By now, you’ve probably heard. Or if you haven’t heard, you’ve surely seen it. A sea-weathered, 70-year-old master-woodworker and shipwright named Ted Box is undertaking the ambitious project of a lifetime: building a 70-foot wooden scow in Vineyard Haven. He’s riveted his dream to his will, or his will to his dream — it depends what day of the week you ask him — to make it a reality.

Journey to build the 70-foot wooden scow has created a community of craftsmen united by a dream. — Maria Thibodeau

Currently, that reality looks, and functions, more like a 50-foot-tall Conestoga wagon than a sea-worthy 70-foot vessel. Yet as Mr. Box’s project has transformed from a blueprint he found in the Smithsonian four decades ago to the largest three-quarters built wooden eye-catcher on the Island, one thing has become clear: Ted Box, whose productions are displayed in nautical museums all along the Eastern seaboard, is at least as good at convincing people to work for free as he is a boat builder.

“The boss said it was going to be in by April,” recalled Thomas Winchell, who goes by Tim and has spent most of his recent waking-hours sanding, painting, tarring, plugging, planking, cleaning and cutting under the stern of Mr. Box’s rig, at no pay. “So I came over here more often, then he said it would be done by May, so I started coming every day, and then he said, no, we’ll have to do June 15.” That date, of course, has now passed. “And I just keep coming.”

What keeps Mr. Winchell, and the quirky handful of other amateur carpenters, machinists, artists and tinkerers, coming back, day in and day out?

“I love to do this,” he said. “I love working with a team, and I love being on the water. It gives me a good feeling that I’m part of a project and that I’m making something that has a function and really means something. And it’s kept me busy,” he added with a smile.

The boat started as a blueprint Ted Box found in the Smithsonian four decades ago. — Maria Thibodeau

The Seeker, as Mr. Box calls it, broke ground in 2011. Since then, all the sailing it’s done is from Ernie Boch’s vacant lot, down Beach Road, to its current resting place on the shore of the Dredge Night Club. That’s also the closest it’s gotten to the water, too.

Throughout the eight years, as documentarians and journalists have come and gone, and weeds and rot have grown in the Cypress planks of the boat who cried wolf, a steady stream of help, in the form of materials, knowledge and manpower, has never failed to appear on Mr. Box’s deck, to keep the project afloat.

“The other day, a coil of rope showed up,” Mr. Box said, with his pointer-finger outstretched in wonder. “Those propellers showed up, that angle iron showed up. Every place you look there’s something that came, remarkable things, and that’s true of the volunteers too. Almost to the day. When I needed to put in an engine, this father and son team just showed up, Jeff Smith and his son Oakley, they’re brilliant men.”

Mr. Smith is a machinist by trade, who only spends a couple months at a time on the Island. But when he’s here, he’s attaching shafts, building stern tubes and boring holes for Mr. Box’s boat. He even invented a drill guide so the gudgeon holes meet in the middle of the keel. When you’re attaching a 1,400-pound rudder, you want to be perfect.

Ted Box says he plans to launch this weekend but time will tell. — Maria Thibodeau

How did Mr. Smith find out about Ted Box’s project?

“How could you not?” he replied.

Mr. Box is trying to build a tall ship on a $40,000 budget, a task that even he says involves a delicate balance of realism and optimism. He’s received material donations from charitable benefactors and help from volunteers who range from wayward young men to retirees whose spouses wanted them off the couch. He’s had women, children, geriatrics and drug addicts plug holes and seal boards. This past Father’s Day, his own sons, along with dozens of other young people who Mr. Box has mentored through the years, came back to say their thanks.

“They put a smile on my face,” he said.

Parts have been donated by various benefactors. — Maria Thibodeau

Even though it’s not clear when or if the boat will get in the water (when he’s asked if it ever will, Mr. Box replies, “I think that there’s a good chance that it might”) he’s built a community that extends far beyond The Seeker’s unfinished bow and stern. And maybe that was his plan all along.

“When I decided to build this boat,” Mr. Box said, “I thought to myself, it takes many hands to make a masterpiece, and I wondered how many people would find an expression of their dream in this project, and I’ve lost count. The whole community danced with us.”

One volunteer has danced with him from the beginning: Mr. Winchell was Ted Box’s ballroom student. Then, one day nearly a decade ago, Mr. Winchell happened upon Mr. Box in the middle of a field talking to a cameraman about building a 70-foot scow.

“And my jaw fell onto the ground,” Mr. Winchell said. “I couldn’t believe it. That was my dancing instructor! So yeah, I’ve been here since they laid the foundation. Wait, the keel,” he corrected.

Mr. Box says it takes many hands to make a masterpiece. — Maria Thibodeau

Mr. Winchell is an artist in his sixties who has lived on the Vineyard for the past 25 years. He’s had odd jobs, and busies himself with rowing, painting and housework, but The Seeker has become just as much a part of his life as it is Mr. Box’s.

“Tim is the best thing that has happened on this whole project,” Mr. Box said. “Everybody loves him. Sometimes, he comes up with the most ridiculous solutions, and sometimes he comes up with the most brilliant solutions.”

For the rudder, Tim designed a working model of how it will attach, with pulleys, cranks and hinges. “We were all like, what? That was really incredible,” Mr. Box said. “He looks at the minutiae.”

It was Tim who found the rot and weeds in the Cypress planks, and it was Tim who spent hours plucking and cutting them out, down to the last thistle.

“Somehow, I like cleaning up after him,” Mr. Winchell said.

He doesn’t know it, but Mr. Box plans to make Mr. Winchell honorary captain when the ship’s done, and to display his oil paintings in the boat as a floating gallery. Of course, that could still be a while. You can’t have a sailboat without masts. But no one seems to mind.

“Anybody who’s ever built a boat knows they’re never really done,” Jeff Smith said under The Seeker’s belly. “It’s just the next thing.”