Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Shipwright Apprentice Program

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About This Kool Project

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) is grateful for a grant of $10,000 from the RPM Foundation in support of our Shipwright Apprentice Program. This support helps CBMM to continue to offer the leading maritime apprentice program in the country, to ensure the retention of traditional boatbuilding and keep its related skills alive and thriving on the Chesapeake Bay and nationally.

The Chesapeake Bay shoreline was once home to scores of small boatyards where skilled shipwrights built and maintained hundreds of wooden vessels. These craftsmen not only supported the commercial growth of the Bay, they also passed along skills—often father to son or through formal apprenticeship arrangements—that had been refined over hundreds of years. Most of these yards have now vanished—and along with them the skills and techniques of their builders—leaving a dearth of proficient wooden boat builders today.

The most popular exhibition at CBMM is the working Boatyard, a living testament to the traditions of a working waterfront. Our shipwrights and apprentices are a tangible connection to the Chesapeake Bay’s rich history of boatbuilding, achieved through the preservation and maintenance of our floating fleet and historic small craft collection, and our working marine railway, used for hauling and re-launching our historic vessels. Museum guests can ask questions directly to our shipwrights and apprentices as they work, and our hands-on education programs allow our guests to work directly alongside them. Indeed, CBMM’s fully working Boatyard is one of only a handful in the country preserving the art of wooden boatbuilding, and is the only boatyard in the country offering a graduate-level apprentice program.

Beyond restoration and public programming, CBMM’s Boatyard passes fading maritime skills on to a new generation of wooden boat builders. Our Shipwright Apprentice program provides one- and two-year apprenticeships to graduates of national and international boatbuilding schools, which afford the apprentice on-the-job training and experience under the tutelage of master shipwrights. The majority of the 43 apprentices who have to date completed CBMM’s Shipwright Apprentice program over its 15-year history have moved on to successful boatbuilding careers and other related professions. Apprentices have gone on to careers at many impressive institutions, including Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Virginia, the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, and the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. CBMM’s current Boatyard Manager, Michael Gorman, is a graduate of the Apprentice Program. 

Our much-sought after apprenticeships are awarded to deserving applicants using a rigorous interview and selection process, who have already completed basic boatbuilding programs at other organizations both nationally and internationally. Once accepted, our apprentices engage in restoration and maintenance work, as well as training on public interaction. During their apprenticeships, apprentices gain knowledge and are put to the test as they are nurtured by CBMM master shipwrights in established skills and the nuances of transforming wood into a maritime work of art. 

An in-depth curriculum prepares apprentices for a variety of careers by focusing on a broad range of necessary skills. We are currently undertaking a full review of the curriculum for our Shipwright Apprentice program, to include new programming necessary for today’s graduates, and to further improve our reputation as the leading apprentice program in North America.

Our Shipwright Apprentice program includes: 

·         Restoration, including training to meet the Department of Interior’s Standards of Restoration on large projects related to CBMM’s Floating Fleet

·         Paint and varnish systems

·         Forestry, including tree identification, tree selection, sawmill training, and milling for our Apprentice For A Day (AFAD) program

·         Metalworking, including welding, casting, blacksmithing, and fabrication

·         Sail making

·         Rigging

·         Spar building

·         Mechanics and related systems, including tool maintenance, assisting the boatyard mechanic (a new part time position sorely needed) on tasks where appropriate, and participating in new diesel classes hosted on campus

·         Building and sailing log canoes

·         Maritime navigation

·         Earning USCG Master Captain’s License

In order to prepare our apprentices for productive careers as boat builders, CBMM is dedicated to ensuring that each apprentice has the experience necessary to tackle any project. While not all our apprentices will have the opportunity to do or learn all of the above skills in a single year, we can tailor their experience depending on the apprentices’ interests and strengths.

Built in 1889 on Tilghman Island by John B. Harrison, the Edna E. Lockwood nine-log bugeye was named a National Historic Landmark in 1994. The last remaining historic sailing bugeye, Edna worked as an oyster dredge from 1889 to 1967. She was donated to the museum in 1973 and soon after was stripped down to her nine yellow pine logs and restored. Now, CBMM is replacing Edna’s nine logs so that she may continue telling the stories of her past. This three-year restoration, set to begin in 2016, will prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for additional apprentices to bring the historic bugeye back to life. Please see Appendix A for a full overview of the Edna E. Lockwood restoration project.

In light of this historic restoration, we need to expand our Shipwright Apprentice program. Over the next five years, we will grow the program from two apprentices per year to eight, and add key elements which will make CBMM’s working Boatyard fully self-sufficient—benefitting both the museum and the apprentices. In addition to making the restoration of the Edna E. Lockwood possible, an expanded Shipwright Apprentice program enables us to keep up with ongoing maintenance of our Floating Fleet of 14 historic vessels, build more CBMM original ships (such as the log canoe Bufflehead), and undertake more and larger future restorations. 

Nov. 02, 2018

Edna E. Lockwood sails for the first time after her two-year restoration at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

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