It's bittersweet to see our current class of Fisherman's Academy students launch their Susan Skiffs. It's been a pleasure to have them here as a part of our Shop community, and while it is exciting to see them complete their boats and put them in the water, we are also sad to see them go.
They've been coming to the Shop since 2016 from Oceanside East. They come two to three days a week to participate in hands-on skill development and problem-solving challenges rooted in traditional maritime culture. The Fisherman’s Academy program was initiated to provide engaging and practical experiences for high school students interested in fisheries and other marine-related trades as part of their high school curriculum and credit towards their diploma.
The students began the program as Sophomores and built mast hoops as well as traditional bent bow lobster traps with help from a longtime lobsterman from Port Clyde. Traps were set and hauled in Rockland harbor using Ruth, a Shop-built Crotch Island Pinky, which was traditionally used to lobster in this region. The next phase of the program focused on skills with hand tools, enabling students to build a mallet that was then used in the process of building toolboxes. The students were introduced to seamanship and sail theory by constructing foam buoy boats that could be configured with different rigs, as well as going out on full-day expeditions in Penobscot Bay. Their senior year has been dedicated to building the two Susan Skiffs, which will be inherited by two students who plan to continue fishing full-time.
Building the skiffs served as an excellent vehicle for teaching basic navigation skills, math, and physics. The ability to observe abstract ideas in practice has helped students grasp concepts that they had struggled to learn in a traditional classroom setting. As the Fisherman’s Academy had a dedicated space carved out for it on the shop floor, students were provided an opportunity to observe, interact with, and learn from the full-time apprentices. By participating in launches, joining in on Walk-Around, and sharing in Friday lunches, students became part of the larger Shop community.
The 2018-2019 program will continue with a new cohort of students and be partially funded through a National Park Service’s National Maritime Heritage grant.
The video below was produced by Scott Sell and shows some highlights from the past year and a half of the program.