Hannah Dumser, at the age of 10, passed her Michigan boating license test on her first try. It was quite an achievement, as the state’s boater education course covers some 61 topics, ranging from tying knots to dealing with an onboard fire.
Having earned her boating safety certificate for the waters near her family’s summer home, she was qualified to operate a boat powered by a motor up to 35 hp as long as she took along someone over the age of 16. Her father, Jim, happened to have an old 25-hp Honda four-stroke outboard languishing in the garage at home in Davidson, North Carolina. Now all Hannah needed was a boat.
She leafed through well-worn copies of WoodenBoat looking for a small skiff she could build with a little help from Dad, a teacher (and at one time the Wood Arts instructor) at Community School of Davidson, the Dumsers’ home-town high school. She soon took a shine to the Jericho skiff, and when she saw the video The Road to Jericho, her mind was made up. For her 11th birthday she was given plans for the Jericho Bay Lobster Skiff.
Hannah and her father made the nearly four-hour drive from Davidson to Wilmington where they picked up 98 strips of Atlantic white cedar, known locally as juniper. Some of the early work on the project took place at the school shop where, in 2015, Jim and four seniors had previously built a 22′ St. Ayles skiff. When it came time for Hannah to set up a ladder frame for the molds and put the pieces together, they moved the project into the garage workshop at home.
Hannah worked on the strip-built hull for several months. For Christmas she got a no-feedback steering system; when her 12th birthday rolled around she got epoxy. She took a few breaks to attend wooden boat festivals like the one in Wilmington put on by the Cape Fear Community College. She picked up ideas here and there to customize her boat to suit her tastes. The design for the steering console, for example, was inspired by a boat she saw on one of the family field trips.
Hannah hadn’t finished the boat by the end of the 2016 school year, so they trailered the boat up to the family summer home in Cedarville, on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She spent the first week of summer vacation attending to the last details and then launched the boat, christened JUNIPER, at the end of June. “It was hard, frustrating, even boring at some parts, like sanding,” says Hannah, “but in the end it was worth it when we put it into the water together.”
The skiff was quickly pressed into service, with Hannah at the helm, for runs to town with cousins and friends for ice cream and visits to the library, conveniently located right across the street from the dock. Hannah and family also cruise the Les Cheneaux Islands, the archipelago that protects the waters surrounding Cedarville. Hannah’s younger sister, Kyla, also caught the Dumser boat bug; for Christmas she got plans for a Glen-L Zip.
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