Shop ’til you float
Teacher holds weeklong boat-building program
Steamboat Springs — A summer program caught Amy Wharton’s eye as she read her son John’s newsletter from Steamboat Springs Middle School.
Shop teacher Johnny Walker was offering a weeklong class for families interested in building a rowboat. School was still in session, but the Wharton family — P.J., Amy, John, Ben and Peter — signed up.
Besides the satisfaction of doing something as a family, the boys’ grandmother always wanted a rowboat.
“That’s what I decided we needed to do,” Amy Wharton said.
Construction began June 20 and continued through June 24, when the five families that signed up for the program took their boats home to paint them and complete the finishing touches.
“They were required to show up at 9 in the morning and were required to work until mid-afternoon,” Walker said. “Everybody builds the same boat. It’s a 9-foot rowing skiff. Each kid puts together a team. The only requirement is they have to have a middle schooler on the team.”
John Wharton, a seventh-grader, already had built his mother a birdhouse in “Mr. J’s” shop class. But no one in the family had ever built a boat.
“There’s a reason I’m a banker,” P.J. Wharton said.
The Massey family, on the other hand, is familiar with watercraft.
After spending slightly more than four years at sea on a 43-foot catamaran, the Masseys settled in Steamboat last year. But Walker’s summer class was the family’s first attempt at actually building a boat.
Twin brothers Jack and Ben Massey are eighth-graders at the middle school.
“We heard about it last year just off the boat,” said Dean Massey, the boys’ father. “We met Johnny Walker when we toured the middle school. We signed up in our minds.”
Each family member was responsible for a different task during construction.
As the eldest son, John Wharton used the jigsaw to cut out two holes for fishing poles. Peter Wharton, the youngest, drilled holes. Ben Wharton did some sanding, but the air hose, which blew the sawdust away, was a highlight.
“We put sand in our paint for when Grandma gets in,” Ben said, showing off the rough floor that will provide foot traction near the stern of the boat.
The boat was painted a light yellow and named S.S. Grandy. Julie Kearful, the boys’ grandmother, also helped with construction.
“It’s more than just a boat,” Walker said. “It’s about the teamwork and process of building the boat.”
The Masseys painted their boat a deep green — it was still drying Thursday afternoon — and plan to name it Bob.
“Bob is my favorite name,” Jack Massey said.
As a fun way to bring the summer program to a close, Walker is staging a wooden boat regatta from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Pearl Lake.
Dean Massey is optimistic Bob will float.
“I didn’t see any holes,” he said. “I looked.”
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