Boat Building

One of the two interconnected parts of our Champlain Longboats program, boat building at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been an important facet of the museum for over 20 years.

Boat building is a five-month project and alternative learning experience for local high school students and led by experts. Students join us in the boat shop to build a wooden pilot gig (a traditional 32′ six-oared rowing boat) that will join the museum’s fleet to be rowed by our youth and adult rowers. Learn more about the boat building process below or take a peek at the story of our 2020 boat, Rising Tide, here.

Want to build a boat with us? Schools or learning programs interested in participating in our boat building program should contact Nick Patch, Director of Champlain Longboats at or 802-475-2022, ext. 113.

Step 1: To the forest

Boat building starts with a visit to trees in the forest with the program’s collaborative partner Vermont Family Forests (VFF), a county-wide non-profit that promotes sustainable forestry practices. Student teams travel with a VFF forester to visit the forest and then participate in the milling and stacking of the boat building lumber. Following the process from tree to lumber to finished boat, students gain a vivid understanding of why it is important to be responsible stewards of our precious forest resources.

Step 2: To the boat shop

Boat building students come to the boat shop at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for five days a week for five months to build a 32′ wooden rowing gig. Students learn to use woodworking tools, collaborate with peers and program staff, and understand what it means to function effectively in a working environment. Along the way, they keep journals, work out on rowing machines, perform research, and give presentations on boat building topics. 

Step 3: To the water

Once the new boat is complete, we hold a boat launch in the spring. A project finale and a celebration, everyone – teachers, family, friends, supporters, neighbors – is invited to see the new boat and hear the student boat builders share their experience. To see a project of this duration and magnitude through to completion is a new experience for all the participants. Accolades and positive feedback from the community and their peers reinforce the notion that they can accomplish what they set their sights on.

Support Boat Building

Donations to Lake Champlain Maritime Museum support everything we do, including Boat Building and the Champlain Longboats program.