When your husband floats one proposal after another, it’s best to step aboard and enjoy the lifelong cruise

By Lynn Massey  |  Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the Holiday 2019 issue


When I married Grant Massey 43 years ago, I was never afraid of becoming a golf widow, but I didn’t know I was destined to be a boatwright widow.

I suppose I should have had suspicions when he and his family spoke so lovingly of the 8-foot pram, the Gumdrop, that Grant built when just 12 years old. Even though he did most of the work on the Douglas fir plywood boat, the whole family was involved. At the Kanawha County Public Library in Charleston, W.Va., his father found a reference to the plans, which they were able to acquire by mail. His two older sisters helped find materials and his Grandpa Massey helped with the construction. His mother paid him for odd jobs, which helped him raise the $50 he needed for the whole project.



The boat’s maiden voyage was on the nearby Elk River. He later told me, “It was just something I always wanted to do.” When Grant’s parents moved to New York City, the Gumdrop spent her water time on Lake Candlewood in Connecticut where the family had a summer home. Now age 16, he added a lawnmower motor and made the vessel into a paddle-wheeler. Unfortunately, the sweet Gumdrop met her demise in a 1977 fire.

Grant attended the University of Michigan where he planned to study naval architecture, but he eventually segued into the art department. When we married in 1976 and settled in southern Delaware near the beach, the water called. He didn’t get into boatbuilding then, but occasionally used his grandfather’s 22-foot Thunderbird fiberglass powerboat and the family’s Sunfish, a small sailboat. Instead Grant began a design/build construction business that he successfully ran for the next 15 years. Then, his art soul called again and he switched to crafting copper lamps and glass wall murals, which he still does when not building boats.


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