The Story Of 'Oh Wooden Aye'

My wife and I spent a lovely few days exploring Savannah, where I came across a very cool downeast boat tugging the lines at Thunderbolt Marine.
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The week between Christmas and New Year’s usually chugs along pretty slow, at least for those of us in the marine magazine business. So recently, despite the wintry rains pouring down upon the Sunny South between Saint Nick’s arrival and 2014’s departure, my wife BJ and I journeyed to the old coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, where we spent a few blissful days, hitting a variety of restaurants and checking out the sights. In between the tours and food fests, however, I managed to squeeze in a few marinas just for the heck of it and stop by to see the friendly folks at Thunderbolt Marine’s boatyard, again just for the heck of it. Thunderbolt is a rather famous place, at least amongst those of us who’ve traveled the Intracoastal Waterway a few times, either from north to south or the other way around.

Just look at those masterful lines. Wow.

Just look at those masterful lines. Wow.

At any rate, during our mini-vacay in Savannah, by hook or crook, I stumbled upon a gorgeous old hunk of maritime art at the end of a dirt road on the far side of the river—a 41-footer (shown above) called, curiously enough, Oh Wooden Aye. Talk about a graceful, downeasterly profile!

A bit of sleuthing followed, via my iPhone, and it turned out the boat—a wooden, plank-on-frame masterpiece—had been designed by the naval architect Ken Smith (the same Maine-based guy who drew my lovely old Grand Banks 32 Sedan as well as many other Grand Banks vessels that continue to grace our waterways today) and built by Rod Marple in the 1960s at the Lovett Marine Boat Yard in Longport, New Jersey, for the Lovett family, the folks of Lovett bilge pump fame.

A little further sleuthing revealed a little more info. The boat, it seemed, was the property of Bob Dykema (shown below, with his watercolorist wife Pam), one-time local head of yacht sales for Palmer-Johnson and a kindred spirit if ever there was one. Indeed, when I called him up, totally out of the blue, I didn’t exactly have to twist his arm to drive over and give my wife and me a quick tour, although a nagging question continued to pester throughout.

No wonder those owners are so happy.

No wonder those owners are so happy.

I finally came out with it toward the end of the festivities as we stood chatting on the deck of a beat-up old barge directly abaft the boat’s transom, looking at the lettering on the sweetly vanished teak overlay. “So Bob,” I queried, “where does the name come from?”

“Not long after I got my first long look at this baby,” he replied, with a grin. “I told my wife I was thinking of buying it.”

“You wouldn’t,” Bob’s wife declaimed.

"Oh wooden aye,” he threatened, and promptly did.

As they say, "them is fightin' words."

As they say, "them is fightin' words."

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