Boat Building

A key part of of our Champlain Longboats program, student boat building at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been an important facet of the museum for over 20 years. Held in the Museum’s boat shop, this interactive program for local high school students teaches student boat builders how to build, maintain, and restore wooden boats including the Museum’s fleet of rowing gigs. Learn more and get involved:

Build a Boat with Us

Our boat building program is a five-month project and alternative learning partnership with a high school group and the boat shop. Students join our expert boat builders in the forest and 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:

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.

If your school or alternative learning program is interested in building a boat with us, please contact Nick Patch, Director of Champlain Longboats, at NickP@lcmm.org.

Videos & Testimonials

“This program is a unique experience to learn skills in woodworking, math, communication, and teamwork in a hands-on, authentic setting.”

– High school teacher

“The entire time there was memorable and the skills I acquired I will incorporate into my life.”

-2020 Boat building student

Sponsor Student Boat Building

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