On my family’s property, just out of sight of the main cabin, there sits a small greenish building with a shed roof. The porch looking over the water is full of odds and ends of boat paraphernalia, much of which was there when I first saw it. If you duck into the door-porch and look up the hill behind the building, there is a small outhouse, with stories of its own (see Dang! There Goes the Outhouse!).
At the age of eleven, thoroughly enchanted by the property, I was somewhat less enthusiastic about this “boathouse”. Designed as a workshop rather than a living space, the builders had a little fun with the materials they chose for the interior. The dark wooden floor? Sure, cool. Much cooler when I found out it was repurposed from an old building in town. The small windows? Makes sense, if you’re focused on your project indoors. The walls, though . . . . That was what worried me. The realtor accompanying us had just finished telling us about the carpenter ants that had prompted the reconstruction of the main cabin. I had never encountered a carpenter ant, but I’d gotten the idea that they were bigger than your average picnic ants. Must be, to make people rip an entire wall out of their house simply to get rid of them.
Now, the walls in the boathouse are full of holes. Not the outer walls, but the inner paneling. The holes averaged about half an inch across, plenty of room for a large ant to bustle about in. I didn’t think to ask, but I was pretty sure that these were ant holes. Dad got a good picture of my face as I examined them more closely, then realized my concern and solved the mystery for me.
These boards had been milled this way on purpose. The holes were from toredo or ship worms, a sea-going creature that tunnels through wood and is the bane of wooden ships. The living organisms that had made these holes had long since gone on their way. I didn’t have to worry about them suddenly appearing all around me. I felt much better about the boathouse after that, although I have always suspected that spiders found use for those holes occasionally. Spiders are fine, they have a job that is incidentally beneficial for humans. I just don’t want to have to touch them, or be walked on by them, so I leave the walls in the boathouse alone.
Such was my first impression of the boathouse. Thank goodness that first impressions, though lasting, are not always correct. Our boathouse had several lives before we arrived at the property: workshop, boy’s clubhouse, and several after our arrival. It’s mostly been our extra storage building, but it’s also held sleepovers and visiting family, and is the annual “secret” holiday workshop (see Homemade Christmas Gifts: A Success Story and The Real Value of Homemade Gifts).
Now it has a new job: bachelorette quarters. Having acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, I am happy to say I’ve returned to the homestead. I’ll be moving out of my little upstairs cupboard room into the boathouse, newly christened “Shell Cottage”. I’ll be posting occasional updates on my efforts to clean, decorate, and reorganize the space. In the meantime, wish me luck!