Ann Flannery teaches children how to make wooden boats at her shop in Cundy’s Harbor.

HARPSWELL — Boatbuilder Ann Flannery hopes to inspire the next generation to take an interest in traditional maritime craftsmanship with the tools of her trade. Last winter, Harpswell Boatbuilders, an educational program designed to teach the art of wooden boatbuilding to local children, made its debut in a Cundy’s Harbor workshop.

Flannery recognizes that the art of wooden boatbuilding is alive and well in certain areas along the Maine coast. She makes a point of incorporating wooden boats into her life on the water and is a natural when it comes to making repairs and maintaining her boats. She is the fourth owner of the Sense, an 83-year-old Hereshoff wooden sailboat. There were only two built, one of which sank, making Sense one of a kind.

“I feel like I have the sea in my blood. Growing up in the Midwest, I somehow gravitated to Maine,” she said. “There’s just something about being on the water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paddleboard or an 83-year-old sailboat. I just love being on the water. And it’s very cool to be in a boat that you built.”

Flannery has over 40 years of experience as a professional woodworker, starting with custom cabinetry in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She moved to Maine in 1980 for the apprenticeship program at The Apprenticeshop, which was part of Maine Maritime Museum at that time. Flannery pursued her interest in cabinet-making with Lynette Breton, and Flannery and Breton successfully operated Breton Flannery Woodworks for many years. More recently, Flannery has been teaching yoga and is now using her woodworking expertise to cultivate an interest in boatbuilding among local children.

After building a workshop on her property last year, Flannery began to think about what would come next. She was eager to give back to the community in a way that fit within her interests as a woodworker and a boatbuilder. In collaboration with Holbrook Community Foundation, Flannery made the decision to launch an educational wooden boatbuilding program for local children; and Harpswell Boatbuilders was underway.

Flannery incorporated elements of experiential education to teach children a variety of hands-on skills, including how to measure; use a combination square, a hand saw and battery powered drills; drill holes and drive fastenings; use hand planes to plane bevels on the edges of boards; and, most importantly, how to work together.

“I feel good about creating an atmosphere of cooperation. That’s what it’s about. It’s about how we get there, together. It’s a way to connect kids to each other in a way that’s relative to their surroundings,” she said.

Harpswell Boatbuilders will meet once a week to build a wooden skiff as a group, working cooperatively side by side while developing and strengthening individual and collaborative skills. They will build a flat-bottomed skiff using plans from Off Center Harbor, a boat-building organization based in Brooklin, a town in Hancock County. The skiff will be auctioned off, and proceeds will be donated to the Holbrook Community Foundation, a Harpswell nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the working waterfront.

Harpswell Boatbuilders starts on Sunday, Jan. 20, and will run for approximately 16 weeks, from 1-3 p.m., at Flannery’s workshop in Cundy’s Harbor. The program costs $125 and is open to children ages 10-16. Scholarship funds are available.

For more information, email Flannery at [email protected]

Kelli Park is a Coastal Journal contributor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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