Handcrafted vessels take to the water

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In one waterfront community, middle school students brought the 15-foot wooden boats they built to the river's edge and splashed them. Further north, a class of older students with boatbuilding career ambitions prepared to honor a similar tradition.

In East Camden, N.J., eight-graders participated in the Urban BoatWorks program in which they spent the winter sanding, stitching, epoxying and painting double-ended sailboats made of marine mahogany plywood. They built the sailboats from kits in the basement of the Camden Seaport and Maritime Museum in South Camden.

"We have a new $40,000 boat shop at the museum," said Michael Lang, the director of the museum, "so this is a long-term commitment to this type of program for city kids."

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Meanwhile, students at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, R.I., will take part Saturday in the school's graduation, which is known as Launch Day.

Instead of picking up diplomas, students will climb aboard the boats they spent the last year refitting and restoring and test their workmanship on the water.

The public is welcome to join Launch Day festivities and see the craftsmanship produced by IYRS students in the two-year boatbuilding and restoration program and the one-year marine systems program.

Graduation ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. at the IYRS campus inside Restoration Hall. The launching immediately follows at the IYRS docks.