On May 22nd, nearly 100 community members, family, friends, and educators gathered to witness the ceremonial launch of Frank Beckett, the newest Cornish rowing gig built by student boat builders as part of Champlain Longboats. The boat builders gave speeches about what they learned in the Boat Shop about building a boat and about themselves. The crowd then followed them down to Basin Harbor for the gig's launch and inaugural row.
Champlain Longboats at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Champlain Longboats is Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's (LCMM) premier youth boatbuilding program and has been in continual operation since 1999. The focal point of this innovative program is the construction of a 32’ Cornish pilot gig at LCMM’s Boat Shop in Vergennes, Vermont. These six-oared open rowing boats date back to the early 1800s when they were primarily used to carry pilots out to their ships off the Cornish coasts. From January to May of each year, eight to twelve high school students spend their school day (5 days/week) at LCMM’s Boat Shop learning to build “from tree to boat.” Students start the project by visiting a local forest with a forester to see first-hand where the lumber for the boat come from and what it means to sustainably harvest timber. Later in the project, the logs and a saw mill are transported to LCMM where the boat building students help turn the timber into lumber. This lumber is air dried on-site for the next year’s project. While building the boat students are immersed in learning traditional boat-building skills, from fitting (spiling) new planks to installing over 3,000 copper nails and rivets. They also learn the art of fine finishing as the boat is sanded, painted and varnished to a high quality luster.