Boat Building at the LRWP Boat Shop

By LRWP Raritan Scholar Intern Jonathan Sim

Interior of the LRWP’s Boat House,
located at 101 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park

Boat building is one of several programs hosted by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. Located at 101 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, New Jersey, the once vacant autobody shop is now transformed into a lively home for woodworking projects that are primarily focused on canoe and paddle building intended for use. Here, two sessions a week take place, one on Wednesday from 6 – 8PM and another on Saturday from 9 – 11AM. The LRWP requires that participants attend a one hour safety training session held from 8-9AM on the final Saturday of the month. Anyone from the ages of 15 and up are able to sign up and participate in these free sessions to gain woodworking skills and have fun doing so. See our events page to register!

Derek (on right), the captain of the US Paralympics team and Brian (on left), an experienced rower can often be seen leading the sessions. Both have experience with woodworking and using the kinds of boats they create. This offers a unique experience for volunteers, where they learn not only how to build specific parts, but why these parts are essential to the structural integrity and general functions of the boat.
A volunteer from a Wednesday session working with Brian for measurements.
Sometimes, work can be enjoyed outdoors, weather permitting.

Woodworking does not stop at Wednesdays, as the Saturday morning sessions continue the previous work where it is lead by Colin and Amber. Both have found the opportunity to lead the boat builds online, where from knowing Derek, were able to showcase their passion and talents. Beyond just woodworking, Colin and Amber have remarked that the whole experience has given them “more appreciation for our local watershed”, as building and using the boats have offered chances to become closer to the waters.

Colin sanding some of the many pieces needed for the canoe.

Colin is a long-time resident of Highland Park who always wanted a place dedicated to woodworking growing up. Since finding that opportunity in the boat build sessions, he has taken initiatives in the project by cutting out templates of canoe pieces from his home with AutoCAD software and running many of the machines to create or finalize pieces.

A boat template cut out by Colin laid out, next to a nearly complete canoe.
Amber (middle) overseeing and assisting volunteers from the Women’s Paddle build session.

Amber is in charge of the Women’s Paddle build sessions, where she leads a team of women to create personal, individualized paddles from scratch. This involves cutting out the pieces, putting them together, and then sanding them off as a final touch.

Every paddle is unique and fits to the user’s preference.
High school volunteers putting together scarf joints, a more stable connection between two pieces of wood in order to lengthen it.

The help of volunteers make the project possible and overall makes for a low stress, interesting learning experience for those that want to get into woodworking or possibly want to find a new hobby. Throughout the sessions as the project becomes increasingly more complete, volunteers get to learn new methods and participate in different activities, whether that be trying out a new tool or moving on from one task to another, never keeping it dull.

One Comment On “Boat Building at the LRWP Boat Shop”

  1. Thank you for initiative, innovations. I’ve so enjoyed TRANSFORMATION at architecturally alert Bergen Brothers’garage. Bodes well for river towns. Anticipate learning more of past, present, future at top of hill address. Activity has re-energized territory. Much more fun to swab tile floor w. Sea Shanties’ radio. Congratulations to Heather, Eric, Colin especially.

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