Mystic -The Urdan family originally planned to travel from their home in San Francisco to Costa Rica during their three children's summer vacation. However, after their oldest son Whit fractured his ankle, they decided to change their plans and build a canoe this past weekend at the 21st annual Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport.
"I grew up in Long Island," mother Mary Hossfeld said. "I've always wanted to do this, I just had to convince the family to go."
Over the course of three days, the Urdans hand-crafted a 10-foot-long wooden canoe that they can now take home with them. While carefully inspecting the family's near-finished project on Sunday, 8-year-old Colly Urdan confessed that the project was "a little better than Costa Rica anyway."
The Urdan family was among the large crowds that attended the three-day event, which is billed as the biggest gathering of wooden boats and enthusiasts in New England. Sponsored by WoodenBoat Publications, it featured more than 100 wooden vessels including kayaks, mahogany runabouts and classic day sailers and schooners.
In addition, those who attended the show could see the ongoing restoration of the 171-year-old Charles W. Morgan, the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship. That project is expected to be completed next July and the ship is scheduled to sail to New England ports in the summer of 2014.
Those interested in wooden boats had a wide variety of activities to choose from, including shopping for antique parts from the cavalcade of vendors. Or, like the Urdans, they could build their own seaworthy canoe in the show's family boatcrafting tent.
Pete Hering, a former wooden boat owner who lives in Savannah, Ga., and Groton, has experience with the materials at the show. He switched to fiberglass boats in the 1960s when wood stopped being the standard. He attended the show as an act of nostalgia.
"It's a labor of love," he said. "People who work on wooden boats do it because they love it. I'd say that for every 20 hours you spend working on it, you get maybe one hour of pleasure from it on the water. These people aren't in it for the sailing; they're in it for the love that they have for boat care."