Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Bosun School is in its final week here in Lunenburg. Our students from Canada, USA, Finland, Iceland and Denmark have all made great progress. It’s tough to believe that almost 14 weeks have gone by since students first joined us at the end of August. We’ve certainly packed a lot into that time, everything from sailing schooners in the waters around Lunenburg to building a beautiful 18 foot wooden skiff of tropical hardwood, splicing wire to changing the oil in an outboard engine, patching a sail to fibreglass repair. The students have made noticeable progress in all areas, advancing their skills and rounding out their resumes. And learning more about working together, leading work and simply working hard.
In the loft above the Dory Shop, students spent a couple of weeks learning sailmaking skills. Starting with a sea bag, which allowed them to many of the skills required in sailmaking in miniature, they learned about hand sewn seams, false seams, tabling and grommets. As their quality of work improved with practice, they were able to do real patching on some of Picton Castle‘s sails, learning the proper techniques not only for making a new sail but also for keeping existing sails in use, a skill that is sure to be useful on their next vessels. Many thanks to Michele Stevens for the day the students spent at her sail loft, learning layout and design skills and seeing how a busy, working professional sail loft operates.
The best way to understand wooden boat construction and repair is to actually build a boat, so we did. Students spent almost three weeks apprenticing in the Dory Shop with boatbuilder Jay Langford, constructing an 18′ dory skiff of tropical hardwood. Under Jay’s guidance, the students were involved in all aspects of building, everything from selecting the wood and making the bottom to setting up the jigs, planking, and finishing. While the build went very smoothly, there were a few little mistakes along the way which were turned into teaching moments – it’s good to know how to fix it when things don’t go right. The result of three weeks of work is a gorgeous skiff, launched on a sunny Friday afternoon at the Dory Shop in front of a crowd of wooden boat enthusiasts.
Throughout the Bosun School, students have been getting out on the water, remembering why they’re learning all these skills and applying them immediately. They have sailed in small boats in Lunenburg harbour weekly as part of the Wednesday night Hump Cup races, they have sailed on bigger schooners in the September Classic and on a few weekends with friends. They have helped put away some of those same boats for the season during their spare time. They sailed on an overnight expedition as a group on board Dave Westergard’s beautiful schooner Sea Change, with Captain Moreland at the helm. And they’ve been exercising in small boats, under sail, oar and motor, learning to handle them well.
The last two weeks of the Bosun School is being spent on rigging review. Back in September, we laid the foundation for this final unit, learning and practicing knots, splices, worming, parcelling, serving, seizings and more. We bent on square and fore and aft sails and rigged them properly. Now we’re reviewing wire splices, working them into muscle memory, learning wire seizings, and practicing with heavy lifting aloft, reeving tackles and rigging for advantage. And they are learning how to send yards and spars down from aloft.
The Bosun School is an intense time of focused learning. Watching the students every day, in all sorts of different situations and learning a variety of skills, we can see them all improving, with some people showing natural talent in certain areas. It’s been a time of great growth, which we know will serve the students and their future ships as they continue in their careers at sea.