Silva Bay Shipyard School Society

Maintaining the Art of the Wooden Boat

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Maintaining the Art of the Wooden Boat

Silva Bay Shipyard School launches new vision

Thursday, December 24 2009

It’s still the only full-time wooden boat building school of
its kind in Canada, but with a rejigged board and a new “bigger
vision” the Silva Bay Shipyard School is already making waves
in the community and beyond.

Rusty Rushton, chair of the new board, says the bigger vision
includes new ideas that are helping to “put the school on a firm
financial footing” and “keep the doors open.”

One of those ideas is a new website ( which
is being updated regularly and has information on the school
as well as the courses it offers. Those who are familiar with
the work of the school may be surprised by the courses listed
on the website, for this is another area in which the school
is taking a different tack.

“We’ve offered three short courses since September, and they
were, or are, all fully-subscribed,” says Rusty. One of those
courses was an “Introduction to Woodworking for Women”, which
was so successful the school is repeating the course from January
9th-10th, 2010. This past weekend the Picture Framing Workshop
was also fully subscribed.

“We have a concentration on Gabriola of people with boat-building
skills,” says Rusty. Which is why the school will continue to
offer more intensive courses such as the two-week “Introduction
to Marine Woodworking”, the six month “Wooden Boat Building course”,
complete with the launch in April which many Gabriolans are familiar
with, and the three and a half month “Ship’s Cabinetry” course.

“Jen Provencher has come on board to tackle grant applications
and, starting in January, we’re going to host an open house every
Friday afternoon from 1pm-4pm,” says Rusty. Everyone in the community
is welcome to come and see what’s happening behind the school

And if my experience last Monday afternoon is anything to go
by it’s worth having a peek. At the moment assistant instructor
Trevor Henderson and chief instructor Al Brunt, are guiding seven
students through every step it takes to create a traditional
wooden boat. “The components of a 12 foot boat exist in a 30
foot boat,” says Trevor, so in essence students can take their
skills and work on wooden boats of all sizes once they’ve graduated.

“It’s very traditional building,” says student Michel Lahaya,
who hails from Quebec originally. “We use copper rivets, 3, 000
will be used in total.” Which is a lot when you consider that
the boats are 12 feet long. They’re also learning to build, as
Emil Botham from South Africa points out, with “traditional hand

The students all seem fairly confident that, once finished, they
will be able to put their skills to good work. Ian Copper whose
“last port of call” was Vancouver figures that once you can build
a traditional wooden boat “you can build anything” and Dave Roberts
hopes to work at a boat builders in Campbell River, his home

If you’d like more information, check out the new website, again
that’s, attend one of the open houses or give
Rusty a call, 250-247-8809; he’d be happy to answer your questions.

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