Boating Education. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that? Taking a course to get a New York State Certificate so you can comply with the law? Maybe actually learning the subject matter including Rules of the Road, Seamanship, Nautical Terms, Knots, etc, etc. There really is a lot to know before you take command of your vessel and seek adventure on the high seas, and I highly recommend taking boating education classes even if you are not the one operating the boat. I have had a captain’s license for many years, and I still take a class every few years just for the heck of it, to keep my mind fresh and maybe learn some new ideas.
But that’s not the boating education I am talking about. I am talking about the skills required to repair, restore, or even build your own boat. These are skills like many that need to be passed down from one generation to the next. Even if you never need these skills, it is a great way to understand your boat in ways you may never have thought of.
Recently I was talking with a former co-worker and he invited me to come down to Bayles Boat Shop (https://www.lisec.org) located in the Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. Jay and I had worked together for many years and responded to both the TWA Flight 800 crash and to Manhattan on 9/11. We get together at least once a year with other responders we worked with and when we do there is some good natured kidding. Jay introduced me to Len Carolan, president of Bayles Boat Shop, and also Joe and John. Jay took some good natured shots from the group while we discussed their latest projects. These are people that love what they do and want to keep these skills alive. Looking around I saw three groups of men, all volunteers working on different projects.
Currently in the shop are 4 vessels in various stages of repair or construction that will use a blend of both old and new technology to create a craft that will last a very long time. One of them is a small skiff that the shop purchased to restore and sell to help offset the cost of supplies. This is a wooden boat that needs some TLC to be sure. The previous owner had caulked it with a silicone type sealant that had to be removed in order to caulk it properly. There is some wood that needs to be replaced for sure, but when it is done it will be a solid, seaworthy boat with the character only a stout little wood boat could have.
Moving on to the next two vessels that are sister ships. One of them is being built by the shop members and will be raffled off as a fundraiser for the shop. Again this is to help purchase the supplies needed for some of these projects. Both of these vessels are stand up paddle boards. Take a close look at the stern of the board the shop members are building. Notice the checkerboard pattern? It looks beautiful, doesn’t it? You have to realize that this is not a decal, but individual squares of Poplar and Black Walnut that Bill assembled to make the pattern. Surely a labor of love that is not seen in the normal mass production of things we purchase today.
The other paddle board falls right in line with one of the core goals of the Bayles Boat Shop. From the web page: “The Bayles Boat Shop is dedicated to ensuring that Port Jefferson’s rich maritime boat building heritage will be kept alive through active small-boat building and restoration projects”. This paddle board is being built by local high school students under the supervision of the shop members. They are learning how to cut, fit and attach pieces of the hull together using various fasteners and epoxy. They will sand and finish the hull to make a good looking watertight craft that they will be proud of. But these skills are not just about building a boat. They are life skills that teach patience and perseverance to think out problems and come up with the best solutions to move forward.
The last boat in the shop is a 17 foot Northeaster Dory. It is a kit boat purchased by a man some time ago. He started the build and then for whatever reason let it fall to the wayside while other things occupied his time. In time he connected with the shop and now with the members’ help and supervision is moving towards completion. His time is limited and he only can make it there to work on his boat on Saturdays and maybe an occasional weekday. But that does not mean progress is stalled as members will continue on with the work. Len, Jay, John and Joe were fitting the seats into the hull when I visited. This does require some attention as they must fit both the curve and shear of the hull. This is a detail easily missed by many novice boat builders. As a “customer”, he is paying a small fee to rent space in the shop while supplying the materials he needs for the job. It’s really a great way to get your “feet wet’ without taking a “bath”, pun intended if you know what I mean!
The largest craft the shop has built so far is a “Caledonia Yawl”, an 18 foot beauty. That may be the upper limit for construction as floor space is limited. There are many different types of kits - power, sail or human powered - available to get you into boat building and boating. If you are interested in building one for yourself or volunteering at the shop to help out or learn some new skills why not contact them and take the next step? It may open the door to an entirely new adventure for you.