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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Lost Navigator
"The Opportunity To Do Something While You Can"
March 22, 2011

he first thing that makes you notice Nelson Pierce’s boat is its color. No Hatteras White here. No subtle shade of tan. Nelson Pierce painted his boat orange. Bright orange. Can’t-miss-it orange. And that was the point. You see the boat he built long before you see Nelson.

Lost Navigator’s proud bow reflected in the water near the Town Dock.

Nelson Pierce and “Lost Navigator” — the name’s the second thing that stands out — passed through Oriental in November. Just a few weeks earlier, builder and boat left Syracuse, New York where Nelson had grown up and lived and worked most of his life.

Nelson Pierce

Now in his early 60’s, Nelson didn’t want to stay for another winter. As he told TownDock.net, “Some people like to be born and die in the same place,” but he didn’t count himself as one of them. “I was born in Baldwinsville.” (a town near Syracuse and the hailing port of his boat. ) “I don’t have to die there.”

That’s where the boat came in. It was to be his home in retirement. “I always kind of liked the water,” Nelson said. He’d built a few boats before, and found that it didn’t have “to cost a fortune.” (He told a Syracuse newspaper that he sailed one, a 23-foot sailboat, on the Barge Canal.)

For the past decade he put his energy in to constructing his 36-foot trawler, working off of a plan by Glen L of California. It’s made of plywood and fiberglass, and was put together inside a large shed he built on his land. Without the shed, work on the trawler would have been out of the question in the harsh Syracuse winters.

The bridge.

For the better part of a decade, Nelson said, he worked his midnight to 8a shift at a steel mill and then “I’d come home and work a few hours on the boat.” His point was to do something every day to bring the plans in to a reality and make something he could float away on and head south. After he retired from the steel mill, he spent most of another year working on the boat. When finished, it was 36’ long and 13’9” wide.

The bridge and pilot house.

Nelson named it “Lost Navigator,” in part because he was new to navigating his way on a boat, though he also said that “Christopher Columbus didn’t know where he was,” and that it took “Amerigo Vespucci, 75 years to figure out where he was.”

On a related note, he painted the boat bright orange after reading about various search and rescue missions at sea. “I’m not trying to hide,” Nelson PIerce said, noting that “the hardest thing to find is white.” With that in mind, he extended the orange paint even to the top of the boat’s cabin, all the better to be seen from above.

On the aft deck, Nelson Pierce talks about his boat.

Nelson decided to leave Syracuse in the fall of 2010, even though “Lost Navigator”‘s interior wasn’t finished. “If I waited for that,” Nelson said, “it’d be another 2 years.” There was another factor in not waiting. Nelson said that when, “I looked around, all my friends were sick and dying. You’ve got to seize the opportunity to do something while you can.”

Near Oriental’s Town Dock, the trawler, Lost Navigator. Its builder and captain, Nelson PIerce says slowing down and enjoying life, is “what retirement’s all about.” Going off on this trip, “you see things you don’t usually see.”

He figured his boat was seaworthy and that he could finish it out along the way. “That way I can figure out what I need and don’t need.” He took off in October. Some lessons came quickly — the steering for instance, gave out early on and had to be fixed. And he had to put a second, smaller mast, on the boat, after learning the original would not clear all the bridges on the Erie Canal, his gateway to the Hudson River and points further south.

On the port side, an extra mast. It’s the original and was taken down on learning it was too tall for some bridges.

Within a month of setting out, Nelson Pierce and “Lost Navigator” arrived in Oriental, just about when the late fall cold snap was starting. By the time he reached Oriental, he was traveling with another boat, a sailing couple from Michigan, Barb and Craig DeLine whom he met at a lock on the Erie Canal.

Nelson had been planning to get to the Little River in South Carolina, but over the winter, he pushed on beyond there and as of mid-March was in Jacksonville, Florida. While the Delines stopped to repair an alternator and rebuild an engine, Nelson Pierce took a slip at a small marina took and has been putting in v-berths, painted his deck, and worked on interior plumbing.

The Lost Navigator, it seems, is finding its way.

The bow from down under.

Posted Tuesday March 22, 2011 by Melinda Penkava

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