The East End Classic Boat Society of East Hampton, N.Y., opened the doors to its new Community Boat Shop recently
— a center that will facilitate the community’s goal of educating others about the skills and traditions of wooden boatbuilding and restoration.
“This is something we have been planning for four years,” says Raymond Hartjen, president. “And all of it was privately funded.”
Hartjen, 77, has been a member of the club since its early beginnings in 1999. He previously owned a 40-foot wooden Swedish sloop from 1990 to 2007 that was built in 1947 by boatbuilder Jeffrey Iverson. The society started when a small, but passionate, group of boatbuilders came together and began teaching workshops at local museums and boat shows. The group’s home base was a timber frame shed at the Taber Lobsterhouse, a lobster market in East Hampton.
“We’ve always taught classes on topics such as on-the-water navigation training, steam-bending workshops, boat riveting and wood beam splicing,” says Hartjen. “We have about 160 members now.”
Past projects include a replica of a 100-year-old design in the East Hampton Marine Museum’s Collection, a 12-foot Tom Bennett Skiff, and a local gunning sharpie built in 2004 from white cedar. But society members realized their programs were outgrowing their facility, which was starting to fall into disrepair.
Construction began in September 2006 after several “angels” came forward and donated large sums of money to the project. “It came a little at a time, but eventually we had $350,000 raised,” says Hartjen. “The town was willing to lease us property adjacent to the East Hampton Town Marine Museum, which was ideal since we have done presentations there in the past.”
In addition to the donated funds, a Guilford, Conn.-based architect, Louis MacKall, donated his time and expertise in designing the 2,600-square-foot building. Much of the construction was done by volunteers and club members, including the floor, subfloor, joists and floor finishing. Members also worked on the electrical, plumbing, decking, inside paneling, and windows and window trim. The final product includes two 48-by-28 square-foot levels with an accessible cupola on the roof and a concrete basement. Hartjen says they hired outside firms to do the roof and paint the ceiling of the second floor — a gray-blue to give the interior the feeling of the sky.
“We’ll also have a video projector, screen and sound system so we can have the ability to hold lectures at the boat shop,” says Hartjen. “It can probably hold about 80 people; it’s just fantastic.”
At press time, the school had six people enrolled in its wooden kayak-building program — the maximum number for the course. Hartjen says they ended up turning people away because it was so popular.
“We still plan on doing workshops at the museum and in other local venues, but much more of what we do will be based out of the shop,” says Hartjen. “It took a while, but now it is truly a dream come true.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue.