Building a boat together has proven to be a community and family builder because it allows a bunch of novices to jointly create something they didn’t think they could — and to make something immediately and wonderfully useful. WoodenBoat magazine publishes this handy booklet presenting the experience of about a dozen communities and schools who have tried this. It includes suggestions of boat plans that are doable. Each year the magazine itself has hosted a family boatbuilding weekend. It’s a sight to see 20 families end the weekend by launching, in unison, a simple boat they’ve made themselves.
Problems can crop up when you have too many kids for the boat you’ve chosen. Younger students are not as well equipped as older ones to handle the idle time that comes with too many people working on a boat. An ideal class size might be 10-12 if you had three boats under construction, but putting that number on a single boat is a strain.
Participants in the program are generally lured by a photo advertisement in the local newspaper. Some children and teens come to build with a parent, but most participants are adults — either individuals or couples. Over the years they’ve built an estimated 60-70 small craft, most of them skimming the coastal waters from Boston to Portland, Maine.