Julius F Re-Created
 the Boat that Buzz  Built
(as the boat that Brad built)

The julius II
 

 

Brad Dimock in a Buzz Holmstrom pose

 

 

 

For me, it started with The Doing of the Thing . . .

         


Brad and the Julius F II on the Rogue May 2002

       It appeared as a floating gold nugget fresh from the old Almeda Mine on the Rogue River. As the first sunbeams of morning struck its Port Orford cedar, dew-laden strakes, the craft appeared to phosphoresce. As the reflection refracted through the water the nugget shone in a surreal glow presenting an inverted halo effect. It was gorgeous! Mesmerized by the scene Brad brought me back to reality as he dipped both oars, pulling on one and pushing on the other, smoothly pivoting the nugget for its entry into Kelsey Falls. As Brad enters the drop I think, “Gads, she's a beaut!" We were on the Rogue. This was the maiden voyage of the Julius F, Brad Dimock's re-creation of the riverboat Buzz Holmstrom built for his 1937 solo from the headwaters of the Green River in Utah to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, then through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. No one before or since has duplicated this 1100 mile, 56 day saga. It was a Herculean feat.  

          

Brad and the gold nugget

       In August 1998, Brad and his wife, Geri stopped by my shop to talk about his desire to re-create the Julius F. The duo had just gotten off the Salmon River in Idaho, had stopped in Portland to pick up the first run of his book, The Doing of the Thing (Conley, Dimock and Welch, Fretwater Press, 1998), and were now heading for Coquille, Oregon, Buzz Holmstrom's hometown. Brad had somehow learned about the work I was doing to recover the lines and construction detail of McKenzie and Rogue River boats. He wondered if I would be interested in doing the Julius F. My first impulse was to decline. Then I read the book and came to more fully appreciate Buzz's unique contribution to river navigation and home boat building. My interest was pricked. Brad told me that Buzz's youngest brother, Rolph, was still living and actually assisted his older brother in building the boat. That clinched it for me, especially when I learned that Rolph lived less than 75 miles from me, just north of Vancouver, Washington. I was hooked. Over the next three years, as time allowed, I studied photographs, visited Rolph several times, sought Brad's insights, and slowly laid the boat out on paper. In the Spring of 2001 Brad decided it was time to convene a group and build the boat.  


Lines, plug and jig were laid out to scale. The real test would occur when we attempted to build the hull.

 

       

       Brad has a "thing" about proximity and authenticity. He expressed a desire to build the boat in close proximity to Buzz's home. So I offered my shop. Two years earlier he secured a Port Orford cedar tree and had it milled into slabs near the spot Buzz secured his P.O. timbers for the Julius F. Authenticity. On September 18, 2001 Buzz arrived here with his load of lumber, some authentic Homlstrom tools, and the darndest looking piece of drift wood I ever saw. It looked every bit like a pregnant stem post. Brad had come north from Flagstaff via Coquille and Coos Bay, Oregon, and like Buzz, he located a piece of driftwood he intended to use as the stem. I belly-laughed for several minutes as Brad described locating this chunk of wood on the beach (as Buzz did his), and then slaving to hand haul the thing to his van. We spent time pouring over the lines and plans and decided our first step would be to construct a jig/form to the lines of the boat as they appeared on paper. Fortunately, I had the foresight to lay a wood floor in my shop. My idea was to have something that would be kind to my feet and legs, and a floor into which I could place fasteners for anchoring boat forms and other projects. We were thus able to lay out the boat's half-breadths on the floor and use the established points as markers for setting the stem post, stations and transom. This work became excellent therapy as we recoiled from the events of September 11.  

Brad sawed, hand-hewed and talked the stem into shape

     

Stations, stem and transom have been set.

       Lines, plans, a handcrafted plug, a lapstrake modeled hull and photos of Buzz and his boat served as the guides for laying out the mold stations. We were a little apprehensive about lapstrake construction. Neither of us had direct experience with the technique, but Sam Johnson  (current Executive Director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum) taught us some basics, and Brad's ingenuity captured the rest. Our key lesson, however, was something we experienced: Listen to wood. It will tell you what to do. There were some aspects of the lines I had laid out that twisted the strakes unnaturally. However, when we allowed the wood to speak, it spoke plainly and simply and the boat's lines assumed easy fairness. Even at that, Brad called into play his recollection of calculus to define the final shape of the sheer strake.  

 

Dock Marsten and other photos of Buzz and his boat

     

Brad's sheer strake calculations plus plug and hull model


Jerry Briggs at work on julius

  The legendary boat builder, Jerry Briggs joined us for several days and left his mark on the Julius II. In addition to his basic boat building knowledge and skills, he brought a sense of reality and humor to the shop -- the reality of perspective, touch and feel of a boat, and his declaration that he wouldn't allow either a level or plumb bob in his shop. His point was that you must trust your eye rather than instruments of confusion amidst compound angles. And Rogue River guide, lodge owner (Lucas lodge) and boat builder, Willard Lucas scared the hell out of us when he showed up one day with son, Larry. Willard delivered mail in Coquille (Holmstrom's hometown) as a young man and remembers seeing Buzz's boat in the yard of his mother a few years after Buzz's untimely death. Willard took a look at our project, lowered his head, shook it, and said, "Oh no, this isn't what she looked like at all." Our stunned looks turned to laughter as we realized we'd been had   

 

Willard Lucas considers our work on Julius II

  My own courage to proceed with the project was encouraged by Buzz's kid brother, Rolph.  He was a young man when Buzz built the Julius and assisted him in the 1937 project. Buzz's boat was clinker-built, and one task Rolph recalled was holding the sledge hammer behind the strake as Buzz applied the fasteners to the overlapped strakes, bending the fasteners to clinch them tight. Unfortunately, Rolph died before the building project began, but two of his daughters and son-in-law visited our team during the project. I think they were both pleased by their father's influence on the boat, and appreciative of the legacy he helped to shape.    

Andy Hutchinson releases the forms to roll the boat

Brad explains the finer points of the boat to Rolph's daughters.

  We completed the hull in two weeks. Brad invited project participants (and there were many, including passers-by) to leave their John Hancock's on the inside face of the transom. However, the hull was but the beginning. Brad drug the hull to his home in Flagstaff, and that winter he completed the project, with considerable help from friends and fellow guides. Julius II was launched later that winter and therewith was the second coming. With Julius II Brad re-traced most of the steps Buzz took during his river career, covering more than 1500 river miles with the boat before its retirement. But unlike the original Julius, which likely resides in silt laden repose in the banks of the Coquille River somewhere, Julius II hangs aloft in Brad's new two story shop.  

Brad et al finish the work

       

A high point of the launch was Martin Litton's presence


Nearing completion

 


Open water at the mouth of the Rogue, May 2002
 


Brad, Marryanne, Andy, Roger at end of our commemorative Rogue run

 

Authenticity - Brad's 1919 touring car towing Julius II, just like Buzz.

Records

on

a

Port

Orford

frame

 
 

Jerry Briggs quote: "What the world needs today is more whittlers and less chislers."

Signatures on a Port Orford frame: Andy Hutchinson, Jerry Briggs, Dan Dierker, Brad Dimock

Jerry Briggs quote: "Well, you'll never find a level in a boat shop."

 

Unfamiliar with the feats of Buzz Holmstrom? Then go here for a copy of the Doing of the Thing, the Brief, Brilliant White Water Career of Buzz Holmstrom

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