Seven decades after building his first boat, David Hough was at it again — using some unexpected downtime to revisit his nautical interests amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“(It) allowed my to forget all that; the resin is hot, or I need to get to fill this hole,” said Hough, 83.
“I’d get up and spend, sometimes, six hours sanding. I don’t have to worry about the COVID that’s outside somewhere.”
The writer and former Boeing Company employee said he was spurred to the project after a conversation with his daughter this past winter.
“She said, ‘I don’t know much about your youth.’ We never had much discussion about it. I thought I’d maybe write it down. So I started writing.”
The recollections brought Hough back to his teen years, back when he built his first skiff.
Hough grew up in Aberdeen, and figures his first foray into the boat-making hobby was at about 12 years of age. He recalled taking that craft and a couple of others he built in his late teens on some of the town’s waterways, including the Wishkah and Chehalis rivers — possibly, he said, without consent of his parents.
Those waterways where “not for the faint of heart,” he remembered.
A participant in activities with Sea Scouts, a division of Boy Scouts of America, Hough took his nautical interests on to a sailing club at the University of Washington. His boating interest superseded at least one two-hour-long psychology class one particularly warm fall day, when he opted for some time on the water in a Penguin sailboat rather than sit in a classroom.
Following college, Hough applied his artistic skills talents at The Boeing Company as a technical and graphic illustrator as well as some video production.
As he got older, Hough turned his free time interest from boats to two-wheeled transportation in what became a 50-year-long interest in motorcycles.
“I pretty much abandoned boats,” he said.
Hough over the years wrote columns for several publications on motorcycle rider safety, education and training, including his “Proficient Motorcycling” column for Motorcycle Consumer News for 16 years, as well as pieces for Sound RIDER! and BMW Owners News magazines.
He published four books on the topic, including the best-selling “Proficient Motorcycling” (a compendium of his columns), and was recognized twice as a writer by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Excellence in Motorcycle Journalism award.
Hough moved to the Agnew area more than 25 years ago and three years ago, at age 80, retired and moved into Sequim, where he found he didn’t have much room for his motorcycles.
As it turns out, Hough said he finds he doesn’t miss riding much anymore for a couple of reasons.
“As we get older, most of us have bodies who hurt; just getting your leg over a bike can be a challenge,” Hough said. “Secondarily, I lost my nerve for it.”
Hough said he knew riding motorcycles was a dangerous hobby, but over the years came to read more and more dubious statistics.
“I know the numbers now I didn’t know before,” he said.
Not long after seeing a number of roadside hazards during a trip to a motorcycle rally in John Day, Ore., Hough gave up the cycling for good.
“I don’t have the nerves anymore,” he said.
And while he hadn’t built a boat in decades, Hough still had an interest in watercraft. During a stint as a volunteer at Port Townsend’s annual Wooden Boat Festival, he got a glimpse of the Wineglass Wherry produced by PT-based Pygmy Boats.
“I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I should get one’,” Hough said one day, but he didn’t have the tools so he let the thought go.
But at the next year’s festival, he saw it again.
In mid-March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, Hough bought a kit and opened up space in his garage for the six-month boat-building project.
“The project was to build the boat; if the boat ever gets the bottom wet, that’s a bonus,” he said.
But building the boat from a kit was much different that the skiff he built in his youth, Hough found.
“Building a wherry is more like building a model airplane, ” he said.
“The wood is all held together. The skill I needed was more to learn more about laminating fiberglass.”
Six months later, Hough was ready to take his wherry — christened “Planet X” — out for its maiden voyage. Only, he’d need some help from some kind-hearted neighbors.
“I don’t have the flexibility and balance and vision I had when I was younger,” he said.
But his neighbors came through, and on a later September day, Hough and “Planet X” dipped into the still waters on Sequim Bay.
Hough said he doesn’t have significant plans for the watercraft, other than possibly putting at Lake Crescent at East Beach for some nice, fresh water to paddle.
But that might take some more work, he said.
“My neck won’t turn anymore,” he said, laughing. “I’ve got to come up with mirrors.”