Tuesday, November 10, 2015
This fall I've been teaching a boatbuilding class as part of a seminar for students living at Green House, UVM's environmental dorm. We are researching a Burlington institution: the Auer Family Boat House, located at the mouth of the Winooski River for almost ninety years.
Auer Family Boat House is now run by Charlie and Christine, the two children of the founders. They remember when their parents built the livery fleet from scratch. This is the last remaining boat from the original fleet. Basically it was just the two side planks with the remnants of the stem at one end, but amazingly, the Auers had their parents center mould from when they were building boats.
To call this a Burlington institution is an understatement. This place is a complete throwback and one of the most charming spots in the city. You can find it at the very end of North Avenue, or if you are on the bike trail, you can see it below you just before crossing the bridge at the Winooski River (heading north).
Christine is eighty-eight years old and she said this boat was built for her by her mother when she was five. She reminisced about using it and we hope to get her in our replica.
Students started construction after first measuring the original. Without the center mould we would never have been able to replicate this boat accurately, because we had no bottom planks to establish the beam at the chine and no intact thwarts to know the flare of the sides.
As of our most recent class the boat came off the mould setup, fully planked, bottom seams caulked and puttied. Now students are starting to layout the thwarts and rub rails and painting. The of my students are in the engineering program and they feel confident they can create drawings of the boat in CAD and Solid Works. This will be an important documentation of Burlington's waterfront history.
In a reprise of last year's class I am back again co-teaching the Hannaford Career Center's STEM class with Jake Burnham. We brought two trapping boats into class, these built by different trappers than last year's boats.
Earle Bessette with the trapping boat he built in the early 1960s. He said he copied the boats of a nearby trapper. This is the smallest trapping boat I have seen, but Earle trapped a very narrow waterway in New Haven, Vermont. The boat also has a plywood bottom, because as Earle said he didn't want to deal with a leaky bottom. Smart man.
The other boat comes from the Mulliss farm in Bridport. It is believe to have been built and used by Orville Mulliss, but we don't know this absolutely. Its also the largest boat we've looked at and may not have been a trapping boat but used on the lake for fishing.
Students got right into taking the lines (measuring) the boats in preparation for drawing them in CAD.
Then came lofting, drawing the boats full-size. This allows students to correct any errors in the lines-taking, fairing the lines to get as close an approximation of the true boat shape.
Once again we invited Greg Sharrow from the Vermont Folklife Center in to give students a training in oral interviewing techniques. We interviewed Raymond "Bud" Bodette of Bridport on his memories of trapping and fish shooting. His family had a trapping camp on the back of their farm.
We also visited the Hatch farm in Panton and looked at six of seven historic trappings boats built by Gerald Hatch from the 1950s to the early 1970s. His son Pat has given us several interviews over the years and we have built replicas of two of these boats.
Our originals and the replicas under construction. Stay tuned as we finish these boats and the drawings this fall term.