In 2012 we had an idea that we could build a boat. Part of it this was prompted by a small stack of 55 gallon drums and Jack Lardis’ project Oil Drum Art. Among the initiatives to repurpose the drums was a catamaran whose pontoons were built around 3 of the drums. We endeavored to replicate this and got fairly far as you can see from some of these images. The vessel never launched, but we kept at it–that’s one of the reasons we were so excited about Thad’s initiative as we could pursue a dream that needed a boost.
Thad worked over summer 2019 and he and his youth maker crew built two beautiful wooden boats. While we finish up—sealing and painting—we are looking forward to working with Thad on designing and producing wooden oars to guide the boats down the nearby Rouge River or a small lake nearby. Until then, we wanted to share a few of Thad’s reflections thus far.
Can you describe what building a boat means to you?
The concept of creating something from raw materials has always excited me. Whenever I build an object small or large, I’m still mystified by the process of taking a concept from my head, translating it to paper, translating that to a cut sheet, and then sticking the parts together. Building a boat means taking a pile of materials and creating something that both harnesses and shelters one from the incredible power of water. When sailing or rowing a craft made from your own hand, it’s an incredible feeling of confidence in your skills. Knowing that you created something beautiful that keeps you safe from the most awesome of natural phenomena is a truly incredible feeling.
What inspired your idea to build boats at the Maker Space?
I’ve been wanting to help young people find the same passion and fire in themselves that I’ve found in making boats and being close to water. Whether or not it’s related to boats, I want to expose people to new concepts and challenges. Building my first boat was the first large-scale, long-term project I ever started and finished. The entire process gave me confidence and pride that I’d like to share with others. Being able to teach math, wood shop, and hand tool skills is a huge secondary benefit as well!
What were some of your favorite moments of working on this project ?
I found out that most of the students had never been on a boat before, even though the Detroit River is basically in their backyards. I’m glad to be changing that and allowing more people to have a chance to experience Michigan’s natural resources, but I also saw so many quiet students begin to become more talkative and come out of their shell. A lot of the students are early high school age, so it’s an important time to build both social and self confidence.
When you come back next you would love to…..
When I come back next, I would love to work with even more students on a larger boat! Given the chance, a more complex build will allow more students to be engaged on the project, while more experienced students tackle new challenges.
Thad Lindsay’s boat-building workshops were made possible through the generous support of the Michele Schara Artist and Designer in Residency Program.