A Boatbuilding Adventure & Cultural Experience
The Boatbuilders Expedition combines basic boat building techniques with an extended sea kayak trip along the Maine coast and in Quebec along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River within the Saguenay Fjord National Park.
We spend the first half of the program on the Chewonki campus creating the Willow sea kayak, designed by boat builder Bill Thomas of South Berwick, Maine. Bill joins students in their work to guide the process of constructing/building these boats. Students begin with a pre-cut kit and use the “stitch-and-glue” method with okoume plywood, fiberglass cloth set in epoxy, and bronze ring nails to join and seal the hull and deck panels.
Participants learn the craft of boat building from frame to finish utilizing hand tools. Between work sessions, they acquire paddling skills at our waterfront. After just two weeks, these striking, voyage-worthy boats are ready to launch.
The Boatbuilders then travel to the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine, where they see other boat builders at work and review paddle strokes, rescue techniques, and guidelines for group travel. Next, the group embarks on a multi-day trip on the waters off the town of Stonington, a lobster port on Penobscot Bay.
We then journey by van to Quebec to the Saguenay Fjord National Park, with its dramatic cliffs and rich ecosystem that is home to a concentration of many species of whales, including the southernmost population of Beluga whales. It’s quite common for our group to closely encounter whales when paddling.
After the expedition, the participants take their kayaks home as a keepsake of the skills they gained and memories they’ll have of their adventures.
As with all Chewonki trips, “Leave No Trace” ethics underlie our approach to the places we visit. As a result, participants learn to live and travel responsibly in the outdoors.