PORTLAND – The curly pine shavings scattered across the red brick and the scratching of sandpaper on wood drew curious passers-by to the large white tent Monday in Monument Square.

Under the fabric, eight groups of novice boat builders worked in the shade to put the finishing touches on their 12-foot Bevins skiffs.

“It’s hard work, but so much fun,” said Catie Tringali, 16, of Topsham, one of five counselors from Camp Susan Curtis who are working on a boat as a way to build teamwork.

“We’re a better team because of this, I think,” she said.

The seventh annual Boat Building Festival, a three-day event that ends today, is raising money for the Compass Project. The event’s founder, Patricia Ryan, wanted to combine her love for sailing with her degree in social work.

The Compass Project, begun in 2002, is a division of Spurwink Services that gives students from Greater Portland a chance to enjoy boat building and, hopefully, improve their confidence and work ethic.

“It takes good communication, teamwork, math skills and perseverance to build boats. And that will ultimately translate into good classroom skills,” Ryan said.

Last year’s festival raised nearly $10,000, but Ryan is less optimistic about the fundraising potential of this year’s event. “We’ve lost half our sponsors because of the current economic conditions,” she said.

The festival raises money by seeking sponsors to pay each team’s $1,000 participation fee, or to donate equipment and supplies. Some participants, like the Nevins family, sponsor themselves and are willing to pay for a great experience, a good cause and the tangible reward that comes with building a boat.

Twelve-year-old Andrea Nevins and her brother Mark, 11, of Medfield, Mass., are looking forward to using their new skiff at their summer home in Boothbay Harbor.

Andrea Nevins said she has enjoyed the boat building, but she lamented the fact that other groups appeared to be further ahead in the process.

“We’re a little behind. Those guys over there are putting the seat on,” she said, pointing to the Camp Susan Curtis counselors’ progress.

The skiffs are made with a relatively simple “screw and glue” technique and can be built in three days, so the Nevins family appeared to be on track to finish today.

At the Camp Susan Curtis boat, Tringali equated her boat-building experience with a recent 100-mile canoe trip on the Allagash River.

“They’re both really hard, but you get a similar sense of accomplishment once you’re done,” she said.

Doug Scott, 68, of Gorham was the instructor assigned to the Camp Susan Curtis group. As a former fighter pilot and retired Air Force colonel, he said he knows teamwork when he sees it.

“They are the best group I’ve had, and I’ve been doing this for seven years,” Scott said. “It’s just great for team building.”

Scott no longer flies, but he said he has replaced that passion with boating and helping to support the Compass Project.

“I have two rules in life: Do good and have fun,” he said. “This event accomplishes both.”

 

Staff Writer Max Monks can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: [email protected]