by Lisa Tome
One step at a time.
That was the philosophy of the volunteer instructors at the Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builders School as they taught teens their craft last week.
For the first time, the school, which was founded in Harford County in 1989, offered a boat building camp for teens in Cecil County.
The goal of the school is to teach wooden boat building as a way to keep the maritime heritage of the Chesapeake Bay thriving. Each summer, a Teen Boat Building class is held. The major parts of the boat are pre-cut before the class begins. The boats are built over a five day span and on Saturday they were launched in the North East River.
Bud Gillis is one of the directors of the Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builders School. He explained that this was the first year that the camp was held at the North East Park.
"These started with a pile of wood," said Gillis, gesturing toward the line of boats.
The finished projects each measured 16 feet.
They were made of plywood and were double-ended. Gillis explained that the goal was to teach the teen to build the boat. "And we want to get them on the water in the boat they built themselves," he said.
Bob Silcox is also a director at the school. "The goal is to get them on the water. It's a lot of fun. If they like to fish, this gets them on the water to do it," said Silcox.
The directors said in all the years the boats have been built, they haven't had one that wasn't seaworthy. All of the teens had volunteers who supervised them and worked closely with them. The main tasks performed by the class members were pounding nails, applying epoxy, hand sanding, and painting.
Part of the school also included a Coast Guard Boater's Safety course.
Kyle Gravatt, 14, attends Elkton Middle School. He was enthusiastic about building despite the heat. "I wanted a camp to go to and I thought this might be fun. I like that you get to build stuff. (After camp) I will take it out and probably fish," said Gravatt.
Johnny Knight, 13, lives on the Sassafras River in Warwick. "I came here with my friend. It's fun. I'll fish with it and stuff," he said.
Jen Widmayer, 14, attends Rising Sun High School. She thinks building a boat may be the first step in her nautical life. "My dad likes sailing. He thought (her attending camp) would be a good thing. He wants me to take a sailing course too," said Widmayer. "I will take the boat out a few times. I'm not sure where." Widmayer said she learned a life skill at the camp. "I learned you can get epoxy off with alcohol," she said.
Kathryn Moore, 12, attends North East Middle School. She found out about the camp from her father. "I like being in boats. I thought maybe I should build my own," she said.
In all, 10 teens, ages 12-16, built a total of nine boats. Most of the class members were from Cecil County. There was also a student from Delaware and a student from Texas who visits his grandparents in the area during the summer. Tuition for the program was $175 for the Monday through Saturday program. The cost of the materials was an additional $375.