How Do You Do “NEW”?

Lyle, Ray, & Stasha Dinghy

“New” is an appropriate word to open this article. New can be exciting, and it can be daunting. Innovative products and the continuous challenge for my clients to embrace change were my calling card in my career as a manufacturer’s representative. So, although I’m used to living on the leading edge, I often have butterflies in my stomach when I’m doing New.

I am writing a New life chapter now. I’m retired from what I was doing before, but retire doesn’t mean stop. I’ve gone to school to acquire New skills as a coach and mentor, and we’ve gone on New sailing adventures.

Brown Eyes and I towed our pocket cruiser, s/v Go With GUST-O  to Port Charlotte, Florida, and then sailed around the coastline, to the Bahamas, and back on the Okeechobee River, two years ago. That four-month long trip was chock full of New for us. One of the equipment lessons we learned in our travels, is that our 8 ft. inflatable dinghy was a pain in the neck to constantly unpack, inflate, launch, clean, deflate, and repack on deck. There had to be a better way.

Turns out there was. An inventive man named Benjy, who also owned a Dana 24 sailboat, designed a 7ft long, skin on frame nesting dinghy that could be assembled in two minutes, and stowed on the deck of our boat. It could be rowed or powered, and weighed less than 30 lbs! It’s called a Stasha Dinghy. I was intrigued but had a problem. It was to be home built from plans, and I was I’ll equipped with tools or the skills to build the dinghy. New had to wait.

Following through on decisions made during the sailing adventure, Brown Eyes and I moved to a New city in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. That meant a New house, New routines, and making New friends. That’s where this story really starts to get interesting. Knowing that we love to sail, an acquaintance introduced me to Lyle, who shared my passion for sailing, and my appetite for New. Lyle raced a Santana 525 sailboat. There are nearly forty of them on this lake, making it very competitive.

We had coffee a few times and turned out to be similar in the way we embraced New. Lyle had a shop in a bay of his garage where he loved to tinker on things that float, and to innovate. It was, in fact, how he had become successful in building his own business.

Before I knew it, I was crewing on Lyle’s Santana 525 race boat in weekly club races and regattas. It was New, educational, and fun. We happened to discuss my interest in the Stasha dinghy, and Lyle was enthusiastic about building something New. Although he had a lot of shop skills, shaping ash hardwood with steam, and skinning a boat with heat shrink polyester fabric were all New to him. Lyle had a problem though. His lifelong reading challenge called Dyslexia made the task of studying and implementing the 100-page instruction manual for the Stasha impossibly difficult. Well, you guessed it. Between the two of us, we thought that we could do what neither would attempt alone. We could do New as two! I ordered the plans from Benjy.

You learn a lot about yourself when you push your boundaries. You learn that you can do more than you think. You realize by experience that you need to be a continuous learner. You learn that your strengths, taken to an extreme, can become weaknesses, and you learn to really know the people who pushed those boundaries alongside you.

Over the winter, Lyle and I spent at least 100 hours together. Cutting, planing, steaming, bending, and bonding a big Ash plank into small framing ribs bent over a strongback template.

We sourced materials from afar, and innovated with local materials. Lyle’s woodworking skills and knowledge of local vendors in my New city were surpassed only by his perpetually sunny disposition. We worked our way through the 100 page booklet, and the Stasha dinghy took shape. We had to retrace a few steps, owing to our fast pace personalities getting ahead of ourselves. We learned how to apply Kevlar reinforcing strands, and had an interesting time ironing and heat gluing the double thickness polyester skin tightly onto the frame. ( Here is a link to the project photos

I was getting more than a dinghy out of the deal. My confidence in my ability to learn and apply New skills was rising. Most importantly, I was gaining a valuable New friend. You talk about a lot of things when you are rubbing shoulders with someone. You really get to know them. I wish I could say more, but most of what is discussed in the shop stays in the shop. I will tell you this: We mused about Lyle’s desire to open a shop big enough to be a community hub for men to come and have the same experience that we were enjoying. A place where senior men could build, share, learn, grow, and give back. A New dream was germinating.

While we were away on a short trip, a retired auto body painter named Len came over and sprayed the dinghy a bright blue hue selected earlier by Brown Eyes, to give the Stasha a classy and waterproof exterior. Lastly, I even fashioned a set of collapsible rowing oars from a 1”x6”x 12 ft. spruce fence board, and carbon fibre ferrules. It was done!

On a bright spring day, Lyle and I splashed the little blue boat in Lake Okanagan for a maiden voyage, while our wives looked on. We had a lot invested in that little boat. The Stasha glided smoothly across the water. SUCCESS!

It will be fascinating to see how we can adapt this New little craft into our two New excursions planned for s/v Go With GUST-O with Brown Eyes later this year. Oh…there are those butterflies again!  What would I do without them!

So, how do you do New? Who is your friend or mentor that helps you to press on through a challenge? Like me, I expect that you would benefit by having a mentor to coach and assist you to See, Act, and Live your Vision.

If you are a senior man in, or about to enter the post employment chapter of life, I invite you to investigate and join, or, even to start a local chapter of the Men’s Shed organization. It will be New, which is sure to be a bit daunting, and surprisingly rewarding.


Project Photos:

Stasha Dinghy:

Men’s Shed Vernon:



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