I have a special place in my heart for small world stories, especially the ones that include me. They materialize out of nowhere like unexpected gifts. You might find yourself climbing Kilimanjaro one day, and when you finally reach the peak, you run into a grade school pal from 50 years ago. All you can do is scratch your head and wonder.

A few years ago, I encountered a different sort of small world story when I came across a video online that caught my eye for reasons I still can’t explain. The signature introduction (which after nearly two years of watching his videos I find myself joining) goes like this: “My name is Leo, and I’m a boat-builder and a sailor and I’m on a mission to rebuild and restore the 111-year-old classic sailing yacht Tally Ho.”

Leo is a young Brit who purchased a derelict old sailboat for a dollar in Washington state with the intention of bringing it back to life. From the look of the thing, I thought he had paid too much. He found the boat laid up on dry land covered with a faded tarp just in the nick of time since it was scheduled to be destroyed after many years of neglect. Old wooden boats on dry land express a form of despair all their own. Those weathered tarps offering protection often become burial shrouds and they’re finally broken up and hauled away if they haven’t already fallen apart on their own.

But this particular boat was saved. At the 11th hour it was moved to a friend’s yard where the sad and solitary process of delving into what was clearly a futile project began. Any sane person could plainly see it was utterly hopeless.

I watched a few of the successive videos Leo posted with equal amounts of anguish and pity. The deck had gaping holes, the hull planking and the frames were crumbling beyond repair, and the entire boat seemed to be coming apart by the handful. Even the massive keel timber was riddled with worm holes and rot.

After several agonizing months, new frames were lofted and then cut on a massive ship’s saw that sat outdoors next to what little was left of the boat. A temporary structure was erected to cover the boat and a second, skilled shipwright joined in the effort. Several volunteers followed and the pace quickened.

I was hooked.

Then, while watching another installment online, something startled me. I had to scroll back and forth a half dozen times before I found it, a mere split-second image that my subconscious mind had apparently alerted me to: Leo was wearing a Sail MV T-shirt!

I am neither a sailor nor a shipwright. The closest I ever came to actual boat-building was the time I volunteered to help rebuild the original Gannon & Benjamin boat shop destroyed by a fire many years ago, and I spent a day hammering nails along with a few dozen others.

On a whim, I sent off an email to Leo and asked if he had ever been to Martha’s Vineyard and perhaps even knew Nat and Ross. The reply was yes, on both counts. He said that he still calls Ross for advice from time to time when he gets stymied. The project to rebuild Tally Ho, which won the Fastnet race in 1927, was starting to seem like it was turning an invisible corner and I decided to throw a bit of financial support his way through a crowd funding site called Patreon. My revolving monthly stipend is already well into its second year.

A new keel was fashioned, and one by one the double sawn frames were cut and fastened. Casting the beautiful bronze pieces that would permanently join each of the frames to the new keel took several months to complete. Along the way I learned about the art of sand casting, lofting, joinery, caulking and splining. The fair lines of the sailboat emerged as the hull planking progressed and the stacks of tropical hardwoods stickered and stacked everywhere were slowly being turned into a work of art.

Sometimes I scroll back in time and watch earlier installments from a few years ago as a reminder of how impossible the whole thing once seemed. Judging from the of comments posted online there are likely several thousand other patrons like me scattered around the globe.

The image of a familiar T-shirt from Martha’s Vineyard brought us together and turned me into a die-hard supporter. My support of the Tally Ho project goes beyond the restoration though. Now I consider it an investment in an incredible young man driven by boundless passion and perseverance in the pursuit of his singular dream. I’m betting that he will go on to inspire and influence many others on his path through life.

So there you have it — even after my move to Central America a few years back, my more than 30 years of life on Martha’s Vineyard continues to serve up unexpected surprises, confirming my belief that mysterious forces really do exist out there in the ether, forces that bring us together and remind us what a small and wonderful world it really can be.

These days it comes as a real comfort.

Gazette contributor Robert Skydell lives in Granada, Nicaragua.