It’s amazing what kids can create with nothing but a chunk of wood and a soaring imagination.
Dream boats come in all shapes and sizes, and amid the constant drumming of hammers and the steady buzz of conservation, about 700 of them took shape around a handful of picnic tables at Patuxent River Appreciation Days in October. All day long for two days, hundreds of imaginative young boatbuilders created everything from pint-size battleships to fully rigged sloops using little more than a hull cut from a two-by-four, a skinny stick for a spar, some nails and a swatch or two of canvas. The boatbuilder’s corner, set up at the boat repair shed at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Md., was run by volunteers from the Patuxent Small Craft Guild. The guild provides the boatbuilding materials for free, although it received $1,134 in donations from this year’s event.
“We’ve been doing this for about twelve, fifteen years,” said volunteer Bill Lake as he handed out pre-cut hulls and spars to children, and even to some adults. The kids, he says, love it. “I think it’s the opportunity to use the tools. A lot of these children have never had the opportunity to use these tools.”
Each picnic table was equipped with a few hammers, bracing bits (a kind of hand-powered drill), coping saws, wood glue, tins of nails and boxes of scrap wood that could be transformed into cabinhouses, bowsprits, engines or booms - or even, in at least one case, wings. Once the builders had completed the hull and rig, they could choose from a variety of canvas colors for their sails and use crayons or markers to paintor name their boats. Quantum Sailsdonated the sail material, Dunkirk Supply donated all the wood, and the guild’s volunteers donated the time to cut out 716 hulls they handed out over the festival’s two days. Seaworthy Small Ships donated the prizes for the winning boats (among those whose builders wanted to be judged).
“They just let their imaginations run wild,” said volunteer Robert Fleming. “They come here and pick out a boat, and for some it’s the first time they’ve been able to do that.” And we all know how much fun that can be.