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Boat Builders School

The Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builders School

What’s Inside the Boat School 

Origin: The Chesapeake Wooden Boat School was started in the fall of 1989 in conjunction with the Harford Community College’s non-credit course curriculum. The school was enthusiastically supported by a group of dedicated volunteers who enjoyed building and showing others how to build wooden boats.

Goal: The goal of the school was, and continues to be, to teach wooden boat building skills using readily accessible materials as one way to perpetuate the maritime heritage of the Upper Chesapeake region.

Evolution: The first boat completed was a Chesapeake Bay Sharpie. The lines were taken from drawings by Howard Chapeile, the world’s leading authority on the history and evolution of the American small boat. It was built from material secured at local building supply stores. As the school grew, it moved to the basement of the Seneca Cannery in Havre de Grace and later to the old Post Office building. We became affiliated in 1989 with The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum. In June 2001 we moved into the new Museum building as it opened. The school temporarily resided on the first floor as the museum’s largest display. The school later moved to the lower level. Since 1989, over 155 boats and canoes have been built or restored at the school. The energy and dedication of the instructors and all students becomes apparent when one considers that classes meet Tuesday nights, year round, from 7 PM to 9:30 PM.


School Programs: Adult Students at the school may work in one of five areas, selected with the instructors help, and after an orientation period, that best meets their goals. The Model Shop teaches building techniques for half-hull and scale model boats. Instructors teach and assist students in producing fully operational radio con-trolled models as well as half hulls and plank on frame models.

  • The Wood and Canvas Canoe Restoration group teaches restoration and repair of older canoes build by Old Town, Chestnut, E.M. White and other traditional canoe companies.
  • The Wooden Boat Shop has the largest number of volunteer instructors. They teach wooden boat building skills through demonstration and hands-on experience using school projects. Some of the projects have included a weekend skiff, a J. Francis Hershoff Haven 12 1/2 sail boat, a tradition-ally built crabbing skiff as well as strip-built and glued lap strake style canoes.

The Community Education Program “The Road show” consists of a group of instructors, students and their families who staff a traveling exhibit of the school’s wooden boats. They present a working exhibit of boat building skills and finished projects at community festivals, schools and trade shows throughout the Chesapeake Bay area. Their goal is to increase public awareness of the role of wooden boats and boat building in the history of commerce and recreation on the upper bay.

The Teen Boat Building class is held each summer. The boat design is selected by the school and its major parts are pre-cut by Instructors be-fore the class begins. One volunteer instructor is assigned to each two students. They work closely with the students who build their own boat over five very active days. A splash party launching, with parents invited, on the sixth day caps the week. All boats then head to their builders home for a great summer of fun boating. Sign up at Harford or Cecil College.

“Mini courses” are presented by the instructors during classes. These are informal half hour demonstrations or lectures on about 20 different subjects such as boat mold set up, lofting, woods, tools, paddle making, canoe canvassing, etc.

May I Build or restore my own boat? The first question prospective students usually ask is “When I become a student may I build my own boat?” The answer is yes, eventually. The school, unfortunately, does not have the space for every student to work on their own boat. We have also found over time that it is best for new students to start out working with under construction school projects. Stu-dents can then evaluate and add to their own skills in becoming familiar with the work involved in completing a boat. All boats under construction are considered teaching projects on which any student may work to learn and practice their skills.

You are Welcome to Join Us

  • What Tools do I need? Students do not need tools to enroll. In addition to our woodworking shop, the school has an “open tool box” policy. Tools owned by instructors, the school and students can be shared during class. The golden rule is when a tool is borrowed with permission, and the user is finished with it, it must be re-turned promptly and in the same or better condition than when borrowed.
  • Why Enroll? Our instructors have broad experience in carpentry, boat building and modeling. Students who always wanted to build their own boat can work on projects that suit their interests and abilities. We cater to the interested amateur who wants to build their own craft but are afraid to start.
  • How to enroll: This course is offered in both the Harford Community College Non-Credit course catalog and the Cecil Community College Non-credit course catalog, or you may pick up a registration form at the boat shop. Sign up for classes at Harford Community College or Cecil College.

You may contact us at cwbbschool ((at)) gmail ((dot)) com.

Come visit us! We meet every Tuesday evening 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

Visit us in the North East Community Park.


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