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A Graduate’s View of Our School

Contemporary – Atkins Canoe – fastening strip to bow – David Flaxer (L) and Fred Shwiller

David Flaxer, a graduate of our Contemporary Wooden Boatbuilding class of 2008 recently wrote to us about his experience at the School and the magnificent wooden boat he built using the skills he learned.

We always love to hear from our graduates, thanks for the thumbs up, David!

At some point in my mid-fifties I had the notion to build a wooden sailboat. I think the idea of constructing something as complicated as a classically designed craft grabbed me – after all, an object practically devoid of straight lines and perpendicular angles seemed wonderfully mysterious in its creation. Just how was that done? I wanted to connect to the sweet lines and the beauty of a boats shape: hull and house, sail and spar. These vessels were developed organically though millennia of sea trials by boat builders and sailors, who learned from practical experience the interaction of water and wind. Lastly, while I’ve had exposure to the rough carpentry of house building, never did I attempt the skills of fine carpentry; I wanted the exposure to exotic woods, from buttery Honduran mahogany to the sweet fragrance of yellow cedar.

So I sought out a boat school to introduce me to these aspects of the nautical world. How fortunate was I to have discovered and enrolled in the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding! The program did not disappoint. The skilled staff was talented and diverse, each instructor possessing a particular expertise that covered the wide range of skills needed to become a boat builder. The organization of the educational program, from the use of tools, theory and construction lectures, lofting, and hands-on construction was structured in such a way that they incrementally built my skills. Moreover, the education program induced in me a shipwright’s sensibility and a confidence to believe that I myself could build the boat I envisioned.

And build it I did. As soon as I graduated I undertook the construction of Coquina, a 17 foot cat-ketch, designed in the 1880’s during the golden age of yachting by the famous boat architect NG Herreshoff, Sr., the “Wizard of Bristol”. My requirement called for hull construction using contemporary materials (plywood and epoxy) while the rest of the boat was made of mahogany and old growth spruce. With the training received from Northwest Sails, which is associated with the boat school, I was even able to construct my own sails, rigging and boat cover. So, I was able to build the entire boat, from the bronze hardware to the trailer it sat on. After 1200 hours labor, spanning 18 months or so, I had my first sail, from a boat launch adjacent to the school.

This link will connect you to the photographs of the boat launch celebration > < points you to a compilation of 222 construction photographs, from inception to launch.

My experience with the Boat School exceeded my expectations. I can recommend the School without qualification to anyone who is motivated to build a boat with their own hands.

David Flaxer
[email protected]
July 24, 2012

David Flaxer’s COQUINA under sail. David built his boat using the skills he learned at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

David Flaxer’s COQUINA under sail. David is at the tiller of the boat he built with skills learned at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.