Annapolis Family BoatBuilding seeks families to participate in its 7th annual boatbuilding event

Throughout the Independence Day holiday weekend, from Thursday, July 2, at 4 p.m., through Sunday, July 5, several local families and swarms of volunteers will work together to completely build a half-dozen family sailboats.  This fun, exciting boat building project takes place at the site of the former Trumpy Boatyard, 222 Severn Avenue in the Eastport waterfront community of Annapolis, MD.

Annapolis Family BoatBuilding, a non-profit organization affiliated with like-minded groups around the country, is actively seeking up to four families to construct and sail their brand new boat in this festive, picturesque, 4-day event.

The 7th annual Annapolis Family BoatBuilding event is open to families from all walks of life, all incomes and occupations, sizes, ages and compositions.

“If you’ve never owned a boat, built a boat or, even, sailed a boat, this is an excellent place to start,” said economist Dr. Joseph Cater III, one of the organizers.  “If your family has never done a ‘big project’ that helps you bond together as a team with a common goal – this is an excellent place to start.  If your family is looking for a unique experience – this is an excellent place to kick-start many, many unique experiences out on the sparkling waters that surround our town!  Our goal is to bring families together in an activity they can share together for many, many years.”

He added:  “Can you think of a better way for a family to spend an afternoon than sailing and enjoying the view?”

A complete kit for the epoxy and wood International Optimist Racing Dinghy, including all the building materials, sails, floating bags and all sailing hardware will cost $1,650 through Annapolis Family BoatBuilding.  The price is a fraction of the retail cost for a factory-finished Optimist Dinghy.  

Families that cannot afford the $1,650 kit fee can apply for a grant from the City of Annapolis.  In 2008, four grants were awarded to economically-challenged families.

During the four days of the Annapolis Family BoatBuilding event, the public is invited to stop by, view the numerous boat builds-in-progress and cheer on the teams of family members.

The families will be constructing International Optimist Racing Dinghies that are sea-worthy enough to compete with other Optimist dinghies in local, regional and national races.  Most of the participating families will have no previous experience in boat building or woodworking.  The project is an effort to introduce more families to the joy and camaraderie of working together and sailing together.

After the boats are completed on Sunday, the vessels will be launched into Spa Creek, forming a floating promenade.  They will be joined in the fun regatta by other family-built sailboats – Eastport Prams and Optimists – completed at previous Annapolis Family BoatBuilding events.

For information, visit the website: or call organizer Dr. Joe Cater at 410-626-1413.

Annapolis Family BoatBuilding Sails into its 7th Year

This year’s long Independence Day weekend marks the 7th anniversary of Annapolis Family BoatBuilding fun, family-friendly sailboat-building weekends that bring families together and unites them in a mutual love for teamwork and sailing.

Annapolis, MD., was the first capital of the United States after the Revolutionary War, and continues to serve as the capital of Maryland and the county seat for Anne Arundel County.  It is also the Sailing Capital of the U.S. and site of the National Sailing Hall of Fame.  It is only fitting in this capital, waterfront setting that Annapolis Family BoatBuilding, a non-profit organization, continues to introduce local families from all walks of life to sailing – together.

Over the July 4th weekend, Annapolis Family BoatBuilding is organizing the construction of at least four International Optimist Sailing Dinghies using epoxy and wood construction.  The fun takes place at 222 Severn Avenue in Eastport, the site of the former Trumpy Boatyard that launched many seafaring vessels for the U.S. government during WWII and the Korean War.

The Optimist Dinghies will be built according to certification specifications set by the International Optimist Association and the International Sailing Federation so their owners will be able to race equally in local, regional, national and international competitions against other Optimist Dinghies.

If a family wishes to participate in Optimist races, the boat can be measured and its owners can apply for a plaque that certifies it was built according to rules set by the two international organizations ( ).

Recognizing the tough economic times, Annapolis Family BoatBuilding is offering the Optimist kit this year for $1,650, which includes the boat building materials, sails, floating bags, and all the sailing hardware.  The price is a $300 reduction over last year’s cost, and a fraction of its retail value.

For economically-challenged Annapolis families who cannot afford to pay $1,650 for the kit, but wish to participate in the event, the City of Annapolis is offering grants.  In 2008, the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis sponsored one family and Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating (CRAB) sponsored two families with disabled members by underwriting the costs of two kits.  In addition, CRAB sponsored Annapolis Family BoatBuilding’s first Fun Regatta in July 2007.

This year, the Fun Regatta returns at the conclusion of the Annapolis Family BoatBuilding project at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 5.

Since its inception, 37 boats have been built – to the delight and satisfaction of the 37 local families involved.

Executive Board:

Mr. Scott Allan, UK-Halsey; Ms. Judy Templeton, W&P Nautical; Mr. Don Backe, CRAB; Dr. William Woodward, Seafarers Yacht Club; Mr. Fred Hecklinger; Mr. Michael Kaufman, Kaufman Design; Mr. Bill Donahue, Annapolis Classic Watercraft; Mr. Jay Baldwin, Annapolis Conservancy Board
History of Annapolis Family BoatBuilding Week(end)

Annapolis Family BoatBuilding Week was launched during the 2003 July 4th weekend as part of an international event during which more than 30 organizations hosted boatbuilding families around the globe.

It is a priceless “Kodak” weekend for the families involved.   In past years, some of the participating relatives have traveled from West Virginia and Canada to help their families build their dream boat.

The Optimist Dinghy used this year was originally designed by Clark Mills of Clearwater, FL, in 1947.  It was intended to be a simple, affordable, durable boat which could be constructed by anyone with woodworking ability – and a willingness to sweat.

The Annapolis Family BoatBuilding program debuted on the grounds of the Annapolis Maritime Museum at the old McNasby Oyster Packing Plant in Eastport and was supported through the enthusiastic efforts of volunteers from the Eastport Yacht Club Foundation and other organizations.

John Harris, president of Chesapeake light Craft, pre-assembled 12 “Eastport Pram” kits and instructed the 12 participating families in Sailboat Building 101.  Despite the 100-degree weather, the dozen families and the dozens of volunteers breezed through the project.

In 2003, there were 60 such events from Newport, RI, to Newport Beach, CA.  Annapolis Family BoatBuilding held its version with four families, and has held similar boat building events in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

More recently, Annapolis Yacht Club, Annapolis Yacht Club Junior Sailing, Eastport Yacht Club Junior Sailing, Seafarers Yacht Club, CRAB, Annapolis Sailing School, Petrini Shipyard, W&P Nautical, Weems & Plath, Oceana, MAS Epoxies, Chesapeake Light Craft, SpinSheet Magazine, Annapolis Performance Sailing, West Marine  Hillsmere Store, Boat US Foundation, Annapolis Classic Watercraft and others have generously supported this family-bonding event.  In all, there were over 40 sponsors last year.

Dr. Joseph Cater III, an economist, and lead organizer of the Annapolis Family Boatbuilding program, notes:  “Annapolis Family BoatBuilding is not just an Inner City family program, but is open to all families.  America is not composed of just one kind of city, nor is it composed of just one kind of family.  We come from all walks of life, all incomes, from the urban streets, the suburbs, and the rural countryside.  Our families feature married couples, divorced parents, single parents, grandparents or godparents raising kids, and same sex parents.”  He pointed out, regardless of a particular family’s structure or size, the program is open to families who wish to get their kids involved in sailing as well as experience the singular opportunity to build and own their own sailboat.  The program requires that every family involved put “sweat into the game,” said Dr. Cater.

Scholarships may be available via nomination from various community organizations, churches, schools and non-profit organizations, but most require a partial financial contribution from the family.  The City of Annapolis is helping to underwrite the program with grants for economically-challenged families.

In the past, family therapists have recommend families participate as a therapeutic way to work through family problems by building something together.

For everyone involved, the program provides an opportunity to build a sense of pride in ownership of a boat constructed with the sweat equity of every family member.

“The Experience of Community Boatbuilding,” by Shawn Goodman, had difficulty quantifying the elements of the program that bring about a change in its participants.  However, the author noted it was an opportunity for a family to be creative and productive together.

Participants have commented their experience with Family Boatbuilding has helped them develop skills, relationships and attitudes.  They’ve noted their personal development was ultimately more important than the physical boat.  They realized a goal: to meet an enjoyable challenge, share the experience and achievement with loved ones, and accomplish something personally memorable, lasting, useful and beautiful.

How Family BoatBuilding began

Family BoatBuilding, incongruously, began with a yellow Labrador Retriever named Bevin.

Joe Youcha, heavily involved in the Alexandria Seaport foundation, wanted to create a kit sailboat that would be fun for families to build at large festival-like events.  There were other boatbuilding events, but they are frantic competitive events.  With Carl Cramer, publisher of Wooden Boat Magazine, he brainstormed about creating a community boatbuilding event, where the participants would go home with a sturdy, utilitarian boat that could be painted and finished at home.  Most of all, it wanted it to be lots of fun.

Youcha developed a kit boat which he called the Bevin’s Skiff, after his yellow lab.  Like the original Bevin, the skiff was solid, sturdy and good-looking.

The two men decided to develop a family event that would attract families or groups from all walks of life to work together over a period of two or three days to build skiffs or dinghies.  The big finish would be a tandem launch and maiden voyage during which each family reaped the rewards of their cooperative teamwork.  They theorized it would be a means to encourage families to get out and enjoy the water together.

Family BoatBuilding launched June 1998 at the Wooden Boat Show in St. Michaels, MD.  Sixty families, totaling nearly 200 people, built their own boats in two days.  Chesapeake Light Craft was contracted to fabricate the Bevin Skiff kits that were, in turn, constructed by the families.  The kits arrived on schedule because two company executives, Ed Wigglesworth and John Harris, worked late a few evenings to ensure all the parts were cut out by their computer numerical controlled router.

Those two days at St. Michaels were among the hottest of the summer, but the families finished in time for the launching party on the third day.  Hundreds of people stood on the shore and cheered as each spanking new boat slid into the water.

Wooden Boat Magazine featured the event on its cover.  The event was successfully repeated in 1999.

The organizers took a year off in 2000.  In 2001, Chesapeake Light Craft underwrote the Family BoatBuilding event at the Wooden Boat Show in South Haven, MI.

For 2002, Youcha and Cramer wrote a “Family BoatBuilding” manual to assist local organizers in several communities around the U.S. who wanted to run their own Family BoatBuilding events.

Annapolis caught the Family BoatBuilding bug in 2003.

By Ocean Navigator