June 28, 2021
Build Your Own Boat for Your Summer Vacation at the Lake
How would you like to end your vacation with a hand built boat to take home - built entirely by you?
In the documentary Shaped on all Six Sides, Stewart narrates, “To build a wooden boat is the closest thing you can do to give life to an inanimate object. It’s all about the process of doing every step well, so it builds on the next. A lot of the allure of working on boats is that the water is the final arbitrator of the quality of your work. A wooden boat has a way of easing itself into the water, its infinitely repairable. There’s situations where boats have been passed down by three to four generations of people and it’s still as serviceable and useful as ever. There were only wooden boats for millenia, and it’s through the hands of craftsmen that these skills got passed down”.
To learn the techniques of skin-on-frame boat building, spend your vacation Handbuilding Kayaks with Jon in Chappaqua, New York. Philosopher Matthew Crawford echoes master kayak builder Jon’s “You can do anything” philosophy as he makes the case for working with your hands. Creating something with your own hands feels like a rebirth. When you make something with your own hands - for example a kayak - it is physical and concrete, with a clear criteria for success and failure. This makes you feel better, and gives you an incredible sense of autonomy. This feeling of responsibility for our creations ultimately makes us all better citizens of the world. This circles back to the value of crafting an object you can enjoy and pass down to future generations.
As a child, VAWAA artist Jon spent a great deal of time with his father. The two spent time camping and canoeing on the Housatonic River in Connecticut. As adults, they built Jon’s first canoe together - a sturdy and steadfast classic. Twenty years on, his passion for boat building has only grown stronger. During his time apprenticing with a master boat builder, Jon turned to the building techniques of early cultures and their time-tested traditions for insight. These days, he focuses on reproducing 20th century Adirondack guideboats using the skin-on-frame boat making process.
A mini-apprenticeship with Jon is a vacation in his studio in Chappaqua, New York. It’s a charming, woodsy hamlet conveniently located less than an hour’s drive from Manhattan, yet blessed with the beauty and vibe of the Adirondacks.
During this apprenticeship, you will gain incredible knowledge from Jon’s twenty years of experience building boats. Finally, take your finished kayak out for a paddle in a nearby lake or the scenic Hudson River, which provides a constant flow of inspiration to the artist communities throughout the region. Between your time working with Jon in his beautiful studio, you can explore the Hudson Valley which is rich in culture. With Bear Mountain, Storm King Arts Center, and countless restaurants, wineries and craft breweries to explore nearby, you’ll have no trouble feeding your curiosity and appetite.
Further up north, for a vacation in Maine, learn how to Handbuild Canoes with Rollin. Like Jon, Rollin’s love of the craft developed in his childhood. After spending much time on his family’s aluminium canoe in the early 1960s and repairing his grandfather’s leaking row boat, he became captivated by the thrills and excitement of Maine’s lakes and rivers. It was then, during his experience guiding Boy Scout trips down the Allagash River, that he discovered the advantages of traveling by wood-and-canvas canoe. This led Rollin down the path to becoming one of the foremost experts in the wooden canoe world!
For your VAWAA with Rollin, you’ll be in Atkinson, in the heart of Maine. A small village, it is nestled in Piscataquis County. Here, natural beauty abounds, with serene lakes, rivers, and hidden waterfalls to explore nearby. The wooden canoe dates back to the 19th century, and is modeled after the birchbark canoe-building perfected by the native tribes of the local Penobscot indigenous people. This was largely due to the incredible quality of the cedar, birch and ashwood unique to this part of the country. There was little recorded history or guidance on the wooden canoe building. Rollin spent years researching this, and co-authored ‘The Wood and Canvas Canoe’ - the first book to go into painstaking detail on the matter!
Rollin is THE foremost expert in the wooden canoe world, and continues Maine’s heritage of boat craft and production with an eye for quality, performance and detail. The opportunity to apprentice under Rollin is invaluable. Rollin begins your VAWAA with the history of wood-and-canvas canoes, gradually drawing you into the intricate details of the craft. By the end of your VAWAA with Rollin, you will leave with your own hand built canoe to take home - filled with incredible memories of the history and natural beauty of Atkinson.
Symbolically, boats represent a journey, adventure and exploration. If you would like to treat yourself to a vacation spent crafting these timeless objects, reach out to us here. See more details about the VAWAA Handbuilding Kayaks with Jon in Chappaqua and Handbuilding Canoes with Rollin in Atkinson, Maine.
Written by Kimsuka Iyer
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