Back in April I spent a couple of days at the Great Lakes Boatbuilding School in Cedarville, Michigan. I was there working on an article for WoodenBoat, which you can read the the July/August issue, #251. The resort community of Cedarville is located in the Les Cheneaux Islands area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A small village whose population burgeons during the summer months, it reminded me very much of the 1000 Islands’ Clayton, NY, where I lived while working at the Antique Boat Museum, and South Haven, Michigan, where my family summered when I was young. The area has a rich boating history, and the nearby village of Hessel is home to the annual Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show.
The school was founded in 2005 by a local group who were inspired by a visit to the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Washington State and wanted to offer a similar education opportunity to students in the midwest.
All students take a one-year program, and an optional second year teaches more advanced skills. The schools facilities are also used to teach a range of workshops for the general public during the summer months when classes are not in session.
There are always a variety of projects on the shop floor. From left to right: a Hacker runabout; a Paul Gartside catboat; a flat-iron skiff; a fibreglass inboard launch and a Phil Bolger fisherman’s launch.
The Bolger launch ready for planking.
Students build the cold-moulded hulls of the Hacker runabouts, which are then shipped to Runabout Restorations in Guntersville, AL to be outfitted.
Program Director Pat Mahon and second-year instructor Andy James currently teach 15-16 students but are looking to expand the program. Completed boats are sold (at very reasonable prices!) to help defray the costs of operating the program. It’s a good thing that I flew there and didn’t drive a vehicle with a trailer hitch, or I might have come home with the last thing I need, which is another boat. I was particularly struck by the Harry Bryan KATIE sloop that is currently for sale.
The Great Lakes Boatbuilding school is a wonderful place to visit, a worthwhile place to support and maybe something to consider for your first, or second, or third career.