BROOKLIN, Maine — WoodenBoat Magazine has kicked off a new program that will encourage high school students in Maine and around the country to build and row their own 22-foot, wooden rowboats.
According to WoodenBoat publisher Carl Cramer, the Boatbuilding and Rowing Challenge or BARC, will start in three Hancock County high schools — Deer Isle Stonington High School in Deer Isle, George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill and Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan. The students at each school will build a 22-foot St. Ayles Skiff, designed by acclaimed Scottish yacht designer Iain Oughtred.
“This is our pilot program to involve students from three area high schools to build and then row their very own boats,” Cramer said. “The goal is to get all three boats launched and competing against each other in early June 2011.”
The idea, according to Cramer is to give students the hands-on experience of building a wooden boat, experience that they can adapt as amateur boat builders or even professional boat builders.
“It wasn’t that long ago that shops in Maine and beyond were screaming that there were not any trained workers,” he said.
The demand for trained workers dwindled with the downturn in the economy, but the boat building industry will bounce back, as will that demand, Cramer said.
The idea for BARC grew out of the popularity of Oughtred’s St. Ayles Skiff in Scotland where more than 20 of the skiffs have been built. The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed this summer and, according to the association website, hundreds of people have been involved in the building and rowing of the vessels as communities compete against each other.
Oughtred was in Brooklin this summer, and Cramer said he asked the designer about whether high school students could build the boats.
“There’s not as much of a tradition here of communities challenging each other as there is in Scotland,” Cramer said. “I’d followed the development of the St. Ayles design, and I asked [Oughtred] if he thought it would be appropriate for high school students. He thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Yes.”’
The boats are 22 feet long with a beam of 5 feet 8 inches and each usually carries a crew of five — a coxswain and four rowers with an oar each.
The students will build their boats from a kit. The original boats were built by Jordan Boats in Scotland, which also developed a kit. Hewes & Co., a construction company in Blue Hill, obtained the rights to produce kits for sale in the United States.
WoodenBoat will donate two kits, one for each program in Deer Isle and Sullivan, and Hewes will donate a kit for the program in Blue Hill.
“We knew we were starting this at a time when budgets were already set,” Cramer said. “But we wanted to get the experience with these first three boats and maybe inspire a lot of other schools to get involved.”
The West System in Michigan, Hamilton Marine in Searsport, and Epifanes North America in Thomaston will provide epoxy, fasteners and paint for the projects and representatives from The Landing School in Arundel will visit each school to provide guidance during the project.
He said he’d like to see communities get involved to raise the $2,300 to buy each kit for local schools. That price does not include paint, epoxy or fasteners.
Hewes & Co. is expected to deliver the first kit to Deer Isle-Stonington High School next week.
The project will continue through the school year with the students from all three programs racing against each other next June.