Building an education

Honing hands-on skills in the boatshop

Sherry Martell
Published on July 3, 2014

TATAMAGOUCHE - While some students were ready to bail out of class at the end of June, others circumnavigating a Tatamagouche boat shop were continuing to learn skills while benefiting the community.

“I’ve never done it before so it’s pretty cool,” said Jack Galvao, a North Colchester High School student who spent weeks learning boat building skills at the Creamery Square’s boat shop.

Five North Colchester High School students participated in boat building classes one day a week since early spring at the shop, building two 16-foot canoes, while learning about hand tools of the trade from instructor August Coombs, boat shop manager Keith Driver and other volunteers.

The goal of the partnership between the boat shop and the school is to support and educate students and youth, while teaching them about Maritime history. 

Jake Duggan, another Tatamagouche student enjoying the hands-on learning opportunity, enjoyed working with, and learning about, hand tools.

“I’m learning from experience instead of sitting in a classroom,” he said.

Coombs said the canoes are a great first-time project for students to learn the basics of boat building.

“We started off with basic hand-tool skills, shaping work with old-fashioned tools, chisels and planes, along with small power tools,” said Coombs.

Chip Dickison and Christian O’Neill of the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association stopped by the shop recently to view the students’ work and discuss future opportunities with the Boatbuilding Apprenticeship Program. 

Driver said this was the second year the shop welcomed students. Last year, students were involved in the inaugural Quick and Dirty Boat Building Challenge on the waterfront at Creamery Square.

“That was a perfect fit for getting a team of students in there,” he said. He added youth involvement at the shop has been “very positive.”

“The first benefit is kind of an intangible one; we enjoy it,” said Driver. “We get a lot of energy working with younger people. Also, it gives you a bit of hope for the future. I don’t think we are going to turn out boat builders, they probably won’t take it up as a career or anything like that, but if it will get them interested in using their hands to gain some skills, they may even want to build a boat for their own pleasure later on for recreational purposes.”

He said while he and other boat shop volunteers do not profess to be

“professional” boat builders, they have a great deal to offer youth who are willing to learn.

The students’ involvement at the shop didn’t end in June. This month, they will be participating an a two-week wooden boat building session for youth, sponsored by the Municipality of the County of Colchester.

Brenda Forbes, a teacher at North Colchester High School co-ordinating this program for the students, said the school “is very happy to have their name associated with boat building in Tatamagouche.”

“It has been great, the students are now very confident and relaxed at the boat shop which was not the case when they started,” said Forbes.

That sentiment is echoed by Driver, who has witnessed the growth in student confidence first-hand.

“They have gained a sense of self-confidence that they can tackle unfamiliar things like this if they just have the application,” said Driver.

One of the student-built canoes will be raffled and the other will be sold.

A student team is also participating in the second annual Quick n’ Dirty Boat Building challenge at Creamery Square on July 12 and 13.