Ken and Loretta Minor, longtime residents of Sycamore Canyon, have built a magnificent little ship. At 29 feet, their Lyle Hess–designed Bristol Channel Cutter is actually just a boat, not a ship, but Morning Song’s stout keel, hardwood timbers, bronze propeller, and broad transom overhead make it a substantial vessel. The main cabin, roughly nine feet wide by 12 feet long by six feet tall, is a small space to be sure, but the graceful bend of the cabin top overhead makes a snug room in the world — a place apart from wind and weather, and once at sea, a place apart from the rush and complication of shoreside life.
But how does a couple well into their seventies (he’s 77) with grown daughters and five grandchildren find themselves easing down hatches and fitting out to sail when their contemporaries might be content just gazing at the ocean? That’s where 25 years comes in, gone by in a wink, but 25 years of steady, concentrated work — a meditation begun for Minor at age 50, when he laid the keel with his first shipment of lumber from Port Townsend, Washington. Built in a shed adjacent to their home, Morning Song looks fresh and newly made today, having been sheltered from the elements throughout her construction. The Tea Fire of 2008 nearly took the boat, but Santa Barbara’s finest made a line and held it, saving the Minors’ vessel and home from the flames.
The firefighters have returned in the years since to check the progress, as have other people who noticed the incomparable form of a well-drawn boat coming into the world. “You ever going to finish that thing?” they’d joke as people do, with wonder, skepticism, and a touch of envy tingeing their voices. But Minor, gentleman that he is, would patiently answer their questions, and then return to the work of shaping, placing, and fitting. Schoolchildren came on field trips, and he fashioned small boats as souvenirs for each of them from Morning Song’s offcuts. As a founding partner at Santa Barbara’s Lenvik & Minor Architects, Minor had a fulfilling career, but leaving in 1998 wasn’t so much a retirement as it was a change of vocation from designer of buildings to full-time shipwright.
And so, after a slow drive down Sycamore Canyon to the harbor in early March, the Morning Song finally faced the sea. All the years building, the meticulous effort and attention to detail, brought Ken and Loretta Minor to this moment, a soft breeze ruffling the water, the silhouette of Santa Cruz Island on the horizon, the ship soon to set sail on its maiden trip — the project having clearly been a voyage of sorts unto itself.