top of page

"Talk to the Hand Plan:" strategy versus tactics and how to swim again.

The name of this blog category is "Deadrise: more than a workboat..." It follows that this post would start to explain why. If you are not familiar with a Chesapeake Bay deadrise workboat, I can honestly say it's both very easy and very difficult for me to describe. I have only spent my life in two geographic locations, the Sun Coast of Central Florida centered around Clearwater Beach, and the Delmarva Peninsula, centered around the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Most of the time, so far, Maryland has been home. So a deadrise workboat is as common a thing to me as the subway must be for New Yorkers.

A deadrise is a work of art and work of pure ingenuity born out of necessity, the mother of invention. It's pointy at the bow and it's broad, boxy (most of the time) and flat at the stern. The lines, running between bow and stern, no matter where you view them, from above, below or in profile, are long, graceful, curving or flat but always elegant and delicate.

This is my example of what I am describing. I fired this off my drawing table freehand with only about four lines drawn with a straight edge, two of which are known as the "perpendiculars," the lines that set the length between bow and stern. This image is what I mean when I describe the look, generally, of the iconic Chesapeake Bay vessel.

This image was created to ease the pressure stemming from, what else, the absolute need to get on I cannot describe the situation any more simply because it's all so utterly simple yet incomprehensibly subtle and overwhelmingly staggering to experience. I drew this image because I needed a clear objective for PaxMaris' "Return to Service" campaign. I also needed a concrete image to hold up and show people what exactly that entailed. Having an image to whack onto a t-shirt doesn't hurt either. Unless I became willing to accept the operation of yet another boat that was only "new to me," which after years spent trying to make used boats viable (I am no longer willing) I needed a bit of prophetic iconography to light the way towards getting back on the water, to serving the Chesapeake and all those who want to experience it.

One day, weeks after this image was created, I was speaking to a team member that was feeling uncertain about why the business plan for PaxMaris kept changing. I knew that it wasn't the business plan or strategy that was changing, but the tactics. I held up my hand and pushing it in her face (nicely), palm first, fingers spread wide in a fan, I said, "listen, talk to the hand plan."

Talk to the hand, that perfect 1990's exclamation point, came forward to 2022 and filled an awkward moment, a beat of time, while my palm and fingers remained in front of my colleague's face. "I see she said, so we are going to design and build more than one boat."

"Yes'" I said, wiggling my fingers, "one suited to each of our short, medium and longterm

goals," and removed my hand from her face. "We start with the thumb, the shortest-term solution, the boat that is as broad in its capabilities as in its appeal."

The deadrise will bring simplicity, economy, wide ranging on-water capabilities, the chance to be as green as possible, and simplicity again, to the design-build project. The utility of a vessel type which never used professionally drawn plans becomes clear when you fully and accurately consider the scope of designing and building something like a 65 foot schooner, the apple and eventual goal of PaxMaris' eye. Comparing our earlier plan to work through the Howard I. Chapelle book, "Yacht Design and Planning," that seminal text that lays out the process of developing, manually, on a proper drafting table, the complete preliminary design of a new schooner, then sending that off to a naval architecture firm to check your work, digitize everything, correct your work, perform hydrostatic analysis and more, compare all of that to the film I stumbled upon from the Mariner's Museum and Park of Billy Moore building a deadrise from his recollection, and the choice of deadrise as "thumb" is clear.

Our strategy and corresponding tactics have only become more obvious, as the evidence on how best to achieve PaxMaris' goals comes into focus. As a direct community engagement nonprofit we need the "Swiss Army knife" of boats, something that good design practice teaches you to avoid in earnest. Yet, in the Chesapeake Bay deadrise workboat we have found an exception that proves the rule, a boat that can live in the waters of the often turbulent Chesapeake, be worked hard every day, carry heavy loads, cruise comfortably, run quickly and run relatively cheaply AND last for decades if not a century or longer if properly maintained. The fact that this designer needed only a few skills endemic to himself and not the lengthy trial of working through a book is proof that PaxMaris is onto something correct-headed.

We choose the deadrise as the boat that will return us to service, vigorously serving the culture, economics, environment and military families of our Bay region. It will be the "thumb" of the "Talk to the Hand Plan," the foundational finger of strategy, tactically establishing PaxMaris as a water-born nonprofit company even if a thumb is all we ever have (at least we will still be able to hitch a ride).

31 views0 comments
bottom of page