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  • Writer's pictureMoriah

Anchor down for research

With mixed feelings, I left Tel Aviv and moved to Hefer Valley. We found a house in Tzuki Yam, a beach community near Netanya, for ten days. The view from the window and the decked roof was the neighbouring house, and beyond it, you could see, hear and smell the Mediterranean waves.

I didn't spend much time in the apartment, though; I'm mainly in Beit Yanai, the adjacent village.

Beit Yanai is a commune on the coast. It has a carpentry shop, where I go, and where I build a rowboat. It's a 2.75m boat that I've been building using the stitch & glue method. I've been working on her for a year now, if you don't count my year of absence, and she's been patiently waiting for my return. Now I'm at the pre-painting stage.

Two years ago, in the days when the boat was just a pile of pine and layers of polyurethane glue, I found myself saying to one carpenter, "You're here every day, eh?", And I realised that meant I was too. These days, I come about four times a week; one should also write sometimes.

"But Moriah, why do you waste your time building a boat when you should devote it to writing your novel? Where are your priorities? And how could you possibly know what we want to ask before we even read your post? Who do you think you are?"

These are all wonderful questions.

I've always enjoyed working with my hands, especially with wood. But in this case, the reason hasn't been for pleasure nor the sake of the finished product; those are just bonuses.

The novel I'm writing is about a guy named Michael. He had just returned to the commune where he grew up after seven years in a psychiatric hospital. His friend put it down to bad luck, probably because he went under the ladder in his father's carpentry shop an uneven number of times. It regularly stood on the way to the pencil drawer, and no one thought of moving it.

Since he had been a child, Michael had been a carpenter. It was about all he knew to do. He lived with Alma, a bipolar impulsive woman who asked him to build her a boat. Michael did whatever Alma asked, and throughout the story, there's a side plot of a boat being crafted page by page.

I guess you understand where I'm heading. I have to do research, and research - I do.

"But Moriah, you could learn from books, from the internet, from so many sources of information that are accessible to everyone today. Why make it difficult for yourself? And why do you keep speaking on behalf of us?"

Books on boatbuilding do not exist in Hebrew, for that I'll have to learn advanced Italian. But as exciting as it sounds to delve deep into Google and rip it apart from the inside out, getting every piece of information I can get my claws on - I always prefer hands-on education.

I wanted to learn how it feels to suffocate from fibreglass fumes all day. How to be creative after bending a plank and breaking it. Experience the excitement of seeing a bunch of marine plywood and solid wood slowly turning into a three-dimensional vessel that takes you from place to place through water.

To truly understand the construction process, which's also new for our skilled carpenter, I had to build one myself. Michael and I learnt together, for the first time, how to build a boat.

So now, I'm working on the boat and the novel at the same time. I don't want to lose momentum. I'm rowing with the current not to tire the muscles. But not all the time, for that's why there are oars and common sense.

Either way, I'll update you. And you, in return, just need to sit back and enjoy the cruise.

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