Man, as we know ourselves, populated the world by emigrating from the cradle of civilization. With no roads, vehicles, or domesticated animals to pull them, migrating was easiest by water. At first using only crude river rafts, man developed vessels to challenge the seas, then conquered them with sleek, fast sailing ships.1 Whether seagoing clipper ships, whalers, super frigates, or coastal schooners, sailing craft were adapted functionally, and often were beautiful to behold in full sail.
Shipwrights, the craftsmen who built the vessels of yore, adapted tools for shaping the ribs, knees, and planks of the hull; and the spars, masts, stanchions, and stays above the decks. Materials were selected for strength, durability, and ductility. Live oak was brought from South Carolina for ribs, knees, and planking; masts and spars from Maine.2
A master shipwright’s chest held axes, adzes, chisels, drills, mallets, planes, and augers—each for a special task. The tool steel was the best possible, honed to the requisite edge for the specific use. Master shipwrights taught construction techniques to apprentices and journeymen. Their tools, treasured for their precision and strength, were passed through multiple generations and are still prized today among artisans.
Like sailing vessels, our lodges are each unique in character, performance, traditions and community service. Each lodge is comprised of carefully examined men. Our symbolic tools are specific and honed through study and practice of time proven ritual. And, we also pass our tools, our craft, our skills, from Masters to journeymen and apprentices, often through multiple generations. As master shipwrights imparted knowledge to younger artisans, so do our more sage Masonic brothers instruct us, forging strong fraternal bonds, bulwarks and rigging that help us weather life’s most treacherous waters and storms. Whatever course we set throughout the world, we are confident of port calls where we can find similar Masonic artisans, schooled in the same ritual and tools, from whom we can seek companionship, rest, support, and repairs whenever in need of such. We are indeed fortunate amongst traveling men.