Throughout the evolution of this institution, the stories that our graduates tell carry a common thread. We invite you to read the stories that speak to the heart of The Apprenticeshop’s brand of experiential education.
There are three thoughts that lead me to the Apprenticeshop. One was that I felt incapable of what I saw as a typical career/ life trajectory of a middle class American professional with an undergraduate degree. Another thought was that I had made a couple things thus far: a clay dragon in 2nd grade art class, a fort with some buddies in the woods, even some shelves in my first apartment, and it felt good! The third and final thought that lead me to the Apprenticeshop was that boats are awesome! I had sailed them and encountered adventure, made good friends, and felt the intense power of possibility that exists with your hand on a tiller and your eye on the horizon.
How I stumbled into such a unique organization that was able to nurture these inclings I had into full fledged convictions, I don’t recall. But I think that I will always look back on my two years as an apprentice as the moment I first felt purpose and direction.
Nearly five years now since I finished my apprenticeship, as I continue to build boats I am amused at the wisdom of my 23 year old former self. How could I have known that I would find the pursuit and refinement of craftsmanship to be limitlessly rewarding; or that yacht design, maritime history, entrepreneurship, and a host of other subjects connected to boatbuilding would also enthrall and fulfill me. I think that deciding to attend the Apprenticeshop was the first legitimate decision of my adult life… and I nailed it!
–Ellery Brown, associate, D.N. Hylan Boatbuilders, AShop class of 2007
I came to Rockland Community Sailing at the age of 11, during RCS’s inaugural year, then at the south end of Rockland. I spent two summers as a student and nine as an instructor. Hundreds and hundreds of students passed through the program while I was there and many of us are still close friends.
One of the most powerful aspects of RCS is the mission: connecting local children with the ocean by any means possible, even if their families may not have the resources to do so. The scholarship program at RCS gave me an added sense of pride in my work. That core idea that everyone should have access to the ocean is what led me to my current endeavor, The Valpo Surf Project, a non-profit that uses surfing instruction and academic mentoring to encourage English language skills, personal character development, and environmental consciousness among underprivileged and at-risk youth in Valparaiso, Chile. I founded the project with two friends from Bates College and attribute much of the mission of the program, as well as my success working with our students, to my experience with RCS.
Although it’s been years since I’ve worked with RCS, the lessons I learned and the people I met continue to have a profound impact on my life. The bonds and relationships I built on the water with my students and fellow instructors will last a long time. I still write letters of recommendation to colleges and employers for former students.
–Wiley Todd, Rockland Community Sailing student/instructor 1998-2009; Co-Founder and Development Director, The Valpo Surf Project
My experience at The Apprenticeshop gave me patience and endurance, and it completely changed my life. Until that point, my educational experiences had been ones where I felt things, facts, arguments were being stuffed into me. At the AShop I felt like the lid had been opened to my being; that I could dream anything, do anything. I felt freed. Building boats in a building with no heat, living the rustic lifestyle, failing and starting over — these made me comfortable with being uncomfortable, so tackling difficult pursuits no long seemed impossible.
Since that time I have delved into farming, professional firefighting, foster and adoptive parenting. All hard and all wonderful beyond belief.
–Elise Brown, AShop class of 1989; partner at Evergreen Home Performance, Rockland, Maine
Before doing Rockland Community Sailing, my 9 year old daughter had been down-playing her intelligence with her friends at home. Since doing the sailing program, she’s shown more confidence and competence. Being in charge of her own boat challenged her to make quick decisions that would have an immediate effect. It refreshed her, gave her the confidence to state what she knows to be true, and not be ashamed to say it. She came home full of stories about new friends and even taught her home friends what she’d learned.
I’ve lived in Maine 11 years and have never been out on the ocean. There are no extras in our lives. Without the scholarship, none of this would have happened. It was incredible.
–Amanda Carr, 2011 Rockland Community Sailing parent
I was at the Shop during the years of its transition from Nobleboro to Rockland and built a great number of boats during that time, including a couple of gigs, the Rozinante and a beautiful canoe restoration. I was newly graduated from four years of traditional university study, so the hands-on aspect of the work was refreshing and satisfying
My biggest take-away from The Apprenticeshop is the problem-solving skill. The program was purposefully unstructured, which gives you a lot of responsibility in terms of figuring out how to handle problems. And there was no end to the problems that needed solving, not just on the boatbuilding end of things! You’d never know what you’d end up doing.
I’ve taken the problem-solving skill into many other experiences. Certainly, the seeds for my passion for ocean voyaging were sewn at The Apprenticeshop, and all kinds of problems arise when you’re off-shore on a boat. The Shop also taught me how to live simply. I valued the intentional community aspect of the school in those days. The kind of simple living we practiced still serves me, especially as I spend months on board my boat with my wife and two young children. We live on a small income, but we are comfortable and happy.
–Bruce Halabisky, AShop graduate, 1995, freelance writer, journeyman boatbuilder, ocean voyager
I started sailing with The Apprenticeshop’s Rockland Community Sailing program (RCS) when I was eight. I couldn’t sail up wind to save my life. I remember one session when I actually cried. At the end of one day the instructors announced I had come in last. It was miserable. But for some reason, I kept coming back.
I grew a lot each summer, and every summer I opted to spend more time at RCS. Learning how to sail gave me a level of confidence and independence that I doubt I could have gotten anywhere else. The sailing community defined what summer was to me. After several summers in the program, I was surprised when I was offered a position as a trainee. I learned how to effectively teach others about the sport that I loved.
Sailing taught me some skills that I think are crucial to life beyond a boat. I learned to tie knots that will hold, where the wind is coming from, and that if you stick with something long enough, eventually you’ll be pretty good at it. The kids return to our program because they love it. They come back because of the feel of community and the values of seamanship that RCS offers.
–Maya Fe Holzhauer, Rockland Community Sailing student /instructor 1998-2010, senior & member of the Mortar Board Honors Society, University of Vermont
My time at the AShop has proven to be a watershed in my life. In the short term, it fostered an intense respect for craftsmanship and functional simplicity, and has continued to provide a sustaining vocational/avocational framework that has evolved through time. It is a strange but not unpleasant feeling to find myself 37-plus years later tending archival stuff from the AShop with pictures of an earnest bearded 21-year-old self buried within.
–Christopher G. Hall, AShop class of 1975; Curator of Exhibits, Maine Maritime Museum;
Sailing taught me patience, confidence, and commitment. Each of these was ingrained while with Rockland Community Sailing. I learned to be patient as a student trying to sit still for more than five minutes, I learned to have confidence in my decision making while with the high school team, and I learned how to be committed to an organization, which allowed me to learn these skills and then gave me an opportunity to teach them.
–Collin Pope, RCS student/instructor 1998-2011; software developer, New York Central Mutual
As an apprentice, I learned that you don’t have to know how to do something before you start. These days, at the shipyard where I work, people will ask me, “How did you learn how to do that?” I smile and tell them, “I’m learning it as I go along.”
At the Shop, when you start a build with your peers, no one person is in charge. We had to decide as a group whose idea was the best, which forced me to put in the extra time and energy to make sure I got it right. It gave everyone the responsibility to put their best foot forward. You get so that you’re not afraid to try to figure it out.
You know, most of us aren’t going to hit a home run out of Fenway in our lifetime. But since I know I can launch a boat that won’t sink, I know there’s a lot of things I can do, even if I don’t know how yet.
–Todd Kosakowski, AShop class of 2006, project manager, Boothbay Harbor Shipyard
If I had not done Rockland Community Sailing, I wouldn’t have found my life’s passion. I joined the High School sailing team and I didn’t know how to do anything, I didn’t know how to tie a cleat or anything! But the instructors and coaches were supportive.
The whole community was supportive especially when I was fundraising to be able to participate in a semester at sea. I was able to raise the needed funds and did the semester in Spring 2012. The experience changed me as a person. The Apprenticeshop helped me do the semester which came just at the right time in my development (I know this sounds weird for me to say), but I can see that it was a coming of age trip for me. I learned that the more you put yourself out there, the more good things come your way. I want to be a mate someday.
Everything is intimidating and scary on a boat, but, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. I like that my strength has been tested, I like being strong. I think that sailing is a metaphor for life—you have to work hard on a boat, you have to be meticulous about your tasks, don’t be wasteful, appreciate every drop of water. Do a good job the first time, otherwise, you just have to do it all over again. A boat is a good place to learn about yourself without the outside influences of the rest of the world. Without this community, I couldn’t have done that semester. I attribute a lot of what my life is now to The Apprenticeshop.
–Elizabeth Sherfey, RCS High School Sailing Team 2011; High School student
When I found The Apprenticeshop. I was 20 years old, disenchanted with the standard educational opportunities, and looking for something else. I made my way to Bath where Lance Lee offered me immediate work as a volunteer in the shop building crew, with no guarantee of any position in the apprentice program. It was a beautiful September, I was out of school and it sounded like a great deal to me.
Right from the beginning it was all about education. Lee had a unifying Hahnian vision of experiential education that aligned the core activities—the AShop was to embrace the Project that would enable the Expedition. Use the discipline inherent in both activities to build the whole person.
The AShop was and is about people. Lance Lee was the pivot in the ever turning universe, but as any of us who spent time at the ‘Shop know, there are thousands who have influenced the growth, direction and success of the institution. The incredible richness, intensity and diversity of those interactions are my most precious memories of my time there.
I believe everyone connected with the AShop has given and gained in some measure. I draw on sundry skills, values and memories everyday that I can connect to my time in Maine, thirty plus years ago. It has had, and continues to have, significant weight in the quality of my life, both internal and external. I certainly can’t speak for all the others, but I would be surprised to hear them deny such an influence.
–Rob Monroe, AShop grad 1974, retired CEO Gougeon Brothers
I came to the Apprenticeshop basically because I was running out of options. I found myself in college with a low GPA and lacking excitement for any major. I felt lost. Finally, I listened to my father’s suggestion to take a look at the Apprenticeshop.
The Apprenticeshop was a place so different I could not help becoming engaged. There, I found something within myself: where I once worked at working ‘round the system, at the Apprenticeshop I became part of the system. For the first time I began to want to work harder and perform better. At the Shop, I began to look differently at things; I began to see opportunities. I learned to create my own processes and apply them to anything.
My fondest memory at the shop is the first time I sailed a boat that I built. Sailing along to the sound of the water lapping at the strakes I looked at each piece of that boat which I knew more intimately than any other person. I thought back to the blank white lofting sheets and the back bone laid up alone. I said goodbye to each bung and every screw. It was the most profound and surreal moment of my life.
–Mike Norgang, AShop class of 2006; boatbuilder/carpenter, Rockport Marine
I want to thank you for the opportunity, through scholarship, for my son to attend sailing camp. He had a wonderful experience with the other students and the outstanding instructors. It’s a great program to introduce kids to sailing and engages kids on all levels, not just physically and mentally but also on the group level. A group identity formed over the week he was there as well as connection and cohesion in smaller groups within the full group. This is rare to find in a one-week program.
I found that the culture that the program introduces to kids to be full of life-long lessons and character-building qualities.
It is so essential that children continue to have access to this kind of quality program that takes place in a setting mostly outdoors and fully beholden to the day’s weather. As people become exceedingly plugged into screens and children spend hours every day in front of televisions and video games, even at summer camps, this is a refreshing and wholesome alternative for kids. Thank you for being the other option, and for ensuring that all kids get this opportunity.
–2012 Rockland Community Sailing parent
At The Apprenticeshop, I got to communicate on a one-to-one basis with teachers and other apprentices, which was not nearly as intimidating as communicating with teachers at school. Everyone was always willing to share their ideas and give advice. Gathering information from two or three people gave me space to try different methods and decide for myself and what works best for me. I found that I could absorb the information instead of being “force fed” facts and equations.
The Apprenticeshop taught me that there is always another way to go about things. If a screw is spinning and spinning in its hole and never tightening, then the screw is not doing any good. Although it may look alright, the screw is actually wrong for the hole. But I learned that you can try a larger screw, or fill the hole and try again, or move the screw to a different location. The freedom to think on my own encouraged me to tackle problems by myself and boosted my self-confidence.
I feel that The Apprenticeshop set me in motion towards where I am today. It was the first stepping stone toward crewing on tallships, attending Maine Maritime Academy, and my work with Maptech. The Apprenticeshop will be with me forever: in my problem solving, in my personality, and in the calluses on my hands.
–Ivy H. Robichaud; Apprenticeshop youth program 2000; chart-maker for Richardson’s Maptech and contributor at Embassy Cruising Guide
To say that my time at the Apprenticeshop was productive and or meaningful would be a huge understatement. I joined the shop looking for direction in life, having tried college and found that it really wasn’t working for me. I was in search of something more “hands-on.” I found that at The Apprenticeshop.
In my time there I found a trade that I fell in love with. I, like most others that attended, learned critical problem-solving skills and developed my patience. I also learn a lot about living and working in a small, tight, and sometimes drama-filled community. These are skills that have served me well in life and in my career as a shipwright.
I currently live in Saint Paul, MN and work at Saint Paul Shipwrights restoring some of the finest runabouts in the country.
–Nate Zumach, Ashop grad 1999, shipwright with St. Paul Shipwrights, MN