Waterlines - October 2014
Big things are happening at Urban Boatbuilders! Our Apprentices went to the Boundary Waters for five days in August, our public boat build at the Minnesota State Fair was a huge success, our programs are continuing to expand to serve even more youth, and we are moving to an entirely new shop space.
It’s been a wonderful summer, and we’re looking to have a busy fall and winter, too! I hope you will join us during some great upcoming events:
- On November 13th, Give to the Max Day promises to be an exciting 24 hours of giving
- This December 30th, Hats & Mittens will be hosting their 2014 Winter Gala to benefit Urban Boatbuilders
- And we will be celebrating our new workshop with a grand opening on February 8th
All this time, our Apprentice Malik has been perfecting his paddle project. A square of rough wood has been transformed into a beautiful paddle by Malik’s growing skill. He is just one of many Apprentices benefiting from our programs. Here at Urban Boatbuilders we’re proud to see how far our Apprentices have come and how far they go.
Thanks so much for your support! We can’t wait to see you this year and the next.
A Handmade Canoe Trip
By Angela Robins
This past August I had the privilege to join boat building instructor Phil Winger, former apprentice Maila Lee, and current Urban Boatbuilders apprentices on a handmade canoe trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
As we pushed the canoes into the first lake, we were all beaming with excitement. We were finally getting to put our own paddles and group-built canoes to the test. We’d all answered the questions, “But will it float? Is it strong enough? Will it hold up to a rock?” with confident ‘Yes’s, but for most of us it was based on hearsay, not personal experience.
When we scraped against a shallow rock, we learned the wooden keel strip on the bottom of the boat could handle it. And none of the boats ever got punctured, leaked or showed signs of wear as we portaged them over rocky terrain, bumping the cherry decks against boulders and scuffing the rub rails on trees and branches. “Nothing a little sandpaper and oil can’t fix,” Phil reminded us.
The apprentices also demonstrated their resilience. A late arrival on our first day and peak tourist season meant a long search for a campsite. In order to get to one, we had to portage over 100 rods (1650 feet) as the sun was setting. The backdrop was brilliant, but our stomachs were growling and our shoulders were sore. Fortunately, everyone stayed focused and driven, fueled by trail mix and water. When we finally found a place to camp, everyone pitched in and set up camp as Phil boiled water for our dehydrated dinners. I didn’t realize a meal cooked in a bag could be so delicious. As one of the apprentices pointed out, perhaps this food was only good when you were in the Boundary Waters.
By the end of the trip, everyone had taken a turn navigating with a map and compass, and as we paddled home, the fir-lined shorelines looked more familiar and distinct. Although some apprentices were initially nervous about the trip, by the last day they were at ease in their canoes and bantering with one another. It was an invigorating and inspiring experience, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to put our canoes in the BWCAW!
Boundary Waters Apprentice Perspective – Zane
What surprised you the most?
On one of the practice days at Lake Phalen, Phil flipped the canoe that I was in out of the blue.
What was the most fun?
Paddling around looking at the wildlife was pretty fun. Grand total:
- Several loons
- Two beavers
What was the least fun?
The first day, a multitude of unfortunate events occurred to make it impossible to find a campsite at a reasonable hour. We didn’t have dinner until 11:30.
What was one thing you learned?
Orienteering skills. Phil made me navigate one day, and the skills I learned helped me find my way around the State Fair.
What do you think you got better at over the 5 days?
Gathering firewood, a skill I had never used before. I remember on the second day I did pretty much nothing but gather firewood.
What did you think about most when you got back?
How did the group change over the 5 days?
I think we all lowered out standards on personal hygiene.
What did you learn about yourself?
‘New’ doesn’t necessarily translate to ‘bad.’
Meet Our New Instructor Michael!
What made you want to work with youth and boats?
I have always been inspired by how a group of young people can have positive impacts on their community. Throughout most of my personal and professional life, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with youth and couldn’t be more grateful. I feel fulfilled and energized by working with this age group. Additionally, I enjoy exploring our state’s natural resources and there’s no better way than by boat! I also spend time turning bowls and other objects on the lathe and completing various carpentry projects.
Tell us a little bit about your past work history?
My professional background includes two years with the Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, a nonprofit organization and AmeriCorps program where I managed and led young adults on a variety of habitat restoration projects – including wildland firefighting, invasive species management, and disaster relief efforts. Most recently, I worked with the Student Conservation Association, leading high school students from all over the nation on a 40-day backcountry adventure in the Green Mountains of Vermont. We performed a variety of trail work alongside the National Park Service and spent a great deal of time on professional development and outdoor education. This experience solidified my passion for youth development. Currently, I’m pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management at Hamline University in St. Paul and am expecting to graduate in 2015.
Can you talk about your youth development philosophy?
My philosophy on youth development involves setting each and every one of them up for happiness and success. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but I believe that being available, honest, and supportive of their aspirations is essential to success. When I reflect back on my adolescence, I remember the adults that positively shaped my life as possessing these qualities.
To quote the Greek philosopher, Plutarch, “Youth are not vessels to be filled, but fires to be lit.” The concept of helping others realize what makes them truly happy, rather than fill them with external expectations and pressures is paramount in my approach to youth development and education.
What has your experience at Urban Boatbuilders been like so far?
My experience at Urban Boatbuilders so far has been great! The atmosphere is welcoming, innovative, and exciting. In my first week, I’ve had a chance to work with the Apprentices, volunteers, staff and Board members. It’s impressive how involved and positive everyone is! I’ve learned how to lash, install decking, and successfully troubleshoot various steps in the boatbuilding process.
What do you want to see at Urban Boatbuilders in the future?
In the future, I’m looking forward to moving into our new space, making it a functional workplace, and serving even more Apprentices. I want to see UBB continue to be positively involved in young people’s lives while turning out high-quality boats. Last but not least, I’m looking forward to bringing the experience full circle and putting the boats on the water with the Apprentices!
Any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share?
I’ve been scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef…at night!
Apprentice Spotlight: Andrew
How did you hear about us?
I heard about Urban Boatbuilders through my teacher at school.
What made you excited about working at Urban Boatbuilders?
I was really excited about working with my hands and building things.
What were you hoping to get out of being an apprentice?
I was hoping to build a canoe by myself, but it’s still pretty hard. I’ll get there.
What do you want to do with all of these skills?
I would appreciate being a carpenter after I graduate high school.
Working with the bandsaw and learning how to sand down surfaces gave me the skills I needed to be able to make my own skateboard.
What do you want to do in the future?
I want to be a carpenter.
What has been your proudest moment as an apprentice?
Troubleshooting and figuring things out on my own. With the decking gooseneck, when I first tried it, it wasn’t working out too good. I had to trouble shoot and I didn’t ask anyone for help that first time. It was good practice.
What is your favorite tool in the shop?
I’d have to say the bandsaw. Without the bandsaw it would be really hard to get those cuts. It would take a lot longer.
What is a fun fact about you?
I’m a pretty fearless skateboarder. I went down an eleven stair before in downtown Minneapolis. It took me a couple of tries, but I did it. Going down stairs is crazy. One day I just decided I’m going to go down these stairs.
Building Youth at 916
By Sam Hartzell
Two weeks from today, Urban Boatbuilders will be beginning a partnership program with NE Metro District 916 to build a 17-foot Wilderness Traveler ultralight canoe with students from several different schools within the district.
Urban Boatbuilders and District 916 have partnered together to provide exciting learning opportunities to students for the last four years, and they’ve built a skin-on-frame canoe, two Norwegian Prams, and two skiffs in that time. That’s a lot of learning and a lot of great work by the students!
The program will be run at the Capitolview building, at the corner of Rice St. and County Road B in Roseville, inside a well-equipped woodworking shop full of solid workbenches with vise clamps and an old-fashioned chalkboard. Over the coming three months, the new canoe will take shape there, coming together as a framework, gaining a skin, and benefiting from the growing confidence of the students.
The partnership program gives its participants the opportunity to learn about the time-honored craft of boat building and gives the students a chance to practice various skills – ranging from mathematics and measuring to being able to identify different kinds of wood and their relative benefits. Students will get an up-close and personal experience of literally turning a pile of lumber into a complete vessel that they can name themselves, and which will be able to carry them out onto the water.
Year in and year out, students of District 916 have experienced the satisfaction of being able to say: “We built that.” As teacher Mark Lindblad of Bellaire Education Center told us, “We have found the boat building partnership with [Urban Boatbuilders] to be a dynamite way for some of our students to get an authentic hands on opportunity to create something beautiful and functional all in one.”
This year, the students will be led through the 72 hour-long process by Urban Boatbuilders’ instructor Phil Winger, who has 15 years of experience teaching youth and pulling the veil off the mysteries of boat building. Under his instruction, the students will soon find themselves steam bending ribs for the canoe, lashing together the frame with synthetic sinew, safely wielding hammer and saw, and using talents they never knew they had.
As Phil has been heard to say, a canoe is “like a village instead of a superhero.” A canoe stays together because of hundreds of tied-off junctions in the vessel’s frame, and its builders learn to take special care to make sure that every knot and every nail is good and strong and working together. Similarly, the students will work together to craft and complete their canoe this year, and each student will do their part and learn a ton in the process.
At Urban Boatbuilders, we are so excited to be able to bring the experience of boat building to young people from NE Metro District 916. It’s a great way to learn an exciting skill, see progress made every day, and to build on classroom concepts while developing teamwork and communication skills. And who doesn’t love a boat launch where everyone can celebrate their accomplishments and take to the water? Urban Boatbuilders’ partnership with District 916 is going to be great this year.
New Shop Buildout Update
It’s official: Urban Boatbuilders is moving! We’ve spent 17 years in our cozy little workshop on Pascal Street, but the time has come for (and program growth has demanded) a change. This November, we’re heading up the road to 2288 University Avenue West to make a new home with four times the space of the old 1,200 square foot shop. Everyone at Urban Boatbuilders is incredibly excited because this huge change opens up all sorts of new possibilities for the work we do.
Since mid-July, Urban Boatbuilders’ Indiegogo Buildout project brought in a wave of donations that turned the dream of a new home into reality. Thanks to your incredible support and the successful efforts of our Space Committee to track down the new digs, Urban Boatbuilders will have the room we need to keep up with our expanding Apprenticeship Program. We’re very excited that the program is growing to welcome more Apprentices than ever before, but that growth would never have been possible without the assurance that we will have the necessary space. And now that space is assured and we’re on the move!
The new location is 5,000 square feet of possibility. The buildout is underway and construction crews have been busily transforming the building into Urban Boatbuilders’ dream youth development boat building shop. There is a ton of space for workshops and materials storage. We’ll have a spacious office for staff. There will be a well-equipped classroom for teachers and Apprentices, which will be ideal for reflection and enrichment activities. We will be able to display our entire fleet of youth-built boats at once, so newcomers and old-hands alike will be able to see and appreciate the amazing accomplishments of Urban Boatbuilders’ youth. The new site is ideally located close to the Green Line, making it easy for Apprentices who rely on public transport to get to the shop.
Our friends and supporters really rose to the challenge to make this all happen, and now Twin Cities young people will have the benefit of an efficient, safe and healthy environment in which they can learn and grow. We could not be more pleased and more excited for what the future will hold in our new workshop.
Our Indiegogo campaign may have wrapped up, but you can still give online or directly with a check. Every gift counts, and with your help we can bring in $50,000! When we began the online Indiegogo campaign, a generous and anonymous donor offered to match all donations up to $25,000. That offer still stands. Since July, we’ve seen the groundswell of support bring us all the way to $22,500, leaving only $2,500 left to get the full benefit of the match. Brand new tools, woodworking machinery, and a modern workshop aren’t always cheap, but Minnesota’s young people are priceless and together we are giving them the tools they need to make a difference in their lives.
Mark Your Calendars! Urban Boatbuilders Events
There’s a lot going on at Urban Boatbuilders! Here are three outstanding events coming up that you should mark on your calendar:
November 13th – Give to the Max Day
Starting November 13th and continuing all day, Urban Boatbuilders will join Minnesota nonprofits of all sizes to participate in Give to the Max Day! A celebration of philanthropy and charitable giving, Give to the Max Day is a wonderful opportunity for Minnesotans to support their favorite non-profit organization in the competition to raise the most for their cause. Help Urban Boatbuilders generate thousands of dollars for Twin Cities youth by donating on GiveMN.
December 30th – Hats & Mittens 2014 Winter Ball Fundraiser
Hats & Mittens will be hosting their 2014 Winter Ball at the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America on December 30th, and Urban Boatbuilders is in the spotlight. With live music, delicious food, and a silent auction, you can expect a memorable evening and a great opportunity to give in support of urban youth. Tickets are $85 per person plus a child’s hat and mittens set. All benefits of the event go to Urban Boatbuilders.
February 8th – Grand Opening Celebration
This year, the New Year brings with it an exciting move to a new workshop, and on February 8th we’re going to have a party! We’ll have food, we’ll have music and fun, we’ll have apprentice-made crafts up for auction—we might even have the Mayor of Saint Paul drop by—and we’d be very glad to have you attend. You make the work of Urban Boatbuilders possible, and that deserves a celebration in Urban Boatbuilders’ new home.