The classic-yacht community on the West Coast buzzed for years about Bill Lee and his legendary yacht restoration effort. He was, the story goes, a mission-impossible kind of guy, at least when dealing with boats. If something difficult and challenging needed to be done, he did it.
Bill and I first met about five years ago. He gave me a plastic flashlight holder he had made, and I mounted it in my boat's engine room. It worked only a few months before dis-integrating. I had to wonder.
But the story of Bill Lee flourished among classic-yacht admirers on the coast: How one man had bought a wreck of an old wood yacht that had logged thousands of miles in ocean crossings before her decline from neglect, misuse, and a venture into illegal activities. How he had devoted his life to the boat's resurrection piece by piece, project by project How she now is a strong, handsome yacht capable of cruising oceans again.
Finally, I have seen the boat, and I know the story is true. Bill Lee has done an admirable job of restoring an historically important classic for his enjoyment - and for ours.
The magnitude of the effort is clear. The boat, now named Ocean Quest, was launched in Norway in 1960. She was 65 feet then, and today measures 68. She has a 17-foot beam, draws 9 feet, and displaces 75 tons. She is all wood, with Norway pine cared planking 2-1/2 inches thick, frames 9 inches on center, and oak deck beams that are 6 inches plus on a side. She has two engines, but only one shaft and propeller.
Obviously, restoration of this classic North Sea trawler required dedication, persistence, and love that remained strong during the 13-year rebuild. Bill also called on his technical and mechanical abilities and his project management skills, and spent a lot of money. (He calculates the cost at about $800,000.) His friends helped, too, some by pitching in, others by goading him on so he finally could take the old boat cruising.