New Generation Learns an Age-Old Craft

The East End Classic Boat Society, a not-for-profit whose goal is to educate members about classic boatbuilding techniques and preserve classic marine designs
By teaching campers boatbuilding and woodworking skills, the East End Classic Boat Society hopes to help preserve the art of boatbuilding, and possibly open doors to future careers. Jackie Pape photos

A new collaboration between the East End Classic Boat Society and the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter aims to teach kids valuable skills that might even open doors for future careers.

Last Thursday, the East End Classic Boat Society, a not-for-profit whose goal is to educate members about classic boatbuilding techniques and preserve classic marine designs, welcomed 13 Y.M.C.A. campers of various ages to its Community Boat Shop in Amagansett.

This was the first of many trips that the group will take to learn about the woodworking, engineering, and team-building skills that go into constructing a boat.

With performing arts, rock band, sports, and drone camps, the Y.M.C.A. offers various summer programs to fit the interests of a range of campers from prekindergarten through ninth grade, but this new boatbuilding class does much more than keep kids occupied during the day.

“The craftsmanship that goes into building a boat by hand, piece by piece, is something they can take out of here and go off and actually make a living from,” said Kevin Moran, the facilities director at the Y.M.C.A.

For Y.M.C.A. directors, the mission is to get kids excited early about engineering, math, and science. And the class gives members of the Classic Boat Society the chance to pass down their artisanal skills to keep a longstanding tradition alive.

“Boatbuilding is becoming a lost art,” said Richie Davgin, a member of the Classic Boat Society, before Mr. Moran continued, “and this organization has tried in the past to get new blood in here, so now we are bringing in kids. You can see the ones that are really interested.”

On the first day the campers were introduced to the shop, learned how some of the boatbuilding tools work, and did various activities to practice building skills. By the end of the camp, which will run through Labor Day, the kids will have completed construction of a Styrofoam model of an actual boat that was built by the Classic Boat Society members and is displayed in the boat shop.

“This is a kind of a tutorial of the different nuances of boatbuilding, from restorations to new constructions,” said Glenn Vickers, the Y.M.C.A.’s executive director. “Eventually we’re going to have a builder’s club at the Y.M.C.A., which will be everything from STEAM: science, technology, arts, and mathematics.”

Set to begin in September, the builder’s club will be part of the free Friday preteen and teen program for ages 12 to 17 that will continue weekly from 7 to 9 p.m. through the school year.