Wayne and Loraine Hamilton have donated the former Hamilton Marine Seine Loft on Route One in Searsport to the Penobscot Marine Museum as a home for the museum’s new education center. Contractors have renovated the front of thebuilding to create a boat building workshop, and last week, the newly-named Hamilton Learning Center opened its doors to host an intensive eighteen-week boat building class for SearsportDistrict High School students, taught by master builder Greg Rossel.
“We are so thrilled to see this building used to promote education, Searsport and the Penobscot Marine Museum, three causes that we strongly believe in,” said Wayne Hamilton, after the gift was finalized last December. “Loraine and I hope this boat-building class is the first of many programming collaborations between the school and the museum.”
The museum is currently engaged in raising funds to renovate the remainder of the 7,000 square foot building, and working with Searsport District High School and other organizations to develop further educational programming.
“Loraine and I hope other donors will take up our challenge to contribute to this project and help promote education and building skills for the future by learning about our rich maritime heritage,” Wayne said.
Wayne grew up in Searsport and fished in Penobscot Bay. He has served as Searsport harbor master for many years and also helps deliver and pick up Penobscot Bay pilots from ships transiting the bay. The Hamiltons bought the Seine Loft in 1982 as a base for their marine supplies business, Hamilton Marine. Eventually the company outgrew the space and moved to its current location in 1990. Hamilton Marine, which now has five stores throughout Maine, has used the Seine Loft as storage since then.
This is the fourth year that Penobscot Marine Museum has partnered with the Searsport District High School and Rossel to present this class in which the traditional art of boat building is interwoven with academic objectives to create a multi-disciplinary learning experience. Students work with Rossel and a dedicated core of community mentors to build two Joel White-designed shellback dinghies, which they launch in the spring in Searsport Harbor.
Building boats is a Maine tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Maine’s resource-based economy depended on the exportation of fish, lumber, ice, granite, and other products, and the state’s waterways and miles of ocean coastline were the highways by which these goods were sent around the world. Virtually every small town on the Maine coast was involved in boatbuilding and Maine’s reputation for fine design and craftsmanship continues today. By building a traditional wooden boat, designed by the premier Maine designer Joel White, high school students carry on a long-standing art form, gaining not only appreciation of the history of that art, but also its application in today’s world.
“The Hamilton Learning Center provides an ideal site for this and other related educational opportunities,” said Penobscot Marine Museum Director Liz Lodge.
The boat-building program integrates this traditional art form with curriculum standards. Rossel works with teachers from Searsport District High School to identify and incorporate math and science concepts into the boat building process. Over the course of building the dinghies, students apply these concepts to practical situations. Math concepts, from measuring and ratios to more complicated geometry and algebra, are reinforced during the boat building process. Building a viable boat which actually floats makes it clear why these concepts matter. During the course, students also learn specific woodworking skills and practice creative problem-solving and team building skills that impact their lives well beyond the conclusion of the program.