Dwight Davis: Lakeside Wooden Boat Society

Is boatbuilding social work?

dwight_davisBefore you give me your best “what da???” take my little quiz. Do you like it when people come out of nowhere to admire your boat and ask you questions about it? Do you like it when other people ask if you built the boat and you can say yes? Do you have a small picture of a boat you built on your work desk next to the pictures of family members? Do you have fond memories of the camaraderie of building a boat with others? Or even the pleasant solitude of working alone and noticing its restorative ability to put you ‘right’?

I think you can see where I’m going with this questioning. Boatbuilding HAS a strong social component. It gets people talking. It gets people involved. It breaks people free of the right angle and introduces them to a world of fair curves and bevels and a new experience of their own abilities.

Lakeside Wooden Boat Society

boatshow_2006Dwight Davis, the owner of Classic Marine, builds, restores, and repairs boats. He is also on a mission to use boatbuilding as a way to build bridges between people. Foresaking a more formal presentation, Dwight sat down and talked to the CABBS membership telling stories about the formation of the Lakeside Wooden Boat Community.  A few influential members of the Lakeside community of 800 cottages on Lake Erie asked Dwight to lead a boatbuilding and boat restoration summer activity for residents and their children. The goal was to create more social bonds and build bridges through boat related hands-on activities.

Boatbuilding at Lakeside

What proved to be most successful was a project to build a replica of a 14ft. 1936 Penn Yan outboard, affectionately called the Lakeside Daisy. The intent was not to build a perfectly crafted museum piece. The intent was to quick build so that both kids and adults would stay interested. Learning and engaged work were the goals. Mistakes and errors would be absorbed and corrected without faultfinding.

A pavilion tent set up in the community’s central park area became the summer boat shop. As passers-by could see activity and progress, they drifted in to see what was going on and the community buzz began.

Dwight was very proud of the bridgebuilding that the activity created in the community. It touched kids who were difficult to reach or who were experiencing some personal hard times.

Three Daisies have been built. But with materials costing $1,200 per boat, funding the program is not easy. Currently it relies on the generous support of a group of Lakeside sponsors. But Dwight is eager to continue on, he revels in the program because through it he can see that boatbuilding is socially satisfying work.

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