Community Boat Build – March Update

Article & Photos By Boat Build “Captain” Derek Hartwick

See our events calendar to sign up for a boat build session!!

Our goals with the Community Boat Build extend beyond just constructing a boat to access the Raritan River to building a community of individuals that have an interest in the Raritan River as a resource for recreation. During the past eight weeks, more than 60 individuals have assisted with the project in one way or another. We are grateful to those who have helped us source donated goods, recruit volunteers, mill wood for the construction process, set up forms, glue strips to the forms, sharpen chisels and wood planes, document the building process, train other volunteers, and so much more. It has truly been a ‘community boat-building and community building effort!

Brian Smith instructing students in the process of cutting cedar strips for matching the centerline of the hull.
Volunteers learned the proper way to use a wood plane from Eric Marshall.

We are working with a boat pattern, or form, designed by Graeme King. The boat pattern, called Cockatoo, will guide construction of a boat meant to be rowed by one person. This ‘stable recreational’ vessel is constructed on forms that are inverted on a workbench referred to as a ‘strongback’. The boat utilizes thin Western Red Cedar strips for the hull with a framework of Sitka Spruce, Ash and Mahogany woods. The rowing boat; often referred to as a ‘shell’, includes a moving seat. The person rowing the boat engages the seat and two oars (sculling) to move the boat.

We have now completed the application of the final strips on the boat and will be applying the epoxy resin and fiberglass on the hull.  Additionally, we have started cutting and shaping the pieces for the interior. These structural pieces create the ‘bone structure’ for the boat and will support the rower while rowing the boat. The first boat will be coming off the building forms in the next week and the construction of the second boat designed by Graeme King will begin.

Volunteers attaching the stern post.
Derek Hartwick, Robert McIntosh and Brian Smith following the application of the final cedar strip.

The program has presented opportunities for the participants to acquire woodworking skills and also to meet and interact with a variety of community members. While Derek Hartwick has been leading the boat-building project, Brian Smith, Sarah Tomasello and Eric Marshall have stepped into leadership roles by leading or teaching some of the skills required for the project.

Each week the ‘Boat Shop” has been a buzz of activity on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Due to the strong interest from the community, and with the gradual post-Covid “return to normal,” for each build day we are pleased to be able to open up more slots for participation. We hope you will join us!

The boat released from the forms at the conclusion of the sanding process.
The hull awaiting a coat of clear epoxy and fiberglass.