more demanding and the quick seating of the pall very necessary so that relief could be offered frequently.  We were inexperienced, our mechanical advantage, arguably, was insufficient, so the accident happened in the blink of an eye.  Sol Kennedy who was operating the pall did not seat it before the winders eased off, the pall was flung up, the winch free-spooled, and a handle hit Sol across the bridge of his nose as the Commodore splashed mightily back into the cove.

Sol was down, blood was spurting from his nostrils, his nose flattened, but he was exceedingly fortunate!  Had the handle struck higher, his brain would have absorbed the powerful blow, a bit lower and his teeth and maxilla shattered and a much worse reconstruction problem presented.  We gave first aid, hauled him to the nearest hospital, and thankfully his recovery was uneventful after surgical reconstruction of his nose. I do not remember whether we re-engineered and utilized the boom or abandoned the idea.  It was a frightening experience!

I loved to row; our skiffs were things of beauty, and the Davis patented row locks a dream. I studiously avoided the ugly, ungainly Dix Boxes ( an array of flatland carpenter-built skiffs purchased by Scout Executive Frank Dix, and appropriately nicknamed by Sol Kennedy.   I spent hours perfecting my skills learning to maneuver, to dock, to pivot on a dime, how to feather the oars, how not to catch a “crab” while trailing the oar tips along the surface on the recovery stroke, learning to approach dead on, just when to pivot, just when to ship the oars, strike the inboard lock, and glide gently against the dock. Single oar skulling from the bung became my specialty. I never lost a challenge.

One of my favorite activities on a weekend was to load a skiff with a friend and explore the major creeks: Abbots Creek, Flat Swamp, Swarengens ... I knew them all then. I matured in Sea Scouting from the slender 105 pound class wrestler who grappled evenly with Jimmy LeGwenn, an erstwhile football tackle, in a playful match at High Rock. Such rowing trips engaged all of the skills learned in Scouting and gave me a confidence that I could compete.  

The Fall, Winter, and Spring weekends at High Rock were many and often, filled with work and its reward, and sailing whenever the wind came up sufficiently strong to take the Buc up or down the lake. We prepared the craft for spring and Moth boat time. The Social Cruise was show off time with Moth boat races, sculling races around the floating dock and back to shore, a “spread” prepared by the girls, and the long ride home where we improved our social skills.

I remember Pearl Harbor day at High Rock.  Commodore Gast, who was listening to the radio in the cabin and tidying up after breakfast, came down to the piers and told us of the happening.  We were ready to sail the Buc to Japan and get those Japs!  There was a party down from Virginia visiting to see our operation as we basked in the reputation earned the year before, the National Flagship. December 7, 1941, made a punctuation mark forever in our lives.

Sea Scouting remained an important factor in our lives as we prepared for whatever part we were destined to play in the conflict. We were senior counselors at Camp Graystone, followed by being staff at Sea Scout Camp. We took part in the Chesapeake Bay Cruises on the Ida May, a huge double masted centerboard schooner with home port at Severna Park on the Severna River, upstream of Annapolis. We berthed in hammocks, stood watch around the clock, and were fed mightily by “Emperor Jones.” Ralph Deaton, Joe Leake, and Armistead Estes were on the quarterdeck as we learned how to crew on such a large vessel. The ritual filling of the centerboard well by a bucket brigade separated the seaman from the landlubbers.

Commodore Gast, Joe Leak, and I represented the Davy Jones at a Sea Scout Rendezvous in Port Clinton, Ohio, where Joe and I got to pilot a sleek six-meter sloop so well tuned that she responded to the slightest pressure on the tiller. Being so used to holding course in a blow on the Buc and Commodore, I almost jibed the main to my embarrassment. It was my first experience steering an elegant, lead-keeled racing boat. Joe had participated earlier in Race Week at Larchmont, NY, and was much more the accomplished racing skipper.

We parted from Commodore Gast and took the railroad across to NYC where Joe’s parents lived ... only thing wrong [was] we took the NY Central Line instead of the more direct Pennsylvania RR route so ended up going all the way to Niagara Falls, Albany, and places north on our way south to NYC. I “dated” Joe’s beautiful sister for my first trip to a nightclub and was gaga over the experience.
The Davy Jones embarked on a mission, the building from scratch of an Arrowhead Sloop.  We shaped her transom, boiled her ribs to allow them to be shaped onto her form and sided her with cypress planking ... each clamped, scribed, and cut to fit her narrowing lines at the bow and the stern. I never saw her finished; perhaps she never was. I like to think that she was, but the learning and the process itself were the rationale for its building ... not the finished product.

                                                                      — Claibourne W. Poindexter
                                                                                               excerpts from his "Personal History"