PORTLAND – Ten-year-old Peter DiNinno had a drill, and he was ready.
He pulled a drill bit out of his apron, put it in the drill and powered it up with a playful jab at the air in front of him.
“OK, let’s talk about the way to use the drill,” said Margaret Mountcastle, an assistant boatbuilder assigned to help Peter’s Breakwater School team at the eighth annual Boat Building Festival, which began Friday at Back Cove.
Peter, turning the drill off, joined his team in patiently watching Mountcastle as she explained how to properly, and safely, drill a hole.
The Breakwater team was one of 14 teams that kicked off the festival, the primary fundraiser for the Compass Project, a division of Spurwink Services. Each three- to five-person team is building a 12-foot Bevin skiff with help from an assistant boatbuilder.
After starting from scratch Friday afternoon, the teams are expected to complete their boats and launch them Sunday afternoon for the culmination of the festival. The teams will work all weekend under a big white tent on Back Cove, across from the Hannaford supermarket.
The festival is the biggest single fundraiser for the Compass Project, which was founded in 2002 by Executive Director Pat Ryan. This year’s festival raised $25,000, she said. Last year’s raised $15,000.
Ryan, who will retire next week, said she started the program to give at-risk students from Greater Portland a chance to enjoy boat-building, build self-esteem, develop skills, improve their confidence and work ethic, and gain a sense of accomplishment.
“We use boat-building as a way to teach kids struggling in school,” Ryan said.
Each team pays $750 to participate. The teams represent families, youth groups, school and camp groups, and a law firm from the Boston area.
The boatbuilders range from kids just old enough to swing a hammer to grandparents.
“Everyone learns a lot,” said Ted Samuel, a longtime volunteer boatbuilder. “There’s controlled confusion, but at the end every boat will float on Sunday afternoon.”
The festival is at Back Cove Park for the first time, moving from its past location in Monument Square.
“We thought it would be a nice idea to try out a location closer to the water,” Ryan said. “And it’s so open here.”
With its proximity to the water, the festival has a new event this year. At 4 p.m. today, there will be a Mascot Rundown row-off between Slugger of the Portland Sea Dogs and Crusher of the Maine Red Claws.
The festival will conclude Sunday afternoon with a caravan led by a Portland Duck Boat — kids will be able to ride free on the amphibious truck — and including a string of cars hauling the new boats from Back Cove to East End Beach, where they will be launched.
That’s where the teams’ work will be put to the test, said Emily Damon, a veteran boatbuilder at the age of 13, having done this several times.
“Over the years,” she said, “one thing I learned is that too much glue instead of too little glue is good because once, we had three boats with leaks.”
Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at: