Boats built by Searsport High students launch Wednesday

Posted May 17, 2013, at 2:21 p.m.
Last modified May 17, 2013, at 5:19 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12 p.m. to 12 p.m.


  • At noon on Wednesday, May 22, a pair of brand new Shellback Dinghies will be launched into the bay from the Searsport town dock, representing the successful completion of a semester-long science and math course for eight students from Searsport District High School. The public is invited to attend the launching, to congratulate the students, learn about the program and get a look at these finely-crafted traditional boats. Shellback Dinghies were designed by Maine boat builder Joel White, E.B. White’s son, and are excellent sail and row boats.

Since January, students have been hard at work with master boat builder Greg Rössel to build two Shellback Dinghies at Penobscot Marine Museum. The project, the result of an innovative collaboration between Rössel, the Museum and the high school, was designed to teach physical science and math by providing students with first-hand exposure to boat-related concepts such as center of effort, buoyancy, vectors, and drag.

While this is the third year for the collaboration, for each group of incoming class of students, it is a new experience. This year’s students Wynn Adams, Kevin Kenison, Matthew Kilpatrick, Alexandria Northup, Alexis Parker, Anthony Powers, Kelsie Redmond and Bartly Santos are looking forward to seeing their boats on the water. Matt Kilpatrick said his favorite part of the boat building was also one of the most challenging: transforming a square length of wood into a round mast.

Teachers Michelle Colbry and Lawrene Blair accompanied the students during much of their shop time, making sure that they met physical science and math standards through a combination of hands-on and traditional learning activities. Additional boatbuilding assistance was provided by dedicated community volunteers Bruce Brown, Rick Fitzsimmons, Jeanne Gail, Rob Giffin, Fred Kirchais, Dave Lawrence and Jerry Marancik Penobscot Marine Museum provided work space, tools, and administrative support. Museum Director Liz Lodge says the the project is an “opportunity to not only work with a local school on a project based learning initiative, it is also a chance to help pass along traditional boatbuilding skills to a new generation.”

A number of businesses in the midcoast region including Hamilton Marine, Maine Coast Lumber and WoodenBoat magazine helped out with the project by donating or discounting the materials used to construct the dinghies. Greg Gambel of Gambel and Hunter Sailmakers not only made the sails for the shellbacks, he taught the students about sail making during the course. Rössel is “thankful for the interest and support shown by local businesses for the project.”

For more information about the educational program, contact Searsport District High School Principal Brian Campbell at 207-548-2313. For more information about Penobscot Marine Museum call 207-548-2529 or go to