My style of boatbuilding and oar making is sort of a hodgepodge of different styles. I’ve learned from my friends Andy Hutchinson and Tim Cooper; from Jerry Briggs, Sam Johnson, and Roger Fletcher in the Northwest; Greg Rössel, Harry Bryan, Clint Chase, Sam Manning, Dynamite Payson, and others in the Northeast; from my surfboard shaper and epoxy guru friend Greg Loehr, from dozens of books, from growing up in a culture of carpenters, and on and on. But even more learning has come from within my own shop as techniques evolve and change, and my coworkers and students come up with ever more creative solutions. I’ve never been a purist, rather preferring to mix and match styles at the spur of the moment. Traditional plywood on frame; lapstrake; carvel; stitch-and-glue; classic boats, new designs, hopeless restorations. Boats is boats. And boatbuilding is an unending progression of problem solving, and the more angles I learn, the more tools I have to come up with a better mousetrap.
In that light I have signed up for two courses this year which promise to broaden my quiver of methods immeasurably. I thought I’d share this in case any of you blog followers were looking for an adventure this summer. I think there is still room in both of them. Think about it.
The first will be a course in Viking boatbuilding from my amazing friend Jay Smith back at WoodenBoat School in Maine. Jay is the premiere Viking boatbuilder in the Western Hemisphere, and a bit of a maniac as well. For two weeks we’ll be building a small Norwegian-style vessel. Using materials and techniques more common a thousand years ago, we’ll be building by eye, whittling and hacking and riveting together a really sweet little boat.
For the yang to counterbalance this yin, I’ve signed up for a course with Douglas Brooks on Japanese Riverboat Building. It will be up in Port Townsend at the Northwest Maritime Center, August 24 through 28. Brooks has spent much of the last two decades apprenticing with old Japanese boatbuilders, many of them the last of the line. He has won their confidence and they have passed on to him secrets many generations old. His book, Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, is simply stunning.
I’m so curious how these new techniques will affect my thinking this fall.