June 1, 2010
Mainers make boats. They have since sailors first arrived from across the pond in the 17th century and they will as long there is an ocean and trees to cut. Today, the laborious craft continues at fine boat builders along the coast. Steeped in the tradition of the region and the resources afforded by the nearby woods, apprentices at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine learn the art from veterans.
Serving as the two year home to some 20 apprentices from around the US, the Apprenticeshop trains the art of boat building from drafting the initial design to sailing the finished project.
On a bright May morning free of scholastic obligations or other frivolities, Tucker and I drove out along Route 1 to visit a friend and apprentice learning the craft of boat building. Enticed by the Maine coast and the importance of knowing a timeless craft, Matt left his job doing windows for a New York fashion designer and moved to Rockland in January.
Five days a week, Matt and the other apprentices who range from their mid twenties to late forties, learn woodworking, drafting, painting and sailing from their workspace on Main Street in downtown Rockland.
Starting with a blank piece of plywood, the apprentices start each boat with full sized drafting. Using the board like a set of Lego instructions, the boat builders refer back for the angles, lengths and widths of the hundreds of components of each boat. It all seemed like alchemy to me.
Tucker observing Men at Work and a nearly complete rowboat.
A Maine Boat Builder.
This band-saw chops up more wood than a cheap masseuse.
Dinghies on the dock.
In addition to building boats from scratch, the Apprenticeshop also resurrects past flames.
Preparing for a late June launch.
You can’t telecommute to Rockland or learn about it on Wikipedia. Boat building appeals to an older desire to create tools of exploration and adventure. It’s an existence, a way of life. The results reflect the hundreds of hours spent toiling over wood, paint and sand paper. Price aside, I would rather have one of these works of art than any Patek Phillipe or Mercedes AMG. Groups of people on the Maine coast still answer the call to build boats from scratch. That inspires me.