SEAS is expanding its mission to include teaching maritime skills through wooden boat building.  Organizations around the country have found that this traditional craft is an ideal way to teach practical, marketable skills, and that it can help develop ability in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through hands-on learning experiences.  Many of the organizations involved in teaching with boat building are collaborating in the form of the Teaching with Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA).  This October, representatives from SEAS attended the Regional Symposium, which was hosted by All Hands Boatworks in Milwaukee.

The symposium was an opportunity for members to share what they have been working on, to share their successes and challenges, and to work together on new ideas and solutions.  TWSBA members were interested to hear about the established programs at SEAS including sail and powerboat training programs, the adaptive sailing program, and the success of the 2018 Para World Sailing Championship.  SEAS also generated interest in the build of the Tinkerbelle sister ship, the Adaptive SCAMP build, and upcoming introductory woodworking classes.

Many other groups from around the Midwest were in attendance and shared the exciting programs and projects they have been working on.

Patrick McBriarty of the Chicago Maritime Arts Center (CMAC) shared the success they have had with a popular boat design called the Bevin’s skiff, which can be easily and quickly built by beginners.  Patrick recently had the opportunity to learn from Joe Youcha, co-designer of the Bevin’s skiff and a leader in teaching through boat building.  At the CMAC, kids are able to build a boat to completion during an eight-day camp and then take their boats out for a day of fun on the Chicago River.

Mark Hawkins of Hands on Deck in Green Bay led a workshop discussing tool use, rehab and maintenance.  Hands on Deck offers programs that provide mentor training, boat building and rowing instruction, and they offer Monday night skills classes geared toward 9-12 year olds.

All Hands Boatworks of Milwaukee, founded by President Bill Nimke, began their program five years ago by bringing their mobile boat building projects to partner schools.  They have offered camps for building the Bevin’s skiff, an after-school program building a St. Ayles skiff, and have recently completed a build of two Sand Dollars (a sailing and a rowing version).  This was a lunch-time program on Tuesdays in which students split their time between boat building and math instruction.

Richard and Amy Eisenberg represented the Bayfront Maritime Center (BMC) in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Over the last 20 years the BMC has developed a wide range of successful youth programming including boat building, sail training, community rowing, and shipwreck science.  Their adaptive program for sailors with disabilities, called the Erie Adaptive Sailing Experience (EASE) utilizes their fleet of Hansas—a boat that will be familiar to anyone who was present for the Para World Sailing Championship here in Sheboygan last September.  The BMC is also working on an exciting new build, a representation of the 1812 Gunboat Schooner Porcupine.  The original was part of Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet and fought in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.  When completed, the 42’6” schooner will operate as a historic sailing science vessel and will be available for charters and special events.

After lunch at the South Shore Yacht Club, guest speaker Howard Rice gave a presentation on his sailing voyages, his experiences teaching, sailing and building boats in Micronesia, his work with SEAS, and his Voyage of Southern Cross project.

It was a day of inspiration, collaboration and networking.  The TWSBA symposium illustrated the exciting possibilities of wooden boat building programs in the Great Lakes region.  The field is open to a variety of designs, building methods, ecological, historical, and STEM-focused activities, sailing, rowing and powerboat training, and adaptive sailing programs.  While the majority of the focus is on young learners, many organizations, including SEAS, offer activities for all ages.  SEAS is proud to be partnering with this professional network dedicated to the hands-on study of the maritime arts.