Students building a new boat

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 5-month long project and alternative learning experience for local high school students and led by experts. Students build a wooden pilot gig that will join the museum’s fleet and will be used by our youth rowing and adult rowing groups

Step 1: From 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′ foot 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. They also 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 student 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. Use the link below to donate:

Participate in Boat Building

Want to learn more about boat building or have your school participate in this program? Contact Nick Patch, Champlain Longboats program director, by phone at 802-475-2022 ext. 113 or by email at