WEST BATH SCHOOL fifth-grader Campbell Jacobs sands the bow of one of the two boats the class is building in Maine Maritime Museum’s Discovery Boatbuilding program.

WEST BATH SCHOOL fifth-grader Campbell Jacobs sands the bow of one of the two boats the class is building in Maine Maritime Museum’s Discovery Boatbuilding program.

BATH

Twenty-nine fifth-graders from West Bath School are spending the winter months building two 10-foot dinghies at Bath’s Maine Maritime Museum’s Discovery Boatbuilding class. The boats, built using skills the kids learn during each of their Friday classes, are on track to be finished in June.

The folks at Discovery Boatbuilding have been building boats with young people for 22 years, and help introduce Bath’s shipbuilding traditions to the next generation.

“To my knowledge, these fifth-graders are the youngest group of students that have ever participated in the program,” said Kurt Spiridakis, director of Watercraft and Traditional Skills at Maine Maritime and a Discovery Boatbuilding instructor. “It only took me a few classes to see what this group was capable of. I’ve been impressed with everyone’s capabilities to grasp different skills. Hand-eye coordination, ability to remember boat terminology and interest in getting through the day. We definitely see these programs as a way to get young people interested in the maritime industry.”

Amy Lent, executive director of Maine Maritime, said that boatbuilding is complicated because “there are no right angles on boats.”

“Everything on a boat is compound angles, and it’s not easy to do,” Lent said.

Fifth-grader Campbell Jacobs said that after studying boat designs in class, the first step was to build station molds to hold the boats up as the separate boards and joints were applied, glued and sanded to form the skeletal boat frame.

“We had to plane off the bow to make it an octagon, and for the stern we took two pieces of wood and had to glue and nail the board on,” said Jacobs. “Then we’ve had to sand everything multiple times.”

Though the boats are currently less than halfway to completion, the kids have already finished some of the most important steps.

“Me and another classmate just had to fuse a joint on a broken board,” said fifth-grader Chloe Quesada. “We used wood glue, apoxy and Supaflex to fix it. Then we put clamps on the board to keep the boat in place.”

Quesada said that the next step is designing a bevel to connect the other boards that will form the boat’s outer shell.

“We’ve been drawing a lot of plans,” said Quesada. “There is a lot of planning to do to keep all the boards at an angle.”

As the kids become more skilled in the field of boatbuilding, some are looking ahead to the possibility of a career in that field.

“It’s something we can reflect on in the future,” said Quesada. “This might be something we do when we’re older.”

Jacobs said that hands-on work like boatbuilding adds an extra element that isn’t normally present in school.

“Boatbuilding is fun because after talking about the job, we actually get to do it,” said Jacobs.


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