Low tech, boats and high interaction

Bob Kotowski, left, Bob Hyberg, center, Steve Rogers, on stool, and Jim Gent prepare to attach a keel skeg to the bottom of the Bevin's Skiff.

One of the pervasive complaints of the day is that all the technology, computers, smart phones, emails etc. are more and more isolating human beings and taking them out of social settings.  How about some situational awareness – getting to know the beautiful world in which we live?

Those who live along the coast often get to know the world better and interact with it by getting some kind of a boat, whether for fishing, canoeing, birdwatching , hunting, sailing, exploring or simply making their way between our coastal towns in a more relaxed and beautiful manner.  Lewes Historical Society is undertaking a great project that will allow people to get into some serious social interaction, get away from high technology and have a boat for exploring the local rivers, marshes, bays and – for the most adventurous – the biggest and baddest of them all – the mighty Atlantic.  Under the direction of people like Alex Sydnor – Beebe Medical Foundation director – and Rick Hoenen – carpenter, contractor and prolific boat builder – the society is growing a wooden boat program.  On Father’s Day weekend this year, June 18-20, people are invited to gather at the Canalfront Park in Lewes where they can join with several others in building their own boat.

Rick Hoenen, left, and Steve Rogers - ship model builder, artist and now, boat builder - discuss plans for the Bevin's Skiff.

The Bevin’s Skiff is a tough little rowboat vessel, twelve feet long, with an optional sail kit, that has been made available as a kit through the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Last Sunday, a group of men worked in the Freddy Hudson building at the historical society complex.  They had the hull of their prototype vessel complete and were readying the keel skeg for attachment.

Sydnor said the goal of the project is to get a lot of people together to work on their own vessels, starting on Friday afternoon, and then completing work by Sunday and having a communal launching in the canal. Hoenen, looking over the plans, eyeballed modifications he thought would make the vessel better. Jim Gent, whose family I knew from my growing up days in Chestertown, showed me a ring nail that is used to fasten pieces of the vessel together.  The brassy-looking nail gets its name from the sharp rings around its shaft that give it better gripping power.  “They’re almost impossible to pull out,” Gent told me.

The men had an already-built skiff outside in the weekend sun for reference. It showed the substantial transom – a good two inches thick – that would easily handle a small outboard.  The vessel would be good for use in the canal and rivers and for fishing in  Roosevelt Inlet and the local bays on calm days. Replace a board now and then and keep the hardware in good shape and a wooden boat will last forever.

Things do come full-circle.  The Canalfront Park in Lewes is the site of one of earliest shipbuilding operations in the U.S. – predating the Revolutionary War, and also the site of one of the first African-American shipbuilding operations in the new world. For information about the Bevin’s Skiff build-in, contact the historical society at 645-7670.

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