Hi all,

I've been going back to WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine for about five years now, picking up amazing amounts of information and reveling in the incredible setting on the Eggemoggin Reach of Penobscot Bay. Tragically, I have been sliding down the slippery slope from happy-go-lucky student, to assistant teaching to--(god forbid) faculty next summer. In mid-July I'll be teaching a course centered on the Woodie Hindman 16' double-ender with transom, more-or-less as presented in Roger Fletcher's marvelous bible of Oregon boats. It's a six-day course and we expect to have the boat in the water under oar power on day six. It's a program for folks who really want to build a boat like this--or perhaps a different drift boat or whitewater dory--but are intimidated by some of the processes along the way--lofting, scarfing, or any number of the fabrication and assembly techniques required to build one of these sweetheart boats. It's a severely hands-on course, and we'll cover pretty much every aspect of of the process. As well, we'll be talking about what happens next--running it, wrecking it, fixing it, storing it responsibly, and so on. None of it is rocket surgery, but it sure helps your confidence level to have been through the motions.

A warning--WoodenBoat School is more addictive than heroin. The facility is amazing, situated on a beautiful ocean bay in a classic old New England estate. The boatshop is the old horse barn, all brick, and huge, usually with two or three different courses going on in the various bays. Greg Rössel, small boatbuilding guru, will be teaching in the bay next to us. The fleet of boats in the harbor is available to sail or row in the afternoon, including several original Hereshoff sailboats and a fleet of heartbreakingly wonderful rowboats which I have fallen in love with. The food is terrifyingly good. I always get bigger there. Whether you stay in the indoor lodging or chose to campo, I recommend signing up for the food. And the staff and faculty are the most open, friendly, welcoming people you'll ever meet. You show up, you're in the club. No us-and-them. If you decide to give it a try, I recommend doing what I do--stay for another week or two and make the journey worthwhile. I'm planning on taking a course the week prior to the one I am teaching. Oh--and you're in coastal Maine. There's more to see and do within fifty miles than you'll ever have time to assimilate. The first year I went I took Greg Rössel's Fundamentals of Boatbuilding. Although few of the actual things we did there have a direct bearing in what I now do in my boatshop, the day does not go by that I don't use the processes and thought patterns for problem solving that I learned back there. The whole experience there is like summer camp for grown-ups with a boat addiction. 


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Brad, that sounds like a wonderful opportunity! I may have to start buying lottery tickets so can I win and attend. Then I would be a double winner!

Rick Newman

Actually, I've been going there for about five years on a boatman's wages. It is surprisingly affordable. But I agree, winning the 1.3 billion dollar PowerBall drawing would help.

Brad:  About 10 years ago Jason Cajune of Livingston MT taught a 2 week class on building his Freestone Guide drift boat.  This was stitch and glue, curved stem, and round transom -difficult but beautiful.  At the time he did not  offer plans for his boats so I was building a Tracy O'Brien 17 whitewater that he had suggested.  My boat was about 1/4 finished when WoodenBoat listed his class and I thought it would be great to get some professional instruction from a real artist.

Well the "class" consisted of a 12 year old, 60 year old and this retired Yankee.  Short handed as we were the boat was finished and in the water on the last day.  I think we gave Jason a few gray hairs- the other guy bought a Lee-Neilson block plane($150) with him and didn't know how to take it apart to sharpen it.

Your summary of the school, staff and food are absolutely correct.  At the end of the day sitting on the deck with a wee dram of spirits before dinner you can be talking with school teachers, plumbers, auto mechanics and millionaires- all great people interested in building boats.  And as you say- there is no us and them . I just might sign up for your class.


Thanks for the reminder and dilemma - what to choose? The WoodenBoat School has a tempting array of courses, but trying to find some back to back courses was not as easy. The basic construction courses have the greatest interest. There is plenty of room for improvement in my woodworking skills.

Since the school is on the sunrise coast and I am on the sunset coast, I decided I should check other options on the left coast. Workshop options have been found on WA and OR, but I haven't look too hard for CA options. Unfortunately, the left coast workshops tend to be built a craft in a week option. Those are attractive if taking the built craft home is a top priority, but learning is higher priority. Then, there is an unfinished craft that needs to be transported between 1,000 to 1,500 miles. Choices, choices!?!

Maybe, I should just book one of Brad's Grand Canyon wooden dory trips and shorten the travel time.

No decision yet!


Sounds like the course is about half full already. Wahoo! Still room if you want to come and play.

I think I need a epoxy mixing course!! Lol!

I have been wanting to attend the wooden boat school or the one in Washington for some time. I need to win the lottery before I can.

Well, as far as an experience where you have an incredibly good time, with food and camping included, it's just a little over half the price of a commercial river trip of the same length. I still think the place is one of the best bargains going. One year I did three back-to-back one-week courses (and, as I mentioned earlier, on a boatman's wages) and this year I can't stand to go for just one week, so I've signed up to take a course the week prior. If you come to the McKenzie course I'll teach you everything you need to know about epoxy too.


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