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Exploring the Art of Boat Building: A Hands-On Workshop for Student-built Wooden Skiffs

Three new wooden boats, and the students who built them, are eagerly awaiting good weather for their first splash.

A recent three-day boat building workshop provided by the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association at the North Queens Community School wrapped up with students putting some finishing touches on their creations.

"Everything's been new," said Colin Campbell, Outreach Coordinator for the NSBA, "but I can start to see that they're taking a lot of pride in their work...they're getting excited."

The boat building workshop is a great way for students to develop trades skills while learning a Nova Scotian tradition. "It's true to our heritage," said Colin, "and it's a huge part of our economy, so I thought it would be a great opportunity."

Last fall, Colin ran into the school's skilled trades teacher Alex Sulis at a career fair in Bridgewater. "He came and did a presentation at our school," said Alex, "and then we got further talking about boat building...he had this project he wanted to do, he just didn't have who, what, where or when to do it, so I volunteered our school because I thought it would be a very interesting project to do...and then here we are, building boats together," he laughs. Alex is also lead teacher of the school's Options and Opportunities program for career development and community-based learning.

The Bevin's Skiff, designed by Joe Youcha, is a 11'8" wooden dinghy. It is designed to be easily built and can make a great rowboat or sailing pram when complete. It is a popular learning design.

The NSBA thought it would be a great introduction to boat building.

Colin and Alex were joined by experienced boat builder and instructor Charlie Brown to guide students as their vessels took shape. They used many different tools and techniques in the process.

When pieces of wood and adhesive began to look like boats, their excitement grew.

"So far so good," said Mr. Sulis, "by the looks on their faces and the smiles they have, they seem pretty interested. They're pretty engaged."

The boats are built. Soon they will be named and painted. The newest Nova Scotian-made boats will hit the water, courtesy of some of the youngest Nova Scotian boat builders around.

Subject to funding, the NSBA plans to offer this 3-day workshop to more groups in the future, including junior and senior high schools and partner organizations who help people explore career opportunities.

For more information email Chantel at

Click below to watch a video taken during the workshop!


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