• 63°

McCormick’s boat construction evolves into spiritual experience

Reid McCormick has spent more than 300 hours of the past year building an 18-foot-long, 5-foot-wide fishing boat with the help of the Camellia City community.  Throughout the experience, he learned just as much about himself as he did building boats.

Reid McCormick has spent more than 300 hours of the past year building an 18-foot-long, 5-foot-wide fishing boat with the help of the Camellia City community. Throughout the experience, he learned just as much about himself as he did building boats.

What began as nine sheets of plywood has, over the process of at least 300 hours of monotonous labor, transformed into the passion project of a lifetime.

Reid McCormick’s newest labor of love is technical poling skiff, an 18-foot-long, 5-foot-wide fishing boat built specifically for shallow waters.

In stark contrast to the depths he aims to relieve of fish in his new skiff, McCormick said that the actual building process was anything but shallow.

“I worked a lot of my days off, and I would also get up at 3:30 or 4 a.m. and work for two to three hours before I went to work,” McCormick said.

“I worked some nights, but not many.  And I worked in the warehouse where it was 100 degrees, except during late fall and winter.  It was hot and dusty, and I wore a respirator to protect myself.

“Every time you start to drill a hole in something that you’ve spent so much time on, you take a deep breath—I never thought I would worry about that.  On the other hand, you have to have the attitude that, whatever you do, you can fix it.  You’re not drilling holes into the bottom of the boat while you’re in the water.”

McCormick originally began the project to replace one of two previous skiffs he’d owned while fishing in Central Florida, his previous home of 13 years.  After learning that they’d since doubled in price, he decided to build his own from scratch.

What began as a period of reflecting upon his sanity eventually blossomed into a spiritual practice of sorts.

“My spirituality is more related to Saint Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan methodology for understanding God and creation,” McCormick said.

“I love being out in nature, but I also love working with my hands. And there’s something transformative about building something with your hands.  I preach a sermon every week and I’m writing stuff all the time, and it gives you a lot of time to mull over, process and think through what you’re about to preach or write about. So I found it to be a really wonderful way to be contemplative in my spirituality.”

Fortunately for McCormick, it wasn’t an undertaking he needed to face alone.

Multiple people contributed to the building process in one way or another—whether it was layering the boat’s exterior in fiberglass, wiring the boat with under-hatch and navigational lights or simply helping move what would become a 500-pound monstrosity around, McCormick nearly always had a helping hand.  In that way, the construction was a community effort.

“There were a lot of people who would stop by when they’d see the warehouse door open in the summer, and they would ask questions,” McCormick said. “Some people would come up and say ‘that doesn’t look right,’ but most people would come and say ‘well, how did you think through this and that?’ and then when I’d start thinking about it I’d realize that they were telling me I screwed something up diplomatically. So I relied on several people who’ve been around boats a lot.”

Now that construction is largely completed, McCormick is awaiting an inspection that would allow his boat to be taken on public waters.  After that, he doesn’t know where he’s headed—and he’s making a point to keep it that way.

“I hope to launch it somewhere around the Mobile Bay area and the panhandle area of Florida to catch some redfish and spotted seatrout,” McCormick said.

“My experiences have all been in southwest and eastern Florida, so this’ll give me a new way to explore another part of God’s creation.”