November 22, 2010

Tide rising for Boat School

BY LESLIE BOWMAN, Correspondent

EASTPORT — Two Maranacook Community High Shool graduates are among 37 students enrolling in a reborn boat-building school Down East.

click image to enlarge

Maranacook Community High School graduates J.T. Stevens II, left, and Jon Barber with The Red Barron, the Whitehall skiff they built last year with three other students at Husson University’s Boat School in Eastport.

Contributed photo by Leslie Bowman

During a recent Wednesday morning session, J.T. Stevens II was busy learning infusion technology in the composite lab while Jon Barber was downstairs building a saw-and-frame construction boat for the Gloucester Dory Museum.

Husson University took over the Boat School in Eastport in 2008. At the time, there were two graduating students.

Considered to be the oldest boat-building school in the country, its survival required the dedication of local citizens and efforts of statewide supporters. Today, ownership of the buildings is held by the city, while Husson manages the school and a successful recruitment program.

Enrollment has grown. This fall, 37 students enrolled, including Stevens and Barber, 2008 Maranacook graduates.

Barber, who spent a year after graduation at Thomas College, said the pratical nature of the education appealed to him.

"After a year of business experience, I thought that hands-on skills would be kind of neat," he said.

Stevens did a year with the Maine Conservation Corps before coming to the Boat School, but it was an earlier visit that opened the door.

"We took a tour of the school when we were juniors, to see what it was all about," said Stevens, who had "been thinking about boat building for quite a while."

The two recently showed off the Whitehall skiff that they built last term.

Neither student comes from a marine background. "We are sort of the odd balls," Stevens said.

Getting a job in your field right out of school is a kind of "normal" that would be welcomed statewide, however.

"All eight graduates from last year's class have found work in the industry," school director Bob Turcotte said.


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