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Champlain Longboats: Notes from the Boatshop

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Thanks to our Sponsors...
We truly couldn't do it without your support!

Chittenden Bank

A.D. Henderson

French Foundation

Walter Cerf Community Foundation

Turrell Fund

Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation

Thunderbolt Research 

Rotary Club of Middlebury

March 27, 2009

Students and staff in front of the new pilot gig as planking begins.

Students and staff in front of the new pilot gig as planking begins.

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's Champlain Longboats program is excited to announce that we are building a new thirty-two foot rowing gig in the museum's boat shop! Our boat builders consist of eight high school students from the Diversified Occupations program at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury, Vermont, and two students from the Champlain Valley Academy in Middlebury, Vermont.  Staff include Wendy Lynch, Jim Doolin, Betsy Stine of the D.O. program, Megan McFadden and Peter Lebenbaum of the Champlain Valley Academy, Nick Patch and Lianna Tennal of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and museum volunteers Jon Woodbury, Ed McGuire, Al Stiles, Don Dewees and intern Liam Quinlan.

Measuring timber Student Kayla Pierro learns how to use a Biltmore stick to measure timber under the watchful eye of David Brynn of Vermont Family Forest 

The keel was laid in December and students completed the planking in late February. We are now steam bending and riveting ribs into the boat. The lumber for the boat is almost exclusively from local sustainably harvested forests. In collaboration with Vermont Family Forests, an Addison County non-profit organization committed to promoting responsible forestry, we were able to harvest the white pine from the land of Ron and Karen McEachen in Bristol for planking. This year, with the help of Mike Quinn we are harvesting twelve white oaks and white pines from the Ferrisburgh, Vermont town forest. We are especially grateful to the Ferris burgh Conservation Commission and select board for their support and generosity. The logs are brought to the maritime museum and the lumber is sawn right on site with a portable band saw mill. The students are able to experience the project from forest to boat. 

Hanging a board

Kayla Pierro and Arlene Atkins hang a board on the pilot gig to mark it for cutting and planeing


In addition to building the new rowing gig we are doing ongoing maintenance on our fleet of nine rowing boats and we have two classic small boat restorations under way as well, an 11' Beetle Cat sailboat and a 1945 Dyer 10' Dinghy rowing / sailboat.  These two boats will be sold when completed to help fund the Champlain Longboats program The boat shop is an amazing beehive of activity these days. On any given day there are 16 people working diligently in the museum shop.

Fitting a plank to the transom 

Brian Bishop fits a plank to the transom of the pilot gig.



The true symmetry of this project is the finished boat will go on to be used by hundreds of students every year in our Champlain longboats rowing program.

The launch day for our new boat is set for Thursday, May 21st , 11:00 am at The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. We encourage all to join us for this amazing day.

 The new pilot gig with complete planking and half its ribs.

The new pilot gig with all its planking and half of its ribs.
Here are a few words from our students:

"The best thing I have learned so far building a pilot gig is that if you make a mistake you can fix it and move on. I have learned to fit new planks, make scarf joints and gains. I can't wait to work on the ribs. In the boat shop I learn something new every day"  --- Arlene Atkins, Boat building student

"My favorite job is making new planks and painting old boats. I think it is the coolest thing that could happen in my life."  --- Seth Stone, Boat building student

" I like working on the planking. To do this We start from a pine board and cut and fit the board to the boat. Then I use a block plane to trim the board just right. After that I spread adhesive caulk on the seams and clench nail the plank in place. That is how a plank goes on."  --- Brian Bishop, Boat building student

 Getting the gig Osprey ready for spring.

Patrick O'neill and Christian Mutini work with Megan McFadden to get the pilot gig "Osprey" ready for spring.

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Lake Champlain Maritime Museum | 4472 Basin Harbor Rd | Vergennes | VT | 05491