October 2016

Reader Built Boat

Bevin’s Skiffs

Richard and two students roll MISSY D alongside ANDREA McCOY. The pink and blue boat at the right is GLOBAL EXPLORER, a Bevin's skiff built previously by students of New Bedford's Global Learning Charter Public School.all photos courtesy of the Community Boat Center

Richard and two students roll MISSY D alongside ANDREA McCOY (center) and GLOBAL EXPLORER (right).

On a hot summer day in 1995, JoAnn Tschaen, a social worker, visited a family with seven children, down on their luck and living in a run-down tenement in the north end of New Bedford, a Massachusetts coastal town 10 miles east of the Rhode Island border. For these kids, the cooling breezes of Buzzards Bay were a world away; Tschaen set out to change that and find a way to get these kids and others like them involved in boating. Three years later, the Community Boating Center (CBC) was established. The Center is now situated on the shore of Clarks Cove on New Bedford’s south end. It has its own pier, floating docks, and a fleet of about 100 boats, ranging from a 7′9″ Optimist dinghy to a 23′ Sonar, a one-design keelboat.

Richard Feeny looks on as two young student fasted a side plank to the transom.

Richard Feeny looks on as two young students fasten a side plank to the transom.

 

The young builders all enjoyed painting and came up with some brilliant color schemes.

The young builders enjoyed painting and came up with some brilliant color schemes.

Education, whether in teaching life values or STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), has always been at the center of the Center’s mission. Sailing was initially the means of engaging kids, but boatbuilding soon followed. The CBC is using the Building to Teach program created by Joe Youcha, a former director at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation and a contributor of many articles published in WoodenBoat magazine. Joe was also part of the team that created the Bevin’s Skiff, the boat used in the Building to Teach program.

The boat launch party was a celebration of youth and determination.

The boat launch party was a celebration of youth and determination.

 

GLOBAL EXPLORER was built previously by students of New Bedford's Global Learning Charter Public School.

GLOBAL EXPLORER was built by students from New Bedford’s Global Learning Charter Public School.

The kids at the CBC took part in that program and built three Bevin’s Skiffs, christened MISSY D, ANDREA McCOY and GLOBAL EXPLORER. As a warm-up to the full-sized project, many of the kids built scale models of the skiffs. “They love the measuring, drawing and cutting, and problem-solving. They are captivated by it,” says Richard Feeny, CBC’s Education Coordinator. Under his direction, the students began building three of the 12’ skiffs. They picked up tools, some for the first time in their lives, and went to work with marine plywood, fir, white oak, bronze boat nails, caulk, and paint. They used a few screws, but, according to Richard, “it’s a lot more fun to swing a hammer than turn a screwdriver.” Driving bronze boat nails also provides more opportunities for problem-solving. One swing of the hammer can bend a nail. Was the pilot hole too small? Can the nail be straightened and driven home? Does it need to be pulled and replaced?

MISSY DENNISON, MISSY D for short, was built by students of the Dennison Memorial Youth Center.

MISSY DENNISON, MISSY D for short, was built by students from the Dennison Memorial Youth Center.

The goal for the kids is to aim for better than 1/8″ accuracy. The relatively relaxed standard allows the kids to keep the project moving and prevents frustration from getting in the way. Polysulfide caulk makes up for any gaps and makes the boats serviceable.

Students from the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center constructed the aptly named ANDREA McCOY. McCoy. a New Bedford resident, was among the talented young USA boxers killed in a 1980 plane crash in Poland.

Students from the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center built ANDREA McCOY. McCoy. a New Bedford resident, was among the talented young amateur boxers killed in a 1980 plane crash in Poland. This skiff is equipped with a daggerboard trunk and a mast step and will eventually be sailed.

MISSY D, GLOBAL EXPLORER, and ANDREA McCOY were carried to the CBC dock and launched on an unseasonably cold and windy day. The excursions the kids took were short but represented the culmination of months of work. For Richard the launching was “magic. They built these things from scratch, and now they’re cruising around the harbor. They get in a boat and look back at the city, and there’s a perspective shift—and you don’t know where it will take them.’’SBMBulletGraphic50

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4 Comments

  • Kevin Morin says:

    These pretty little skiffs remind me somewhat of the Pete Culler’s Good Little Skiffs. The only thing I’d like to see, realizing full well this design element may spoil the BOM as currently drawn, is a bit more flam in the forward topsides. As shown, these skiffs would be a bit wet as the nearly plumb sides won’t pitch up the bow nearly like they would with, say, 12-15 degrees more flam than shown.

    These remarks made because we can see the bow is down a bit with three crew members, in some photos. Of course, such a topsides panel, with its ‘hook’ of chine and sheer relative to the ‘run’ of the two lines aft, implies wider materials to skin the same length skiff. So maybe that would move the boats out of budget too much to afford?

    Nice project, even a taste of the trades as a younger person could allow a person to harbor ideas of cause-and-effect in their lives? “If I can build a boat, I can do whatever I want! I made this happen, I can make other things happen.”

  • Bob Lister says:

    We have been building the Bevin’s Skiffs for a little over 4 years at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis. We raised the shear 2″ at the stem and faired the change back to the mid frame which gives it a little nicer profile. We can still get three side panels from the same pieces of plywood. We also changed the center frame to 1 1/2″ square as opposed to 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ It makes it a lot easier to clamp the center frame in place and much easier for the kids to hit the center frame with nails across the bottom.

  • Steve Althaus says:

    Getting kids to build boats and get on the water is exceptionally Righteous on so many levels!! Thanks for doing this.

  • Bevin’s Skiffs sail well too. We changed the boomless spritsail to a slightly bigger balanced lugsail and she was really fast in the right conditions. Kees Prins organized Family Boatbuilding Days during the Amsterdam Boatshow and I was there with templates for sail panels and home sewing machines and we made lots of sails there. This was about 20 years ago.