June 23, 2018
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Students build toboggans during weekend workshop in Rockland

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
Jerry Driscoll of Winthrop, Mass., and Deborah Goldsmith of Rowley, Mass., put another coat of mineral wax sealer on the toboggan that they began making Saturday, Nov.5, at The Apprenticeshop in Rockland. "It's such a fun thing," Driscoll said of the weekend workshop.
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — It’s Jerry Driscoll’s dream to build his own wooden wherry, or skiff, one day.

So over the summer, when he and Deborah Goldsmith came to Rockland on vacation from their Massachusetts homes, they checked out The Apprenticeshop and liked what they found. When they learned the traditional wooden boat school was holding a weekend toboggan-building workshop in the fall, they signed right up.

“It was a good introduction to working with wood,” Driscoll, of Winthop, Mass., said Saturday afternoon.

He proudly showed off the curved, oiled runners that he and Goldsmith had worked on that day. “It’s such a fun thing,” he said.

Goldsmith, of Rowley, Mass., said learning how to bend the wooden runners was the most exciting thing she had done so far. The course’s participants, which included other couples and a family, placed the red oak runners into a piece of PVC piping that was full of boiling water. The boards sat in the homemade steamer for about 15 minutes, which made them pliable enough to bend into the toboggan’s familiar shape.

“That was new to me, and fun,” she said.

In fact, the entire toboggan workshop was new, according to Eric Stockinger, the executive director of The Apprenticeshop. In January, a local teacher approached the school with the idea of making a toboggan to compete with students in the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, held each February at the Camden Snow Bowl.

“We decided it would make a great class,” Stockinger said. “We really want to get more people involved in what we’re doing, and this is really a way to do that. I want this to be a maritime community center for the area.”

Already, hundreds of kids learn to sail through The Apprenticeshop each year, and more and more adults are taking advantage of the boat-making, learning-to-sail programs and special workshops such as the toboggan weekend that are being offered, he said.

According to Stockinger, the hardest part for someone who wanted to make their own toboggan likely would be finding the right materials. Red oak, white oak and ash wood would all be a good fit for the sleds, but the wood must be green and not kiln-dried. The hardest part of his day was the steaming and bending of the runners, because the school did not have a lot of extra wood in case of accidents.

“It was a little stressful, a little nerve-racking,” he said with a smile.

But it all worked out, according to Goldsmith and Driscoll, who looked at the skeleton of their toboggan with pride.

“One of the things that’s most pleasing is that you can produce a toboggan that looks like it was made by somebody else,” Driscoll said.

For information about The Apprenticeshop, visit www.apprenticeshop.org.

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