High school students build two ‘Wickets Island Skiffs’

Dec 29, 2021

This fall, eight high school students gathered at the Onset Bay Center twice a week. By December, they’d built two new skiffs that will be added to the center’s fleet. 

Dave Arnold, the woodshop teacher at Wareham High School, led the group with help from Quentin Chafee, who is the director of on-the-water programming at the Onset Bay Center. 

Arnold said that, at first, the students were doubtful that they would be able to be successful.

Putting the first completed skiff in the water was the moment of truth.

“That was scary because I didn’t know if it would float,” said Braden Coryer, one of the students.

The boats are an original design, tailored to suit the conditions on Buzzards Bay. The pattern was based on Bevin skiffs in the center’s fleet, but the group made their boats with more freeboard — to protect boaters from the Bay’s choppy waters — and with a more elegant angle on the bow.

“We changed a few things on it and made it our own,” said Arnold. “We’re going to call it the Wickets Island Skiff.” 

The program was part of SAIL — after-school enrichment opportunities aimed to be creative and engaging while helping students prepare for success in college or the workforce.

Office of Beyond School Time director Jane Fondulis said that boatbuilding was a program she’d been hoping to launch for years.

The students said they learned a lot from the project — and that the process had them thinking about future projects. 

“I’d be interested in building my own stuff more,” Colyer said. 

Arnold said that much of the tools and materials used for the boats were found at estate sales and swap shops. Online, free wood is easy to find. And the project got a boost with some donated materials from Home Depot.

“You can do it with simple tools and minimal resources,” Arnold said. 

Fondulis noted the students’ commitment to the project, adding that each found their own way to the center twice a week to work on the boats.

There will be another boat-building class in the spring, and the Onset Bay Center has a number of programs for high school students, including sailing instructor apprenticeships in the summer.