Across from the Chilmark fire station on North Road in a temporary shed on a rainy afternoon last week, Andy Lyons worked on Harry Beach’s boat. Harry brought the boat up from Florida in 2013. With help from a couple of friends, he rebuilt the rig, the interior and the ends of a few frames. But old boats can be deceptive, and 31-foot Lark, built to a John Alden design in 1925, sneaked her worst defects past Harry and back onto the water.

Sailing out of Lake Tashmoo in the fall of 2017, the three-ton iron ballast broke from the bottom of the keel. Both the ballast and the boat were salvaged the same day. Safely ensconced in Harry’s yard under a plastic shed, Lark waited four years for somebody to come along capable of putting a spine in the boat that could hold it all back together.

Lark, a 31-foot Alden design, is in the capable hands of Mr. Lyons. — Harry Beach

When the legendary schooner When and If was salvaged by Gannon and Benjamin in 1990, Andy Lyons re-planked the smashed-in port side. Along with Zoli Clarke, he recently finished a complete rebuild of the hull and deck of John Kerry’s 45-foot 1932 gaff sloop, also a John Alden design, also called Lark.

Among the dozens of boats he’s built and rebuilt, Harry Beach’s Lark is special to Andy. “My first boat was a Malabar Junior,” he said, “just like this but with a centerboard.”

On a job Andy is quiet; his day is measured by what he gets done, not what he says. It is rare for him to be reflective, but with the work of cutting, fitting and bolting the new backbone timbers to new framing behind him, sitting on an eight-inch block under the boat, carving the final shapes into the new wood with hand tools as rain dripped from the trees onto the plastic roof of the shed, he talked.

“I used to take that boat out every weekend. I had my bunk. It had a little galley.” he said of his old Malabar Junior. “I grew up in Groton. We would go out to Fisher’s Island or Napa Tree Point.”

“We would anchor stern to on the beach behind Napa Tree. There is an old fort out there where we would climb around,” Andy said as he roughed the rabbet into the hard new angelique keel with a gouge.

“Before 1938 there were houses out there on stilts. In the big hurricane it was all blown away. People hiding in the attic of one house rode across the bay like they were in a ship. They couldn’t tell if they’d been blown out to sea.”

Lark lost her ballast four years ago off Lake Tashmoo and was salvaged. — Harry Beach

There is a point where the tides of the Long Island Sound meet the tides of the Vineyard and Rhode Island sounds; water moving opposite directions can push seas into a ferocious chop. It’s called the Race. “I’d take my boat around Race Rock Light when it was blowing, so I could sail in the waves like I was on the ocean,” Andy said.

“There was a lot of nice sailing there,” he reflected about the mouth of the Mystic River. “I was there this summer. It looked exactly the same. It was full of moorings even then.”

The only person that has contributed a comparable volume of labor to the lives of the traditional boats of Vineyard Haven is one of the owners of Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, Ross Gannon. Twenty years before Andy, he spent his formative sailing years on the same stretch of Connecticut coast.

“Andy first showed up in Vineyard Haven in December. And he was sailing north,” Ross once explained to a handful of awed boatbuilders around a woodstove during a coffee break.

As an adult Andy would sail his own rebuilt 38-foot sloop Harmony on multiple trips to the Bahamas, and as far as the Río Dulce River, in Guatemala. But he always came back to Vineyard Haven, where without his care, this spectacular fleet of historic wooden boats would be very different.