Amidst a nationwide shift away from high school industrial arts programs, Deer Isle-Stonington High School has diligently worked to improve its programs in recent years, embracing the importance of the island’s working heritage. Deer Isle has a rich history of boatbuilders, seafarers and fishermen, a tradition that still resonates throughout the community today.

Dennis Saindon, the Industrial Arts instructor and Tom Duym, the Marine Trades Department instructor, have created a variety of courses that teach the student skills directly applicable to many of the island’s industries. “We developed these programs to preserve and cultivate the skill sets traditionally and currently used on the island.” said Duym, “Our programs have been well received by the students and community.”

Students have the opportunity to take courses ranging from navigation and seamanship to boat maintenance and wooden boatbuilding. The wooden boatbuilding course, co-taught by Mr. Duym and Mr. Saindon, trains the student in all aspects of traditional boatbuilding, a trade still thriving on the island and in the surrounding communities. Jim Foley, the carpentry foreman at Billings Diesel and Marine in Stonington, said most of their boat builders are in their 40s and 50s and there is a need for younger skilled workers. Shawn Eaton, a former boatbuilding student at the high school, is now currently employed at Billings in the boat carpentry department. “Shawn has worked with us less than a year and is already taking on greater responsibility and is advancing into more technical boatbuilding projects,” said Foley. “We need more like him.”

The boatbuilding class builds a 12′ 8″ Asa Thomson skiff. The boat plans came from the WoodenBoat School of Brooklin, redrawn by Spencer Lincoln. Saindon chose this particular design due to the “wide variety of boatbuilding skills required to build the skiff.” He continues, “It’s a traditional design historically used as a fishing tender and life boat. Its size gives the boat versatility and is still very practical today.” The program’s goal is to sell the skiffs to seed future boat building projects. The first skiff built was sold before it touched water and two more are due to be launched this spring.

For information about the program or purchasing either of the two boats to be launched this spring, please contact Dennis Saindon, (207) 348-6085 or Tom Duym, (207) 667-7219 or the Deer Isle-Stonington High School, (207) 348-2303.

Jeff Killian is an Island Institute Fellow working in the Stonington area.