Float your own boat

Presenter teaches others how to build vessels

Bill Lawrence shows off a cardboard scale model of his homemade skiff, affectionately referred to as a “Yooper-yak,” at the Marquette Maritime Museum. Lawrence, a retired art teacher from Munising Public Schools, gave a presentation Wednesday at the museum on how to build a 10 1/2-foot pointy skiff, a design by naval architect Phil Bolger, with common lumberyard materials. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Ever want to sail the high seas in a vessel crafted by your own hands?

Bill Lawrence, a retired art teacher from Munising Public Schools, gave a presentation on how to build a 10 ¢-foot pointy skiff, a boat design by naval architect Phil Bolger, with common lumberyard materials on Wednesday evening at the Marquette Maritime Museum.

“I was always interested in boat building and right around the year 2000 I built my first boat, and then I built another one the following year with students,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence ended up building seven boats, affectionately known as “Yooper-yaks,” with about 300 students during his last six years at Munising High School. He wanted everyone to know how accessible constructing a boat could be.

“I use common lumberyard materials and ordinary household tools,” said Lawrence. “We did that for a project in geography class in Munising High School. First, we studied Lake Superior and Canada and, as an add-on to that in the winter, we built a Yooper-yak every year,” Lawrence said.

A slide presentation covered boat-building techniques, from selecting construction materials to epoxy fiberglass taping and finishing your wooden boat. Blueprints for building two wooden boats were on display with glues, adhesives, bronze boat nails and information handouts. Lawrence’s Yooper-yak — a 12-foot rowboat — and the cardboard scale model it was built from were displayed for participants to further demonstrate how the process was done.

“If you start in January, you’ll probably be done in July. It depends on your situation. It takes about six months to do a good job on a boat,” Lawrence said, reflecting on the process. “It’s just beautiful. It gives you pride and satisfaction that you built it from scratch and that you’re actually using it.”

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is ckelly@miningjournal.net.