Despite what you may think, not everyone else in our business hates us. Most, yes, but not everyone. Carl Cramer from Wooden Boat Magazine is on our short list and he has a project we thought you’d find interesting.
We embarked on an ambitious program in 1998 at the WoodenBoat Show, then held for the first time in St. Michaels, MD. We had a nice adjacent piece of land, outside the show grounds, that was begging for use. Thus was Family BoatBuilding begat – a way to introduce kids, families, youth groups, homeless shelters, and/or all who wanted to learn how to build a boat.
That first year, an astounding number of 60 families built their own boats in a matter of two-and-a-half days. The majority of the kits were Bevin’s Skiffs, from Alexandria Seaport Foundation. A dozen or so built Karl Stambaugh’s stitch-and-glue Weekend Dinghy, and three groups built Opti kits that were then being produced. (One of the Optis – and its skipper – went to the Nationals a few years later, and both acquitted themselves well.)
Over the years since, many many groups around the world have adopted the loose framework of Family BoatBuilding to produce their own events, and that has been fantastic. Some of the groups choose the tried-and-true Bevin’s Skiff; many others use indigenous or other designs.
The format typically follows this: producers provide a kit, materials, and instruction. Two-and-a-half days later, all the families launch their boats. After some requisite time learning to row or paddle, and fixing one or two small leaks, the boats come out of the water, up on to the top of cars, and are driven home – where, we like to think, those beginning families continue to be boaters for life.
This year at the WoodenBoat Show, we’re trying something different. Rather than “produce” Family BoatBuilding, we are inviting wooden kit builders the opportunity to help families build THEIR kits, at no charge (to the producers). Our goal: a dozen or so kit builders or their agents, and a dozen or so families or groups building those kits. We’re not going for a record; we are going for an unmatched experience in bringing new people to boatbuilding, and to the experience of boating. We are calling this the Motherlode of Family BoatBuilding.
Is there room for Anarchists in this gathering? Absolutely. If you, or someone you know, is a wooden kit producer who would like to avail themselves of this opportunity, please contact me. And, for families interested: We’ll likely have all our producers in place by the end of April, so families will be able to pick and choose the boats they want to build.
Maybe we can have some live streaming in place for SA – so, even if you can’t be at Mystic Seaport (CT), June 25-27, you will be able to enjoy some of the flying sawdust and real accomplishments of these first-time builders.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?