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By Carl Cramer

Whaleboat_13002_158Let’s start with this most basic fact: No one needs a boat. Well, let me qualify that a bit further that some of us always do, but we hardly constitute the great majority. Boat sales and thus boatbuilding has always been and will always be about boat demand by consumers. As the economy goes, so do boat sales, and thus a need for boatbuilders. After an absolutely miserable economy for the past seven to eight years, now that pent-up demand for new boats, and used boats as well, is steadily rising.

It’s an excellent time to learn to be a boatbuilder, for so many reasons. I can only offer you some anecdotal advice. Back when I was still working at Professional BoatBuilder magazine, we conducted an informal, mathematically flawed survey of our 23,000 readers around the world. That was a year ago. As I recall, 30+ percent of boatbuilders intended to hire new workers in the next 12 months. (When I say “boatbuilders,” I mean anyone who builds or repairs boats made out of various materials: fiberglass, wood, aluminum, steel, rubber, other. High-tech, medium-tech, or low-tech.) The two primary attributes they cited for a successful candidate were (1) attitude; (2) technical training from a trade school. The marine industry is poorly informed when it comes to statistics, so I will stick with those two, plus the undisputed need within the boatbuilding industry for new workers, particularly those with the above two qualities.

How does one learn attitude? For me, this seems obvious – It’s a degree of confidence in one’s ability to perform a challenge, which any new job presents. Which leads directly to the second item. Technical training. In some ways, this is a rhetorical question. I haven’t counted recently, but there are perhaps 40-50 boatbuilding schools around the world at present. Boatbuilding schools build skills and confidence. And boats. Students are taught that they can do it. There are very few straight lines in boatbuilding, other than as points of reference. And this very fact builds a very different student than one you would find in, say, a housebuilding school. Boatbuilding students learn to appreciate curves and intelligent intersections, and working with beautiful materials.

You could try to learn boatbuilding from books and magazines. I did this for my first boat, which I had also designed by the same process. But that only takes you so far. Book learning is fine… as a starting point. Day-to-day practice, though, is an entirely different process. Did I mention yet the camaraderie of working together with other students who have the same aspirations that you do? Did I mention the immense knowledge of those instructors who feel their greatest gift is passing along their appreciation for the art and craft of wooden boat building? Have I spoken with you about the incredible fulfillment when you finish building your first boat, either by yourself or in a group of like-minded individuals pulling together for the common task of getting that beautiful creation in the water and sailing/rowing/powering away as you had dreamed it?

Are you guaranteed a job in the boatbuilding industry once you graduate from a boatbuilding school? No, but if you apply yourself, fulfill yourself, work well with others…yes, I will guarantee that.

Carl Cramer, until he retired a month ago, had been the publisher of WoodenBoat and Professional BoatBuilder magazines for almost 25 years. He’s always available for impartial guidance, at

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Join Our Nine-Day Boatbuilding Course

IMG_0019Learn boatbuilding from an internationally renowned craftsman. Bert Van Baar from The Netherlands is spending nine days at The Apprenticeshop this summer to share some of his talents with aspiring boatbuilders on this side of the pond. You’re invited to join Bert in Rockland, Maine, at The Apprenticeshop for an intensive workshop in wooden lapstrake construction.

You, your team and Bert will work together to build a 14′ Catherine Whitehall lapstrake boat. You may even take the boat home with you: we’ll make the boat available for purchase for material costs only via a raffle exclusively for students.

You’ll leave The Apprenticeshop with a basic understanding of lofting, joinery and steam-bending. Whether you’re a novice or you’ve built a few small boats in your backyard, Bert will work with you and your skill level to develop your talents.

We have several spaces left to fill for this nine-day course in boatbuilding, but we expect it to fill quickly so register now!

You must register by June 1! Register Today!

Ensure your spot in the Nine-Day Boatbuilding Course by registering online by June 1, by calling us at 207-594-1800 or by emailing The cost of the course is $1095. We can help you find affordable accommodations if you’re coming from out of town.

Congrats to the Class of 2014!

planergradPlease join us on Friday, May 30, 2014, at 1 pm to congratulate our graduates of 2014. This spring we have four talented students who will receive their certificates marking the completion of the CORE Program here at The Apprenticeshop. Our 2014 graduates are Andrew Jones, Sean McTeague, David Flood and David Leon.

To celebrate our graduates’ accomplishments, we’ll be launching two Nina skiffs, flat-bottomed John Atkin-designed boats. We’ll also splash the 28-foot WHITE LADY, a restored cabin launch originally  built by Norman Hodgdon.

We look forward to lauding our graduates and celebrating the start of boating season with friends of The Apprenticeshop.

See Archives of the Penobscot Maritime Museum

202The Apprenticeshop is hosting Kevin Johnson, photo archivist for the Penobscot Marine Museum, on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Johnson will discuss and share the maritime photography archives of the Penobscot Marine Museum of Searsport at 7:00 pm at The Apprenticeshop, located at 643 Main Street in Rockland. The event is open to the public and admission is $5.

Penobscot Marine Museum has the largest maritime photography archives in the state made up of dozens of collections and consists of more than 140,000 photographic images spanning the 1880s to the recent past. Johnson’s slide show and talk at The Apprenticeshop will look at the various collections with a special focus on mid-coast Maine. The archive is being digitized and more than 60,0000 images are available for viewing on the museum’s website at

For more information about The Apprenticeshop’s event with Kevin Johnson, call 207-594-1800 or email

It Must be Spring

The temperatures aren’t exactly soaring yet here in Maine, but we think it’s time to get out on the water anyway! Last month we had our annual “Float In” when we moved all our floats into the harbor. Our friend John Snyder stopped by to snap some photos of us celebrating spring as we got the floats ready for this year’s fleet.



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It’s Sailing Season

There’s still some snow on the ground and ice in the harbor, but that won’t stop mid-coast Maine’s high school sailing teams from spring training. The last day of March was also the first day of sailing season for high-school sailors from surrounding schools. The team will give Mother Nature a little more time to thaw out, though; this week  the students will start with some indoor exercises as they warm up for upcoming on-the-water maneuvers.

DSC_0145The official sailing season kickoff took place Saturday, March 29, at the Penobscot Bay YMCA. Students took to the pool to learn their most important lesson: how to get an upside-down sailboat right-side up. Led by the Apprenticeshop’s waterfront director, KC Heyniger, sailors rigged and launched a 14-foot 420 in the pool. Then they did the one thing they’ll spend all season trying not to: they capsized the dinghy.

The goal of this annual safety seminar is to get sailors back aboard their capsized vessels safer and faster. Tangled lines, submerged sails and cleats are inevitably frustrating to a turtled racer, but there are tricks of the trade to get the boats back on course more efficiently. And in case the temps don’t climb as quickly as we’d all like this spring, students also learned some cold-water safety techniques to ensure that a dip in the harbor is never hazardous to their health.

With several major high school sailing regattas lined up for the summer months, our local teams have much more training ahead of them. We’ll profile some sailors this summer and keep our newsletter and website updated with scores and events. Good luck to all the high school sailors in 2014!

Here’s a peek at the sail training from this weekend’s capsizing workshop:

Rockland Community Sailing – Capsize Training from Michael O’Neil on Vimeo.

From the Shop Floor

Our apprentices often find themselves immersed in history as well as boatbuilding. For our second-year apprentices, two rich sailing histories are unfolding and shaping the construction of their yearlong projects: the Lawley Tender and the Columbia dinghy.

IMG_1475smCurrently under construction at The Apprenticeshop, The Lawley Tender was designed by George Lawley at the turn of the 20th century. An immigrant to Massachusetts from England, Lawley brought his shipbuilding talent with him and started his own business that would thrive for multiple generations. His talent was widely recognized by the elite sailing community, and he was recruited to contribute to the design and construction of AMERICA’s Cup defenders such as PURITAN and MAYFLOWER. At just over 12 feet long, the Lawley Tender was designed to accompany one of Lawley’s larger yachts, but has since earned its own distinction as a striking and seaworthy vessel.

It’s fitting that a Lawley Tender is now being built alongside a Columbia Dinghy at The Apprenticeshop. The Columbia Dinghy is a renowned design by Nathaneal Herreshoff, one of the most famous designers of AMERICA’s Cup defenders. Herreshoff’s Columbia Dinghy, sometimes known as the Columbia Lifeboat, is just shy of 12 feet and can be rigged as a sailing dinghy or a rowing boat. The boat has been reimagined by other designers over the years, including Maine’s own Joel White who created a carvel-planked version called a Catspaw.

Both of these boats are lapstrake constructions. As with every traditional build we undertake at The Apprenticeshop, both boats were also lofted by hand before construction began earlier this year. Our apprentices have built the molds and will be planking the boats this spring. We’ll keep you updated about their progress and launch dates as these new boats emerge from their rich histories at the hands of our apprentices.

It’s Boat-Buying Season

a15smThe sailing season is almost upon us you! Do have a way to get out on the water this summer? Don’t find yourself shoreside when the wind is up and the sun is shining. The Apprenticeshop has a beautiful lapstrake-built daysailer available for sale. A double-ended design by Kevin Carney, the Apprentice 15 is built of cedar on white oak with a Dynel deck and with white oak trim. She has Sitka spruce spars and sails made by Nat Wilson.

The Apprentice 15 was launched in 2011 and has been carefully maintained by our students and staff ever since. She is listed at $18,000, but we’ll consider other offers from eager sailers. Call us at 207-594-1800 for more information or to arrange for a sea trial this spring.

It’s Time to Float

Every year our staff and students work together to get the floats in the water for the season. Check out this cool time-lapse video from last year to see exactly what we’ll be up to again this year!

Apprenticeshop Float In – April 8, 2013 from on Vimeo.

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Whaleboat Expedition Crew


Apprentice Whaleboat Expedition

from Rockland, Maine to Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut

Departure: Sunday, June 16, 2013

Estimated arrival: Friday, June 28, 2013

Students at The Apprenticeshop, the school for traditional boatbuilding and seamanship in Rockland Maine, have mounted a 350 mile expedition aboard their newly built 29’ Leonard whaleboat, an open wooden boat with five rowing stations and a 22 foot steering oar.

Check in at this blog site to read of their daily progress.

To view photos of Whaleboat Expedition send-off, please visit Marine Media  and our facebook page.

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Day 1: Leaving Rockland Harbor

Day 1: Leaving Rockland Harbor

Apprentice Whaleboat Expedition

Sunday, June 16, 2013—Day One

An enthusiastic crowd, a beautiful Penobscot Bay sunrise, and calm weather conditions greeted the ten members of the Apprentice Whaleboat Expedition on the docks at The Apprenticeshop this morning.  After stowing the full two-week’s gear in both the whaleboat and accompanying chase boat Advent (36’ Bud McIntosh schooner), the 29’ open boat left the dock at 5:30 a.m. with Captain Bryan McCarthy, Apprenticeshop Shop Director, at the helm.  Apprentices Rachel Davis, Daniel Creisher, Simon Jack, Garrett Farchione and Tim Jacobus were in the rowing stations. Read More »

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Day 3 Rain

Monday, June 17, 2013—Day Two

The whaleboat departed the Lydon’s haven at 6:30 a.m.  They aim to cross through the mouth of the Damariscotta River this morning and clear the mouth of Kennebec this afternoon, hoping to land at Hermit Island Campground on Small Point (Phippsburg, Maine) for the night.  If all goes as planned, the crew will continue on Tuesday and hope to spend the night at Portland Yacht Services in Portland Harbor.

Read More »

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The Crew Day 3

The apprentices had another fantastic day on the water.  They rowed clear across a very clear and calm Casco Bay, from Small Point to a bit of a rainy Portland, averaging over 3 knots.  Details to come.


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Whaleboat Under Sail

Whaleboat Under Sail!

Today, they’re sailing!

After an early morning interview and filming with WCSH-Channel 6 (we’ll post it when we get it), the Whaleboat Expedition departed Portland Harbor at about 8:00 a.m. 


The crew enjoyed an unanticipated overnight aboard Westward, the 125’ sailing vessel associated with Ocean Classroom last night.  Chris Konecky reports that he and Simon Jack got special treatment and were bunked in the Captain’s quarters. “It was a big fancy room,” he said, “lots of varnish and mattresses on the bunks!”  Others slept in forward berths while Tim Jacobus opted to tent on the lawn at SailMaine.

Read More »

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WCSH 6 Portland News Clip of Whaleboat Expedition

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